The Man in Revolt,
A strange, slightly melancholy and cumbersome feeling

—Gregor Jansen

Camus knew better. He was born in 1913. Then the misses were already six years old and still had more ecstasy and asceticism awaiting them, until they in the end had the 25-year-old Picasso, of equivalent birth—that is, life-size—standing opposite them, looking lascivious. Life size, who has it really or what is that exactly? Previously one achieved that in later life, but the misses are prohibited from this like a curse. Camus knew better, surmounted it, on an arch of Romanesque origin in Algerian Tipasa, already grousing about the connection between Hellenism and Christianity, bound to the earth and turned towards the heavens. Three years before his return to France, in the war year 1940, the Museum of Modern Art in New York bought the misses from Avignon from a Parisian art dealer for 24,000 dollars. They were subsequently not to be met up with in their home country. We shall follow the path of another (to freely follow Camus) foreign gnosis, which made itself felt from the end of the nineteenth century as a twilight of the gods and slowly via the utopias of the twentieth again as a subversive culture within civilization. The Berlin painter Michael Kunze presents us with his Les messieurs d’Avignon dark shapes in dark pictures which we meet, gnostic oblique thinkers as thinkers of the Other and nevertheless believers in cognition, bad boys of Modernity, solitary figures. Men one and all, those of whom (following Herbert Marcuse and Horkheimer/Adorno) »negative thought« is inscribed as the final form of a Hegelian dialectic: »The absent must be made present, because the largest part of the truth is hidden in what is absent.«1

       Intensification of participation. »They expound for the most part, works appearing to hurry against their own destruction have a better chance of surviving than those which in the name of the idol of security preserve their time-bound core... Thinkable, today perhaps encouraged are works which via their time-bound core burn themselves up, their own life in the moment of their appearance set to work and go under without a trace without lessening that in the slightest. The noblesse of such an attitude would not be unworthy of art, after their nobility of attitude and ideology went to seed.«2 Adorno’s pretentious censure of the nothingness of the noble need not hamper us. Artaud and Bacon look at us mournfully, Bunuel in front of Malevich, de Chirico in laurel leaves and grasping for Dali, a proud Heidegger, Ernst Jünger with hobbyhorse along with Kafka, Majakovsky almost a self-portrait, Spengler’s empty room wound through with vague lines of force, Trier in the herd with animal-like Ernst and Stoffer, the story continues... A novel, revolutionary but also borrowed pictorial world takes possession of our visual domains. In the nostalgia for time come to a standstill, in the undertow of melancholy stands painting— when it takes itself seriously—with its energy-loaded reception space indubitably foremost. Peter Sloterdijk describes something similar. For it is altogether questionable whether the pursued intent, that the contemplative »mental« reception of the production of art (and its »real« aesthetic transaction) correspond in their autonomy to the greatest extent possible, is still so attainable today. In our mediatized era, independence and self-determination according to Sloterdijk have to be thought altogether anew as »intensification of participation«. This allows us with Michael Lingner to proceed from there, that in place of the form of reception previously dominant within art—that is, the aesthetic experience which has become consumptive—an active aesthetic negotiation and a perspective of realization now have to supercede it.3 Which means, concretely speaking, artworks: in particular paintings, are less able to be used as the art system’s software or as media instructors. In painting lies—and this is made overly apparent by the paintings of Michael Kunze—a risk whose daring to trust itself with something opposes itself to the world with idolatry and verve.

       Appropriation as empathy. The inherent character of empathy, understood as a passionate relationship which primarily means an intuitive, emotional, or psychic comprehension, is a salient sign of »participatory« image production and an ambiguous, nonetheless marketing-relevant, advertising-aesthetic element. It must remain hidden to an analytical researcher, due to that deliberate methodical approach. But it can open the eyes of a contemplative art observer, which usually means a gain in appreciation, in the process of a perception of absence. Michael Kunze begins a discourse, via the lost customers of the misses from Avignon—a student and a sailor—by means of painting, which signifies the Modernist split between Cezanne and Boecklin. Just as Sloterdijk attempts in Zorn und Zeit (Passion and Time),4 in addition to the passion of contradiction a new era presents itself. Here the defensive reactions of the self have their home base, where they as the premonition of all negativity, all revolt, and all contradiction (from the paradoxical to the dialectical) yield to the temptation of passion with a thymotic deployment of power. Creation thus becomes a catastrophe—as in Camus’ car-wreck—which makes redemption or representation into a hopeless thing. A strong painter nevertheless need have no fear of such representation, as he faces off not against the universe but rather his predecessors. It has to do with history, creative history, participation as the continuation of writing the gnosis. And when the predecessors cannot be overcome, so then at least a truce can be rigged up. Look at Camus, how on the antique ruined arches close to the heavens yet inflected, sensing the Algerian passion in indolent and at the same time erect bearing, blows his whiff of smoke towards us. Head-wind and contradiction drive the world, just as representation is the aesthetic translation for a reintegration or elucidation: representation is a process of improvement. This kind of restitution almost literally strengthens thought into memory. The illusionism in the image however strengthens, as a product of the intellect, the superiority of its own power over all that which is not spirit, including the image.

       Michael Kunze travels between worlds and within history. His paintings are world revolutions of the soul, an image-and-word reader of the gnosis,5 using which the Old and New Testament of the Modernism never written can be unlocked. From Antonioni to Weininger, from photographic blow up in swinging London to suicide in the house of Beethoven’s death in Vienna—four years before the misses’ birth mind you—in the neighborhood of the superego, and in front of a pregnant musical background an transhistoric arch spans, on which Camus unjustifiably still enjoys his last cigarette. All of this also reminds one a little bit of lipstick traces.6 Yet the music as well as the erotics are absent, or the latter exists in the end or in the sense of Weininger only as platonic love, and woman’s beauty—or better, the »Nature of female beauty is performative, that is, it is the love of the man which creates the beauty of the woman.«7 Picasso must also have thought that way. And the Pre-Raphaelites, in the sense of Christian renewal, in whose instance—as paradoxical border case in art history—the avant-garde overlaps with kitsch.8 Kunze thinks and paints otherwise. His documentary gaze is evident in the photographs which were produced in remote areas of Greece, and in his employment of painting as an old new means of communication that must be more than only a corrective of new media. The impurity of painting becomes a theme in Les messieurs d’Avignon, its content is in contrast to the officially carried-through program »less handy, less easily occupied, and in no sense linearly progressing. An unusual looseness slightly tending in the direction of melancholy appears here...« speaking along with Hegel, the tendency to negativity shows this path to be a kind of timeless shadow-side of Modernity, and as a lower stratum which is crucial to an understanding of Modernity.9 While at the end of the catalogue essay Texte ohne Verben (Texts without Verbs) Nelson Goodman is quoted from Fact, Fiction and Forecast by Michael Kunze,10 it seemed to me to make sense not to use a quote, but rather to append Michael Kunze’s text, in which he himself comments upon his »bad boys of Modernity« work series—created between Fall 2005 and Summer 2006—from his own point of view. In the interview with Raimar Stange a culturally critical context which reaches far beyond media questions is thematized. Finally, Rainer Metzger—for whom the literalism of pictures has been a concern since the (luminous) Munich days—opens up this cycle of works to an entirely different consideration, which is an important cornerstone for comprehending not only the oeuvre proper to Michael Kunze. All these texts wish to contribute to an understanding of another reality at another border of our self-understanding.«

       All authors are to be thanked here for their willingness to collaborate on this publication and to thereby provide the exhibition with a verbalism in the clearest sense in the form of this accompanying catalogue, which is necessary and off the track, as these pictures also mean »it must be« as well as answering an affirmative no. Boris Dworschak took over the wonderful graphic layout, Julia Bernard the translations, and Sally Defty the proofreading. Not least I have to thank Michael Kunze, whose painting I have held in dreamily alien memory since 1993, the lenders, and a few supporters and admirers of the Kunzean painted world, that this catalogue and the exhibition of Les messieurs d’Avignon could emerge out of the darkness of uncertainty into the light so as to become a reality.

Les Messieurs d’Avignon, Cologne 2007, S. 06

[1] Marcuse, Herbert, ‘A Note on Dialectic’ in The Essential Frankfurt School Reader, Arato and Gebhardt (eds.), (New York: Continuum 2000, pp. 444–451), p. 448.

[2] T.W. Adorno, Ästhetische Theorie (Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 1973), p.265.

[3] See Michael Lingner at kt97-9.html

[4] Peter Sloterdijk, Zorn und Zeit. Politisch-psychologische Versuche (Frankfurt/Main, 2006).

[5]See Peter Sloterdijk/Thomas Macho, Weltrevolution der Seele. Eine Lese- und Arbeitsbuch der Gnosis (Zürich, 1993).

[6] Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century, Cambridge 1989 (Hamburg 1992).

[7] Slavoj Zizek, Die Metastasen des Geniessens. Sechs erotisch-politische Versuche (Vienna, 1996), p. 63.

[8] »Thus they were at first perceived as the carriers of an anti-traditional revolution in painting... to only a short time later to be evaluated—with the emergence of Impressionism in France—as the simple embodiment of a homosexual, Victorian, pseudoromantic kitsch. This underestimation lasted up into the sixties of our century, that means until the appearance of Postmodernity.« (Cf. Zizek, Die Metastasen, p. 95.)

[9] Susanne Prinz in conversation via email with Michael Kunze in Texte ohne Verben / Texts without Verbs, Arbeiten / Works 1991–2001 (Cologne, 2002), p. 81–126, quote p. 100.

[10] Michael Kunze, Texte ohne Verben / Texts without Verbs, Arbeiten / Works 1991–2001, (Cologne, 2002), p. 177: »We have become accustomed to perceiving the real world as one of many possibilities. This image must be put straight. All possible worlds lie within the real one.« (From Nelson Goodman, Facts, Fiction and and Forecast.)