Thursday, May 2, 2013

Kazimir Malevich -- uncompromising visionary

1879 - 1935, Russian painter

From Christoph Asendorf's book Batteries of Life: On the History of Things and Their Perception in Modernity --  

Where the dadaists in Zurich used the existing linguistic material in order to change it, Malevich in the medium of painting can forsake natural forms and, as a radical gesture, oppose to them the pure form of a black square. His theory of suprematism is directed against the futurists, more precisely, the cubofuturists, who had indeed overcome perspective and depicted the dynamic of (technical) movement, but in doing so they continued to work with fragments of real forms. "In cubofuturism, the totality of things is destroyed; it is shattered and fragmented. That was a step toward the destruction of objectivity. The cubofuturists gathered together all objects on the market square and shattered them into pieces, but they did not burn them. Too bad!" (Malevich) 
Malevich is interested in pure painting beyond given objects. Its elements are the basic forms, squares, circles, etc., and the primary colors, yellow, red, and blue. Suprematist painting knows no shadows, no atmosphere, no manner of objectivity, but only the relationship of color and form according to the egalitarian principle of the "equality of all elements." It is painting without any support in reality, a free construction of a utopian world of color and form in nonperspectival space.


I read that and got to thinking about a few things: an escape from moribund aesthetic categories; a rejection of rigid intellectual and social forms; maybe even an affinity, displaced in time, with Alan Badiou's ontology of the Multiple ("inconsistent multiplicity is the presentation of presentation" -- from Wikipedia).

In all three cases above, privileged expression of perspective is put into question and replaced with a radical "silence" of simples. In the first case, traditional (exhausted) creative forms partaking of realism are metaphysically jarred by Malevich and become dubious. In the second case, conceptual certainty and hierarchy give way to spontaneous, complex forms-in-themselves. In the last case, colors and shapes as such (without natural correlatives) are viewed as pure and detached elements of organization, which opens the possibility that all components of world as such are philosophically distinct, that world as such is an infinitely plural construct grounded in void...which is wild and sort of cool.   

Black Square on a White Ground, 1915

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