"Beat Me" a pictorial requiem to hallucination and desire!
The monograph, Beat Me: A Pictorial Requiem to Hallucination and Desire, features the work of Swiss photographer/filmmaker Beat Kuert. If looking and attraction are foundational to photography, then Eyemazing Editions gravitates toward its sensual counterparts, “hallucination and desire,” as Kuert’s subtitle suggests. It’s an experience that derives itself from the layouts as much as the subject matter. Immersive sequencing and prints that run to the margins, or overrun them into gatefolds, create momentum and a kind of seductive energy.
"Beat Me" a pictorial requiem to hallucination and desire!
Beat once wrote to me:
Susan, I want to compact the world and frame it in a single image and this is exactly what I tried to do, to compact his world of imagination and his thirst for sensuality into a monograph that gathers together his vision, and his intuitive, complex, mysterious, unreal, and wild existence nourished by his passion for ethereal female beauty. The result is a melancholic volume packed with emotion.
Susan A. Zadeh (Eyemazing Susan)
Beat Kuert and his Wunderkammer - The alchemy of art
It has been written, that the creative process leading to an artwork, is an actual artifice since it strives to alter the means and the materials of its expression. It is a process of idealization and realization, which aims to transform the perceivable aspect of matter, but also aims to occasion a sense of wonder and amazement, by displaying an image which reveals different and unsuspected meanings beyond simple appearances. Accordingly, art is in many ways related to alchemy and magic.
Enzo Di Martino, May 2012
from WUNDERKAMMER, dust&scratches © 2012
Beat Kuert, Moving Earth
There are few artists, past or present, who have the vision or talent to show the full spectrum of the female: from the sensual and the erotic, to the duality of being both the creator and the destroyer. Beat Kuert is one of the few artists with the vision and talent to undertake such an endeavor and to do so with a unique mastery of color, form, movement and myth.
David Ben Kay, Owner and Curator - Yuanfen New Media Art Space – Beijing 798
from KAN, dust&scratches © 2010
Desire, Shaping, Concretized, …, Termination - On the Photography of Beat Kuert
Beat Kuert is a contemporary artist involved in different fields including film, video art and photography. No matter what form his image work takes, one thing is unchanging: the focus on mankind’s desire. To discuss desire through images, the destination is not desire itself, but the essential topic of life and death triggered by desire.
In Chinese, the words色情 (pornography) and 情色(Eros) share the same character: 色 (color). From the word formation of色欲 (lust), we can see that color(色) and desire（欲）are inseparable. The works of Beat Kuert center on feminine bodies, but they depart from traditional body photography’s routine of accurate depiction. With an overwhelming sense of expansion, and extremely expressive colors, they put desire directly in the face of the viewers, while the employment of large areas of warm or cold colors directly connects the viewers with the picture, giving them an experience vivid and real. The body images by Beat Kuert convert bodies into flat-images by means of large color fields. Through resolute compression of shapes and colors of tangled bodies, through simplification of details, he weaves out a more subjective visual reality of bodies: purer, and consequently stronger. Such a visual reality has certain characteristics of painting, and also some characteristics of image because of the technical nature of photo imaging. Apparently, Beat Kuert’s dramatic employment of colors can’t be analyzed separately from his profound contemplation on desire. To him, color is both a stress and a restriction on desire. From his arrangement of various colors, we can feel the complexity of desire that he wants to display, and also his own complicated feelings about desire.
Gu Zheng, art critic / from Destroyed Lines, dust&scratches © 2008
A War between Narration and Image: Digital Image Art by Swiss Artist Beat Kuert
The works of Beat Kuert can not be easily demarcated by a specific art type. In his art, various elements are fused into an organic whole, hard to be dissected in an analytical way. His rich art experiences contribute much to this fact.
In the stage when film was first born, or the age of the Lumière, the lens of camera imitated human eyes to observe the world. A bit curiously and timidly, it watched the outside world. So is this “world” observed from the camera different from the one that we see with our eyes? The answer is obvious, for otherwise mankind wouldn’t have been so fascinated by what’s shown on the screen. But what on earth is this “difference”? It’s the characteristic of “narration” reflected on the screen. Although the shooting process of the early operator of camera was disordered and subconscious, with the intrinsic logic of images being revealed when they flicker on the screen, human being’s potential of “narration” got demonstrated. Such potential comes from man’s childhood experience, when a child acquires the most basic ability of describing images, he can use this ability to describe a narrative “plot” to you, maybe from his own experience, or perhaps just a fantasy. In short, the moment when image came into being, the possibility of linking what happened “before” and “after” it in time and space had come into existence: centering around “Dasein (existence)”, the linear logic connecting what’s past and after it in time, this is what’s called “narration”.
Wu Hong, art critic / from Destroyed Lines, dust&scratches © 2008
At the meeting of “virus,” body, shadow…..
Beat Kuert is a video artist from Switzerland. He has been experimenting with the language of video for many years, using a post-editing technique similar to computer imaging software that distorts and de-familiarizes real images to create a unique visual vocabulary. He uses this visual language as the visual elements that make up poor quality prints or silk-screen images to create severe displacement and deviation from the real world: he screens out in-between colors through this filtering process, leaving behind two extremes of black, white and intense reds, greens, yellows, blues—primitive colors. What does red signify? Do these provocative man-made colors reveal the artist’s inner fears, or sweet sensuality?
Zhang Xiaotao, chinese artist / from Destroyed Lines, dust&scratches © 2008
Same Steps with Time - On the Video Art of Beat Kuert
(...) In surveying Kuert’s video, he is gifted at transforming especially simple, ordinary everyday behavior into a gorgeous visual story. When he creates videos, he strives to go beyond a simple recording; rather, he takes the visual movement in video and displays all of its expressive abilities to the fullest extent by employing multiple editing techniques and applying contemporary digital procedures. The objective is to
emphasize the feeling of movement in video, how it surpasses television conceptually and to create video that encompasses these three dimensions: one is to confront reality, two is simple recording, and the third dimension is the conceptual intervention and recombination of visual elements of video. (...)
Wang Chunchen, art critic and Head of the Department of Curatorial Research of CAFA Art Museum at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts Beijing
September 25, 2008, China Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing
from Destroyed Lines, dust&scratches © 2008
THE DESIRE OF THE BODY
Many curatorial paths start far away and like rivers they flow from the source to the estuary, collecting the waters of many tributaries, growing in volume only to lose it once more in the confused capillaries of the delta. There is no single way to understand the work of an artist and not always do we possess the right tools, the equipment we use is often too old to penetrate unexplored lands and even the best poetic machine becomes obsolete - as Eliot writes - “Because one has only learnt to get the better of words For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which One is no longer disposed to say it.
And so each venture Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate With shabby equipment always deteriorating In the general mess of imprecision
of feeling, Undisciplined squads of emotion.”
But sometimes we are struck by certain coincidences. Looking at the photographs of Beat Kuert for the very first time, I don’t know why, but I was fascinated by
the grainy reconstruction of an early twentieth-century hospital scene: in the foreground a nurse holds a fainting patient, both wearing long skirts reaching down to their feet, one looks out of the frame, the other is seen
in profile, her eyes closed, while in the background
a man, perhaps naked, in the form of an ectoplasm screws up his face in a grimace of pain even though
he does not even appear to be involved in the event,
his suffering has maybe some other cause. Still further behind, two white radiators and a large window contextualize the location, giving the impression that
it really is an awful room in a clinic and, although I know not to which particular detail this is due, I am given the impression that this is a French hospital. As soon
as I got home, I immediately sought out a passage in “The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge” by Rainer Maria Rilke, one I had forgotten in which the German poet paints a picture of the Hôtel-Dieu de Paris where
“In the days of King Clovis people were already dying here in what few beds there were. Now there are 559 beds to die in. It’s natural mass-production. With such
a high number as that a single death doesn’t get the same attention; however, that isn’t what matters. Quantity
is what matters. Who today still cares whether or not
a death has been well put together? Nobody. Even the rich who, after all, can afford to attend to the details
of dying are starting to grow slipshod and apathetic; the desire to have a death all of one’s own is becoming more and more infrequent.” Then I realized that the digital file of Kuert’s photograph on my hard drive has Salpêtriere written on it, a famous Parisian hospital which owes
its name to the fact that it was once a gunpowder factory, saltpetre (salpêtre) being a constituent of gunpowder.
In 1656 the factory was converted into a hospice for
the poor, the destitute, thieves, prostitutes and the mentally ill; almost 40 thousand poor souls in just a few years,
a real Suburra of human misery. Later, towards
the end of the nineteenth century, it was converted into a psychiatric hospital under the guidance of the great neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, inspirer of the young Sigmud Freud, who was a scholar studying female hysteria in those wards. By the way, continuing with the reading of Rilke, I realized that the main character of this strange novel, a masterpiece for its depth and substance, was also admitted to Salpêtrière to undergo electroshock therapy.
I then discovered that a series of writings superimposed on Beat’s images were taken from the Voynich manuscript,
a bibliophilic riddle, an ancient mysterious illustrated codex, probably written in the 1400s in an unknown
or perhaps nonsensical language which has still
to be deciphered, some believe it is a treatise on alchemy. The manuscript is named after Wilfrid Voynich, a Polish book dealer who acquired it from the Jesuits College
of Villa Mondragone near Frascati. The villa was built towards the end of the sixteenth century by the Altemps family on the site of a Roman domus, and it was here that an enormous head of a marble statue was found. The statue was dedicated to Antinous, the beloved lover of Emperor Hadrian, who some believe sacrificed himself, aged just 20, in the hope of prolonging the Emperor’s life. Marguerite Yourcenar also fell in love with the statue, described as supremely beautiful by Winkelmann
and acquired by Napoleon in 1807 for the Louvre. The Belgian writer came to Italy to trace the life of the
philosopher emperor when she wanted to write his memoirs, and used the statue to inspire her description of the youth who in antiquity had been depicted in multiple versions, by order of his lover, as Apollo himself, almost perfect the striated eyebrows, “the slightly plump curve” of his lip. Yourcenar reflexively felt such a passion for that head that she asked for permission to spend a night beside it, after the museum had closed, almost as
if she wanted to introject Hadrian’s feelings, the passion and the pain. How strange to think that just a few years ago, in the halls of Villa Mondragone, I had curated
the exhibition “Come Miele Nel Marmo” (Like Honey
in Marble) by an artist of Rome’s Jewish community dedicated to this myth; a sort of contradiction for a Jew to pay tribute, through the most beautiful ephebos of the Roman Empire, to the emperor who razed Jerusalem to the ground in 135 AD and built Aelia Capitolina in its
place. And what of the fact that some scholars have put forward the hypothesis that the Voynich manuscript can be traced back to the world of the Jewish kabbalah.
Is this coming together of facts and references
a coincidence that is amplified by looking at just two
of Beat Kuert’s photographs, or is it the normal exuberance that comes from images and signs? On the other hand, the density of a work of art is measured by the number of quotations they allow us, starting from a certain point, to tell a story or a series of stories, extending the narration in concentric circles, or running through a maze, losing the way, coming back to where you started, or never finding the way back through the forking paths, because in the middle of the labyrinth is the life that the artist
is trying to represent and immortalise, using metaphors or symbols, and these too, by their very essence always
refer to something more and are therefore limitless. Rilke treated at the Salpêtrière, Voynich who buys a small collection of books from the Jesuits and by chance finds the most unusual book in history, perhaps written
in Hebrew, Yourcenar who falls in love with a statue, Antinous who sacrifices himself for Hadrian, by throwing himself into the Nile, Hadrian, who destroys Jerusalem and enslaves the Jews, Beat Kuert, who produces a series of images from some of his performances which manages to represent all of this, indeed they predict it, as if he had been able to prophesise the past in advance, and even my subsequent comprehension of the whole, almost
as if I too were part of the installation and had always been assigned the task of narrating it. A temporal paradox that would surely have pleased Borges, whose myth of the Aleph remains, that point where all the possible visions of the world are concentrated, the eye of God which
can see the eternal present of before and after.
It cannot be pure chance that holds together all the things that each of us perceives in the work of Beat Kuert, or perhaps it is chance which holds everything
up. Sometimes, things that are far away in time and space are united even if there seems to be no causal connection between them, that is to say they do not seem to be bound by any visible chain of cause and effect. In these cases Jung speaks of synchronicity “in the special sense
of the coincidence in time of two or more causally unrelated events which have the same meaning.” Later
on Wolfgang Pauli, one of the great names in quantum mechanics, was to deepen the mystery, arriving at the definition of “entanglement” which counterintuitively implies the presence of correlations at a distance between two quanta. Here quantum mechanics would explain how two events even if far apart in time and space can
be intertwined with each other from the beginning
and therefore the “coincidences” would be “significant”, neither causal nor random. Likewise, the patchwork
of overlaid and elaborate images that initially spring
from one of Beat’s performances and then multiply
to infinity are correlated in a way that only the observer can discover. It is not therefore extravagant that even
the juxtaposition of the images chosen for this exhibition should follow an evocative or analogical form, in which the causal link in some cases is lost in the random,
the result of simple juxtaposition, but which nevertheless responds to a deep interweaving, to that “synchronicity” evoked by Jung in his psychological dimension and deepened in a more rational way by quantum mechanics. The result leads to islands or constellations, which take their names from the chapters in the book “Memoirs
of Hadrian “, in which the meaning spreads from the centre,
as if a centrifugal force made it explode or, au contraire, a centripetal force made the many images printed
in different materials and colours collapse precipitately on themselves.
The Swiss-German artist, with a long and brilliant career as a film director behind him, offers us a series of images which, as we were saying, were initially the fruit of some performances in which human bodies meet and clash. Defining him a photographer is reductive, because the work of Beat Kuert takes place on different conceptual and performance planes that only at the end, after a long working process, translate into images. Images of rare evocative power that give rise to an installation which is in turn the last frame of a stratified path whose main theme is the body. “Furor Corporis”, the fury of the body, but also - according to etymology -
the desire of the body, the poetic aspiration, the violent passion, is a dazzling katabasis, almost dreamlike,
in the depths of our being, where nudity and movement is intertwined in an ancestral way, giving shape
to symbols and signs as if in a dance. Eliot writes: “
In that open field/ If you do not come too close, if you do not/ come too close, On a summer midnight/
you can hear the music/ Of the weak pipe
and the little drum/ And see them dancing around the bonfire/ The association of man and woman/
In daunsinge, signifying matrimonie - A dignified
and commodiois sacrament./ Two/ and two, necessarye coniunction/ Holding eche other by the hand
or the arm/ Whiche betokeneth concorde.”
And he adds: “Only / by the form, the pattern/ Can words or music reach/ The stillness, as a Chinese jar still/ Moves perpetually in its stillness”.
So two bodies that move together, or rather do not move and stand still as the figure on a Chinese jar that
is motionless yet at the same time in eternal movement, immota ne iners, thanks to the strength of the form.
The images of Beat Kuert, of which we recognize the merits of German Expressionism and the telluric force of Viennese actionism, a German-loving world almost unconsciously close to the Zurich-based artist in language and Heimat,
are the result of stratifications, formal and temporal manipulations, surprising images on the point of crumbling, scratched and overexposed, in which several layers intertwine to form a further one that does not exist if not in the eye of the artist, images that in their aesthetic result, between black/white and colour, reflective and rough surfaces, large and small dimensions, affect the viewer and force him to a deep reflection on what is the body, what is the space that contains it, what is the time that annihilates it.
An immaterial symbolism - Art and video art
It has often been said, that procedures in art are in a certain way connected to a kind of alchemy, since, on the one hand, they transform the matter with the use of more traditional methods of painting and sculpture, and in the same time, give body to fantastic visions: imaginary and unreal, but still persistent and capable of steadily occupying our imagination.
Beat Kuert has a good knowledge of art history, and his work, even if it manifests itself through the contemporary means of expression such as television, computer and photography, shows, with all possible obviousness, those particular influences; both ideal and formal.
Enzo Di Martino / from DONNA CARNIVORA, dust&scratches © 2007
Ecleticism: videoart, performance and photography
Born in the 1960's and considered a hybrid between movies and television, videoart has shown itself to be a very versatile medium, capable of broadening expressive means and stimulating creativity. It anticipated the interdisciplinarity which has become characteristic of today's mediatic production.
Nam June Paik longed to create a comprehensive electronic universe where every kind of reality could be rewritten. Although utopic, his vision defines videoart as a creative medium in which we can reconsider and reinvent reality, sometimes even enabling us to see beyond the usual spatiotemporal boundaries.
The aesthetic of Beat Kuert's work has many parallels with painting: exaltation of motion, the attention to color, light and shadow while apparently neglecting the narrative aspect. However, on a closer look we recognize that narrative has not been ignored, but employed to convey those segments of reality which are usually invisible or hard to perceive.
His art is based on the synergy between live performance, videoart and the selected (and edited) video stills which crystallize into photoprints. His intention is to create events in which the observer isn't only a spectator but ends up partecipating in the action.
For his events and installations he writes poetry and commissions ad hoc soundtracks, working closely with a group of young artists. His art is complex and not always immediately accessible. We could say it demands a careful elaboration of all visual, textual and acoustic fragments.
Artistic style: technology and color
Beat Kuert proclaims the shot a picture-frame: a frame holding a surreal dimension in which the subject appears tangible but is actually fictitious and abstract. The artist makes ample use of digital technology: cross-fades, superimpositions and cropped frames. Many of his works contain scenes composed from fragments of a single image, or events shown simultaneously from differing points of view.
For Kuert, the editing process is sort of an artifice used to create surprising transformations and through which it’s possible to convey purpose and meaning to human motion. His meticolous probing of movement - frequently iterated – and the portrayal of ordinary actions of daily life could be interpreted as a reference to silent film, a tribute to what Tom Gunning called the “cinema of attractions”.
At first glance, the most striking feature of Beat Kuert’s work is the pervasiveness of color: satured, seducing and charged with meaning. Color becomes an actor in itself, functionally equivalent to the performer’s body, both being matter to be shaped. The consistent saturation of color imparts the images with symbolism, sometimes by making ordinary details appear surreal.
Light and shadow often assault the images: abstracting, concealing and deforming the subject. Image contrast is used to stylize the human figure and subtle special effects – like smoke and ripples – are used to augment the oneiric look of the video. Last but not least, music constitutes an invaluable element and dictates the rhythm of the editing. Not only does it express feelings and emotions but it also enhancesthe charm and elegance of shots.
Themes: Woman and Water, Art and Life
The woman is a constant presence in Beat Kuert’s videoart. A primordial – yet modern - figure, a human as well as artistic archetype. Her body is both object and subject, capable of dominating the world and at the same time destined to endure it. Internal and external universes are joined through her ethereal yet carnal entity.
She communicates mainly using signs and facial expressions, she is defined by her stare – absent, compassionate, longing, - by her grimaces of joy or pain, by her slow and emblematic motion - often iterated by the actress herself or through editing.
Beat Kuert’s protagonists often act within a domestic sphere deformed by color. The kitchen is one of the places where the daily rituals of women take place. Kuert’s woman has a voracious appetite for action and reality, she’s willing to desecrate everything, including herself. His female characters annihilate, demolish and burn with a subtle malice – never abandoning their childlike nature which emerges through a naïve impulsivity. Kuert portrays a modern female figure, constantly seeking her lost balance and her place in the world. She’s passionate, living from emotions and sensations which are counteracted by her potentially being mother – for the first time freed from male authority. She’s often dissatisfied because she wants to experience the reality that surrounds her – so much that the outcome of her longing risks being her own annihilation.
However, there is a context in which she finds peace: nature. It’s a symbolic and stylized nature, harmonious and pretty, always underscored by captivating and relaxing music. Her soul is revealed through nature – she abandons herself and comes to a halt in order to meditate. She’s comfortable in solitude, satisfied and complete in herself.
The most recurring natural element is water, a motif intimately connected with the female universe. Still, deep blue water - the water of dreams – tantalizing but capable of sweeping away. Water as texture, water on the horizont but also water in the shower which – in a Freudian interpretation – betrays it’s association with amniotic fluid. Like art and creativity, woman and water appear to exist in symbiosis.
All considered, it’s exactly what Kuert’s woman represents: art. It’s a youthful art: fertile, lively, fierce but at the same time insecure, distressed and anguished. It’s art that - through a synesthetic experience - captures the eyes, drops the jaws and casts its iconographic howl.
It’s art that transcends the canonical boundaries and marks its own course, both on the screen and in live performances through the bodies of the interpretes. Art and life get mixed up in the battle against death, confirming once again the genuine purpose of art: leaving a footprint for eternity.
Beat Kuert depicts the anguish of nothingness and the frenzy of art – embodied by the woman who understands her own decadence and opposes it with all her means.
Kuert appears to have found his personal resolution to the art crisis: creativity should lay between the imitation of nature and the most technologically advanced production means.
Catalogue produced by Fondazione Maimeri 2018
Published on the occasion of the Exposition "Furor Corporis" curated by Angelo Crespi, Milan 2018
a pictorial requiem to hallucination and desire by Eyemazing Edition, © 2017
Publication concept, content curation and design Susan A. Zadeh
Hardcover Book, pages 306, 75 €
ET SIC IN INFINITUM
Catalogue produced by dust&scratches © 2013
Critic by Rolando Bellini
Published on the occasion of the New Florence Biennale Beat Kuert
Hardcover Book, pages, 30$
Catalogue produced and distributed by dust&scratches © 2012.
Critic by Enzo Di Martino
Published on the occasion of the solo exhibition Beat Kuert “Wunderkammer” at the M&C Saatchi Gallery, Shanghai, July 2012
Hardcover Book, pages 210, 20 $
GAIA - Beat Kuert
Catalogue produced and distributed by QTI © 2010
Serie "Fotografi della Svizzera Italiana" curated by Adriano Heitmann
Pocket Book, 18 $
KAN - Longing for rain
Catalogue produced and distributed by ICON Media © 2010
Curated by Na Risong. Introduced by Gu Zheng and Wu Hong
Hard Cover, 192 pages, 25$
Catalogue produced and distributed by dust&scratches © 2010
Curated by Na Risong. Introduced by Gu Zheng and Wu Hong
Hard Cover, with DVD, 192 pages, 25$
Catalogue produced and distributed by dust&scratches © 2007
Critic by Enzo Di Martino