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20 August 1997

The Familiar Unknown

People usually say that "the suit makes the man," refering to his overall look and his place in society. Thus the given role determines and generalizes his character at the same time. "The future is pink," some would say, expressing their optimism for tomorrow and bringing that optimism closer to our senses. The metaphor used here appears to be poetic. The linguist Georg Lakoff has pointed out that metaphors underlay everyday speech and "is one of the mechanisms whereby we adapt to new or challenging situations" (Metaphors and Familiarization). Familiar metaphors are a necessary part of intelligent communication.

My work as an artist has been devoted to exploring how unknown the familiar is to many people, and how we take for granted the shapes and forms of the world. In my work, familiarization and defamiliarization are the same thing and I explore their oposite tendencies, like averse and reverse of the same coin. To encourage sight, the act of seeing the object, I withhold some characteristics and transpose other characteristics into either a new shape or matter, causing the observer to grapple with both the meaning and sensuality of the object.

The Observed

The observer is a person who apperently has eyes and whose task is to observe. On the other end of eyesight there is a table. Only a table and nothing else, except for silence which is of course an absence of sound. In order to observe, the observer must be quiet, and tune himself, so to speak, into the existence of the table. The work is not a dead life but a still life. It is a silent life. "A life with silence," says Remy Zaugg (the autor of a video, "The Observer," noted in the book by Ulay and Marina Abramovic). "The voice," says remy Zaugg, continues : "with the two characters practising their wiles under the mask of inertia borrowed from the table and chairs, has a consciousness, a consciousness similar to the observer. That consciousness, unusual and unexpected in a work of art, suprises. It constrains. The consciousness of the observer clashes with the consciousness of the work. It is reflected in it. "Here it seems that the observer and the object are one. The content of the observer's mind in that particular moment is the universe wraped into the shape of the object. The idea of the table, its matter, and its purpose will dissapear like a cloud, and its brittle trace of existance be scattered in pieces and fragments.

Similarly, the name of a thing, repeted many times, will also disappear, leaving us in a silent emptiness of common nonsense, caused by the liberation of our senses, or better yet, a sense or our libertation.

The mechanism of defamiliarization, on first sight so obscure, is, as a matter of fact, a very common practice of all people; yet there is a certain way of changing the direction of the "flight", and an important understanding that some features of a defamiliarizing object must be kept, since they appear to be essentially important. This might be a journey with no return.

What is on the other side of the wall of perception has always been a secret, a danger and perheps, a forbidden fruit, which we have become accustomed to. This refers to the fact that practising defamiliarization with no established routine will definitely lead to failure and possibly to a perceptual warping of reality as we know it.