Typologies of Humor
The romanticized ramble into the madhouse, driven by insight, enjoyed the fabulous scenery still in Moutier, the scraped hills sitting at the station, admired the marbled boulders, garbled formations, this Swiss landscape not the least bit tritely peaked and Alpine, with everything else otherwise very and extremely round and flat, flowing, leading to this condition of enraptured being, madly ruptured, conditions in flow as well, in which respect there are no linear conditions, they can just be turned on and off, you have to move in and out, so sitting in the train, leaving Moutier behind, noticing that little building next to the tracks, with calligraphic graffiti: La Routine tue, routine kills, that’s this displaced and ruptured madness, you plunge into it, this round rapture, supposedly a decision because it does start on purpose, entirely attitude, cherished allures, like a mechanism, yes, exactly: routine.
And then sudden arrival: don’t ring, the door’s to be entered, realization waxes and winds its way along the hollow body of the church – and up. It is accordingly the ur-typical thought, pilloried, like the Kabbalistic sphinx: who drove who out of paradise, that is the question. Is it understanding, finally shooed away, that has given way to the tidy idyll. Or rather reason? Did reason ban (a chuckling) Florian Graf to Bellelay? The niggling issue, the infamous mantra, buzzing around the protagonist’s head, promising and fateful. He is the nomad, the likable Omni hero with a fancy for wrapping his red thread around his own neck. In the shape of a halo that has been blessed or multiple devil’s horns tapered to a point. Is it the monumental moment, not only in the encounter, but the mandorla, that embraces his entire oeuvre? This ambiguity is what makes sense of the Odyssey, of the attempt to step on Graf’s toes – at long last. Except that it’s a trap because, for the Grafian species of cosmopolitan – it’s never goodbye, it’s see you – applied identity probing is just about as humdrum as burnishing a slobbery monk’s head. But back to the bell, rattling and not in drunken halftone steps. And what about Graf? Is he giving language the orders or has language vanquished him? Is he driven by mere thoughts or do, say, buildings fuel his flourishing treasury of ideas? Looking around, the curves of the landscape trace the horizon line of experience, broken by hollows, jackrabbit pits, off the record, that’s what he prefers anyway, Florian Graf, the condition of curved cavities. Slight distraction along the entire Scientology-colored line: first language, follows reason, yields form. In that order, unconditional and inexorable, please don’t change it. It is, after all, normality that has compelled him to go to this place – this Bellelay. And this normality is at home in his language and his mind in general. Fills it, tops it up, those are the real stimulants, the vessels to be filled, to be at home in. Phenomena of being at home per se, going off to do a little bit of being at home? Or what kind of feelings are at home inside you? Habits inhabiting, and there we have it, good taste. There’s identity and there’s the role, pronouncing the word just as he himself can and does, instead of yoking his co-humans under legalese. It is the normality of language that develops and flourishes when Florian Graf invests in his inventions with lives of their own. Provoking the ire of logic: The vessel has to be empty! How else can you fill it! And with what? With presence, if you please. And this being-there, that sparks Graf’s interest, it’s the same with buildings as it is with spirits, it’s this human presence. It sticks to the stucco and to the stones in the walls, it has settled in the memory of the living, changing walls. Presences are palpable and of different degrees. Not unlike autism, apropos of these wayward beings, seen daily a minute ago in the institution. The distinctions can’t escape notice, but you can’t think clearly anymore anyway. Partly ingenious, when these hundreds of things make an impression, aware of what the message triggers in others, in the final analysis sanity-generating self-reflection. Comparable to stimulants, substances that improve, subdue or throw the switch, don’t just throw it, blow it away, synchronized presence and absence, but it’s a matter of filling vessels, these empty buildings of ideas, that’s the challenge, because most of them are already crammed too full to let anything else happen. Specifically, it’s about a Florian Graf in Slovenia, confined to bed with a heart attack foisted on him, or in Scotland, thoroughly rattled by a real dream encounter. Specifically, Florian Graf is in this god-twisted place in Bellelay, in the midst of Switzerland’s hilly happiness, confronted in the immediate vicinity with said paradox – presence, absence – translated into the buildings, that means not wanting to understand the rapture therein, not hunting down meaning of some kind in the church walls, but rather taking the deceptive signs at face value. There’s the way out, there must have been. Foolery stands proud in the exaggeration but the question actually reads: hi there, could we normally, together, with each other, for a change, this is art that doesn’t look down from above, it’s supposed to stay down below where people stand on it with their feet. The facts are causing indigestion. And the minute Florian Graf is confronted with the reality of these changing givens, he says, I’m not interested in traveling. To be, that’s what I want, but where! Departing in order to arrive, except that it’s always about this intensity of being where-to-be, and not the routine of not being there anymore (finally facing death, too), at which point existence dissolves all by itself, which is connected with this anxiety of not-being, that’s what it’s connected with. And I end up somewhere every time, which is what Florian Graf says, and every time when I commit to these people, because that means that I myself make a commitment every time – how precise does the question remain, taking leave is of course dreadful, and in the end complete commitment means having to take leave, even though it also means you’re digging your own grave. And that’s why, says Florian Graf, I am staying here in Bellelay. That’s what makes it serious, when you can’t filter or give shape to anything anymore, can’t graphically design anything into it, then you are in that filterless madness, exactly, that’s exactly it, then it’s just grazing, extinguishing the glittering of the brook passing by and the Swiss sky curving around this sphere, our sphere and further into the hilly countryside, scantily dressed girls jumping on trampolines and boys going round and round in go karts, then what’s left is Watership Down, the memory of childhood, down by the river homeless rabbits and chirping insects. Horses grazing. Such cheerful lamentation.
Tenzing Barshee is currently Assistent Curator at Kunsthalle Bern
Translation: Catherine Schelbert