in art criticism
Mark Rietmeijer reads
from one sculpture to another
worlds of words evoke worlds of things,' Foucault stresses in
his 'Les mots et les choses' The sculptor Mark Rietmeijer (1948)
tends to endorse such a credo. Visual arts and linguistic philosophy
are in his view closely related. In a blazingly lighted and dusty
studio in The Hague/Holland, where the floor is covered with marble
chips, Margreet den Buurman notes down the thoughts of this well-read
artist. 'Many words precede the realization of my sculptures.'
cannot nail together two boards of wood without being "accused"
by critics of taking position in visual arts. And such a point
of view becomes elucidated by critics in text. Of course artists
mean to "say" something. But the funny thing is that
artists themselves often do not feel an urge to put any text aside
their works of art. So interviews rarely produce something that
surpasses the level of agricultural news, for it is in this vacuum
that the critic shows his unbridled fling. Suddenly any coherence
springs up out of the blue that did not exist before. Critics
ought to be aware of the material they use to create such coherence:
language. Critics should wake up to the fact that in writing they
'Up till three years
ago I was engaged on formal matters, while creating my own formproblems
and solving them subsequently - stacking elements in space and
inquiring the total form that arose. I just wanted to make beautiful
sculptures and I hoped that people would experience them likewise.
Since my interest in the philosophy of language my work has changed:
nowadays I seek to tempt explicitly.'
'Rethorics were developed
by Aristotle as a complementary technique of already greatly respected
oratorical art. Rethorics have to do with logic, the art of convincing
with linguistic means, with the tricks of the trade. I tended
to surmise that in visual arts rethorics function likewise. Anyway,
such a hypothesis forms the background of my work in the past
three years. Catching up the signification of a text means nothing
but indicating its moments of persuasion. I think that in a painting
or a sculpture similar moments are equally demonstrable.'
texts are full of desires to wealth and eternal life. They describe
experiments that invariably meant to derive gold from base metals
and to discover elixirs that would make man immortal. First and
foremost I was struck by the fact that they were phrased in terms
of birth, friendship, marriage, suffering and death. Alchemy inspired
me to the sculptures Atalanta Fugiens en The Alchimia, according
to the book by Michael Maier (1617). The sculpture Atalanta Fugiens
is about desires, cherished by alchemists; desires which at the
same time try to escape from their embraces like a "fleeing
butterfly". In these sculptures I started to apply lead for
the first time. There is a main form and a contraform. As far
as Atalanta Fugiens is concerned, the main form is a marble drapery:
a lemniscate that expresses alchemy itself (the number "8"
plays an important role in numerology or "kabbala").
The lead that moves around and through the marble expresses alchemists
desires. And what to me became a very important association: I
started to notice the similarity between lead and language. Language
is also a base material, worn off by everyday use. Nevertheless
it can be uplifted to the level of poetry! The sculpture De Alchimia
a marble drapery, of which the position expresses the blind alley
to which alchemy was doomed. Here the lead forms a girding up
of the waist and hangs down in rags from the shoulder. Desire
has become a burden and language has been torn and tattered.'
'The book "Language
and Desire", written by A. Mooy, attracted me because of
its title, which appealed to the many songs of desires that hit
me so deeply within the alchemy texts. This book became my first
acquaintance with Lacan, who allocates a fundamental role to language,
in which man formulates his longings and hopes and desires. To
me this book was like a "stone in the pond". It stimulated
me to go on reading: Freud, De Saussure, Derrida, Lacan, Ricoeur
'Do not underestimate
the incredible and often lifelong devotion of the alchemist to
the daydreams he cherished near his furnace. What nowadays remains
is the texts about those desires. And what counts for alchemy
texts also counts with regard to whatever text, whether it concerns
literature or science. In every text rethorics are effective as
cogency or persuasive power. When you look beyond - which is exactly
what Derrida does - then it is all about desire: the desire to
the one big truth, to something that can tell us about the meaning
of life itself. The desire that we express in language by words
and with which we create a world.'
'The art critic speaks
in similes, in metaphors, to make manageable and comprehensible
to himself whatever he comments upon. By means of language he
makes connections and subsequently the next critic creates new
contexts - man has an urge to interpret. Here we find back our
longing for meaning: whereto serves our existence here on earth?
But the best examples are derived from the advertisement business:
for instance the ones from the "Volkskrant". You probably
saw the one about a box with wooddrills or the one with a key-ring
to which in both cases a crown pen was added. Or maybe the one
about an electric plug in which the plus and minus poles were
also replaced by crown pens. These advertisements exemplify what
Derrida does. The most important rhetoric figure is the metaphor.
In these ads the metaphor becomes exploited in a most special
way. Wooddrills are meant to penetrate into the concerning material,
whereas keys are meant to open inaccessible rooms. By showing
drills and keys in combination with a crow pen, absolutely immaterial
matters such as "intrusiveness" and "profoundness"
are brought to a level of sensory perception. In other words:
reading the "Volkskrant" would reveal what remains hidden
otherwise. Here we are directly tackled on our desires to get
to know the truth and on our believe in words.'
''What I want is to
show the analogy between language and visual arts: the way in
which language works and creates worlds is also relevant to a
better understanding of arts. I want to give concrete form to
this by putting materials and forms together in a way I never
saw them together before. The mere fact of this togetherness makes
things happen. That is inevitable.'.
Margreet den Buurman
2513 VD Den Haag