»Knowing you, Knowing me«
By Nikolaj Recke ©1997.
Dear Robert Morris.
Three years ago I had a strange experience with you. I saw three of your feltpieces in a Gallery in Cologne. These works of yours took away my knowledge and understanding of art. I was touched in a way, which primary where based on sensitive emotions. At that time I felt absolutely no need to be affected by sculptures, made in a context of anti-form from the beginning of the 70's.
The reason I write you, is that I want to make a video, where I'm trying to find out what's going on, and I think the best way of doing it, is talking to you, -the person behind the works that made such an impression on me. You once wrote »No art comes without its story«. -I've just told you mine.
Please let me hear from you.
Dear Nikolaj Recke
O.K. lets talk.
I will be out of NYC May 15-June 15. But I have a show opening 20 May (felts and drawings) at the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, England. If you could get there , we could talk on that day. Otherwise you have to find a day in May for our talk. -Let me know.
Dear Robert Morris.
I will come to New York together with the spring, in the beginning of May. I really like this picture of you and me sitting around your table in your studio, talking, about things which is very important to me. You should know, that I'm the kind of person, who wakes up every morning, and ask myself »What am I doing?« and »why?« And since those days in Cologne, I've got felt stranded in my mind.
Let me know, any day will do!
Dear Nikolaj Recke
The "talk" you first mentioned now sounds more like a "performance." I should tell you that I have given up the stage and have no interest in being part of a Performance. O.K. for a talk.
Send me a full description of the video, and I will decide if I want to participate.
Dear Robert Morris.
I must have said something wrong, since these reserved considerations suddenly jumps out of your head.
Well, I can't tell you much, just that I would like to have a talk with you. And its not so much what we talk about, -just that we do it. I think for me its all a question of honesty. I once had a girl who couldn't say a word without lying. It totally confused me. It's in relation to others that you see your self, and if this relation is false, you see your self in a false way.
These and other experiences of deception and misunderstanding is the reason why I have to question myself about the felt in Cologne.
A while ago I made two felt-works. They are in gray felt and are made out of the letters from the words "True" and "False". I really don't know who made them, me or you. I like the idea of other artists doing my work. -When ever I fart in a museum, I feel like I'm Manzoni.
First of all you should know that I like talking to my word processor better than to most people. I realize this goes against the deep-seated ideology of "authentic spontaneity" associated with the face to face interaction that goes back at least to Socrates. This is to say that I like the idea of your project far better than the prospect of participating in it. Maybe you picked the wrong guy.
We know that there is a phalanx of artists out there who are positively intoxicated with the sound of their own voices, and that their production of hot air makes us wonder why they don't float away. But as for me -when transfixed by an interesting question from another living human being I usually look at my shoes and mumble. My interest in the strangeness and the terror of existence somehow stops short of the congenial discussion.
Such discussions under the kleig lights strikes me as comical. This is not to suggest that I get the idea that our discussion under the kleig lights would be congenial. Part of me is also Nordic. Probably some of my views arise out of the morose Swedish gene which knows nothing of that lighter, more luminous Danish outlook. Like any good Swede this saturnine gloominess reaches its apogee in the dark winter months.
In the softness of May...Well, who knows.
Dear Robert Morris
When I'm reading your last letter, I can't help feeling lost in a labyrinth. How should I become wiser on those blindfolded arguments?
It seems that I have to talk to the weatherprophet or obey your genetic nonsense, to find out what's going to happen. I guess I feel a little afraid, because I can't really see a Yes or a No from you. I think you should re-think your considerations, and send me a briefing of your thoughts.
Dear Robert Morris
Now you're just coming to me with silence. -And it drives me crazy. A line from a melody keep spinning in my head, "You're a fool boy, why don't you go find somebody else".
You wrote me that I might picked up the wrong guy, but that's wrong, you're the One and only and my mind is ruled by the memories of your felt. Since the note of "OK! -Lets talk", the power of thinking and consideration has ruled. I feel attracted to this tyranny, even though it suppress my inner invocations.
I begin to understand that you don't want to participate in my video. I guess my genes wont give up. Until now I can't accept your reserved attitudes. -What do you actually mean by saying: OK! Lets talk!? I've always thought that Kansas was a place where a man kept his word. (It's always like that in the western-movies)
We have to find a solution. D. Garnegie once said in his book; "How to win friends and influence people" »The only way I can get you to do anything is by giving you what you want« -What do you want, Bob? Well if I come to N.Y.C. next week, and buy us a cop of coffee somewhere in SoHo, we could talk and maybe together try to find out what to do.
-Let me know!
O.K. lets meet and talk in New York City. In a blind sort of way. Without the video.
If I were you I'd stay out of SoHo--it looks more like the "Raft of the Medusa" every day. A great wave of regressive infantilism has swept over what once passed for art.
I'll be at my loft on Monday, Give me a call!
After six days in New York city, trying to get in contact with you, I feel awful and a kind of silly. Actually I thought we had a deal for a meeting somewhere in SoHo today.
You did "Blind Time" - But its me having it! Well N.Y.C. ain't the worst city being "stood up"in. I bought a record with Webb Pierce, which include two songs very much related to my mood right now: " Yes I Know Why!" & "Fool, Fool, Fool".
Somehow I feel like I'm loosing the reason why I wanted to talk with you so much. After all I only wanted to talk about my relation to art and your feltpieces in Cologne. I once were happy in my search for knowledge and understanding. Now I'm feeling ridiculous and confused.
Maybe I see you in Leeds at the opening, and that's gonna be my last attempt to meet you this summer.
I'm sorry! But I do not stay in N.Y.C. a minute longer than absolutely necessary. So when I am there I am busy every second with one thing or another, and get out fast once I'm finished. I just assumed that, like so many artists from elsewhere, it was NYC you came to see -that vast tonnage of fervent aesthetic outpourings that burden so many Gallery floors from 57th Street to SoHo.
Let's still have a blind sort of talk. Send me questions. I'll pound on my word processor.
Dear Robert Morris
I'm not sure I have any questions to you. I only want to know what happened at that time when I was standing in front of some of your feltworks. -And I'm still convinced I could understand it, if I had a talk with you.
If you like your wordprocesser that much, you could maybe write to me the things that I'm in need of.
To me its all about a search for your self, in a world where its so easy to be someone else. My father once wrote me before he died: Never entirely myself, never entirely another In this state we're each other.
I'm thinking and pounding a little. But what I want to know is what will become of what I send? What goes back and forth between us forms a certain space. What gets put into a "public" space, is another space.
How will these two spaces be negotiated by you? What will become of the space between us in this move? What shape will you give it? What colors will it take on? What noises and what silences will frame it?
Don't we already have to many explanations? I'm tired of all your questions, because you keep changing your mind. You're a champ in an avoiding discipline.
This has become a drama of humanism. The never ending story about suppression. Our space is your space, and its a space of punishment. I want something you can give me, but you won't.
I recorded our last conversation on tape, and changed your voice into a monsters, and play it loud every time I don't know what to do! -Could you just try to tell me what happened in Cologne ?
I think ground rules are important for any game. I just want to know how things are going to end up. Because if one knows that the "private" space will eventually empty into the "public" one, then the game one is playing is not in the private space after all, no matter how much the players pretend it is. Each space frames a different game; each has its own rules...
Although I do like what Wittgenstein says in 201 of the Investigations: "This was our paradox: no course of action could be determined by a rule, because every course of action can be made out to accord with the rule." But this may imply that rules explain nothing, and are rather what is to be explained.
In any case I am off to Leeds in a few hours. If its possible for you, I'll be at Henry Moore Inst. May 20. 3 PM.
Maybe when I get back in a few days I will send some meditation on Felt.
Paradoxes rules. My soul haven't got any rules.
I'm only looking for new stories to replace the old ones. I've tried to keep up with you during these last months, but your ever changing attitudes has made it very hard for me. I really had an intention with this, but it turned into an abstraction of confusion.
A friend of mine said: The next time you're making a work, you should use clay instead of a human being as your material.
I think I'm too rigid, ego-centric, mercurial, misanthropic, demanding, devious, splenetic, unforgiving, pessimistic, controlling, saturnine, unreliable, critical, voracious, niggardly, paranoid and impatient to do sort of "cooperative" art work with someone else.
You know the story of the scorpion that comes to the river and asks the frog to take him across? "No," says the frog, "You would sting me and we would both drown." "Now is that logical?" asks the scorpion. "If I wanted to get across it would hardly be logical that I would sting you would it?" "O.K." says the frog. And the scorpion hops on the back of the frog and they begin to go across the river. Half way over the frog feels a paralyzing sting. As they are going down the frog asks, "Was that logical?" "No," replies the scorpion, "But it was my nature, what could I do?"
You should definitely find someone more pliable and clay-like to work with.
I don't know who to recommend. But I wish you success.
Dear Robert Morris
You just turned me into a frog!
After your little story I see your nature. What should I have done ??? I thought I had a story to tell, but stories only exist in stories, and you wouldn't be a part of mine.
If this had been a love-relation, I really would feel humiliated by you. But it ain't, it was only an attempt to do a work of art. I went out on all of this hoping to find you, I never did, so now I'm asking: did I ever find myself...
Now, I only feel like setting my soul free. -And wait for somebody else to come and kiss me...
Have a nice time.
Best, Nikolaj Recke