• Otto Peine: Light

    Date posted: April 25, 2012 Author: jolanta

    In 1957, Otto Piene and Heinz Mack founded the ZERO movement, exploring experimental media and techniques, with the motivation that “everybody should have a better life.” Piene who is famous for his smoke and fire paintings, created new art forms called “Light Ballet” and “Sky Art”. He lives in Cambridge, MA, USA, and in Düsseldorf, Germany. The following text is an excerpt from an interview Otto Piene gave for the book Personal Structures: Time-Space-Existence.

    “Well, of course you know, truth is such an amoeba. “

    Otto Piene, Rauchbild (Smoke painting), 1961. Oil paint and smoke on linen, 111×111 cm. Courtesy of Sammlung Lenz Schönberg, Austria.

     

     

    Otto Peine: Light

    By: Karlyn De Jongh

     

     

    In 1957, Otto Piene and Heinz Mack founded the ZERO movement, exploring experimental media and techniques, with the motivation that “everybody should have a better life.” Piene who is famous for his smoke and fire paintings, created new art forms called “Light Ballet” and “Sky Art”. He lives in Cambridge, MA, USA, and in Düsseldorf, Germany. The following text is an excerpt from an interview Otto Piene gave for the book Personal Structures: Time-Space-Existence.

    Karlyn de Jongh: In philosophy light is often related to truth. You have spoken about Plato. His allegory of the cave is about moving closer to the light of the sun, about seeing the truth about things. Is light for you a metaphor for truth? Are your light sculptures about truth as well? How do you understand truth?

    Otto Piene: Well, of course you know, truth is such an amoeba. If there is another way of rationalizing something you say it is in service of the truth. As a young artist I had quite a few artist friends, students as well as architects, and I noticed very soon that whenever the architects didn’t know how to rationalize or how to explain something, why something was this and not that way, then they would say, “That is the truth!” I ran into that for decades. When I had a position as a professor at the department of architecture at the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT, they did the same thing. My fellow professor said, “The architects said this has to be like this and this has to go that way, and this has to be balanced with another volume there, and that will be located there.” Somebody asked, “Why is that?” He would say: “That’s the truth. That is the architectural truth that we serve, etc. etc.” Regarding truth at the same time as a kind of moral coincidence principle. So, here are your platonic values pursued two thousand years after Plato. It’s still there. I never have been a real student of Plato. And I have never been a real Plato follower. But as a basis for discussion he is fabulous to kind of investigate how values work nowadays in the context of art and ‘Kunst’, art science, technology. The common laws—they still work very well as a kind of measuring stick, as qualitative modes of communication, to sort things out. It is really quite handy. So, there is the truth.

    KDJ: At the beginning of ZERO you spoke about the “re-harmonization of man, nature and technology.” It seemed to be at the core of ZERO. How did you understand this and how do you feel about this after fifty years? What do you think you’ve achieved?

    OP: Well, to put it roughly, I have founded and promoted Sky Art. And Sky Art is nature: it is happening in nature and it is motivated by the desire to get closer to nature and work with nature to benefit from the grand assets of nature. It is also difficult. In a sense, art—like banking—is very much about safety. And museums are the safest places in the world, safer than bank offices. In that respect, art isn’t much better than business: looking for safety and security. But if you really go into nature and work with nature and confront nature, then it becomes quite difficult. It becomes quite a challenge—though a beautiful and exciting one. And nature will always become stronger compared with what we can do. The challenge remains and Sky Art is something that is really exhilarating, if it works. It can be something very challenging if it doesn’t quite work the way it is supposed to.

     

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