Dialoguing With Bodo and My Brain

by Dominique Nahas

From my brain to your brain and back again is the movement of psychic information that is implied in Bodo Korsig's remarkable prints. Or perhaps one might say that for Korsig there is a world of difference, a critical difference, between what we know (or think we know, or hope we know) and what we experience as truth through the brain. The artist's subject in his large scale prints (some are so large, so massive that the artist has used a steam roller to make his gigantic woodcuts a reality) and in his imposing and yet nuanced large-sacle portfolio-sized books and lamporettos might very well be the brain. Yet the content of his work transcends the brain while keeping it, in a sense, in mind.

I remember (this is years ago, trust me) when I was a much younger man in secondary school growing up in New York City's upper east side that it became popular to greet school chums and foes alike with the saying "How's your mind?".

To ask a foe this quetion in a casual way was met with bewilderment, to our amusement. This sign of perplexity was taken as evidence of the incapacity of one's rival to possess such a thing as a mind. To ask "How's your mind?", then, was to infer that your fellow high school nemesis was brainless and by implication would never and could never get the joke. And by inference that the joke was on him. By contrast to greet a friend with that same expression was met as a salutation filled with bonhomie and a certain warmth. It meant that you held your friend in  your esteem, that he was a creditable fellow, that he was in his right mind, knew how to use his mind rightly and had the intelligence (meaning: the brains)and the virtue of wanting to use it a rightheous manner. At the core of this spoken code was that mind = brain. If the owner of the brain was  in good form it most probably meant that the keeper of the mind that sustained it and the physical body that contained IT was in good form as well.

So the mind/body envelope was very much kept in play, ideationally speaking, as we ,as students, parried and thrusted using the (perhaps not so) rhetorical dagger " How's your mind?."

 

Bodo Korsig addresses the human brain as the ostensible subject of his work in light of real-life  collective concerns and our associations with such concerns that circulate around brain function and brain disorders. Korsig knows that the word "brain" is so loaded that we are bound to make  sensorial,somatic and pschic references coalesce when we bring to mind this signifier.  Also, he may be justifiably referring in a poetic and science-fiction-y way to our human anxieties about survival and perhaps uber-survival as a species. He may very well be indicating through his giant printed canvases and paper prints (with all of their delicacy and aggressiveness combined) how much human vulnerability comes  into play when a desire for immortality emerges in human culture as it always does in one way or another when the brain and its condition and conditioning is subject for conversation. Through his work Korsig seems to be suggesting we look at our need to believe in logic and the scientific method as the post-ideological gods that offers the perpetual promise towards salvation.

That promise, clothed as it is in the scientific cloak of infallibility,   nearly always has to do with being on the right track to having (finally, finally!) found the right code for the correct treatment of whatever ails us at the moment in order for us all to stay alive and well well into the hundreds of years ( or similar claims of a perpetual future). Amen, brother.  Long term assertions of secular salvation via scientific claims of its authoritative powers brings into account (and Korsig is complicit in bringing this up through his work) implications revolving  futuristic cyborg/cybernetic possibilities, genomic manipulations, brain transplants , brain reproductions, and brain-harvesting. While  a discussion of this order is well and proper Bodo Korsig's essential cultural work  and  the one that he fullfills so admirably through his printed material (and by implication his seemingly scientifically rigorous yet entirely fantasmagorival or chimerical three dimensional iconic or symbolic structures  referencing the language of transmission, interference, attachment, displacement, contagion which serve as sculptures either free standing or placed on the wall) rests on the distinction which must be made between the subject of Korsig's work which is brain and the content of his work referring to the brain which is :consciousness.

In addressing, de facto, the condition of consciousness and the mind/body duality that cleaves human existence through his work Korsig immediately makes himself the target of both admiration and ridicule. Admiration because he is doing  cultural heavy-lifting ---in ideological terms or perhaps even spiritually speaking --- as an artist and so few artists have the nerve or the courage to put themselves out there (Kiefer and Hirshhorn are two of Korsig's equals in this respect).Ridicule  because to tackle such profound issues while it is the mandate of any artist to assume the challenge of such questions so few rise to such a task because of fear of being (or being accused of being)ridiculous. Bodo Korsig, through his mastery of the printed word and image, rises to the challenge because he is up to the challenge of dealing with some of life's greatest paradoxes and anxieties and he does so without flinching and with grace and interiorized modesty.  Korsig's printed imagery is astonishing because he connects through this medium in a way that only few and great artists can. His control of surface values is virtuosic in its precision and in its impact on the eyes and on the body. To see a Bodo print is to experience it precisely with and through your body.  And  by extension through the mind's eye, so to speak, and through the heart as well. Korsig's works attend to what needs tending: they are tremulous responses to our sense of fragility as human being.They bespeak of our capacity and our incapacity to bridge the gap between subjective and objective conditions. Korsig's seemingly "textbook" recreations of biologic information, relating to synapses and ordering systems within the body on metabolic, bacterial, and neuronal levels and the  mordant and poignant play of words is existential theatre and theatre of the macabre rolled into one. 

Korsig's  "body" of work   has a recursive  element to it: it always refers back to itself, its own conditioning, its own subject matter. The brain work of Kordo's deals exactly with that essential  elemental paradox : how do we know what we know and how do we know what we don't know? Bodo Korsig's printed edition works (prints and books), their clear semiotic and linguistic connection with his larger billboard-scaled flat wall works as well as with his iconic and emblematic sculptural objects make him a complete artist.

The artist's evident mastery of different forms, formats and materials to invoke rigorous thought on the subject of brain carries  along with it an eloquent and complex voice that has deepened with time.  To come to the conclusion that Bodo Korsig raises has very much raised the  international aesthetic bar in terms of intellection, emotional intelligence and  formal rigor  is ,frankly, a no-brainer. His cultural achievements rank him as one of the most important international artists of his generation.

 

Dublin, August 20,2007

Dominique Nahas is an independant curator and critic based in Manhattan.