• Olga AST • 1993 •


in the Labyrinth of Cognition *


Space (2) is a living entity. Much more "alive" than you and me, and the more so as human life is vanishingly small in the life of space and the life of time.
It is a unity and a multitude at one and the same time. Spaces are born, they develop, they live, they compete for existence, they couple, they multiply, they die and are born again. They play and they toy with us, they win or lose.

I am trying to be an equal partner in this drama; I am trying to shape spaces, like clay, into what I like, as space can take any imaginable or unimaginable form.

…All kinds of everyday, real and unreal, physical and metaphysical, artistic, imaginary spaces, the spaces of our world and other worlds and spheres and worlds and concepts, dreams and magic… penetrating each other, vibrating and elusive…

Meanwhile, our everyday experience can only allow one to perceive Newtonian and architectural spaces inside which humans live their lives (a room, a bus, a street, a city, Cosmos…).

Therefore, in order to show the life of a space it lives independent of ourselves, one has to build a system of filters, to decontaminate the outer and the inner media of the mind(3). One has to isolate the man from the space with which I work, their interaction must be definitely structured. I load space cleansed of humans and other contaminating factors(4) into TRAPs and safes(5). The spectator is to feel and to analyze space separated from his or her own self, without the possibility of becoming integrated into it.

Take, for instance, my work "Correlator Space TRAP of Visual Space" ("A Spy-Glass-Visitor’s Tube"). The abstract notion of Infinity has been introduced to the installation, as in many other of my art objects(6). Along the central axis of the structure I suspend rotating objects with similar structural properties. The axis can be infinitely continued in either direction, and I can fix as many possible objects onto it(7). The direct line is nothing but the direction of the viewer’s gaze when the person approaches the art object looking through all those lenses, mirrors, kitchen sieves, holes, springs, clockworks and other things which have long lost their utility and actually negate any utility at all. The direction of the gaze determines the law governing the formation of the art object, the former nucleating and growing around the axis(8). When the viewer is looking through the glass, he or she can see it’s specular and glassy elements, it’s holes, incessantly rotating, intersecting and reflecting one another or various fragments of the rooms. The inner space inside the object permanently pulsates, compresses and expands, admitting external space, then transforming it.

Space is infinite but limited. Humans have freedom of will, however, within the boundaries of their natural abilities. And the definition power of human vision has limits, too.

Even a dragon-fly and a fly have completely different modes of vision and perception(9). And if we accept the testimonies of such people as Carlos Castaneda, for example (which we may not believe to be true, of course), then, obviously, humans could see much more and in a much more different manner (provided a special education and training system), and they could penetrate alternative, adjacent worlds. However, groping his way in the darkness, man could become dangerous both to himself and to his fellow human beings, while the value of the experience thus obtained would be doubtful. It would be very interesting to understand who the party is that is playing (toying) with a person—some other entities or spaces proper which can take any form(10).

It looks as if blinders were put over our eyes, for our own safety, like they do to prevent a horse from shying, to make it run straight without looking to the sides. Are we going to be allowed to take off the blinders some day? We might… And we might soon(11).

So, if you take one of the numerous pathways along which Art is progressing and if you look at it as a method of research, you will see that Art has always been involved in the exploration of laws governing the processes of form building in the material world, but within human visual perception(12).

In this context, art history achieves distinctness and coherence.
Initially, before the 19th century, artists were exploring natural objects in search of form building principles as constructed by God. Later, they started the exploration of components: color and form, first in existing objects (Impressionism, Post-impressionism, Pointillism and the like), then of any possible forms (abstract painting and other trends of non-representational art). Simultaneously, the development of the all-deforming Expressionism can be observed and that of Surrealism which exploited conglomerates of existing forms and components joined together in proportions, alien to the physical world.

Having thus marketed the whole of the visible God’s little acre, the artist plunges into the exploration of man-made reality (Pop art, Dada, etc., which were not at all declarations of destruction, contrary to what the artists themselves might have said, but mainly a new domain of research).

Completing this period is a multitude of trends, most of them impostors. For instance, Conceptualism, Post-conceptualism and Post-modernism which analyze the acculturated environment on the whole, incorporating into their respective contexts, among other things, simulation of decomposition, pseudo-analysis, pseudo-irony, etc.

Over a hundred years have passed since various manipulations inside the painting were started with the aim of braking up the plane and breaking oneself out of the plane, extending the individual artist’s reality into the space. Dissatisfied with these attempts, artists began to apply new medias and to invent new genres like the environment, object, installation, performance, etc. Nowadays, text, sound, light, photography, video, mobile structures, ready-mades (sometimes obscured or absent) and suchlike things are being incorporated into the context of the artwork, contributing to the growing unity of art and life, more and more involving art in the surrounding existence, pretty stupid and absurd.

EVERYTHING has been tested, even suicide represented as an artistic action. Everything has been rubber-stamped, numbered, everything can be turned into a work of art. There is no novel thing, however weird, that would be innovative in art.

As a result, we have been witnessing the act of transformation of EVERYTHING ever handled by art, including the frame, the art materials, the genre itself, etc., into a new alphabet, into the new Semantic universe.

This set has been exploited by Conceptual art, now it is exploited by Post-modernism. But, in the juxtaposition of EVERYTHING to EVERYTHING, these trends have not transgressed the boundaries of what is visible, audible, sensible, etc., the delimitations of our acculturated milieu. Moreover, these trends have demonstrated that it is in the situation of mere indication of boundaries that art begins.

But there exists something beyond the sensual world, however, of which we are aware in one way or another. Space, for instance(13)…
This is my material, the medium which I could not find in this earthly world of yours, a world of things, to express my own vision.

Metal, glass, mirrors, nets, flies, and the like are but a set of symbols, a language I speak, or a tool I use for manipulating space.

Art has reached a crucial point. And, I think, by taking an entirely new immaterial medium one can look into domains where humans have hardly trodden(14). Using such a medium, one can approach the most intimate feature of the world, it’s structure—one can reveal the nature of organizing principles guiding the mutual ties between material and spiritual phenomena, isolating the rules of assembly, establishing the material laws of form building, mapping the genes of the universe. Also, various synthetic virtual realities can be created using this method(15).

I offer a solution in my book "Switchboard" ("Commutator" text written by Vladimir Druk). In this book, I made an attempt to reveal the archetypal primo-fault which split the world into binary oppositions (Good vs. Evil; white vs. Black; "+" vs. "-"; world vs. Anti-world; masculine vs. Feminine, etc.). The two opposites are kept together by their common field of force and flow one into the other. This is an exploration of the nature of the symbol, the evolution of symbols and symbolic systems, their transformation and development. In "Switchboard" ("Commutator"), using certain non-graphic devices, space is introduced, open to the outer world and modifying with time.

My works are not only images but living organisms(16). Besides, sometimes they act as devices for communication with space.

Thus, "The Kettle" ("Field of Vision 2", art exhibition "Dimensions, Volumes, Cavities, tails") is an object made of multiple reflections of a kettle into itself. As most of my works, it is suspended on a thin thread and rotates freely. The bottom of the kettle is a mirror, and beneath it a reflection is constructed of metal net. The lid and the spout of the upper (solid) kettle are rearranged to the lower one, while similar elements of the network reflection are rearranged to the upper kettle. Through the lid made of netting one can observe the inner life of the kettle, that most important action which develops inside, not outside, as is the case with other objects; an actions which starts at the moment when the viewer casts a glance inside.

Each time I determine the natural law of the growth and development of the art object, and the artwork grows, spreading across the space like paints on the canvas of Jason Pollock. And my primary task is to demonstrate, visually and convincingly, that the WORLD does not cease to be when a limit is put to our senses.

When the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was first bitten at, the world broke apart, cracked into halves, decomposed, went wrong… Death became separate and came to embody Evil, while the woman was named Eve, which means Life. The man fell… He fell out of a space with infinite degrees of freedom into a three-dimensional world; something strange and very complicated was projected onto humans, like unidirectional time (for this world not to be eternal, thanks God). The body grew dumb and was clad in clothes of skin, the eyes became unseeing, ears unhearing. The heart turned into stone, brains into porridge… and so on, and so forth.

Since that time, Eve and Death have been wandering in the labyrinth of knowledge(17) and only when they have met, dying and birthing will become as easy as are the birth, the death, and the rebirth of an idea, a thought visited upon us from free spiritual places. Then, ideas will no longer be embodied in the mortal flesh. For Eve and Death to meet, it might be necessary to try to see the invisible, to reach to the very foundations, to the moment when Eve is taking the fruit from the branch, to the boundary beyond which there is nothing but God alone…

"And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons. […]
And Adam called his wife’s name Eve(18); because she was the mother of all living." (Gen. 4:7,8,20).

Finally I would like to quote from Velemir Khlebnikov:

"A pattern of points when you are filling in the spaces which show up white, when you populate the wasted wastelands?
There is a "many", an indefinitely prolonged diversity which is incessantly changing, (…) like a triangle, a circle, an octagon are parts of a plane, our auditory, visual, gustatory, olfactory sensations are but parts, occasional slips of the tongue of this one great prolonged diversity.
It has lifted it’s head, a head of a lion, and is looking at us, but its lips are closed. (…)
The very speeds of sensations traveling this unknowable space have been arranged so as those sensations were slowest which bear relation to the greatest measure, positively or negatively, with the security of the living being. In this way those would be regarded in greatest detail and with most shades. As for sensations which are most intimately related to matters of existence, those travel at the speed which prohibits the mind to become fixed on them. November 24, 1904."