Über Kunst als fremde Sprache

„I had intended to leave Amsterdam the next day. I changed my plans, and sleeping fitfully, rising early, queued to get into the Rijksmuseum, into the Van Gogh Museum, spending every afternoon at any private galleries I could find, and every evening, reading, reading, reading. My turmoil of mind was such that I could only find a kind of peace by attempting to determine the size of the problem. My problem. The paintings were perfectly at ease. I had fallen in love and I had no language. I was dog-dumb. The usual response of “This painting has nothing to say to me” had become “I have nothing to say to this painting”. And I desperately wanted to speak.

Long looking at paintings is the equivalent to being dropped into a foreign city, where gradually, out of desire and despair, a few key words, then a little syntax make a clearing in the silence. Art, all art, not just painting, is a foreign city, and we deceive ourselves when we think it familiar. No-one is surprised to find that a foreign city follows its own customs and speaks its own language. Only a boor would ignore both and blame his defaulting on the place. Every day this happens to the artist and the art.

We have to recognise that the language of art, all art, is not our mother-tongue. (…)

I had better come clean now and say that I do not believe that art (all art) and beauty are ever separate, nor do I believe that either art or beauty are optional in a sane society. That puts me on the side of what Harold Bloom calls “the ecstasy of the privileged moment”. Art, all art, as insight, as rapture, als transformation, as joy. Unlike Harold Bloom, I really believe hat human beings can be taught to love what they do not love already and that the privileged moment exists for all of us, of we let it. Letting art is the paradox of active surrender. I have to work for art if I want art to work on me.”

Winterson, Jeanette: Art Objects. Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery, London 1995, S. 9/10 (eBook).