The Metaphysical Man


YEAR: 1989



The artist

Oct 1988Collection Kunsthalle , Bremen

Collection Kunsthalle Bremen


See No 50.


Amsterdam, De Appel Foundation
Witte schilderijen en witte mensjes 6 Oct 1989 — 4 Nov 1989

New York, The New Museum of Contemporary Art
Rhetorical Image 9 Dec 1990 — 3 Feb 1991

Malmö, Rooseum, Center for Contemporary Art
Trans/Mission – Konst Interkulturell Limbo 27 Aug 1991 — 27 Oct 1991 (as part of No 50, The Mental Institution or the Institute of Creative Research, Room 2)


The installation occupies two spaces: a room (rather large, 10 x 10 meters) and the corridor (its length is around 10 meters also; its width 3 meters).

The room is in total disarray. One gets the impression that someone has just moved out of it and the new resident hasn’t arrived yet (it should be added that the action takes place, as in many installations, in a communal apartment). Traces of a departure are everywhere, on the floor, in the corners: abandoned old chairs, a hat, boxes, scraps of newspaper, useless books

… But a rather large number of ‘white paintings’ on which almost nothing at all or very little is drawn are standing (or hanging) along the walls. It’s the same way in the corridor. One gets the impression that someone started to move these paintings (or whiteboards) from the room into the corridor in order to clean the room. It’s possible that the neighbors who are getting ready to move into this vacated ‘living space’ did this.

Who lived here, why are there so many white paintings, who painted them – all of this is explained in the neighbor’s story which is hanging on the wall near the entrance to the dirty, neglected corridor. There is also something that pertains to the whiteboards lying on the table near the entrance into the corridor…


… Running virtually through my entire life is that ordinary state of sitting senselessly, protractedly, dissipated in front of a blank piece of paper – whether getting ready to write a letter, send a note, to sketch something … Sitting before a white page like this had a truly magical effect on me. I could, without stirring, sit immobile in front of it for who knows how long, as though I were bewitched… Obviously, the sight of a large white surface had the same effect on me whenever I found myself in front of an empty board or canvas in my studio.

All of this was somehow superimposed on top of the particular atmosphere reigning in Moscow in ‘our circles’ at the beginning of the 1970’s. It seemed to everyone at the time that a new spiritual rebirth was about to happen at any moment. We devoured books by Russian religious philosophers of the Silver Age in huge quantities: Berdyaev, Soloviev, Florensky. We organized seminars; ‘spiritual leaders’ even appeared, and the themes of ‘spiritual’ visions and prophecy resounded in our literature. Artists discussed the problems of ‘white,’ ‘empty,’ ‘heavenly, unearthly light,’ which was supposed to come to the world through the painting and was interpreted as a revelation. I was also very captivated and carried away by all this. But as always, I felt that I was divided, split into two ‘people.’

One of them was sitting before large, white planes which he had put together himself and covered with a few layers of enamel whitewash, experiencing those intense and vague states which I spoke about above: I was irradiated, I found myself in the flow of a certain extraordinary energy, I became better, calmer, kinder, elevated … But this occurred with only one half of my being. The more I departed into this bright dream in my imagination, the clearer my second half established that all of this was only appearing to my imagination, which had gotten carried away, and in actual fact I was sitting before poorly assembled pieces of plywood with lots of cracks which you still can’t fix no matter how you putty them and cover them with enamel bought from that same Uncle Misha. And this would be clear as day to anyone who saw all this. And the drawings which you were making on the white field were also uninteresting and poorly, crudely executed … So, all your experiences were the fruit of exaltation, of your ‘dislocation,’ your inflamed imagination, but in reality, none of this existed at all, it just appeared to you, it just seemed that way…



installations - !.jpg
1989Megan BartonComment