KCC no. 7: PARAPHRASE
Exhibition: 20 May – 25 June 2016
KCC No. 7
Curated by Philipp Konzett (fine art) & Michael Mautner (music)
Concert date with Michael Mautner and René Clemencic
Thurs., May 19, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
Duration of the exhibition: May 20 – June 25, 2016
“Modern literature is a paraphrase of Dante’s ‘Commedia’” (J. L. Borges)
“Philosophy is a paraphrase of Plato” (M. Heidegger)
“Art is a paraphrase of nature” (Novalis)
If everything’s a paraphrase, what’s the topic?
Paraphrase is per definition the analogous description or interpretation of a state of affairs – an artistic dialogue that is located somewhere between transcription, variation, perception, and improvisation.
Almost every form of art is actually a paraphrase. As a rule, an artwork is not created without a basis on a model; it is situated within an artistic tradition. Paraphrase ties together a lasting actualization with the immanence of the original semiotic code.
In the fine arts, paraphrase often reflects the positioning of an artistic self-image. The painting Otto Muehl hindert van Gogh, sich das Ohr abzuschneiden [Otto Muehl prevents van Gogh from cutting off his ear] shows not only Muehl’s anticipation of stylistic characteristics from van Gogh’s painting, such as the broad, dynamic brushstrokes and the spatial situation that defies definition, but also above all interesting psychological aspects: in a sense, Otto Muehl suspends himself above van Gogh and posthumously intervenes “as creator” in his life. In La Rivoluzione siamo noi, Joseph Beuys presents himself in the iconography of Egyptian guards and god figures.
For her 1970 performance Body Sign B, VALIE EXPORT had a garter tattooed onto her upper thigh. Her body became an artwork and transported the tattoo as a sign of a past form of slavery, as an attribute of femininity not determined by the woman. A photo shows the artist in the iconography of the waning nineteenth-century revue dancers as depicted, for example, by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.
Rita Nowak stages photographic tableaus that take after well-known works in art history, the style, composition, and narrative structures of which are transferred into a contemporary ambient. In Brillo Box by Andy Warhol, a quote by Claes Oldenburg is included: “With his Brillo boxes there is a degree of removal from actual boxes and they become an object that is not really a box. In a sense they are an illusion of a box and that places them in the realm of art.” It is first the paraphrase that makes it into an artwork. (A.R.)
In music, the paraphrase was established in the nineteenth century as a genre concept (F. Liszt). As a technique, it is as old as choral music itself. Already the first “organa” of the Notre Dame School were, strictly speaking, paraphrases of choral music. In contrast to variation, which remains in conjunction with the respective topic, the paraphrase can also lead to very different regions. Christian Eichhorn will introduce this dynamic through his impressive paraphrases of “Une jeune fillette” after Eustache Caurruy (1549–1609). The paraphrase as time travel.
Gerhard Schedl takes it a little further still in his romantic paraphrase of Der Tod und das Mädchen [Death and the Maiden] (1986) for string quartet: into the absolute interior of the topic, which becomes barely audible. The paraphrase as a thickening of perception.
Kinderreim by Otto M. Zykan explores with virtuosity the questions “what is the topic; what is a variation; when has something new been introduced?” In agile language mutations, his creations range from rhythmic condensations to contextual overflows through to tautology. And with this, he creates a new musical genre: songs without notes.
Franceso da Milano (1497–1543) invented the prototype of “greatest hits compilations” with his systematic translations of collected chansons, madrigals and motets. He recorded the songs of his times in tablature, i.e., he took from choral music written for one voice’s individual pitch and created musical scores, making use of a system of symbols, letters, and signs similar to the lead-sheet chord notations in jazz. The musical progression is presented in formal dimunition and requires additional, moment-by-moment completion by the interpreter. The paraphrase as a basic principle.
Music is art located in time. Music composers have created several models by which time can be deceived with regard to the duration of melodies, songs, works, i.e., time itself: through repetition, variation, paraphrasing, or simply adding in something new. And there are no other possibilities for this, or perhaps there are?
The paraphrase is the most noble variant of time condensation and manipulation in thematically oriented art. And with this we answer the question asked at the beginning, “if everything is a paraphrase, what is then the topic? (M.M.)