Smell that enters - Sound that enters - Light that enters.

Research pages of Aroma Molecule Experiments - Post object Art.

We long for a safe molecular river in the brain, that goes off like a lightning strike. We explore these aroma-molecules like we do our lovers bodies; with joy for the quantum undulations that are part of our compositional strategy (for living).

Friday, 7 March 2008

Working With Hermann Nitsche (& the antiseptic smell of animal blood)

“Now we will see how you are with the blood" was the first thing he said. He had on a pair of round, gold rimmed “speigals.” A thin line of red paint and congealed blood between the rims and the lenses aroused my curiosity about what we where getting ourselves into. Flecks of red paint on his gold watch also caught my eye. He wore a hat, a vest and a black jacket. He looked like a character that had come to life out of Proust.

I jumped up onto the back of the open tray truck filled with white plastic drums. One of the plastic drums touched my leg as I picked it up. I could feel warmth through plastic. In my minds eye, I remember a slow motion movie of cows falling, percussive thumps, big brown eyes becoming cloudy, the blood somehow magically ending up in these buckets. We lifted the white plastic 40 Ltr pails down to the ground and then took them into the large wooden gallery space that floated on top of backlit green jelly like water.

Later, Nitsche was being wheeled around on a scaffold by some of the other assistants. This old world looking man, hurling buckets of blood at the wall like he was a strange artist/priest.He wore a white gown.We had spent days stretching canvasses to the wall, but Nitsche was throwing and wiping the blood, almost as soon as they went up.Unlike Jackson Pollock, Nitsche liked to mostly throw and wipe the blood with the canvasses already attached to the wall(though,he did also throw it onto floor canvass as well). The blood and bright red enamel paint, would run in thin and fat streaky columns that where strikingly beautiful,like a drip landscape, the blood would seperate into little masses of cells, tiny fillegrees of this incredible organic pigment that formed a field. I will never forget that smell.

It was interesting to be part of a process that allowed for improvisational ju-ju within a fairly formalised compositional strategy.It seemed like a good way to work -a methodology that produced both consistency and the nice things that come from accidental procedures; pours and splashes and sweeping actions creating an ocean wave of blood or a red blood cloud. I learnt something from this.

Everyday, the space was full up with press people. I looked up to see a frozen sheet of elongated blood heading in my direction. Milli-seconds later, I was blindsided by the stuff. The blood went smack! soaked my lower body and filled my shoe. Specks of blood splashed up onto my face.Time stopped, except for the gentle pop of the press photographers flash guns and the whir of moto-drives. Everyone gasped for a second and froze in their tracks.I caught Nitsche’s eye for a moment. He was carefully judging to see if this was going to be some kind of set back. I smiled up at him and he smiled back, he paused awhile longer, to see that things where ok, and then went back to the job. Ever the performer, he knew that how he painted the work, was as much the work as the finished thing. He named it a " Painting Action" in a loud banner, on the outside of the building.

Late one afternoon A and myself where given the job of disposing of some leftover blood. It had been sitting around for a long time, maybe a couple of weeks. What was incredible was how the blood would congeal into this solid jelly. You could have poured it onto the ground and it would have held its shape like a sculpture. It didn’t smell like balsamic, antiseptic, plastic, anymore - it had a spikiness to it that was like a thousand pin pricks in the nose, but not like rotting meat, this was somehow a kind of pure rankness. We suddenly decided to do something very mischeivous. No one was around to see us, so we hurled the contents of the bucket overboard into the harbor. Remember, it was dusk. This is the time of day that your dog will get knocked off if he goes for a swim and everyone knows that sharks arrive in numbers at this time of the day for a feed, especially in Sydney harbor. The best bit was watching the blood form a giant black stain, just like in the movie Jaws. We watched in vain for the arrival of the circling dorsal fins.Sadly, they never came.

After six o clock, when the press had finally left to go to the pub and most of the biennale people had gone home, Nitsche had some of us put on the white gowns that appeared in the work. These then had blood poured down from the neck, forming rivers from the neck down. It was a macabre and powerful gesture. We then placed the gowns throughout the installation and they hung like religious smocks of murdered priests picked up from the floor of a Dionysian orgy.In hindsight, you can see why people might react, especially the sensationalist press who had a field day with the whole thing.

Later we added 50 or so animal brains and bouquets of yellow ? flowers to the installation.

Nitsche had real presence; I had never before met anyone like him.I guess he was the first A-List Artstar and media star that I met. Hermann had brought with him a large wooden crate of books and cd’s, records and videos. It was the videos I think, that eventually brought in the vice squad. They almost shut the whole thing down. I am not sure what they where responding too? Some of the videos showed his yearly ritual performance in Prinzendorf, Austria. It may have shown some perfectly innocuous blood sodden naked art students, but it also showed some happy people stomping grapes. The strongest image was probably of a cow being disemboweled(a dead one) Hermann was pretty much incapable of hurting anything, I would think. If my memory serves me correctly, the vice squad eventually gave everything back, after a few weeks of analysis. Hermann didn’t seem too worried about any of this. I got the impression, that every time he did one of these works, which was frequently, some sort of controversy would follow.

Hermann talked openly and extensively about his life and the people he knew, which seemed to be everyone. He was generous in the way he was interested in what we where working on, we where just finishing artschool. I remember getting the impression that his life was strangely rarefied, sheltered in some ways, protected by his lovely psychoanalyst wife and also romantically driven by his artistic vision and that came through in the way he was totally genuine about what he was doing. There was no sense of irony that I could detect. Nitsches life is elevated. And in the long hours of many a restaurant meal, a nightly ritual that seemed to go on for weeks and weeks, (at his expense, we where all very poor students) Nitsche talked about personal things, things that where real and unreal, things I could never really talk about here.

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