Heide Hatry: Not a Rose

Heide Hatry: Not a Rose | CHARTA, Mailans/New York, 2012.
Klappentext, bibliografische Angaben oder Entsprechendes

There is no other book that has addressed the meaning of flowers to human beings so diversely, comprehensively, and thoughtfully as Not a Rose. Masked as a traditional coffee table book, it quotes from the genre while turning it inside out, for the images it offers are not innocent pretty flowers but elegant, compelling, and yet grotesque sculptures that the artist has created from the offal, sex organs, and other parts of animals, reminding us that the flowers that grace our homes are really the detached dead sex organs of living beings, and making us question the foundations of aesthetic reception in general.

Woven through the images, and taking its cue from them, is the writing of 101 prominent intellectuals, writers, and artists (such as Jonathan Ames, Steven Asma, Bazon Brock, Karen Duve, Jonathan Safran Foer, Steven Conner, Anthony Haden-Guest, Donna Haraway, Siri Hustvedt, Lucy Lippard, Richard Macksey, Kate Millett, Richard Milner, Hannah Monyer, Rick Moody, Avital Ronell, Stanley Rosen, Steven Pinker, Peter Singer, Justin E. H. Smith, Klaus Theweleit, Luisa Valenzuela, and Franz Wright...) who address “the question of the flower” from a multiplicity of perspectives, including anthropology, philosophy, psychology, sociology, philology, botany, neuroscience, art history, gender studies, physics, and chemistry.

As in her previous conceptual book projects – Skin and Heads and Tales – Hatry has perfected a new form, a hybrid work that is both book and conceptual art installation. Described by legendary artist Carolee Schneemann as an “alchemist of forbidden transmutations, [who] takes our perceptions and pulls them asunder” Hatry follows in the wake of the smartest of the surrealists and the most humane of the conceptualists with work that is both blasphemous and funny, moving and provocative.

In Not a Rose you will experience contemporary art at its best: it is thinking through art.

Seite im Original: 172

Blossoming as Love

Though my dealings with flowers are amicable, there are two critical situations I always experience. The first concerns the decision of whether to create a bouquet of several different sorts, or to display just one at a time. Are we not obliged to take this approach, to pay homage to the singularity of each individual flower, and not to lessen this admiration through plenitude? For as we know, less is more, and reduction aids concentration. It is also easier to respond to individual flowers than to the vagueness of a large cluster.

The other critical situation regularly occurs when it comes to deciding at what point a 'wilted' bouquet should be removed from its vase. We are all familiar with the feeling of surprise each morning, when we are confronted with ever new possibilities for appreciating the flowers as they fade. The aesthetic of decay suggests waiting until they are on the very verge of disappearing. The beauty of decay can be seen in very old people, too – the beauty of disappearance, and the way it creates the memory of what has just ceased to exist.

The Dutch painters of floral still-lives conveyed the idea of life unto death, or transience, precisely by offering the viewer the ringing splendour of flowers at the height of their bloom. Romantics and Expressionists paid their distinctive homage to the way shapes changed as life withered. Beckmann uses black outlines to demonstrate the transition from the fullness of life to the statue-like monumentality of the end state. Still-life painters of the Dutch Golden Age generally achieve their warning against vanitas to greatest effect through the thematic, pictorial connection of blossoming and wilting. They contrast perception and imagination (anticipation and memory). This is also what the picture of Greta Garbo as ‘The Lady of the Camellias’ stands for – a picture that came to embody the analogy of blossoming and love for everyone who saw it. The painting of tulips by Georg Baselitz is the most recent testimony, among many examples over the past few centuries, to painting also being a sort of blossoming. I led hundreds of visitors to see this at the Hypo Kulturstiftung’s 1992 Baselitz retrospective in Munich. The tightly-packed crowd created the effect promised by the painting: a public blossoming.

Translated from German by Ruth Martin