ON THE DELAY MECHANISM, PROTECTIVE LAYERS, SUPERFICIAL ENEMIES AND THE PREJUDICE TRAP OR THE POSITIVE LONG-TERM EFFECT OF THE NEGATIVE ASSESSMENT OF THE POSITIVE
The effect of the positive is multiplied first by the obstacle of the negative and the unintended publicity of the positive at the hands of negative forces. And then by the accumulation of the positive until it can no longer be overlooked. Like water held up behind a dam. (1)
Then by the bursting of the dam, which allows the meanwhile vastly strengthened positive to take its course. Having to admit that what had been judged to be negative is in truth positive, is a difficult realisation which leaves a much deeper mark than when the positive is recognised immediately as being positive.
Thus, a multiple effect is achieved.
It appears as though Hundertwasser, unconsciously or consciously, makes use of and cultivates this delay effect with the greatest mastery, to the repeated bewilderment of his “enemies”, who for Hundertwasser are not enemies at all, but welcome bolsterers, mouthpieces and tools of the delay mechanism.
Those who take a stand against Hundertwasser are always those who do not know him personally or who have only dealt with his ideas, paintings and concerns in a superficial way. That is, they are people who have only heard about him and adhere to negative prejudices without examining them.
When someone says, Hundertwasser’s posturing and everything associated with him prevents me from seeing his paintings and blocks my view of his concerns, this means that he cannot see without prejudice, that the delay effect has succeeded in setting the delay mechanism in motion within him. He has become a victim of his prejudice. He has fallen into the prejudice trap laid for the protection of the artist; it exists to protect the artist’s paintings and messages from the evil eye of the unauthorised.
He has fallen into the prejudice trap.
Again and again, Hundertwasser has experienced how his so-called enemies have become useless as tools of the delay mechanism when they make his personal acquaintance or delve deeper into the issues which concern him, because then they either clam up or become avid followers.
Typical delay effects come about, for example, with: proclaiming in the nude the truth about the third skin; the Nettle Campaign; the framing of paintings in “bed-bug frames” (unintentionally) at the Art-Club in 1952; leaving out (unintentionally) an “r” in the painting entitled “Europäer der sich seinen Schnurbart hält” (European Twirling His Moustache). The shocking use of expressions such as “degenerate art”, the coining of terms and phrases such as: Hundertwasser is a gift to Germany; architects are like war criminals; my eyes are tired; through our shit we become immortal; the straight line is godless; students will be replaced by plants. The wearing of creative clothing. Reading from seven-metre-long scrolls. The soiling of sterile architecture. Etc.
On direct scrutiny the bones of contention are not that at all, but, on the contrary, they are likewise pithy truths which encode nothing and are not encoded. Only if taken superficially do they produce a delay effect and with it so-called “superficial enemies”, welcome tools of the delay mechanism. In the process, the superficial enemies fall into the prejudice trap.
The delay mechanism set in motion by the delay effect serves to bolster the foundation and to bolster the structure of the theses created by Hundertwasser.
In the plant world the delay mechanism is a veritable rule of survival. If the cold of winter and drought do not furnish this delay mechanism automatically, the plants are themselves at pains to use a clever obstruction tactic of biding their time and stalling so they won’t grow too fast and die. (2)
That is why Hundertwasser refuses to accept honours, prizes, titles (3), unless he can use them as an occasion for the delay effect of a new or old necessary truth, in order to give it greater effect.
These truths are positive messages which are never directed at the awarding body, but for its and the general public’s benefit. But many people don’t realise this until later. (4)
Hundertwasser keeps close track of the delay mechanism. He is only interested in negative criticism. He hardly reads the positive ones. He tends not to like them, because they “make him die too soon”, make him surface too soon: classified, academised, institutionalised. On the other hand Hundertwasser knows precisely where he stands and where his roots are. His self-criticism is very severe and goes far beyond whatever superficial criticism is sent his way.
Hundertwasser is glad about any negative criticism. He has collected them for a book he plans to publish: “Hundertwasser: Negative Critiques – Lost Paintings”.
Hundertwasser likes to adopt abusive statements about his person and work and wears them like titles of nobility. For example: “I am a literary and decorative painter. I am happy and feel good” (in the catalogue text of Studio Paul Facchetti, 1956, in answer to a Paris critic).
Or: “I am a beautifier”, in the press conference with Mayor Gratz in Vienna in 1980 (referring to an abusive term derived from the pseudo-aesthetic principles of Adolf Loos, in “Ornament and Crime”, 1908, the third generation of Viennese architects of the Bauhaus mentality).
Or: “I am a painter of an ideal world.” Which means: … of tomorrow. (The ideal world, this beautiful phrase, became a term of abuse around 1975, similar, almost synonymous, to “fascist” around 1950–1960.)
Sometimes Hundertwasser puts abusive terms into his critics’ mouths himself: “I am a bluffer”, on the occasion of his speech at his first exhibition at the Art-Club in 1952. But then he went on: “I am myself caught up in the general net of lies, from which I want to free myself.” But it was reason enough for the critic Lampe to call Hundertwasser a bluffer.
For similar reasons, Hundertwasser defends the garden gnome against rationalism, fights for little men and great feelings, fights for Window Right and the Third Skin, which is why he has come to be called “façade guru” (Wiener Arbeiterzeitung, July 10, 1980), of which he is very proud.
In keeping with his “Grammar of Seeing”, Hundertwasser paints in many layers. When viewed superficially, only the top layer is visible, just like in Breughel’s paintings, beneath whose upper layer, which was so “amusing” to his contemporaries, it took centuries for deeper layers to reveal themselves, which again and again have provoked the most eminent viewers to new discoveries and insights.
In Hundertwasser’s paintings the “pretty”, the “decorative”, the “pseudo-naive”, “Christmas-tree-ornament”, “iridescently colourful” layer is on the surface. That misleads those of today’s contemporaries who think they can only recognise things with the aid of the uniform rational-intellectual glasses they are decked out with. But what they think they see is only a protective layer which quite consciously offers Hundertwasser’s “superficial enemies” a chance to take umbrage, which keeps them from becoming deeper viewers, just like having no passport at the border. This protective layer on Hundertwasser’s paintings is equivalent to the delay effect in his writings and public appearances, makes superficial adversaries fall into the prejudice trap and sets into motion an analogous delay mechanism.
Beneath this protective layer, which only slows down the unauthorised, unqualified viewers, there are other layers and perspectives which can be immediately detected if the viewer is likewise located in another dimension. These deeper layers cannot be discerned rationally, intellectually, but only creatively.
Creative seeing is intuitive and very simple and neither acquired nor intellectually organised. Creative seeing belongs to a higher human dimension, since man as an individual can really only see by virtue of himself, only by virtue of his own creativity.
The intellectual perspective, in contrast, is that of a blind man, because with it the viewer has no eyes of his own and cannot see with borrowed, acquired, organised, straightened, prescribed eyes.
(1) Stowasser means backwater or slack water. It was only discovered later that, Sto does not originate from the Slavic meaning hundred, although Friedrich’s forefathers on his father’s side hailed from Egerland in Böhmen. Hundertwasser had translated his name incorrectly.
(2) For example we compare the growth of the oak tree to that of the poplar or the ability of the trees to wait with the expulsion of their leaves until the right moment.
(3) He considers the title “Professor” an insult. Letters using this title are returned to sender.
(4) A rumoured tale told over and over again tells of how Hundertwasser, who was invited to return from abroad for the opening of a student’s hostel and to hold a speech on the occasion of a small exhibition, stripped naked in front of the vice-Mayor Ms Gertrude Fröhlich-Sandner in order to snub her personally and the building policies of the socialist borough of Vienna. Hundertwasser was actually protesting against the sterile building which was to house the students and rationalistic architecture in general. He had no idea who was attending the opening, who the architect was and who contracted the student’s hostel. He would have taken off his clothes in front of the Pope in order to make a point.