Our own view of the world suggests that it is becoming increasingly complex. Yet it is our increasing awareness of the complexity of the world, of the flood of information with which we are confronted and which we ourselves have engineered that challenges us and stretches us to our limits.
Our ancestors roamed primeval forests in search of food. Such forests are highly complex systems which require the utmost alertness of all our senses, highly concentrated perception of visual and acoustic signals. Catching and killing a wild animal in such an uncertain and dangerous environment without yourself being killed while tracking or killing it was – in today’s language – a successful way of dealing with complexity. The same can be said for those daring bands of ten or twelve men, armed only with spears, who could select and kill a single buffalo – essential food and clothing for their tribe’s survival – from a herd of such powerful creatures on the wild steppe without themselves being trampled to death or falling over a precipice.
Why this invocation of the reality of life for people in this world ten or twenty thousands of years ago? Because it provides a short though very compelling answer to the question of whether this world really was simpler earlier on and now has grown more complex. Yet principally because a comparison of then and now reveals a decisive difference in ways of perceiving and dealing with the complexity of life in this world. Back then the challenge was direct, specific and physical – and always a matter of life and death. It was always a matter of survival. Such specific situations were clear and lacking in ambiguity. Yet today we mainly no longer view changed complexity as unambiguous, specific and physical but as something abstract and virtual, equivocal and capable of multiple meaning. These are the qualities which we attribute to growing complexity, the qualities which stretch us to our limits.
Now this should not be surprising, in fact it’s more than understandable because in relation to the evolutionary history of our species, one or two centuries are little more than the hundredth of a second. We are now in an extremely exciting transitional phase in our history. The old models of perception that used to be so essential to our survival are still active and still drive us forward. Embedded in our unconscious, they are still important for determining our actions. With our conscious minds we might try to direct and control these forces, yet this is something that can’t be done on the quick. Critically, it’s also extremely strenuous and stressful, producing perceptible increases in general levels of irritability which find expression on the platforms of the global communication networks we now have where it is vented and amplified. Something is bubbling up there.
What often is hidden behind it is nothing more than the longing for a simple, unambiguous, understandable, controllable world – no matter in which guise such a longing might be cast. And what emerges from this is the assumption of a combat position based on the idea that in this novel perception of complexity the protagonist has now found a genuine vantage point that is clear and devoid of ambiguity which means that he or she is in the right.
We are confronted with ourselves and the consequences of our actions in a manner which is unprecedented in the history of our species. This is a situation into which, step by step for over one hundred years, we have brought ourselves through our tenacious human-centric view of the world. Could we learn to accept ambiguity and nuance, and learn how to deal creatively with issues and situations that do not allow for a single, definite interpretation but are open to multiple meanings? Could we learn to bear uncertainty and states of “not-knowing” without hitting the panic button? Couldn’t we start to explore completely new ways of thinking and acting? And, looking around the world, where could we find the motivation needed to effect such a “change of consciousness”?
In the coming decades, cooperation between human and artificial intelligence could well help us to find these new ways of thinking and acting. Perhaps indeed the history of our own evolution is the very reason why we ourselves have developed a new intelligent species on this planet. Nobody has forced us to take this step. And yet it is a step we have taken – most probably because left to its own devices our own human intelligence wouldn’t be capable of taking the right decisions within the limited amount of time left us.
In the early stages of the Project, to give an example, a visitor to the studio commented after a time of quiet contemplation – but without the least prior knowledge of the spiritual and intellectual background to OUBEYs creative work – that: “These pictures are like archaeological excavations of the future.”. His remark sprang spontaneously and directly from his emotions at gazing at the pictures.
What a great and inspiring thought! I am led into a process of broadened discovery of previously unsuspected elements in OUBEYs pictures through discoveries like this made by other people. This is tremendously exciting for me and something which is of true benefit to the development process of the Project itself.
Someone once asked me if the Global Tour had set its sights on documenting different cultural perceptions of OUBEYs art among the peoples of the world. This is not the case. On the contrary, I wanted to find out whether the hope OUBEY himself once expressed that his pictures would “fascinate an Inuit just as much as an Aborigine or a native New Yorker” would be fulfilled by a Global Tour taking his paintings across different continents and cultures.
After seven stopovers of the Tour on four continents it can now be seen that the evidentiary cultural and other differences existing between people who view his pictures across the world fall into the background or even completely disappear when they view them. And what then becomes much more apparent are the things they share in common and the things that bring and bind them together.
If we think in terms of the great arc of time, this is perhaps not so surprising because ultimately all people stem from the same evolutionary lineage. The differences in language, culture and physiognomy that have crystallized out over time are comparatively young and thus much less deeply anchored than we would like to think.
And even if the Encounters with OUBEY do not furnish any scientific evidence to underpin this hypothesis, in their own way they do offer a very extraordinary and inspirational illustration in support of it.
We now know that Neanderthal man, for instance, was no prosimian half-ape but an early variant of the human species that in the course of migratory movements interbred with Homo sapiens. Science and technology help us gain a new and better understanding of what we have in common and of what potentially separates or differentiates us. There is a justified glimmer of hope that we shall not need another three thousand years to acknowledge the interconnectivity, the similarities, the universal nature of our species and to become increasingly adept at acting on such qualities – should we only want to.
In this sense, the comment on OUBEYs painting made by that visitor to his studio many years ago also opens an interesting perspective on exactly this issue. If OUBEYs paintings really do have the quality of being “like archaeological excavations of the future”, then the Encounter Project still holds within it some pretty interesting untapped potential that’s well worth discovering.
My decision, after more than ten years continual and highly enjoyable work on the MINDKISS Project, to step back and take a break for an indeterminate period was carefully considered. I was well aware of the risk that this break could eventually signal the end of the project. However this was a risk I was prepared to take rather than succumbing to the temptation of pushing ahead with a way that had proven successful only to find myself caught in an endless repetitive loop. It was this “more of the same” that I saw as the greater true risk. So rather wager taking the path of “fa niente”.
Just what lay before me in this time off, just how I would come to terms with this exceptional period of “doing nothing” and what exactly such a step would mean for my subsequent life was by no means clear. Deep inside I was certain that this decision was right and good for precisely this point in time – both for myself and for the MINDKISS Project. A whiff of adventure.
What awaited me was no dolce vita, but challenging work on deeply rooted contradictions. On the one hand I was pleased to be free of constraints, on the other I felt a kind of uncertainty in me I had not known before. Every new day questions and doubts arose, reminding me that every day counts, that a day ill spent is a day lost, and that life can terminate quicker than you think.
“What is a well spent day?” I retorted. And who is it who decides just what is important for me and OUBEY in my life? Can’t a well spent day also be a day in which for once you let go of everything? On which you are simply there and take time to reinvestigate the realm of the possible? Without knowing – no, without even wanting to know – where all this is leading, where you might find yourself at some point or whether indeed you will ever find yourself again?
This went on for some months until I could forget and the questions and doubts eventually ceased. Sometimes it’s important simply to keep going and not give up. To do this, though, you need self-confidence I say today and thank my self-confidence for its unshakeable fortitude during this time. And I thank OUBEY, because it was never his voice that asked these questions and articulated these doubts. It was my own.
And so time disappeared from my thoughts. I began to enjoy my newly won freedom as a space for experiences. It was a little like it was when I was a child at the beginning of my life. As a child you live untroubled by time, totally in the here and now; while playing you forget yourself and everything around you and any thought of the day to come is an indistinct and unreal notion.
Gradually but with increasing frequency, moments of desire for something new, for the next thing began to bubble up, followed by the first thoughts and ideas of how the Project might proceed along totally different ways. It was never planned that things would ever reach such a juncture nor was it predictable. Yet the realisation that things had come so far and taken exactly this direction fills me with even greater happiness.
The experiences of my “Time out of Mind” are now part of the fabric of my life. I shall carry them with me and they will flow into everything that I do in future which also includes my preparations for the next stage of the MINDKISS Project. Even so, it’s still going to take some time before the results of such work are ready for public presentation.
Bob Dylan gave his 30th studio album released in 1997 the title “Time Out of Mind”. This first original album after a creative break of seven years immediately went on to win three Grammy Awards including the Grammy for Best Album of the Year.
In comparison to his previous and subsequent albums, in my opinion it marks not only a grandiose comeback but in particular also a significant transition to what many call his “late work”. And today, some twenty years later, this late work is still alive and growing.
Five years before in 1987 he had begun to experiment with an Amiga 500 – more or less contemporaneous to Andy Warhol´s first digital experiments with the Amiga 500 in New York. This marks out 2017 as the 30th anniversary of the beginning of OUBEYs Computer Art.
Some 500 computer works from this time form part of the trove of OUBEYs “hidden treasures”. OUBEY asked whether these computer-based works are really art, and, pointing out the opportunities opened up by the Amiga, gave a snappy succinct answer: ART? YES!
The pictures above are all screenshots from a super 8 film taken by OUBEY to record his first steps on the computer screen. This explains the double loss of quality the pictures show in terms of definition and colour. Yet on the exceptional occasion of the 25th/30th anniversary, we’re quite happy to overlook this.
As a creative pioneer of his time, OUBEY assembled a refined palette of Amiga-based technical components that opened up for him the undreamt-of possibilities of computer painting. Here are two pictures from the early phase in 1987 when OUBEY was exploring and testing the possibilities of the Amiga. They bear witness to the tremendous distance travelled by OUBEY in his computer art during the five years leading up to the MINDKISS Exhibition in 1992.
The paintings which OUBEY displayed in his 1992 MINDKISS Exhibition are testimony to his passion, his skills and abilities and his unflagging drive to explore technical possibilities to their utmost frontiers. That he succeeded in these early days in creating paintings on the computer screen of such extraordinary graphic three dimensionality and life even today is a source of amazement for art enthusiasts.
The opening of the exhibition on 6 April 1992 was also accompanied by publication of a catalogue.
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the “MINDKISS – Exhibition”, to which the OUBEY MINDKISS Project also owes its name, for the first time we are now presenting previously unpublished excerpts from this conversation: Along with the twenty PhotonPaintings – and just as astonishing as the works themselves – this catalogue also featured his statements on the relationship of “classical” painting to computer-based art. These statements were drawn from a long conversation between OUBEY and the art historian Ortrud Toker that was held in the preparatory phase of the exhibition.
“The difference between painting and working with a computer? For me there is a very minor difference. The difference between painting and a pencil drawing is more fundamental than between painting and working with a painting program of the computer. Even the difference between pencil and felt-pen is greater, means a greater adjustment in terms of feeling, has a greater effect on the pictures that are created.
In this respect I must, however, mention that I do not work with programs, which create the typical computer-graphics. With respect to my painting I am not at all interested in the differentiations which arise from the multitude of Mandelbrodt´s theory, that is to say fractals, graphic designs which repeat themselves, etc. I took a look at it, thought about it and that is all. In my opinion, it is far too typical for computers, belongs to physics, to science, just as, just as the false color photography or astrophotography. All of these things belong more into the field of scientific graphics.
In future the computer will play no greater role than thus far. I will be glad when the time comes that computers are so widespread that they will no longer be of more interest than a car or a razor today. Many people confuse the computer with software. Software will certainly be one of the essential topics in the future; computers and all of the techniques will continuously be improved (…) The artists have to take a close look and comprehend what is happening. They have to swallow, absorb, digest, use, misuse, destroy and do what they want with it. Their genius is called upon to take things the way they come, to grab them and to do with them whatever comes to their mind or whatever they like.
That means to accept the computer the way it is. But it also means to be courageous enough to replace the computer by a pencil again. It is simply necessary to take all liberties. If the computer should, by chance, be lying on your way, pick it up, but stamp it into the sand on another occasion.”
All the PhotonPaintings featured in the catalogue of the MINDKISS Exhibition are now posted on our newly revamped website on the new subpage under the title “1st Exhibit 1992”. Click here to see them all: goo.gl/EvWMwx
By the way: If you would like to win one of twenty five of the original catalogues of the 1992 MINDKISS Exhibition just visit one of our showrooms on the social web by 30 April 2017 and share, like or comment on one of OUBEYs paintings on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or Google+.Simply click on one of the icons below to go to our account on the social web.
I disagreed and cited the case of OUBEYs life and work as an authentic counterexample with which I had been intimately acquainted for more than twenty years. OUBEY had the extremely rare gift of simply doing things because he wanted to do them or sometimes simply had to do them without asking or even wanting to know what purpose they might serve. And this applies in every respect. Never before in my life had I met such a person until I met OUBEY and the variety of people I had met was pretty wide.
OUBEY did what interested him and gave him the most satisfaction without the slightest consideration for the public resonance it might produce. The only time that he exposed himself to such resonance during his first and only – highly successful – exhibition during his lifetime in 1992 remains a notable exception. And when, following the exhibition, he withdrew completely from the public eye to continue his creative work, his decision to do so was in favour of the freedom of purposeless creativity. What he wanted and needed to do was to exteriorise the complex pictures that formed in his mind. If ever there was a purpose for his artistic work then this is it. Only this seems not to be what we mean generally when we talk about “purpose”.
In the ever narrower confines of the art world, OUBEY kept this love of freedom from any kind of purpose until the last day of his life. This alone makes his legacy something very special in these times when above all else the purpose and goal of activity is to mark yourself out from the rising daily deluge of publically perceptible images in an effort to achieve fame. OUBEY was concerned with the love of creation and the joy of insight. From the very first day this kind of ability-to-forget-yourself always fascinated and impressed me.
At the end of the evening my two discussion partners “threw in the towel” even though I suspect that my intervention didn’t really make them change their mind. Or perhaps it did? Perhaps I should write to them and ask them. Their answer would interest me.
And with the beginning of the indefinite creative break in the MINDKISS Project I too am now moving in the same pleasurable space of freedom from purpose that OUBEY always took during his lifetime. The quality of the pictures created in this free space speaks for itself.
I have no idea what fruit this self-initiated space of freedom from purpose might bear. In an extreme instance this time-off can and might even signal the end of the Project. It´s not my intention to wind down the Project. However, I do want to feel myself under no constraint to continue drawing it to public attention simply because of some given expectation. Whether or when the next stage in the MINDKISS Project will evolve are questions which I deliberately leave open. In this respect I am now perhaps closer to OUBEY than ever before.