But the sea1 takes and gives memory
In Hölderlin’s poem “Remembrance” the sea is portrayed as an inconceivable inconsistency of giving and taking with it’s risky, uncontrollable momentum. Through this mental picture, Hölderlin also illuminates the collective memory, which, like the sea, evades from the power and the control of the individual. Memories flood in, they scurry by. Hölderlin associates the sailors who venture out into the distance to the artists; both of whom expose, collect and assemble the precarious beauty of the world with its fleeting sensuality. In contrast to the eventful existence of the sea, the artist can capture the transience of the memory processes, the insecurity of preserving all his memories and reveal his precarious experiences in the processes of the art performance or presentation. It is this duality of beauty and danger, of fluidity and form, that is carried out in Susanne Kessler’s work. Her excursion into the half-known, half-unknown seas is characterized throughout by curiosity, admiration, sympathy, and precisely because of this, the resulting visible structures can bring forth a relationship between the artwork and the viewer, between looking and looking back.
In her oceanic research, Susanne Kessler shapes and transforms seascapes, keeping their flow, movement and agitation present and alive. The sea, based on Karl Jaspers is a parable of freedom and transcendence, but you have to endure the fact that there is no solid ground anywhere, but that is precisely how our depths speak. In a limitless view, inner borders dissolve. Not only does the idea of freedom become clearer, but also the responsibility that goes with it. There is an existential risk that is associated with freedom2. At the same time, Susanne Kessler’s works address an always porous boundary; the complex tension between ethics and aesthetics, their connection but also their polarities and differences. Within the freedom captured by Susanne Kessler’s fantasies, images are created that set categorical divisions in motion, liquefy them, mark the imperfections in the understanding of modernism in its discovery of the world.
Kessler collects the materials, the histories and the associated geographic issues of the sea, and uses them in for the active process of understanding and transformation. These objects do not arise from an objective or uninvolved observation. They emerge from a dangerous obligation and an insuring answer. We “two-legged land animals” cannot be indifferent to what happens to our natural environment. Susanne Kessler’s haunting visual reflections release complex meaning in the process of mapping the seas, making it a sensual experience that unites knowledge and discovery at the same time. It is as if in these pictural objects, Susanne Kessler ‘s Oceans, permanently mingle material flows with energetic flows. And it is this entwining that opens up a visionary perspective.
Before the sea and the earth existed with the sky covering everything, nature had but one face, called Chaos, a crude and unarticulated mass.It is true that the earth was there but also the sea and a hint of a breeze,
But on earth there would be no beach, nor the water to be swum in.
In one and the same body shapes wavered and inhibited each other, and
the cold and the warm fought and the dry and the wet wrestled.
What quarrelled with what? The soft with the hard, the weightless with the heavy3.
In a kind of profane genesis, Susanne Kessler traces the multi-layered history of the seas, the origin of the world, the continents as we now find them, and thus also the displacement, exposing the elasticity of the seemingly eternal. As in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, form emerges from the unformed (amorphous), from disparate material, from the un-defined, from the daring intertwining of opposites, from hard and soft, from light and heavy. Kessler’s complex works, her mise-en-scène of the pictorial objects in space settle between differentiation and repetition, and in each repetition the materials intertwine; they shift, change and mobilize the imaginary elements. It is these elements that address fundamental tensions and their unstable synthesis. Thus, Susanne Kessler’s ‘tondi’ as circles are in an ideal form; within their turbulent internal structure is an imponderable experience between materials, ideas, drafts and memories.
The embroidered, sewn ocean maps are also a Penelope work of remembrance, balancing the secret and the uncanny, the dark and the light, order and chaos. And just as we only hold fringes of lived existence in our hands and in our memories, so Susanne Kessler lets threads and fringes unravel, keeping the dialectic of construction and destruction open in the front and the back of the embroidery.
A visual archive of the world’s oceans is created in various media and, as in the root of the word arche, the beginning, the principle, and the primeval ground are combined within the constant modulation of this underlying principle, onto which new constellations can always be formed. Everything that lives and exists ultimately owes its being to this reason and also dissolves in it again. Derrida’s text “Archive Fever” facets the concept of the archive, as is already suggested in the French title of the publication Mal d’ Archives: The term Mal – effort, trouble, suffering, evil, maladie – does not have to refer exclusively to content; an evil inherent in the archive or even the archive itself as evil can be meant4, on the other hand Mal can also indicate a longing, a wish, as in Mal du pays- homesickness-Heimweh.
Susanne Kessler’s pictorial objects and her spatial staging undertake journeys into space and time, into the past and future, into the history and memory of the worlds. Her artistic reflections “stretch out the threads that link us to the world in order to make it appear in front of our eyes”5. Her pictures are mobile and mobilizing.
They traverse and organize places and that is their space-forming energy. Images and pictorial ideas also wander through the subjective stories, they come from far away, they cross cultural spaces, cross the borders of nature and culture, of anthropology and myth. However, images are always also research into artistic media, which they each use in a new guise, in the interplay of content and form. The possibilities of imagery, the effects of fiction resonate in the rise up of Susanne Kessler’s creations, in their dynamic, polyphonic, concert like happening. In her early works, in her paintings, collages, with objects, Susanne Kessler already juggled with the cartography of the world. Globes and maps are complex affairs. They are portraits of the world, but of course they have to hide things, reduce what exists in the vastness of space. They select, simplify, ignore nature’s carefree eccentricities. They are testimonies to the conquest of the world and an aid to orientation in the labyrinth of the world and at the same time crystallizations of the desire for orientation, for a transparent world. Maps are pictorial symbols with a double character: as a relational scheme of the earth’s surface and as an abstract image of a reality that has never been seen, they settle in the space between image and scientific sign.
Unconventional and sovereign, Susanne Kessler switches with this material, with the cartography of the world’s oceans, dissolves the old contours and weights of the continents, reconfigures them, allows us to take a fresh look at the imagination of the world, lets the disparate mix with each other – light-footedly and in great abundance. What is world readability? She questions and invents the pathological old longing to understand, to order, to weigh the world. What we think we know becomes fiction – and vice versa.
In this way, Susanne Kessler’s maps freely play around with the many facets of cartographic representation and with it the question of visualization in general. Maps are both an experiment with the real and a construction of the unconscious, and they are always characterized by potential and flexibility: “The map is open, it can be connected, dismantled and reversed in all its dimensions, it can be constantly modified. You can rip it and flip it, it can adapt to all kinds of mountings.” 6
These creations live and come alive in an ongoing process of reconnection, reversal, opening different openings and exits, letting the line over and over free again: a shifting in the becoming. She is a researcher in the in-between spaces she unattached and courageously plays with colour, with the drawn line, with materials and new grounds to carry images. Like Musil’s man without qualities7, who finds himself in disorderly company when contemplating something as simple as water, when we contemplate objects we come into areas “that are somehow related to each other, and there are only a few dozen people in the whole world who are thinking the same about a thing as simple as water. Everyone else talks about it in languages that originated somewhere between now and a few thousand years ago.”
Signs and drawing: Geo graphein means to draw the world (or write the world) in Greek, and so geography is also the history of interpreting and transforming the world. At the same time, it is the story of a line – and as such nothing other than drawing the lineament through the world. It is this line, which is also the starting point and essential element of Kessler’s designs in different materials, in intertwining and interweaving. Like Deleuze and Guattari, we too are “composed of lines… Or rather, of bundles of lines, because each variety is diverse.8” Lines are the matrix of human navigation and describe the paths of our actions. Susanne Kessler’s are manifolds navigating through the world, she draws lines, sets surfaces, webs, spaces and spaces in between.
Like in a net the creations then capture well-known or distantly familiar images at the same time as heterogeneous elements and the completely unexpected, which tell a submarine story, pictorial inventions to the ground basis, so to speak, showing the back of the carpet, where the same threads, the same colours in different kind, give a different pattern. What emerges is a turbulent density in which every detail becomes ambiguous, in which the shape itself emerges from the process of approach and distance, of twists and turns.
Equal to the sailing out into the sea, one cannot stick to entrenched point of views with Susanne Kessler’s creations, one is similarly driven out into the open, into never ending and further developing connections.These maps are both putting a knowledge of the world into operation and intervening (inserting interventions) into this knowledge, which always unfolds new standpoints. Susanne Kessler’s cartographic fictions oscillate between discovery and invention, mystery and solution, aesthetics and technology, they provide paths and an unlimited outlook into the world. The meaning lays in the surface, and in the active treatment of the surface, through which something pushes through into consciousness. What is used as physical autonomous aesthetics is at the same time experienced as a moving rhythm and becomes an event in which form is linked to time, formation to changeability. The works wander off into the infinity of the sea and back again. From a distance, the objects remind on the strange surrealistic world map, a capriccio, a mind game that switches quite arbitrarily with the continents and with our ideas of the cartography of the world: a riddle without a key.
The ‘tondi’, the reliefs that assemble materials and colours, accentuated by arrows, lines, loops and bows, keep idea, coincidence, cut and connection in close balance. The embroidered images, the lucid overlapping projections that weave and connect bundles and tangles, loosening and untying those but also all ideas associated with the oceans.
The intertwining is always in a different way a visual event, which nevertheless refers to an outside, the world: developed entirely from Susanne Kessler’s artistic vocabulary, the objects keep the relationship to critical reflection present at every moment, as it were subcutaneously, leading into art , into her space of imagination, which brings something unprecedented to view and at the same time towards the world: these reliefs are something transitory in this sense too: encounter with the world and demand to be in the world, to participate, to see and form your own picture.
The works of Susanne Kessler are like picture puzzles of the old mirror question: “Why do we worry that the map is contained in the map and a thousand and one nights in a thousand and one nights?”9
1 Friedrich Hölderlin, souvenirs, in: Friedrich Hölderlin: Complete Works. vol. 2, Publisher
Friedrich Beißner, Stuttgart 1951, Page 188f.
2 See Karl Jaspers, What is philosophy, Munich 2013, page 7
3 Ovid, Metamorphoses, First Book, 5 – 20, Stuttgart 1982, Page 23
4 See Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever. A Freudian Impression, Berlin 1997, Page 26
5 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phänomenologie der Wahrnehmung, Berlin 1966, S. 10
6 Gilles Deleuzes, Félix Guattari, Rhizom, Berlin 1977, S.21
7 Robert Musil, man without qualities, Page 113
8 Gilles Deleuzes, Félix Guattari, Rhizom, Berlin 1977, S.21
9 Jorge Luis Borges, Magische Einschübe im Quijote, in: Borges, Inquisitionen, Werke in 20 Bänden, Bd. 7, hrsg. von Gisbert Haefs und Fritz Arnold, S. 59