Letter to Revivre Lacan

Drew Hammond

January, 2022

Dear Yvonne:

For some reason, I found myself thinking about your Courbet / Wahl piece, and this occurred to me.

Without your intervention the original, or, for that matter, a copy of it, is, in the context of your work, at least analogous to an "objective" view. It is as it is, if you will, so to speak, “unintervened” (to coin a word). But once it becomes a Wahl piece with your intervention, it becomes at least analogous to a "subjective” view, largely because the intervention introduces elements that vary and change it, rather as a subjective view is one that varies our perception from that of the "objective” origins, and yet, the way you have arranged it, even with your intervention, which has to do both with intermediate transparent surfaces and light, we still catch a partial glimpse of the original in such a way that we are palpably reminded of the distinction between our new subjective condition and the original - So, not only is the tension between them reinforced, but the degree of change becomes very clear because even as we see the "altered version”, we can, as it were, measure the degree of intervention with direct reference and comparison with the original. This condition has, in addition, a temporal aspect because, almost invariably, we see the "original" before the work with the intervention and the post intervention work after it. This effect happens even if we see only thew post intervention work because our eye almost invariable drifts first to the underlying source image even if for no other reason than it is sharper and so familiar. This condition of successive or consecutive vision within the work in isolation recapitulates the true temporal condition of the works because, in reality, one was made before the other.

This "switching or alternation between what I have called "objective" and "subjective” finds its analogy in the case of this work in a distinction of Husserl's:
that of noetic and noematic perceptions. Husserl elucidates this distinction with a story of his perception of a tree. At first he perceives the tree as a tall form with a brown trunk and a seemingly infinite multiplicity of green leaves. The ensemble has bilateral symmetry; its form shifts with the wind, etc. This is what he calls the noetic perception. The noematic has to do with a series of associations the tree evokes. He may remenber, when he was a boy, his father took him to that very spot, and they had a talk. He remembers the content of the talk, feels again the emotions of it, and a whole system of associations. Another way of thinking of this is that the "original" Courbet posits a noetic vision of the work -- especially for a first-time viewer. The work, after your intervention, becomes a noematic perception whose first association is that of the Courbet, but which posits a system of other associations that may or may not include the circumstances and memories surrounding one's first experience of the original. Perhaps there was a thunderstorm outside. Perhaps, on that occasion, he or she first met a loved one. In either case, the work‘s power allow us to alternate, in the blink of an eye between objective and subjective; and between noetic snd noematic. It is a very singular experience of a work of art for the viewer. I suspect there are other works of yours that work this way— I think immediately of the photos, but i‘m sure there are more once we start to revisit them.



Drew Hammond
1957 – 2022
art critic


“Born in London in 1957, Hammond studied Philosophy of Aesthetics under José-María Sánchez de Muniain at the University of Madrid (1975–1976), and Chinese Aesthetics and Neo-Confucian Thought under Wing-tsit Chan of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University, where he entered the PhD. program (1976–1982). During the eighties and nineties, as a successive resident of five countries in Latin America, he wrote art criticism for El Diario de Caracas and other publications under the pseudonym, M.T. Han. In 2006, he was appointed a Visiting Lecturer in Contemporary Art for Global Architecture History and Theory program of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Landscape, Architecture and Design. And in the following year, he directed a graduate seminar in Beijing, in the Theory of Perspective in Classical Chinese Art for the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Also in 2007, he was appointed to lecture in the Chinese language on Contemporary Western Art 1962–2005 at the Graduate Faculty of the China Art Academy in Beijing, and continues to lecture annually on contemporary art for the Executive Masters Program in Art Market Studies (EMAMS) of the University of Zürich. As former Senior International Correspondent for The Art Economist, Hammond specialized in presentation strategy in contemporary art. Besides having published numerous exhibition catalogues and essays in books on artists’ works, he also has published in Texte zur Kunst, Flash Art, Art investor, The Art Newspaper ( China). and other periodicals dedicated to art topics.


Exhibition / Hand in the Pocket, 2004

Excerpt from a speech / Dr. Andreas von Randow

Yvonne Wahl is characterized by a media-unspecific conception of art: performance, video, film, sculpture, installation, text, photography. Thereby, the integration into a social present is up for debate. The present, however, is not meant here as an illustrated experience, but rather goes deeper: myths and fairy tales, consciousness and attempts to bring the collectively subconscious to the fore, penetrating into psychic media processing, exploring interfaces of perception. Medially conveyed worlds are linked with worlds of memory, objects of everyday use are connected with things worthy of veneration, non-European cultural circles are brought together with European everyday experiences. "Lost in Translation", a poetic losing oneself in the translation of perceptual horizons. Bringing together the hidden and the obvious into something once again questionable, inverting the foreign and the own. Becoming foreign to oneself in one's own and discovering the foreign as one's own.

Yvonne Wahl arranges her world of ideas into series. She creates what is beyond her design to an ordered series. She wants to make contexts possible for her own work organization. Her themes slip from serious sociological analysis to sarcasm, irony, satire. This hovering between the worlds of the strange, the peculiar, the comic, the tragic make her works an open terrain. They elude precise terminological definition. One can slip in them.

Dr. Andreas von Randow

Art Advisor in the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Culture of the State of Schleswig-Holstein, 2004

Catalog, 2004

Detlef Lieske / Text to Hand in the pocket

Heisenberg’s indeterminacy principle says that you cannot exactly localise an electron while simultaneously measuring its momentum with absolute precision. The reason for this is that measuring always involves an interaction of the measuring instrument and the measured quantity. If the measured quantity is so small that it is being substantially influenced by quanta of energy, which are interacting with it for the purpose of measurement, then it is no longer possible to simultaneously measure complementary properties with
absolute precision. Complementary properties are such pairs of properties the product of which has the dimension of an action (g · cm2/sec), e.g. position and momentum or time and energy. This statement from quantum mechanics applies first of all to the microcosm, i.e. the sub-atomic level. However, we must confine the consequences and conclusions neither to physics nor to microcosmic matters.

Unfortunately, not being conceivable seems to be almost a characteristic feature of quantum mechanics. For that reason I will begin with a simile in order to make clearer the nature of the indeterminacy principle: I imagine catching sight of a big green tree in the distance and there is something dark in its branches, blurred – like a shadow. Getting closer I am able to make out black birds, a whole lot of them sitting in an old oak tree. Getting even closer I can guess that it is a whole swarm, probably crows. I will try to count them – as I go a few steps further, they fly up and are gone, just yet I realize that it was indeed crows. I would have to be content with the statement: A big green tree with something dark in its branches. Or:
A whole lot of crows have just flown up from an oak tree. I am not able to tell how many birds there are sitting in the tree.

A conclusion from the indeterminacy principle: The observer changes the observed. We are creating reality by observing. The reverse implication: There is no reality without observation. This means: there could be any number of realities but it is not possible to make statements about them. A reality which does not enter into real interaction is actually no reality at all – because it does not act. The “there might be” is creating worlds – however, only inside our heads. Physicians have created the Schrödinger cat just to put it into a dark box to illustrate their findings.

I will now leave the paths of physics hoping that I will be able to show that Heisenberg has also written a theory of art. However, the point here is not a strictly formal transferability but to show that the indeterminacy principle also applies to real life:

Some man in India whom I do not know (any man in India, so to speak) [the reader is as familiar with him as the author of these words] has now, at this very moment, all the stories: he is starving, he is winning the lottery, he is beating up his wife, he has died long ago. And he has all of them at the same time because I could not even take away one of these stories from him without committing myself. If I enter a plane and get off in India, take to Calcutta, walk through the slums there, then the stories separate from each other, and are distributed nicely and clearly to individual persons from the moment at
which I begin to differentiate and to attribute stories to people. If I talk to a single person, I will learn about biography and get to know the individual. But unambiguousness has its limits. A certain closeness facilitates – or should it rather be: enforces – the employment of our human precision instruments, also called feelings.

Example: I sit down next to the man in Calcutta I just talked about. I note: I am jealous because he is wearing such a nice suit (he is the lottery winner), suspicious because he keeps his hand inside his trousers…
I think about what might happen. Closeness is beginning to create distance.

If I would now – still as example – try to find out about the story of his hand in his trousers, I could question him. He would notice suspicion behind my question (or, with the same result: become insecure) and react surly, maybe walk away without saying a word. If I do not continue in investigation, I will have several stories about this hand – how real might these be? – Perhaps he doesn’t even have a hand - -

My hypothesis about this is: There is, also with regard to interhuman aspects, a point at which no further closeness in the sense of knowledge can be achieved by actually getting closer. Up until this point the other one opens himself, i.e. I can attribute other stories to him, but if I am getting even closer, I will begin to interact (because I am the observer) and contribute to his becoming withdrawn from me (i.e. my knowledge). By the way, this also seems to be applicable to love relations, even to those in which a unio mystica of the
lovers is invoked. Because even the unlimited willingness to open oneself creates a change in oneself, i.e. the assimilation which is strived for, through the boundless approach to the other one. I am pursuing the idea that art could be a power which can reduce the blurredness among human beings.
In this context some assertions:

Works of art are fixations of contents of consciousness that have been shifted to the outside;

Works of art are also sediments of the un-, pre-, and subconscious.

As such works of art cannot lie, being materialised stories they are always inherently truthful.

The reception of art is beyond the conditionedness of interhuman communication.

It is only subject to the conditionedness of the perceptive faculty.

There are no interactions between the observer and the work of art, there is only the effect of art on the observer.

The observer of works of art is alone with a) himself and the world in his head b) the work of art.

After the process of observation, the world in observer’s head is a different one from that before observation, completely independent of the aesthetic judgement of the observer. I think that it is amazing to notice that - if you are prepared to follow the hypotheses – only the observer is changed here. Now, there are no twoobservers who experience identical changes but the quality of their changes can be comparable. In order to achieve this art must neither be moralising nor standardising nor pre-scribing. Art must not make assertions.
Art must question. This may sound paradoxical: In order to leave something with the observer art has to try to take something away from him. A work of art can in this sense attack first of all the perceptions itself. It can – and should – question ways of perceptions, just like the categorisation and processing of perceptions.

Do not trust what you see! – This could be a message of art, which simultaneously evokes the question:
What can I trust then? To this aim the work of art – just as a suggestion - holds ready stories. Stories that ideally lead away from the paths of an approach from the outside. Exactly this wish not to understand things from the outside but to see the core below the surface is the central thought of early Romanticism. I will give a short overview of the basic thoughts in today’s words.

The present is deficit because it has lost parts of a previously existent complete world. However, these lost parts are not lost once and for all, they only evade from anybody’s access.

There are mediators who can make visible these parts and reestablish the contact. What manifests itself as uncertain easiness might be thickened into a concrete utopia by such a mediator: We can do something to regain the lost. This would not be a step “backwards into the ideal past”, the past is not a model for the future but a representation of the loss. Only the synthesis of the present and the lost past creates through
concrete action the New in the present. This approach is neither possible from the outside nor by measuring surfaces or tearing away veils.

Art offers, and this is also a Romantic thought, ways to lay bare and restore the cores. Such core - the central topic of any intentional utopia – is the knowledge of human identity, the finding of a homeland.

Therefore: Do not look too closely!

Detlef Lieske, born in 1958 near Kiel, studied German studies, history, and philosophy thesis on Middle High German crusader lyrics. Lives in Munich as employee of a very large insurance company. Published his first novel in 2002 “Through Lack of Remembrance” - a romantic thriller with a Heisenbergian love story.

artist statement

Yvonne Wahl

I title my work as Conceptual Sculpture. Linked to political, psychological, and sociological themes, I artistically navigate through life and time like a sponge. In this flowing dynamic, I occasionally hold on art‘s historical references to stabilize, but then let myself eagerly and vulnerably be influenced by foreign cultures during my travels, again and again.

Thus, the phrase "The foreign in the familiar, the familiar in the foreign" accompanies the development of my work, which arises from my own experiences. Through confrontation with the unknown, I strive for self-acceptance and acceptance of others, if possible. I employ tools such as gender swapping, ironic provocation, playfulness, and humor. With this humorous approach, I apply my feminist-romantic filter specifically to selected iconic works of my artistic (grand)fathers.

Whether it is site-specific installations, sculptures, performances, films, or photography, each of my artistic works incorporates sculptural references to body, spatiality, and situation - both my own and those of the viewers. I understand my work as a declaration of love to the poetically tangible - to sculpture.

yvonne wahl – philosophy of soothed discomfort

martin eugen raabenstein

In the contrasting pairs of promise / expectation and fulfillment / disappointment, the human experience of being is reflected in art. Through skillful handling and ideally a balanced blend of elements that evoke joy and sorrow within oneself, a stable personality is believed to be formed. Based on this, a nuanced perception encounters an artwork with a certain openness. This is not about regurgitating knowledge presented hastily in the last four decades. The artificial condensation of superficial trends obstructs a clear view of what art can, at its best, always be: the answer to an individually posed question to the work.

Intuition, curiosity, and personally added experiences create a dialogue with art that can ideally lead to contradicting realizations, depending on the diverse starting positions. Such a lively dialogue is beneficial. For instance, the artist's use of a woman's bare breasts dipped in a doughy mass, labeled as 'heavy cheesecake,' provides a perfect entry into the intricately woven world of the artist. This artwork playfully engages with the mentioned aspects of human experience. Another installation titled 'Serious Misery,' featuring a meticulously arranged living room interior (Bergstübl Projects 2003), situated at the feet of a minimalist wall piece, complements this cleverly questioned societal standard. The tension between a pubescent youth's wet dream and the all too dry awkwardness of a mature adult creates an arc under which we can calmly examine Wahls' intentions.

The most common promise of a joke lies in the anticipated merriment, especially when it culminates in its punchline. The sociological significance of liberating laughter cannot be overstated, particularly in times where socially fragmented groups splinter into smaller, antagonistic cells. However, it is important to consider that this release of laughter often relies on the detriment of an individual, yet shared laughter also presents an opportunity for connection. When art is the answer to a posed question, the representation of a dough-enveloped woman's breast may seem amusing at first. However, due to the uncertainty that has crept in during recent years, regarding when and why we are allowed to laugh, the breast and the sofa become both amusing and poisonous.

"The Origin of the World," a scandalous painting by Gustave Courbet, which Wahl deals with in one of her works as a reproduction, calmly introduces the concept of shame into this stretched discourse. A woman lying with spread legs, her hairy, exposed genitalia at the center of the composition, suddenly becomes blurred when someone approaches the painting. Motion sensors trigger the effect of visual withdrawal, but the person feeling caught cannot pinpoint the actual reason for this denial of the artwork. Only complete stillness re-unlocks the object. Thus, the shame of the individual intruding into a staged intimacy becomes the cause of their inability to further contemplate the depicted shame. This raises, with even more intensity, the question of the threshold between sexual curiosity and voyeurism.

While the artist instrumentalizes humor and the associated irritation as relief and appeasement for the audience, the trap of guilt mercilessly snaps shut upon contemplating Courbet's work. The animal has caught itself. One could not play a more Freudian piano impressively. The artist remains silent, smiling mildly, further applying rouge to the already glowing cheeks of her viewers. Just as no moment wishes to last eternally, Wahl then turns back with her work 'Pussyhat,' simply placing the female sex, in the form of knitted headwear, on top of the shame-soaked crowd. In the ambiguity of the question, Wahl's stumbling trap lies once more. "Is it now a...?" referring to the headwear, or is the person wearing it "a...?" Or does it relate to someone else entirely? Promises, expectations, fulfillment, and disappointment intertwine and console themselves in this work, promising to transcend boundaries but only to a certain extent. Excessive repetition of the self drowns every idea. Thus, it is interpreted as Wahl's artistic intuition to incorporate the game with the deceived audience into her overall body of work with certain temporal intervals.

martin eugen raabenstein 12/2022
lives in berlin

Loosers in digital castles in the air

Dr. Johannes Schröder / Excerpt from a Text / Exehibition BELIEVE IN ART! / EINSTELLUNGSRAUM in Hamburg

From the hole in the ground into the air

The heavy and the light

Wahl has her figures - "the Loosers " - outshined by projected photos she took while traveling in megacities like N.Y., L.A. or Beijing. She employs images of the ephemeral, even the immaterial, which is underscored by the beamer projection of the digital datasets. The line-by-line resolution of the images, combined with the contrasting cascades of light in the photographs and the zoom setting, creates a flicker that turns the cityscape into a mirage. As a visualization of proverbial "hot air," city views hovering over objects become a vague apparition. The heaviness of the objects trapped on the floor becomes all the more drastic, as they appear in the dark center like the guests in the dark center of a panopticon.

The view from the mountains to the lowlands has always fascinated people. In order not to have to climb mountains, people have probably been thinking about flying for just as long. Definitely this is handed down by shamanism and myths like the legend of Daedalus, in which it is reported that he built flying machines with his son Icarus and learned to fly. Here interestingly already comes together what I speak of; because Daedalus was metallurgist and invented at that time on Crete the casting with the lost mold. The procedure begins with the production of a figure from clay. A hollow mold is taken from it and assembled into a vessel. This is poured with metal. After cooling, the hollow form is knocked off and thus destroyed: it is "lost".

The remarkable thing about this myth is that here the enabling of the light, that is, the use of springs to build wings, is in one hand with the mastery of the heavy. Consequently, the conquest of the air goes back to the knowledge of this metallurgist who obtains his material from the ores lying in the ground and organizes the casting of his figures in the ground.

Today, work continues in this direction, as we will soon see the first plastic passenger machines flying, replacing the large machines that are still made of metals such as aluminum, titanium, magnesium and corresponding alloys. Our stubbornness towards a holistic view probably also has to do with the fact that we erroneously assume that these areas used to be separate. Just as little can the immaterial, which today determines our life, exist without material. This is why the term post-industrial society used in this context is also foolish, because it ignores the fact that heavy industry continues to produce the prerequisites of our lives, even if the associated burdens on the environment and the physical efforts have become invisible in our country because they have been relocated to other countries. After all, globalization is based on a worldwide division of labor, and it is all the more fatal if we regard digital castles in the air, which are special cases and consume infinitely more resources than other forms of settlement, as creations without preconditions. The film "Wall-e" (directed by Andrew Stanton, Pixar Animation, 2008) shows both levels as an endearingly ironic caricature: The surface of the earth is a pile of garbage sorted by robots, and the people have fled into space, where they are aimlessly on a permanent cruise in a mega spaceship.

The aerial architecture of Werner Ruhnau, who collaborated with the artist of the void Yves Klein, is a good example of the tangibility that this utopia had in its beginnings, the 1960s. Ruhnau envisioned spaces without walls, which would have been separated from the outside world solely by a greatly accelerated flow of air. Today, this process can be compared to air locks, as we know them from department stores or other public buildings, which separate the interior from the outside world by means of an air flow in the entrance area.

Architecture dissolved in light
Photographs of megacities

The above digression was necessary to put into adequate context the urban conglomerates we see in the photographs of Wahl projected here. The projections show us only light penetrating the panes of the office towers built of steel and glass and serving between them to illuminate the streets and squares. But since only the light is reproduced on the photochip, the images suggest the dissolution of the material architecture. Not only does their form disappear; the movement of the camera provides additional blurring as the images are made from cars gliding along. Light and data storage are conditions for an art that, as Francois Lyotard suggested in his then groundbreaking work "Les Immateriaux, "4 makes matter disappear. But we know today that this is an illusion, because the enormous energy consumption of cities and the gigantic machines that keep the Internet and the digital data streams going require buildings that span the entire earth as infrastructure and for the production of the energy flows and, as already explained above, is highly dependent on heavy industry.

This contradiction, to which Yvonne Wahl was exposed as a young stone sculptress during her time in Cologne in contact with visual artists - who worked primarily conceptually - ultimately triggered the development whose preliminary result we see here. As the conversation I had with the artist at the opening of the exhibition made recognizable, this experience is now soberly classified, for the physical action of sculpting, which is a patient days-long working out of a form, she sees as a psycho-physical process of "clarification" and "incorporation." It involves the body in the artistic work, which was already a decisive impulse for the turn to performance in the times of conceptual art and ensured that "the physical parts of art production were freed from the stigma of craftsmanship. "6 Here, the plan and intuition are seen as the prerequisite for recognizing a form and planning its elaboration before the differentiated physical work on the block sets in to transform this form or vision into a pictorial work.

On the subject of sculpture as an action art that favors the process over the result, the artist gave an auditory and visual sample during the opening of the exhibition when she knocked a sphere or - if you will - the basic shape of a head out of a cuboid in the basement room of the SETTING ROOM. The tapping, the persistent working off of a workload is probably the virtue that we need to relearn in the face of the ready-made products that are offered to us in all walks of life. We must leave the horizontal of expediency in order to give more space to the movements in the vertical; for it is often those who rise and fall while bringing forth something new.

4 experimental exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou in 1985, which Lyotard curated with Thierry Chapus and others. 6 J. L. Schröder: Identität / Überschreitung Verwandlung, Münster 1990, p. 112

Johannes Lothar Schröder lives as a researcher, teacher and author in Hamburg. His fields of work are the reference to time in works of visual art, especially in Futurism and Performance Art, as well as the artistic expressions influenced by them.