To dream oneself to the other end of the world was a childhood wish. I have dug, drilled, and trenched in the sandpit in order to come out again on the other side. Then later, years later, to find the past, the eon, the things from people who have been here before us, I have excavated at that same place for urns. Dr. Wcissmantel, the history teacher, said that what I had brought to him were Slavic urns, three thousand years old.
The game was not to lift oneself out of any old bad time into a better one. More than anything, curiosity propelled the discovery of what lav hidden in there, behind and below. A good start for a painter's life, highly recommended.
Listening to the radio waves belongs to this curiosity. Putting one's ear onto the railway tracks (there weren't any nearby) or on the telegraph poles, or peering through the ice at the frozen lake fired the imagination. Since 1942, in front of our house there stood giant electromagnetic listening dishes for the sky. Was something happening up there, airplanes with bombs, perhaps? One can hear various things with one's ear to the trunk of a tree, in any case, rushing water, in the way that city dwellers hear the flushing system. Eau et gaz a tons tes etages. The telephone wires sing far across the land. The red wood ants in their great piled-up castle sniff and rustle. Can you hear the sea in the conch? From where the wind comes was not so interesting, where it went was only further away. But the migrant birds passed through the sky in the formation of an arrow, or a wave, the starlings appeared as a cloud, the lapwings like whirled-up leaves. Near Fort Worth I stuck my finger into the ground and oil came bubbling up. Over here, once in a while, a mountain crystal, or a fine ammonite in the creek.
Sometime later, I began with drawings and paintings, in a way like digging, drilling, eavesdropping, ruminating, mining, as I thought about what lies behind or below. And so, transmuted into lines and forms, I have transported myself from my world into another one--not so far as to no longer recognize the relatives. Such good detergents did not exist back then. Somehow everything is still here, perhaps just in other places, upside down, or maybe not.
Worshiping heroes and listening to them, slipping into them and opening up the lid of their skulls as George Grosz had done, it becomes inevitable--a leader leads by seduction.
But then, reflecting about elongated brushes, or long arms, or painting behind the canvas, painting on the floor, what do you feel below? Or letting something paint itself, pouring paint, letting it run, dropping, painting something stupid, painting everything over. Why did Picabia go that far, and then again he painted single dots onto it, like buttons on a vest.
The experience of firework music in Imperia--after all, we are living in the house of a relative of Lucio Berio, also a Berio, big iron "B" on the gate--the music began, the fire crackers blasted, and up in the grandstand, we disappeared in the smoke. We couldn't see a thing and the music sounded only faintly, and dull. Groping in the dark? Falling into a trap? Anything can happen when it gets dark during the day. Now and again I slipped on a canvas wet with turpentine, like a wild boar in a wallow-. If one can't hear music, maybe one can hear the worms in the wooden table, or the birds outside the window.
If sixty years ago Dr. Lachmann's mongoloid son had not looked out the window and grimaced when he saw me, I would perhaps have taken painting lessons, discovered my talent, and promoted it. But I knew, at. most five years later, that this promotion comes to nothing and that I'd be better off letting it be. The hours diving in the South Seas are glorious, praise the Lord, because of everything one can see to the darkest depths of fish, monsters, corals, and colors. One is able to relax. Nothing more is required. At most, a game of solitaire on the beach. But then these stupid photographers and painters, these lusters after nature. When the airplane pushes up through the clouds, this expanse with stars or with blue skies, glorious, praise the Lord. Here, arias by Richard Strauss make a deep impression, but again, no pictures. The tin cans of shoe polish with the frog on the lid, two connected with a long piece of string and used as a telephone, back then, by us kids, glorious, praise the Lord. That gave pictures for the eye and ear. The breadth, the depth, the distance--first the frog was a prince, then a count, finally, a bastard.
The underground bunker in the woods, with walls covered with bed linen and my mother's green carpet on the dirt floor. When the soldiers were dead and the war ended, my friend and I moved in. A nice place for dreaming. We were well endowed with ammunition, too, from 8.8 cm caliber on down. The weapons were rusted. Before the secondary school painting adviser, Dr. Lachmann, set up his field easel in front of the old oak trees and began his little New Objectivity pictures, my high spirits to change the world in the future had 110 objective. I heard it rustling, but I lacked the form--110 Ahrnung, no Lehnimg. Reading books was a great influence, and the paperback booklet with black-and-white illustrations of Italian Futurism, glorious, praise the Lord. Stuff of great pathos could also be found on stamps, Stalin, for example, and in the romance novels of Jorge Amado. I was away more than I was here--more inside-outside than away-outside. That pictures meant freedom did not occur to me then. I thought to make paintings meant to draw attention to oneself. Oh well, it worked quite well in my bird's nest, or maybe better put, my rat's nest. The great prophets from the school desk next to me, the grand calculators and socialist creators of life forms, those I never saw again or heard of anymore. Presumably, they shriveled away. Also, the talented woman pianist gives only piano lessons. Even the great teachers shrink enormously after one leaves school. Why do memories tingle within us? Because one has rubbed against the wrong people? In this there is no difference in fact between the province and the metropole, at most, only in percentage.
There were many frogs in the sand pond. Before that it was slimy spawn, then the tadpole with the tiny tail, gradually it became amphibious, between land and water. With me, it was also slimy at first, and then crusted over. I, too, had mv state between egg and hen. Sometimes it went like a bird, from tree to mountain and across the land. For example, the love fevers, the swank of bulging muscles, the trials of courage. Fantasy was only good for showing off (swanking). All records, ever ywhere, were broken. If it had existed at all, I have forgotten the envy, the comparison fails, also the incentives for faster or more efficient foraging in my milieu. The rich, whom 1 later met, were assholes, and the famous artists did not interest me at all at first because they existed too monumentally in another world. One just gets on easier with the starvelings, the so-called outsiders, and there were enough of them. One can hide if one does not want to be seen, but also if one does not want to see anyone.
This changed when the first paintings were made. Finally, I knew best what and how these were. The difference and the distance to what had come before could not have been greater. The painting P. D. Stengel is more a ride on the "Moscow-Petushkr line, a trip to the end of the line, than a stroll in the supermarket of any Pop artist.
For example, "Lenin and the Nightingale," Bechers idiotic Stalin poems, a roe deer ... When Michael Jackson died, the obituary on the radio announced that the greatest musician of all time had died. He had rec eived the most gold records. Damn bloodv music is that, listened to by the damn bloody stupid. Becher is said to have been a snowbird on cocaine. More important, however, is that this crap poet was minister of culture. As for Lenin, please read "My Little Leniniana" by Erofeev. Lenin and Stalin with miniskirts and pumps. I, the painter, Fm getting into line, get into line, colleague. Hence the title. The Forgotten Second Congress of the Third Communist International in Moscow 1920, on the Right of the Picture Half next to Him jorg. One may recall Breton, Aragonu and so on--the Surrealists in the CP
Now, Willem de Kooning is a leading figure, Tracey Fmirr, Cecily Brown, Richard Prince, and so on. I use method, stereotype, and particular shades of color because it feels good when these go through one's head. One should quote and see what the colleagues are doing. Sitting high in the incubator, there is a cozy, factional heat. Still, few appear alongside Willem in my register.
When I had opened Trier's lid, it was nothing but Ahrnung and Lehnung there, and also when I pushed Xay's color disks across the paper, there was a glorious feeling, praise the Lord. A fabulous, free, high-spirited mood, away over the neighbor's fence and into the distance, a condition similar to this: he who lies once is never believed again; or: when all dams are broken; or: when a reputation has been ruined, one can live without embarrassment. As long as the thread held, it all went well. But soon I was stuck again in the old muck. I didn't even want to learn French on account, of the peculiar facial grimaces this required. Our teacher, Miss Hartel said that we, as Oberlausitzers, were particularly suhed for the French language. Miss Potzhuhn at the piano reeked of garlic, so playing the piano was also a lost cause.
I loved to look at pictures by Wols, back then, in 1957. But then the Americans came, this time not with chewing gum and chocolate but with Pollock, and the like. Glorious, this exhibition at our school, praise the Lord. In China, over thousands of years, over thousands of times, an alchemistic coffee cup from Meissen was already being broken. Is that a good aphorism for Europop from Saxony and Silesia? So far I have never cleaned toilet paper. We Elke and I are our own analysts. Our never-ending conversation about the past is reminiscent of two old apes picking the fleas from each other's fur, Elke says. Naturally, I have not only pondered. I have also dreamed in thought, putting together 1 and L planning and doing the next step, regardless of whoever was my helmsman in the little upper deck and whether he was choosing tire right direction--this is not logical-biological but logical-visionary', and all of it before the discovery of the onboard computer. Remix paintings are not like pickled cucumbers on the basement shelf. I have never ever greeted my own reflection.
That it occurs on a white surface, I have maintained into recent years. Something is there, not far removed from drawing, inside and on it, not just all over and about. Even my Composition after Liechtenstein is that way, quoted on it like fly dung, the music plays after it from the score sheet, and whether the thing can fly remains unclear. The lucky numbers for the next draw are: 1, 5, 19, 23, 38, 40.
Translated from the German by Christian Katti
Georg Baselitz was born January 23, 19:38, in Deutschbaselitz in Saxony, Germany, and given the name Hans-Georg Bruno Kern. He lives and works at the Lake Ammersee (Bavaria) and in fmperia (the Italian Riviera).
For invaluable help and advice I would like to thank Detlev Gretenkort and Karen Lang, as well as Mr. Baselitz. Footnotes would have lent an unfortunate lone and appearance to the poetic character of this essay. At the same time, much of its context was in danger of being lost. Hence, we have decided on these notes.
Eau et gaz a tons tes etages. Here, we find not only "water and gas on all floors" but also, as a matter of course, a flashing reference to Marcel Duchamp.
One might think of George Grosz's Die SliUzen der GeseUschaft (1926), where the skulls appear opened, almost like pots. "Malen aus dem Kopf, aus dem Kopf, oder aus dem Topf" is the title of a manifesto by Baselitz, who likes to play with the homonymous metaphors "KopT (head) and "Topf," as well as with opening them up. (See Painting from Memoiy, Upside Down, or irom the Pot/Painting Out of My Head, Upside Down, Out of a Hat. in Diane Waldman, Georg Baselitz [New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1995], 247.)
With Francis Picabia one might think of Point (1947), or of Das srhwaneste Sehwan (1949).
Baselitz lives and works in Imperia, Italy, and near Munich, at the Lake Ammersee. He was born Hans-Georg Kern in the tiny hamlet of Deutschbaselitz. His and his wife's dates of birth might be found within the lucky numbers at the end of the essay.
With the image of the frog on the tin can, Baselitz refers to the Frdal logo, one of the most common German shoe polish firms. Its change over time frames the end of the essav.
"Ahmung" and "Lehnung": Ahmung might best be translated as mimicking, seeming, resembling, loose counterfeiting, or near imitation. Leknung connotes leaning, following, leaning on, or even allusion. Ahmung is also used as a terminus technicus in psychological contexts, where it describes the unconscious and involuntary reaction of imitating visual stimuli (see Christian Kellerer or Marylka Bender). But the closeness to the German Ahnung (ahum means to sense, anticipate, guess, having a hunch, suspecting) resonates as strongly. For its part, Lehnung feels more like the fragment of a word, though a very suggestive one. For all these reasons, we chose to keep the two expressions, with all due apologies, in the original German.
Baselitz refers in a figure of speech to a famous Russian novel of Samizdat literature. See Venedikl Erofeev, Moscow to the. End of the Line, translated from the Russian by H. William Tjalsma (Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1992). This novel, with the original title Moscoxo-Petiishki, written about 1969 - 70, was at first "published officially" in 1973, in the Israeli journal Am. It also appeared under the titles Moscow Stations and Moscow Circles. "Samizdat" denotes a main dissident aclivjiv that was not uncommon throughout the Soviet bloc. Individuals produced and copied censored works and passed them on, mostly among circles of friends, in a snowball system--therefore the scare quotes concerning "official publication." Erofeev's novel is perhaps the most popular work of Russian …