Jerusalem/Vienna 1999, Jan Tabor on the show ICH HABE ZEIT
„Ein exotisch gewordener Satz und wenn er ausnahmsweise gesagt wird, scheint Misstrauen angebracht. Beinah ist es eine Frage des Status geworden, wenn man darauf verweist zu beschäftigt zu sein oder keine Zeit zu haben.“
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! My name is Jan Tabor. I’m a biologist. I have the great honour of saying a few words to you here at this opening of Edgar’s exhibition. The name of Edgar’s exhibition is I HAVE TIME and it is — as all of Edgar’s work — extremely diverse and intricate. Since Edgar actually has TIME to make this kind of art.
I could tell you a lot of nice stories about the things he is exhibiting here at PORTFOLIO. For instance, how Edgar once killed one of his favourite indoor plants by giving it too much nourishment — being the caring person he happens to be. This decorative plant was a carnivorous plant, VENUS FLYTRAP is what it is known as in America, VENUSFLIEGENFALLE in German, and DIOMARA MUSCIPULA is its scientific name. This plant which resembles our European DROSERA ROTUNDIFOLIA, likewise an insectivorous sundew with round leaves, grows in the marshes of North and South Carolina. As a wild plant it is under protection. However, it is also cultivated in gardens because it is popular with both women and men alike as a small, very risqué gift. Their thin leaves are on flat stalks extending out like wedges fold together at the ends resembling valves that are covered with long, stiff hairs on the edges.
On each of the two halves of the blades there are three hairs that close the blades very quickly when stimulated, e.g., when touched. The small animals — usually insects — are imprisoned by the bristles on the edges and are chemically dissolved by the secretion produced by the digestive glands. This additional supply of nitrogen enables the carnivorous plants to survive in soil that are low in nitrogen. When this Venus flytrap, which Edgar had brought with him to Vienna to America, made a depressed, sad impression. (Edgar thought it felt homesick). He wanted to cheer it up and began to feed it. However, he did not just give it fresh and crispy flies but pieces of hamburger meat. The Venus flytrap could not put up with this food for very long. The overproduction of digestion enzymes exhausted the poor thing so much that it perished on the spot.
Here in the gallery the “VENUS FLYTRAP” is an artwork that refers to a time that one ultimately did not have, as I see it. A memento mori, if you like. My friend Lea B., a psychoanalyst did not find anything I had to say about it particularly exciting. It is intellectually contaminated biochemistry, nothing more, she said rather curtly, when I wanted to discuss the artistic implications of this strange way of finding nourishment in the fauna world with her — here in Jerusalem. What was interesting, she thought, was the name VENUS-FLYTRAP. A strange case of popular male fantasy: this metaphoric name had evolved since both halves of the blades have a shape that could recall a vagina, which was even more brought out by the sticky bristles. An equivalent to the quick folding together of both of the haired, seemingly armed lobes was the primeval male fear of the female sexual organ, according to Lea, the Vagina dentate, a trap biting off the penis. Edgar’s depressing story of VENUS FLYTRAP is one of the 10 or 12 exhibits in Edgar’s wonderful exhibition here at PORTFOLIO.
Ladies and Gentlemen, there are a lot of interesting things I could tell you about each and every piece here. About the seven cubes of hair for which the architect Ernst Fuchs built a sort of Ka’ba or about the blue slit in the wall, with the beautiful women floating about in it and the man with the deliberately aimless gait and about the erotic background (as Lea described to me). I could tell you about all of this — but unfortunately that is not possible.
EDGAR HAS TIME — however, I must hurry. I will thus limit myself to one aspect in his complex oeuvre: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHATEAUBRIAND AND HONETSCHLÄGER ?
Before I try to answer this question and explain Edgar’s work please allow me to comment briefly on CICADAS. Cicadas are living creatures that belong to the genera of ARTHROPODA — like all animals with jointed legs -, the class of INSECTA — insects-, the species of HEMIPTERA, the HETEROPTERA subspecies — plant sucking insects. There are some 42,500 species that belong to this group. They include some species that we generally refer to as CICADAS: periodical cicadas, dwarf cicadas, hunchback cicadas, etc.
In connection with Edgar’s sound installation which can be heard here we are only interested in the larger family of CICADOIDEA and of this, the family of CICADIDAE — the singing cicadas — those HOMOPTEROUS insects that are most noticeable, as you ladies and gentlemen can see for yourselves, since the mating males make considerable racket which captivates the cicada females as a wonderful love song. Some 2,250 species of singing cicadas have been documented. When Edgar moved to Tokyo he lived near a cemetery. One fall morning he heard loud songs which he took to be the sound of chain saws or stone grinders. In actual fact they were singing cicadas. Suddenly all of them — as if yielding to the order of a unrelenting time — stopped singing. Silently, thousands and thousands of them tumbled to the ground from trees and bushes.
The ground was covered with their ugly bodies. If one walked over these carpets, the homopterous bodies crackled under foot like small torpedos. As Edgar described these insects, they were most likely TIBICEN CANICULARIS, for which there is no German name. These denizens of mixed forests and coniferous woods fly between late summer and early fall. The nymphs live under ground for three years and suck on pine roots before they mature sexually. The grown animals all hatch at the same time so that trees and bushes are in spots quite literally wrapped in them. The males “sing” by clicking their lateral sound membranes with their internal air sacs in rapid succession, creating a sound that recalls a saw.
In Japan — Edgar’s favourite place of residence — the change of seasons is traditionally associated with a regular striking event. In spring it is the white and pink blossoms of the Sakura cherries that fall to the ground after three to four days of full blossom, covering the ground with white and pink carpets. The Sakura blossoms stand for the end of spring. Similarly, the beginning of fall or the end of summer is ushered in by the cadavers of the cicada males that also fall to the ground after three to four days, having perished after mating and now covering the earth like the Sakura blossoms several months earlier. However, the cicada bodies are green-brownish in colour and really an ugly sight.
In Japanese cicadas are called MINMINSEMI. They are called this because that is what their songs sound like to the Japanese.
In Tibetian cicadas are called TAKCHIVELE. In Hebrew CZARCZAR. Similarly in Arabic: CZAIS. Or CZAISAN in plural — but this in the Egyptian strain of Arabic. In Palestinian Arabic they are known as CZARSUR. Or CZARSIL in plural, which has more resemblance to the Hebrew pronunciation CZARCZAR. In Greek cicadas sound completely different: ZIKAVAKIS. This finally brings me to FRANCOIS RENÉ DE CHATEAUBRIAND.
He writes: “We were already far away from the cape, but we still heard the noises from the land, the surf on the cliffs, the wind blowing in the juniper trees and cicadas singing — the cicadas which today are the only inhabitants of the temple. These were the last sounds that I heard from the earth of Greece.” It was the year 1806 and Chateaubriand was on his way to Jaffa when his ship sailed around Cape Sounion with the Poseidon temple. Francois René de Chateaubriand was the first real romanticist, the first modern reactionary and the first modern traveller.
And he was also the first modern travel book writer. Perhaps he was even the first modern man. In 1806/07 he was asked by the Russian czarina to travel to Greece, Palestine, Egypt, Tunis, Morocco, and Spain. He travelled in luxurious style; the wife of the Russian czar paid regally since she wanted to appear in a counter-enlightenment and re-Christianizing light to the post-revolutionary Frenchman. And this Chateaubriand, the statesman serving under Napoleon was to help her to this end. In 1811 his “Travel Diary from Paris to Jerusalem” was published and immediately became a bestseller, the first travel book bestseller. In October 1806 Chateaubriand arrived in Jerusalem — the trip from Jaffa took more than two days. Today this takes two hours at best — that is, if the freeway is not congested. He only stayed four days here in Jerusalem, he was in a hurry, he HAD NO TIME. He claimed that he did not need more time, since he had read no less than two hundred books written by contemporaries on the Holy Land and all Rabbinic collections and all reflections put to paper by Islamic scholars as well as ancient sources which he had been able to find before he set out on his journey.
A fleeting visit, he said, would be fully sufficient and in most cases a gaze was enough to confirm or correct the biased impression with which he had arrived. Chateaubriand was the first “Mauerschauer” of modern cultural history. The German word “Mauerschauer” (literally: wall gazer; Schauer means not only one who gazes but also has the meaning of shudder or thrill in German) was used in the early days of tourism to refer to the traveller whose gaze sticks to the walls. Someone who does not show any interest in the customs, traditions, problems, history and common life in a foreign country. Maybe also because he didn’t have time for it.
EDGAR HONETSCHLÄGER is the opposite of FRANCOIS RENÉ DE CHATEAUBRIAND. Edgar has time.
Edgar takes time. Edgar travels behind walls. Edgar is someone who gazes behind walls. A GAZER-BEHIND-WALLS. His art is the diary of his travels. His art-works are highly specialized gaze behind the walls. So, ladies and gentlemen, you could, you should perhaps, you certainly must also see the ten or twelve pieces in Edgar’s exhibition I HAVE TIME. The subject is time, walking, driving, swimming, hearing, standing, collecting, seeing and looking. Around the GAZING BEHIND WALLS, you should not miss Edgar’s film MILK. You would see the subtlety and curiosity Edgar has in looking behind the walls of foreign countries, including Austria. Edgar asked me to thank Raimund Deininger for the courage he showed in making this difficult exhibition reality without any compromises. Ernst Fuchs collaborated as an architect. I congratulate the three — and above all of us for his outstanding exhibition which I now formally open.