Rappel à l’ordre
On Michael Kunze’s Special Call to Order Les Messieurs d’Avignon

—Rainer Metzger

International Style
The most beautiful thing in Tirana is the Biennale. The most beautiful thing in Istanbul is the Biennale. The most beautiful thing in Berlin is the Biennale. The most beautiful thing in Tapei is the Biennale. And whoever does not yet have something beautiful is more and more preoccupied with obtaining it. One immediately engages agents – one calls them curators – and has it organized. What they always have in mind is: one of the showplaces picked up from clubbing, an artist list that has been the same for days and years and a motto, which the local color some time ago swapped for clichés. If the curator-person subsequently thinks of Wittgenstein in Vienna and Borges in Buenos Aires, then the International Style is right at home. The only difference between curators and tourists is a matter of quantity; the latter are more numerous.

       The art-world representatives thereby gladly clothe themselves in a metaphor of especially enforced authenticity, and enthusiastic about the danger, one throws oneself into a nomadic lifestyle. This jetting existence is in no way threatened by hunger, and the watering place in a few kilometers has in principal another dimension than the necessity of the next internet connection. For the shepherds and the herds it is not just that it makes little difference where they find themselves. Their gaze is strictly adjusted to the possibilities at that location, and thus the opposite of any diffusion to which the art market in its uniform intent lends a forum. Place specificity, the famous swan song of the ‘80s, faded away long ago.

Under the generic term of Les Messieurs d’Avignon, Michael Kunze has gathered together a gallery of painters, literati and film directors who appear to him to be exemplary in their oppositional stance with respect to the mainstream – the lineal straightness and the managerial mentality of the cultural present. Picasso is one of the code names that everyone memorizes when they mean a worldwide aesthetic, and he has brought his Demoiselles d’Avignon (as it hangs today in the Museum of Modern Art) along with him in his classic career as a global player. Yet Kunze’s gathering is exclusively composed of representatives of »the white male,« and the rejection of affirmative action bound up with that flirts with the scandalous. In addition, it is titled in French – a language that says »ordinateur« rather than »computer« – which also has something of the insubordinate about it. And beyond that, Kunze’s 60-pictures-strong series from the lives of famous people connects with an equally strong and long-lived ad acta principle: it is a homage.

       »One feels strong, he who finds pictures which require his experience. There are many—it could not be all that many—for their sense is that they maintain collective experience.« That was written by Elias Canetti, who does not appear in Kunze’s list of people but who would be a candidate in his orthodoxly European character. One needs pictures, Canetti says in his autobiographical report Die Fackel im Ohr (Torch in the Ear), in order to concentrate one’s own manner of appropriating the world; there must be many of them but not too many, and they furnish literal identification with the medium. Michael Kunze provides such pictures. The people and constellations that he offers explain themselves via tradition not through their usefulness; they exist out of refusal, not suitability; and they are carriers of disagreement, rather than delivering labels, logos and images for a widespread functioning of the pin-up principle. Kunze’s way of painting makes a contribution via the glassy, waxlike, old master-likeness of the flesh and the hieratic artificiality of the postures. One must let oneself get involved with such a homage.

Kulturelle Logik
In 1977 Michel Foucault titled an article The Life of Infamous People, in which he let his favored personnel pass in review one more time: delinquents, the insane, convicts, the sexually conspicuous. That such a favored representation of the Other, difference and marginality – these existences countering good repute – long ago earned fame and took on a mainstream character. It was spoken about by 17-year-olds who were trying to be different but still victims of society, products of fundamentally bad conditions. The attractiveness today in taking hold of a victim role (attractive as it has not since the martyrdom cults of late antiquity) says volumes about the narcissistic conformity of their all-too-small distinctions.

       There is in fact a cultural logic of late capitalism, as Fredric Jameson explained in 1984, and the logic of an avant-garde is a part of that. Since some time ago, opposition has been among the ingredients of a sufficiently complex status quo. In Jameson’s case, he offered in his then very effective jargon how »not only locally delimited, alternative forms of anti-cultural resistance and guerrilla tactics, but also open political interventions in any kind of way secretly disarmed and absorbed by a system, as part of which it also must be reckoned in the end, precisely since it cannot distance itself from that«. These days every cell phone user knows the mechanism: whoever wants only the device, without turning himself over to the company for years, must pay for it; whoever makes himself responsible to a network receives it for free. Thus those people who want to refuse the economy must pay for it; they cannot in turn see themselves exactly validated by that.

       If Michael Kunze now exhorts representatives of an alternative to global happiness, it can only take place in the thought that these have for the longest time already been a part of this felicity. In the untiring rotation of the offerings to the senses and sensuality, at some time out of each ugliness and out of each hatred will come beauty. Outsider-ship worries about making a sensation and supplies an outstanding product within the world-wide economy of attention.

Rappel à l’ordre (call to order)
The lingua franca of the present is bad English. Apparently instruction in English has not gotten very far, hence Michael Kunze’s suggestion in an interview (to switch from English to training in classical Greek) would be worth putting into effect. A transposition (if not in education, then in an artistic oeuvre) is precisely what Kunze has prescribed.

       Kunze practices hermetics, he devotes himself to education and tries out fruitlessness and incomprehensibility in scholarship. In an over-corrected present these are altogether invectives. Also the personal politics that he pursues in Les Messieurs d’Avignon has retained a measure of agitation, in that Ezra Pound, Martin Heidegger or Salvador Dali-figures pass in review, in the course of which intercontinental half-knowledge excites the aesthetic qualities calculated by a weakness for fascism.

       Ten years after his Demoiselles, Picasso’s work had revealed a facet that up until then had not brought forth its most offensive inclination. The master became classical, classicistic, Mediterranean and statuesque; he began to quote where up until then he had pulled apart. He suddenly took possession of his figures via formation and not deformation. With such a shift in the direction of the conventionally normative, Picasso now fits astoundingly well into Kunze’s objectives. An awakening took place, and it has gone into cultural history as Rappel à l’ordre (call to order). The expression itself comes from Jean Cocteau in 1923, but it had been articulated five years earlier with the publication of Après le cubisme by Amedee Ozenfant and Le Corbusier. The call to order was a summons and not a turning point; the notoriety of reactionism remained under the aegis of the »isms«. The linear, the progressive, the worldwide-directed, the élan of the century, these would not suffer any delay.

        Après le cubisme (After Cubism) had put forward the demand for a new Pythagoras, and wherever possible it exactly connects here with Kunze’s conception. Such a philosopher figure should also be new in the way that Kunze expounds. But at least he or she should be able to speak classical Greek.

Les Messieurs d’Avignon, Cologne 2007, S. 21