(Glimpses from the Bible of Visuality) #1
“The position that an epoch occupies in the historical process can be determined more strikingly from an analysis of its inconspicuous surface level expressions than from that epoch’s judgments about itself. Since these judgments are expressions of the tendencies of a particular era, they do not offer conclusive testimony about its overall constitution. The surface-level expressions, however, by virtue of their unconscious nature, provide unmediated access to the fundamental substance of the state of things. Conversely, knowledge of this state of things depends on the interpretation of these surface-level expressions.” (Siegfried Kracauer: The Mass Ornament, 1927)
The Mass Ornament represents the combined thinking of eighteen painters, writers, philosophers, musicians, composers and film makers. The title is linked to the 1927 essay by Siegfried Kracauer (a significant film theorist of the Weimar Republic period), and the terms of “production line”, where the “alienated entertainment is… sincere in its essence”. These terms are closely related to the phenomenon of the visual narcotisation of the senses in connection with the wide range of the presented works. The exhibition works with the principle of multidirectional reading in an environment of many intersecting visualities. In the context of the exhibited works, it is therefore more appropriate to speak about various “textualities” or “visual texts”; about what kind of poetic predominates or determines the artistic statement; whether the artistic statement that expresses one’s feelings about a certain social reality, by which the artists usually present themselves at exhibitions, may be substituted by a different artistic textuality – in other words, by a statement act, which is different from the conventional one in a gallery or museum environment.
It is evident that we live on an ever growing wave of thousands of different visualities. Our senses are thus permanently narcotised by something that takes place directly on the “surface”. Despite the fact that this “surface” is perfectly structured, while being constantly brought onto that non-selective visual wave, the individual visualities are presented to us as a chaotic mass, making up the surface. This mass resists categorisations, administrative interventions, descriptions, classifications, adjustments, judgements and assessments. Paradoxically, this whole, which might at first glance seem unstructured, is able to mediate a unifying ideology. The attempt to specify this constantly changing, evanescent “surface” can become a rule about the character of our society and closer to social reality. (Lacan’s “the deepest is the skin” also represents the principle of this way of perception.)
Every similar project is a construct, but a conscious construct is also an element of the mass ornament. The “surface” operates through a specific rhythm, acting on the basis of its own organisation and the scenario of a certain “unfocused” perception (where a moment of selection comes after a period of distraction).
Thus, purism and restraint while searching for the mass ornament is, de facto, counterproductive. Fullness will only stand out in the sense of a whole. If this kind of exaggerated and growing narcotisation of the senses through an attack of many different visualities is often linked to a growth of the viewers’ disillusionment, then this project attempts to offer them an original experience of producing the “mass ornament”.