PRINT January 1984


This project is an element from a work in process meant to become a new book about Tinguely, an enlarged version of my book Méta which came out in 1972.
Pontus Hultén

The project consists of questions posed by Pontus Hultén to Jean Tinguely, with Tinguely’s replies. The result is partly a discourse, partly an art-object. A translation is provided at the end which aims only at conveying literal sense; where sense seemed difficult it has been left so. Certain passages which were not replies per se—including several of Tinguely’s “word-constructions” and a previously published printed statement by Tinguely—have not been translated. The first of a series of puns or portmanteau expressions by Tinguely has been “translated” (his “reponces” or “res-pounces” to Hulten’s questions); others have been left for the reader to find. (For example, how many ways can one read the interlinear answers to questions 48 through 51?)
I.S. , L.L. , T.McE.


28 August 1983 Greetings Pontus
19-20 September 1983
Greetings Jean,
here are some res-pounces.
Here are some questions!
I think the piece I'll be writing will be called A Magic Stronger than Death. The magic in question, of course, is Art.

1. Do you conceive art as being magic, in the sense that art makes it possible to realize things that we cannot do in “life,” but that one feels like doing anyway. oui

2. Consequently, is art by being part of life and by being opposed to life—especially in its negative and restrictive qualities—based on a positive or negative ambiguity?

3–4. Magic is a way of knowing more than what can be learned by rational routes. But, is it only a way of learning? Is it also a way of influencing, of seeing that something comes about? to influence

5. Can art, being magic, intervene in life, in the most important ways we see—in other words inspiring the public, recreation and vacation, art market and artists’ “bread,” definition of the present and national identity, collective memory, etc. etc. . . . Do you see other active fields for art? tearing apart-straightening out, freeing oneself/discovering life—seeing invisible aspects before Klein—Warhol—Arman—Mondrian . . .

6. Can one foil death? Foil it in the sense that life continues through death. oui

7. The Egyptians, by putting art at the service of life in the midst of conditions imposed by death—that is to say in tombs—no doubt thought that art could help in conquering death? oui

8. Gorgeous Greek statues made Greek culture and joie de vivre survive. We would not know about them if we did not have these sculptures. But, can we really call this surviving? non

9. Why have you been so concerned with death in your works of recent years? Death—it is life—and I’m scared of life & of death

10–21. Grünewald’s Isenheim altarpiece is not very far from you, in other words in Colmar. What affinities do you feel with Grünewald? Geographic? Spiritual? Emotional? Plastic? Philosophic? Metaphysical? Of anxiety? Weltschmerz? Resurrective? Religious?Anti-religious? ??????

22. Have you gone to see any other works by Grünewald? oui.

23. Have you made any drawings based on the altarpiece in Colmar? non.

24. Are you also interested in Baldung Grien? oui. If so, in which paintings?

25. For what reasons? Which do you like: Grünewald, Grien? Or Altdorfer? Cranach? Holbein, Archimboldo?

26–29. There’s a pictorial tradition in Austria, Switzerland and Germany that deals with subjects suggesting death (skeletons . . . ) What are your reactions when you see such paintings and sculptures?

30. In Dutch painting, too, there is the “Vanitas” motif, that is, still-lifes with skulls. All the great Dutch painters made them, Rembrandt. . . What are your reactions to these paintings? Are they serious?

31. Is this a pornography of death?

32. Do they leave you indifferent?

33–38. Do you find them ridiculous? Humorous? Curious? Touching? Stupid? Other reactions?
The position taken vis à vis death is very different in different countries Could you define in a word or two the different positions in the following countries:

40. Mexico Vive la mort. Eisenstein has left images which have deeply impressed me (and you).

41. USA

42. Spain Guernica

43. Greece Cristian Dior

44. Italy

45. France 1968: No more dead bodies!

46. Switzerland

47. USSR Panzer, Kreuzer, Potemkin

48. In Stravinsky’s fountains are there “references” to death other than the death’s head. joy, life, intense animation & the silence, the night (at 3 in the morning

49. What relationships do you draw between anxiety, pain and death?

50. Spinoza says that all of these notions are negative and that we must combat them, see to their destruction. What do you think of this?
I’ll go along

51. When you think about death, do you first think of the death of society (atomic war), of the death of those close to you, or of your own death? W. everything

52. Do you believe that when we grow old the question of death becomes more present or is it that we carry it within us always in the same way?

53. Do you think of death any differently now than twenty years ago? oui

54. Is death the strongest thing that exists? it is life and death.

55. When Churchill wanted to congratulate him for the victory over the Germans (1945), Stalin said “only death won.” What do you think of this.

56. Do you think that art has an importance in society that transcends its decorative, amusing, economic aspects? oui art deterrorized me

57. Do you see a correspondence between art and terrorism?

58–65. If so, can terrorists be considered failed artists, artists gone wrong, superior artists, futurists, nuts, desperados, frustrates, oppressed? oui

66. What do you think the surrealists would have thought of current terrorism? terésse [plus printed text]

67. What about the dadaists?
: Cravan—Tzara—Serner and company with their mentality of overcivilized desperados, they did better than the original nihilists of 18?? better than Baader—Meinhof etc.

68. When someone says the word magic to you, what do you think of first? In what order of importance in terms of the level of potency do you place the magic of the following:

69. shamans

70. priests telecommunications, TV/Gutenberg, Marconi

71. visionaries

72. mediums ?

73. doctors

74. chiropractors

75. astrologers

76. psychoanalysts
Sigmund Freud

77. psychiatrists
& Stendhal

78. meteorologists

79. automobile engineers (and stylists)

80. race car drivers Chapman & Bugatti & Ferrari

81. others

82. Do you think that magic plays a definable role in our time, in Western society, for example in the media of press and television. oui

83. Or an indefinable role ?

84. Are there witches that we do not recognize as such? Eva—Niki

85. What about shamans?

86. Magic, does it scare you to even hear about it? non

87. Does it give you pleasure? (yes, but there isn’t enough of it)

88. How would you explain the fact that the world somehow fooled itself to such a degree about communism (the surrealists, for example)?

89. Do you believe that communism will defeat capitalism? In Africa? In Asia? In Italy? In Switzerland? non

90. Do you think that art is a necessity or a luxury item?

91. What aspect of art interests you most? making it

92–99. The esthetic aspect (beauty of colors, of lines, of proportions),
expressive aspect (deliberating piled up emotions),
magic aspect (irrational way of speaking of essential things),
ethical aspect (for example, the right angle is more correct than the oblique angle)
Mondrian aspect (good and evil in art)
power aspect (a way of dominating viewers by impressing them: grandeur, geometry, symmetry, etc )
sensual aspect (bodily attraction, sexual attraction)
religious aspect (evoking eternal or higher things, eternity)
rational aspect (explanatory, instructive, didactic, informative)
other aspects

100. Ideologies of power are expressed implicitly in capitalist art. Ideologies of economic revolution are expressed explicitly within it. Where do you see room for an art that is uniquely concerned with humanist anarchist ideas? ?

101–102. What are your reactions to notions such as Avant-garde? Modern art? one gets used to them

103–107. How can terms like progressive, conservative, retrograde, advanced, experimental be used today to indicate different positions within a body of art? I’ll think about that one a little longer

108. What are your reactions to the notion: “progress”? it can go far
see you soon, Pontus
see you later, with friendship, Jean


Jean’s Response to Pontus

1. Art is Pure Magic—see Klein and the mailman Cheval and his “palace of dreams”

2. Positive ambiguity.

3-4. Influenced/to influence/you influence/influence[!]? and as catalyst for personal expression and communication.

5. Tearing apart
Straightening out

6. Oui

7. by continuing life

8. Non Non

9. Death heads—symbol of longevity
Death is life and I have had to have fear of life (& of death—it goes without saying

10–21. Affinities religious & anti-religious, plastic.
geographic: after the war, Free
France, re-opened Switzerland.
Grünewald & Cenodoxus.
Yes, all of them except the Weltschmerz—that’s not my sector. 1942–46.

22. Oui.

23. Non.

24. Oui (but which ones I don’t remember).

25. I know the Holbeins and much of Cranach, but also Konrad Witz & the painter with the pink flower (Berne) [The Man with the Pink]
Archimboldo didn’t blow me away.

26–29. I have always loved the Death-dance in Basel and everything known about this work at Basel—Therefore I love Eva too???

30. Don’t really know

31. It isn’t

32. ?

33–38. ??To be or not to be—this was never my cup of tea. And where’s question 39?

41. USA: there is morbid vitality on one side (Lincoln, M.L. King, Kennedys assassinations)—& a glorification of death in movies, which strike me as almost healthy . . . there is a “pioneergeist” and the destruction of Indians created a very special ambiance (a kind of panic). The “country” was not possible without trains and airplanes and all types of communication—but it has no truly deep “foundations”—the country did not stay long enough in its Federalist structures—in spite of the fact that Federalism (as an Idea) also comes from the USA. Our miniscule European kingdoms and countries have done more toward developing a real foundation. So the USA is movement: dynamism and destructions are very close to one another death is strong and young Ricans eat a lot: this is not just a sign of strength but there’s also a lot of ERSATZ. All this is raw material, all the nuances are to be added to by your superior and penetrating intelligence and imagination.

49. “Creation” in Migou comes from fear/anxiety—pain? at the dentist? “Weltschmerz”?

68. Magicians I’ve admired. Von Guericke—Leibnitz
Denis Papin—Klein etc.
p.s. See my issue of “DU.”

88. The Catholics really got themselves entrapped by the Nazis (later on, between 28 and 33); the Protestants less by the Nazis—but the Protestants with the youth around 1920, more prone to revolution because of social injustices and the injustices of war were easily seduced by the internationalism of the Cocos before the closing of the boutique of St. Aline [from here and around here please see project for rest of answer 88]

Translated from the French by Lisa Liebmann.