Of all the dozen or so museums Will and I saw in Europe last month, the exhibit that keeps coming up is one that neither of us liked. At all.
At the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin we saw the exhibit Secret Universe, the works of Horst Ademeit.
Each day of Ademeit’s life, he would take a Polaroid of something that bothered him about the world and record his thoughts and complaints all over the edges. He would number them, so he could keep track.
Only after Ademeit’s death, as the exhibit related, was his “body of work was discovered.” This body of work — these thousands of Polaroids lined were up, one by one, in numerical order forming a grid stretching through three rooms.
The ramblings of a disturbed man set out in the meticulous fashion in which he formed them for all to see. This obsessive tracking of each day is something we have come to associate with psychosis or other mental illness.
Though we didn’t like the exhibit especially, we are still talking about. It strikes me now as a wonderful glimpse into the pain of what it is to be human. At least this man had an outlet for all the complaints that many of us swallow in the effort to be gracious human beings!
But at the same time, I don’t know if it’s art. I wonder if perhaps it would be better characterized as anthropology.
But when a doodle become an art piece? When you have thousands of them lined up side by side?
Since we’ve been back at home, I’ve been indulging my months-long-neglected artistic streak. I started by creating the drawing to the right during my many Wednesday meetings last week. A fellow Board Member looked at it, named it a doodle but related that he liked it. I call it City on a Hill. Original, eh?
Whatever the product, for me the act of creating is a form of release. Just as, I hope, Ademeit felt release from the creation his daily Polaroid of complaints.
Is art defined by the intent of the artist? The release he or she feels to create? Is it defined by the experience of the viewer? Or by something else entirely?
What do you think?