Max Drömmer in Conversation With ZOTT Artspace
Is there such thing as the beauty of thought?
Thoughts have content that can express itself linguistically. Texts can be beautiful if they are written stylistically well, concisely and clearly. Even logical proofs and logical proof procedures can have these properties. Mathematics also has its own kind of beauty, for example the simple theory of natural numbers. Or the implementation of real numbers.
Stendhal said: „La beauté n`est que la promesse du bonheur“. Do you agree with him?
“Beauty is only the promise of happiness“. I’m not sure I understand what that means. Surely an ugly man can appear beautiful to a woman or a man can see a woman as more beautiful than she is if the other person raises pleasant expectations. But that is a question for psychology. To me, the following connection between beauty and happiness is important: beauty awakens happiness, the joy in what is perceived as beautiful, without seeing beauty as a means to an end for other purposes. This happiness could be described, according to Kant, as “disinterested pleasure”. Similarly, according to the Scottish empiricist David Hume: “A taste of beauty is the source of all the finest and most innocent enjoyments of which human nature is susceptible”. (Of the Standard of Taste, 1757).
How does an object become beautiful?
Basically, there is nothing that is beautiful in itself. There is therefore no purely objective beauty. But this does not mean that beauty is purely subjective. It is, as Hume says, both: objective and subjective. Something objectively has the potential to be recognized as beautiful in subjective experience. This applies to trees, seas, people, animals, but also to objects made by people, such as works of art.
Can philosophy learn anything from art?
There are certainly reciprocal effects between philosophy as a worldview and art. For instance the afterlife-centered worldview of the Middle Ages changing to the more earthly view of life during the Renaissance was influenced by the fact that art began to focus on human beings. Art does not make any assertions, but it can change perspectives and thus influence philosophical though.
According the Kant, the theory of beauty can be developed independently of art. Do you think there is an a priori connection between art and beauty?
No. There are probably people who perceive beauty as beautiful although they have never seen a work of art. What they notice are beautiful trees, beautiful flowers, beautiful people, beautiful animals, the sound of the water or the wind, the character of a person: “una bella persona”, as the Italians say. Art does not have to strive for beauty either. The political message can have priority, or just the fun of playing with light effects.
Are there any other keywords besides beauty that define your work?
In my work, especially in my drawings and music, fun is often involved. So humor would be another characteristic. But in painting it is especially important to me that the expression of something that cannot be described unmistakably. It is an insight in which one recognizes oneself, but does not detect any characteristics. That sounds paradoxical. In every description, what is described is described by properties. The recognition of oneself cannot be described, nevertheless it is nothing unusual. You recognize yourself as what you yourself – as yourself – are. There are gradations of this knowledge, its higher degrees are called enlightenment. Which is something that can be ascribed to Plato and Plotin.
When does an object become a work of art?
When an artist declares it to be his work of art. A urinal hung on the wall like Marcel Duchamp’s or an orchestra being silent for four minutes and 33 seconds in the composition by John Cage can be a work of art.
In addition to painting you also compose and write poems and prose. Are you also looking for beauty there??
I actually am looking for beauty when I paint and improvise music and write – whether poems, stories or philosophical texts. It’s about different kinds of beauty. You can distinguish them according to what kind of joy their recognition awakens. The joy one might feel when listening to my piano improvisations may resemble that which my pictures can awaken. But the joy of reading beautiful prose is probably a different kind.
Chance is an important element of your work process. Why?
Chance brings about a natural beauty to which one can react in order to create something that would not be possible without it.
How important is it to you to share your work? Can a philosopher work without a reader and a painter without a viewer?
I paint because I feel compelled to do so, without wondering if I can reach others through my work. But I am happy when sometimes someone understands what it was all about. I continue to work daily on theoretical questions of philosophy because the world is still a mystery to me in so many ways. But of course one wants to communicate when one has recognized something, or thinks one has recognized something.