Sunday, May 16, 2010

Rothko's Painting

Once I stood in front of Rothko's painting for a long time. It was one of his nameless compositions of two or three blocks of colors. I was looking at the big block of dark brownish grey that was divided by a dark brownish red horizontal line, while remembering his words that he wanted to make people cry while standing in front of his paintings. And I was watching and waiting, although for no particular moment. It was just myself giving way to the painting, the colors, the blocks, the darkness. I was wondering about how a color could make one cry. Then a very old thought came to mind. When I was a teenager and first encountering some philosophical and sociological proposals of the world and how it should be changed, with all of their arguments and contra-arguments, at one point I concluded for myself, since, obviously, none of the theoretical plans were working and all of them seemed to be too specific, too deterministic, that an "elastic" system must have been created – at the same time general and specific, one that would indeed carry in itself an idea of the whole (of the world, of the society), but at the same time, the one that would constantly be directly addressing an individual, whereas its elasticity would give him/her the space for individual choices. And all of a sudden I saw a portrait on that dark color block. I flinched. I stepped away. There was an en face dark head coming out of the canvas. We were facing each other. I moved back, toward the painting, to look closer for I thought I was imagining things. I looked away and then back at the canvas and it was still there. I realized that I was looking at myself. The canvas became a mirror. It was disturbing, as it wasn't reflecting my features or any of me that I had known in the mirror. Since it was a noncolor and nonpicture – just a contour, it wasn't suggesting any claims about myself. I was faced with an empty darkness of myself. I had no external or concrete claims about myself to contradict or agree with – in a word, to discuss. I was left alone. To myself. I was left only to observe at first, and be led by an internal impulse. But the impulse was not directed by any external ones, except for the impulse to watch. And the piece of art was offering that defamiliarized look at the inside of myself, at my own soul. Its abstract form that goes into its own absolute, into almost noncolor, into almost nonshape, into nothingness, was creating space potent with a new form, an internal one – the one that I may create while watching it – watching myself, until I reach the decision to re-create myself – to become, once again. And, it is a choice, because, in the living being, individuation is brought about by the individual itself (Simondon, 305). Full stop.


p.s. In case anybody reads this and becomes curiously suspicious, the painting (which formal name I wouldn't know) is hanging in MET, just a few steps away from Damien Hirst's dead shark.

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