Flying Home


Teaching is fundamentally linked to the question "what am I / who am I?". My own answer to that question goes something like this: I see myself as a kind of leavening, as an "unquiet ferment" that makes dough rise . as a rather unpleasant product, yeast, with no mass of its own, completely enclosed and constantly seeking a way out. This underlying feeling is connected to a hermetic and "claustrophobic" sense of space that has its roots in my own biography. At the age of 18 I learned weaving and textile finishing in two southern German firms. The fabric, the way 10,000 weft threads are combined with 10,000 warp threads, the forms of linkage they can represent – these are aspects that I used to muse on as I day-dreamed in front of the looms, applying them in my mind's eye to cities and urban spaces and even to the entire fabric of society. I saw them as rigid spatial systems in which millions of tiny spaces / apartments were enclosed . (the air pockets in a fabric determine its warmth). From the early 60s onwards, this notion of the social fabric as a woven textile, as I imagined it, had become inextricably linked in my imagination with Chinese culture and I tended to think of them in terms of real social models that were by no means totalitarian, but which enabled "democracy on a tiny scale". The threads were individual and the textile collective (a single thread consists of many fibres and can be individually dyed; it can be as complex as a glass fibre carrying millions of data – it is more than something). The quality of the overall fabric – Heidegger – thus depends on the quality and quantity of the individual parts of which it is made up. This hermetic image (which I admit I find terrifying) is something I have seen looming on the horizons of society for some time now. It is the primitive appropriation of land culminating in an equally primitive notion of freedom. (Considering the price per square yard of real estate in our cities, one either thinks immediately of street riots where every inch is fought for, or is reminded of an English advertisement that illustrates the space between hairs – both are examples of A the infinity of space – Mandelbrot – and B that spaces can be sought and found between occupied places). But to return to what I do: what I do when I am teaching – the spectacles one looks through are tinted by biographical experience one cannot escape – no matter how much one might wish to. The "street riot" approach to gaining new forms between forms is tough, but worth the effort. In a cramped space there are no "long-term prospects". Working within such a space is like taking a microbe's view of the world, trying to get from the liver to the kidney . holes appear and close again immediately . bubbles . hollow volumes that burst again . I see myself, by force of circumstance, as an uncertain artistic existence that is constantly driven and can never "rest" . In this image, resting is somewhere between breathing in and breathing out. The social consequence of such a situation (as opposed to "anything goes") is a constant search for form that will make different patterns or keys compatible in order to create the next yard. . This "need" is the driving force behind my actions. By externalising that need and projecting it into other existences, I become something like a "good teacher" . a trainer who tries to continue the tasks he cannot solve himself . in the existence of further satellites – students – just as the liver sometimes has to delegate tasks to the kidney – because it cannot cope with them on its own. . A bunch of grapes . frogspawn . emerge . on equal terms . in a hermetic work situation as friendship in a real collective. OK – let's do it!

(May 2000)