Ulrich Horndash

The call for a return to order, to a new classicism, has become increasingly audible lately. Here, as in Ulrich Horndash’s “Hellas” installation, it has taken the form of homage to the genius of classical Greece, the infinite productivity and vitality of the Greek spirit. This is not motivated by a thinly veiled nostalgia for antiquity but by the conviction that we are indebted to that culture for our principal models of the world—Heracitus’ view that permanence is an illusion of the senses and that the only reality is change, the constant state of becoming; Plato’s theory of unchanging Forms, ideal archetypes of which our physical world is just a shadow; and Aristotle’s belief that form and matter together constitute concrete individual realities—philosophical positions among which our thinking still vacillates today. Horndash’s image of Greece is a Dionysian image that evokes Nietzsche’s affirmation of the creative spirit rather than Winckelmann’s exaltation of the nobility of classical form. Yet Horndash expects art to be at least inspired by notions of beauty and perfection and even enrichment of being.

The installation consisted of three parts, dedicated to the I, the You, and the We, in three separate rooms. In each one, Horndash covered almost an entire wall with a mixed-media work—an enormous wall painting, featuring a quotation from Heraclitus in the original Greek, in the middle of which he hung a piece of silk that he had screenprinted with an image or series of images: “I have investigated myself” was juxtaposed with an image of Zeus/Faust throwing bolts of lightning; “The invisible harmony is more beautiful than the visible,” with a Gorgon’s head; and “We both are and are not,” with 14 silhouettes of the profiles of famous people (done in the style of the 18th-century Swiss portraitist Johann Kaspar Lavater). These rooms represent different states of being for Horndash. Thus, the fistful of lightning symbolizes certain powers and energies; the Gorgon’s head embodies the hostility of an object that can punish and kill; and the profiles stand for the community of all people. Such an interpretation alludes not only to a rigorous pre-Socratic spirit beyond pure esthetic will but also touches on Horndash’s own current frame of mind. Searching for new “orientations, for a new footing,” he believes that a new Renaissance, a completely different rebirth of antiquity, is possible—that “this birthplace of the idea” is rich enough to lend “the tired European spirit vitality again.”

Ingrid Rein

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.