Hans Theys is een twintigste-eeuws filosoof en kunsthistoricus. Hij schreef en ontwierp tientallen boeken over het werk van hedendaagse kunstenaars en publiceerde honderden essays, interviews en recensies in boeken, catalogi en tijdschriften. Al deze publicaties zijn gebaseerd op samenwerkingen of gesprekken met de kunstenaars in kwestie.

Dit platform werd samengesteld door Evi Bert (Centrum Kunstarchieven Vlaanderen). Het kwam tot stand in samenwerking met de Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerpen (Onderzoeksgroep ArchiVolt), M HKA, Antwerpen en Koen Van der Auwera. Met dank aan Idris Sevenans (HOR) en Marc Ruyters (Hart Magazine).


Panamarenko - 1993 - Beyond Form and Power [EN, essay],
Tekst , 13 p.


Hans Theys

Beyond Form and Power
Some words about Panamarenko's Work

As a rule, we experience what is generally valid, and apply it in various circumstances.
What is extraordinary and new usually goes unnoticed, though it is precisely here that experience lies.

Leopold Flam


Impudent collages, trembling artists and a flick of the finger

Montagne de Miel, Sunday 18 April 1993. My desk, the window-sill, the leather armchair and the wooden floor are again scattered with hundreds of photos. Photos of cluttered interiors, action photos, photos of mechanical parts, photos of animals, of strange objects, of exhibitions in museums. A detail of the steel torsion spring of Umbilly I, giraffes in Botswana, Polistes without wheel caps, parked in front of some allotments, Hedy Lamar, a black and a white swallow's nest, a dried piranha from Brazil, a man posing on top of the Galenstock, the filling of The Aeromodeller with hydrogen gas, a barricade made of blocks of ice in the centre of Antwerp, a man wearing an army uniform in front of a blackboard, a workbench with a voltmeter, a brass rocket, a model airship, a mechanic trying out a man powered aircraft, a pit covered with canvas, in which somebody is doing something with copper coils the size of peat bags, a diver on the bottom of the Indian Ocean, a parrot with an orange-peel beret, and so on.
    Scattered about in a jumble, like an impudent, overgrown collage, these photos remind one of those diligently compiled 16th-century curiosity cabinets that marked the first step towards modern empirical science. And yet this represents more than a coincidental collection of curios. Panamarenko is no collector. He makes things. Sometimes this involves study, sometimes they materialise as a by-product to his study. Sometimes they are a souvenir of an earlier experience, sometimes they announce one.
    All these things are connected through the word experience. Sometimes in the sense of an experiment, often in the sense of a conscious recording of a moment, really experiencing something that is generally considered as a matter of course, the creation and conveyance of events, objects or images, for others and for oneself.
    This definition remains rather vague. Things don't become tangible. Couldn't one say the same about just any artist? Panamarenko is not just any artist, though. Then where does the difference lie?
    The first answer to this question is obvious: show me a hundred photos of works by a painter or a sculptor before whom you like to go down on your knees, or whom you esteem – I couldn't care which way you might prefer to give form to the myth of admiration yourself –, show me a hundred photos and I'll… Oh, you carry them about in your inside pocket, in a neat envelope, just the right size… Let me have a look. I'm always keen to get to know new, sensitive, powerful things or people… But they're all… paintings! And the other pile, pass me the other pile that you so dexterously pulled from your back-pocket… But they… they're all sculptures! Hundreds of sculptures! Bronze and stone, artistically sculpted, breasts and buttocks, a male torso, and here even… Lovely! An elephant! A cement elephant! A marble Hasselblad! And here, even some abstract works, with flowing lines and deep contrasts! But… They're all… how shall I say… they're all… sculptures… marble, bronze, wood and plastic… What is new about them? Where is… yes, where is the fresh, the surprising, the unpredictable, the insolent, the… indeed… the real thing? That stain, you say. There is something about that dot, that colour, that line, that touch, that stain… All right. But a stain is nothing new to me. I myself have made several. Of course, I don't know all stains… I could never imagine all possible stains. All possible stains! And all their combinations! What colours! What shapes! What compositions! It is true. I could never imagine them all.
    This line of reasoning would be all too easy. It does not tell us anything positive about the specific character of Panamarenko's work. It only tells us what it is not, what it does not want to be or what it is trying to escape from. But what if we, for the moment at least, do not want to define Panamarenko's work positively, what if we, in other words, do not wish to reduce it to words and concepts we already know, because that way what is specific will definitely elude us? Then it will be worthwhile having another look at the pursuits of our sculptors and art painters.
    On second thoughts, let's rather not. Look how nervously they look over their shoulders, look at them trembling… Look how they're getting smaller and smaller as well, poor souls… They're getting flatter and flatter! You would say they're about to collapse under some terrible burden! But we can't see anything… It looks as if they know something we don't! So, what do they know? Who are they so afraid of? What is crushing them? But… it's their own paintings! Their own lovely paintings and lovely sculptures! They're so lovely, so formidable, so decent, so right, so elevated, so old that they cannot but crush their puny little creators! That is why they look over their shoulders so nervously! They are afraid that somebody else might have noticed! Their master, maybe, who is always breathing down their necks, even if he isn't there, even if he has been dead and buried for ages, rotting and being digested by organic wriggles… Maybe the master has noticed, or the parish priest, or their husbands or wives, or – shock, horror! –, or… Art itself, in all its majestic and incontestable beauty! Yes, that's it! Spied upon by the Grand Pontiff and ridiculed by their own creation! Which cruel God has doomed these meagre figures to so rending, so desolate, so painful an existence? Who? What? Why?
    Their parents! Vanity! Hunger! Ambition! The very same parish priest! Cowardice! Blindness! Habit! What? Habit? But what habit? Who would paint out of habit? All those talented painters and sculptors, all those writers, all those artists - aren't they supposed to be exceptional? Aren't they the people who offer resistance, who rebel, who pass their miserable lives rooting up the dung hill of the world, looking for the One, the Greatest, the Sublime that transcends all routine and habituation? Wait a minute, I'm not quite with you here. I'd like to catch my breath a bit.

If you pick your nose it will grow as big as this. If you play with yourself, you'll go deaf. If you squint when the clock strikes twelve… If you go on making such a noise while you drink, you'll never one day… become a real lady, become a man, become a real carpenter, become a good biologist, become a good art painter, find a husband, find a wife, find a job, be able to have children, be able to buy enough land to build your own house with a garage, etc.
    Never lick the blade of a blender if it's still plugged in, because there once was a little boy who… Always be careful on the escalator, for there once was a lady with long hair… The fear for what is new, for what is possible - electricity! escalators! drugs! genetic manipulation! - leads us to smother our offspring with rules of decency, rules of conduct and rules for life, ways of getting rid of their snotty noses, ways of walking (without whistling), ways of eating, of talking, of thinking, of expressing themselves. The power of these countless rules lies in the 'fear', in the superfluous timidity that is to protect our offspring from perilous contact with reality.
    The raw wound in our heads must be protected against light, so we wind a curtain around our heads and can see nothing, hear nothing, taste nothing, smell nothing and feel nothing. And for this reason, because we can see nothing anyway, we are taught those things, like one teaches children who grew up in a dark cave about the world outside.
    But this stinking swathe around our heads does not only protect us from the night, and from light, it also protects us against all too many real, nice, beautiful, enjoyable things that we are not allowed to know, because there is only enough for a few smart Alecs who have dared peep through their fingers… Stop! Stop! No confusion! Those with their big asses and their nice manners, do they live any differently? Do they really experience things? Can they see? Those weak priests who are said to have turned around all values to be able to survive, do they see more than we do, we with our swathed heads? No confusion! We must unravel it, this cunning blend of reason and interests, we must unravel it! But how? We have to unravel it with a… with a flick of the finger. What have I just said? I actually wanted to write: with thundering blows of our hammer, but I am looking for a more accurate, a lighter description, for a definition of that casual gesture, that impertinent pursuit, that shameful shamelessness, those humble attempts at buoyantly doing God knows what.

About smokescreens, specificity and form

I have known Panamarenko for several years. We have had hundreds of conversations, at his place, in the Panaché – where the steak melts in your mouth like ice-cream –, on the Maldives, in the Berlin zoo, the Forêt des Soignes, at the Monte Rosa, on the beach in Toyama and in numerous adventurous, dismal and less dismal places. However, every published interview remains interesting. Not only because the interviews are the best ever published about his life and work, but also because they illustrate how consistent he has been in his pursuits and claims despite the fact that many of his remarks have never been fully incorporated in critical texts, as if they are considered incomplete or simply because they have never been understood.
    Obviously, every man or woman is free to interpret an artist's work in his or her own, personal way - even if he or she doesn't present the resulting paperwork as such -, but it mostly boils down to insubstantial reductions, as if the unknown or the New would only make sense if seen in the context of what is already familiar. The main problem is not so much that art criticism generally buries its subject under consecrated classifications, that it looks for influences and tries to find more or less far-fetched links. After all, for the majority of artists this is the only possible approach because their work itself came into being this way and finds its raison d'être in these structures. The problem is that the specific character of a work that seems to exceed these divisions is constantly being hidden behind a smokescreen of platitudes, general truths and rigid concepts[1].
    Criticism here becomes the victim of its Form. Whereas a great work of art tries to make visible an aspect of reality (or the possibilities of art; they can coincide) that has remained hidden so far, criticism tries to illustrate it by reducing it to what is already visible and familiar, because the medium it disposes of consists only of this. This is, of course, a trite remark. Each form of communication by definition consists of a hermeneutic circle: what is unknown cannot be communicated because it is unknown and because existing words only refer to what is already known. The sense of a work of art that reveals or creates a new[2] experiential world is precisely based on a bold or arrogant disregard for this apparently irrevocable situation.
    About six years ago I tried to demonstrate that the diverse interpretations of Kafka's work, which have been published in tens of thousands of writings, missed the point that the essence of Kafka's prose exactly seemed to be founded on a paralyzing realization of the unknowability of the world, which makes the setting of guidelines (for action) – or a definitive interpretation of any fact at all – impossible[3]. With regards to Panamarenko's work it is not Kafka's scepticism that is important - to the contrary -, but the fact that Kafka's work had to present itself as undefinable, not so as to guarantee a so-called universal meaning, but its specific character: this one, personal experiential world that he tried to make visible and tangible in as naked a way as possible[4].
    In any case, my aim is not simply to indicate that Panamarenko's work is continually being reduced in the writings published about him so that its specific character is continually in danger of getting lost, but to point out that the present urge to reduce, as an expression of criticism that is the victim of its own Form, is related to that kind of artistic or scientific pursuit that is censured by Panamarenko's life and work.
    Time and again, it seems, every experience has to be reduced to clichés, to what has already been acquired, digested and unmanned, to the lucky dip of aesthetic jumble, to the figurine factory, to stalled experience. Leonardo da Vinci! That's what they will say next. The myth of Icarus! The dream of flying!
    "But then it is flying in itself that actually intrigues you?" Panamarenko is asked in an interview published in 1970. "It isn't really the way it looks," he replies. "If I start making something it is, of course, flying in itself (…) but once I'm busy the most important really is the process of making it and when it's finished I do feel I have to try it and so on, but there's no hurry then, because there are several aspects of the propellers and motors that are actually more interesting, that are actually more like flying than flying itself."[5]
    The principles of aerodynamics are more or less accessible to everybody. Panamarenko does not aim at testing their validity - present-day air traffic makes this superfluous and pointless -, but at experiencing them himself, really understanding them, or even at feeling why they are valid and how they work. This is why it is irrelevant whether his machines really function.
    For the same reason, however, it is foolish to say – as has been done ever so often – that Panamarenko's machines have to be deficient, because this deficiency would define their so-called artistic value (as if they constituted an ironic note about the condition humaine). Aiming at functionality – for example to try to build aeroplanes that really are able to fly –  precisely constitutes an essential ingredient of Panamarenko's poetic force.
    Panamarenko always imposes restrictions on himself that originate in his striving for the highest possible level of efficiency (low weight and consumption) and the highest possible degree of elegance. Not elegance in the purely aesthetic sense, but an aspiration for simplicity, comparable to the criteria that lead a scientist to decide in favour of certain theories. "It doesn't matter whether the string theory is possible or not," Panamarenko told me in 1989[6], "It simply isn't comprehensible enough to be really elegant. Whereas my theory (now known as Toy Model of Space) has a great deal of elegance."
    Formal motives (the view, the capacities of the materials used) this way combine with practical (the less noise, the better), technical, physical, provocative, playful (irony, or just for fun, as long as the project stays entertaining) and inscrutable, personal motives, which mostly lead to a full experience of a deliberately impossible aim - even if, seen from a purely functional point of view, it is never attained.
    The real aim, if one can really formulate it as such, therefore consists of the experience that goes with the entanglement and mutual influence of these different motives[7], and showing an object that results from them.

Form and power

A trite remark: If it is true that, as the French philosopher Foucault claims somewhere, Western fascination with sexuality as a source of truth does not in effect point out that sexuality is an illicit, necessarily concealed form of freedom, but rather a line of conduct encouraged by the powers that be; a conduct that - via the psychoanalytical and Roman Catholic culture of confession - facilitates tight control of the individual, then the art world probably works the same way: as long as the creative individual expresses himself within the set rules of art - with truth (authenticity, accuracy, sincerity) as one of his main aims - he keeps serving the shaky, disgusting course of things in a way that is controllable because it is nameable.
    This idea seems trite because power is always seen as a political, economical and juridical, i.e. concrete, personalised body that directs the world from an inaccessible fortress. However, power, as Foucault describes it in La volonté de savoir[8], is an immanent event: it is the discursively non-intelligible way in which economic processes, acquaintances, sexual relationships and artistic developments occur and relate mutually. "Where there is power," he writes, "there is also resistance and yet, or maybe therefore, resistance never exists outside the power…" For this reason Joseph Beuys was mistaken when he stated[9] that the "boundaries of traditional art" could be broken through by "art in the wider sense of the word", a "concept of creativity" founded on a "science of freedom" and "self-determination", "through which one can escape from powers that operate from outside."[10] A "completely free, self-defining" culture that no longer is the "puppet of authorities that represent a minority in our community and cover up the fascist and economic intentions of vast commercial groups" is not only impossible because "culture is closely related to the law", as he admits himself, but also because 'culture' would be unthinkable without the law, in every sense of the word[11].
    "Always the same inability to cross the line," Foucault writes[12], "always the same choice, on the side of power, of what power says or makes one say…"[13]
    Nothing seems to be able to exist beyond power, for power relies on and exists in the Form of our acts. Power, in other words, does not direct us from the outside, it comes from inside, it directs us by means of our 'own' hollow intentions and approaches. Power is the deceitful suppleness of our movements.

"Irritated by Ziethen's skilful withdrawal," writes John Holland Rose, "the Emperor at last launched his cavalry at the Prussian rear battalions, four of which were severely handled before they reached the covert of a wood."[14] In fact it was Napoleon's intention to crush the Prussians at the outskirts of this wood, but he was deceived by Form, namely his preconceived idea of a wood. All woods, he thought, are like The Wood, the wood I knew during my youth: the Corsican wood with its impenetrable undergrowth.
    Everything is subject to Form[15]. Form guarantees the possibility, visibility, tangibility and controllability of each object, each realisation, each act and each event. Moreover: nothing exists without Form. Form is the precondition to everything.
    The essence of Form rests on the possibility to recognise. That is why it is rigid. That is why it is suffocating. That is why it is paralysing.
    Form is the paralysing precondition to all that is.
    Form is the element that enables perception, aesthetic experience, knowledge, action, the exertion of power. Form averts fear, it is the beaten track, the Possible, the liveable, the tolerable (that which doesn't blind, confuse or disturb anymore). Form, however, is also that which, eventually, makes perception, aesthetic experience and knowledge impossible, because it no longer corresponds to the brewing reality, because it excludes new experience, because it leads to the acceptance and celebration of a limited reality and limited experience of reality.
    Where Foucault encounters the inability to think or act beyond power, Deleuze in all earnest begins to fold his boundaries (le pli!), but Panamarenko creates his Toy Model of Space.

Revealing a new reality and the fumbling of science.

"… when I come into a museum," Marcel Duchamp said in 1966, "what I experience at the sight of a painting is nothing like speechlessness, surprise or curiosity. Never. I mean, when looking at the old masters… I have really relinquished them, in the religious sense of the word. But without wanting it myself. I just was disgusted. (…) Of course there is a lot to be seen, but I really don't feel like starting an artistic education, in the old sense of the word! It leaves me cold. I don't know why, I can't explain it."[16]
    I think I know why. There namely is nothing to it, to all this fine art. Not even to Mr Duchamp's little inventions. There is too much rubbish. We have to go down on our knees before it, indeed, and we like kneeling, like we used to kneel before other Molochs, but what have all these ceremonies got to do with the vague promise of freedom that is mostly indicated with the word 'art'?
    "In my opinion," says Gombrowicz in his last interview[17], "Genêt naturally is a great creating artist, maybe the greatest French artist, because he uncovered a new reality." No doubt Duchamp's ready-mades also uncovered a new reality, albeit, like Genêt's, in the first place aesthetic. Which ideas[18] or things actually occupied Duchamp? No matter how we look at it, the experiential world uncovered by his work is eerily thin. Experiments? Whatever he may have said himself, whether about his clever contortions of the cubist and futurist codes, his serious games with optical discs or his appalling casts or bizarre images of exposed genitals, Duchamp always set out from Art[19].
    But Art is an old sore and an even older pleasure. "We have to create pleasure again," Foucault once said[20].  No new Art, I would like to add, but new forms of pleasure, forms of society, experience and intensity. A hopeless goal, that is quite clear, but at least a goal.
    "Hang on! Hang on!" the even more exhausted but ever watchful reader protests, "Experiments, you write. Experiments. But what have Panamarenko's experiments got to do with the real experiments of Science?" One no doubt has to distinguish between the real course of science, the trudging of a hundred thousand anonymous researchers ruled by blindness and insight, luck, coincidence, daring and perseverance, and the dignified image of self-confidence and efficiency with which science is generally associated or represented.
    "I have something to say, of the Order, Names, Descriptions, Figures, and Uses of Particulars," wrote Nehemiah Grew in 1681.  "As to the first, I like not the reason which Aldrovanus gives for his beginning the History of Quadrupeds with the Horse… Much less would I choose Gesner, to go by the Alphabet. The very Scale of Creation (a great abundance of matter for any man's Reason to work upon) is a matter of high Speculation." In fact, as far as the scientific method is concerned, relatively little has changed since Nehemiah Grew. The theories are useful, they yield excellent results, but the progress of science is floundering. The classifications of biology still rest on artificial grounds, Eysenck and Kamin still argue about the heredity of intelligence (did Burt actually falsify his inquiries or not?), the quantum mechanical theory of gravitation is still based on the graviton, of which the existence has never yet been proven, astronomers are still at a loss to explain why galaxies only came into being three hundred thousand years after the (as yet hypothetical) Big Bang, some forms of cancer are still being cured by glorified butchers and poison mongers, a large number of scientific breakthroughs are still due to coincidental discoveries, bold hypotheses or even forgeries.
    The progress of Science is floundering, but how could it be any different? Scientists are looking for the unknown, for answers to which they have to formulate the questions themselves, because what they are looking for is New[21]. This search, this clumsy groping about, this elaborate, farcical dance that is meticulously kept hidden behind nicely presented theories, meaningless titles and high lecterns (for where else should the means come from, or the young, motivated researchers?) is not only highly efficient, but also has an instantaneous, fascinating beauty, which Panamarenko wants to experience himself.

Poetic Power, Things and Names.

The force of a work of art seldom depends on the experience on which it is based, but rather on the ability of the artist to communicate this experience by giving it form.
    One of the elements that seem to constitute the specific character of Panamarenko's work is precisely the simultaneous presence of the thing and its name as opposite poles of our experience of reality. His work bespeaks a fascination for almost mythical figures, phenomena and events[22] without, however, ignoring the thing in itself. His work practically always starts out from a trivial statement of a problem, which is surrounded by an impressive aura, or from a grandiose image, which he appropriates through a hopeless fiddling with cogs and wheels. This has a dual effect: firstly, he approaches things in an unbiased way, averse to all generally accepted theories and preconceived images, so they become visible in a new way. Then he gives them new names like Umbilly, U-Kontroll, Scotch Gambit or Polistes, rehabilitating the myth[23]. The new name, however, does not conclude the work as its definite interpretation, but confers on it a dual, ironical nature, through which myth and object mutually tone down and reinforce each other. Ingenious, ambitious machines are overshadowed by even higher aspirations (leaving forever in a self-built, unconventional spaceship), which are in turn called into question by these same objects' clumsy appearance, so that the sublime inevitably and incessantly turns into the minute and vice versa.
    In this way Panamarenko's work reveals a new world of experience, in which the smallest thing and the greatest ambition are simultaneously – and therefore not without comical effect – taken seriously.
    Not only is it impossible actually to impart an experience, it is also pointless. The whole point is that somebody experiences something himself. What can be communicated, however, and I repeat myself, is the wish to experience and the pleasure that goes with it. It is precisely this dual, ironical nature of Panamarenko's work, the simultaneous, subversive attention for things and myths, the unashamed lack of rigidity and the overall ambiguity (e.g. poetic objects acquiring a technical appearance and vice versa), which lend it this cheerful openness which one might call poetic, because it imparts a personal experience beyond the tyranny of the Name.

Enough is enough!

Stop! Stop! Stop! Enough! Enough claptrap about the so-called nature of Panamarenko's work! Nature? What nature? "This much is certain", I wrote in 1989[24], "Panamarenko's work lacks all tragic tension." The "a priori of seriousness as the ultimate betrayal of authenticity", I called it, rather seriously, and I went on about "the final and invisible bastion of classical antiquity: the belief that authenticity is unthinkable without a tragic consciousness." How I have had to squirm and wriggle today to be able to define the weight of Panamarenko's work after all! Weight? It has no weight! It doesn't need any weight! That's what the whole deception is about! The great conjuring-trick of the art clique! No matter how much you admire Gombrowicz, the great crusader for youth and immaturity, you can't help feeling that he continually tries to justify his work.
    Panamarenko? Sheer irresponsibility. Amusement! Sheer amusement! None of those preoccupations with the deeper sense of the concept of experience or the dilemmas of Form, at least not when he is working, only when he is made to think about the horror world of art, which, by the way, I wouldn't recommend to anybody (to think about art, I mean). Amusement! New amusement! And whether there is any weight, one has to feel for oneself.

Montagne de Miel, 23 April 1993

[1]        Dada! Pop Art! Fluxus! Arte Povera! New Realism! Clearly Panamarenko's collages, happenings and some of his objects from the early years show some resemblance to works that are generally condidered part of these movements. But what is 'dada'? What does somebody using this word mean? Which works and which aspects of these works are they referring to? Apart from the similarities to, let us say, 'dada', there must also be differences. 'Dada', for example, often proclaimed itself anti-art. And what is anti-art? Breaking up Form. Writing sentences without capitals. Even More Elevated Art, in fact. Writing very interesting pieces of music that not a soul could bear to listen to… Once Thierry De Mey made me listen to some lovely pygmy music - they were making music by standing in a lake and splashing about with their hands, feet and elbows. This is not the destruction of Form, but making music averse to any familiar form. If Panamarenko's work is related to any movement in art, let it be the splashing of these pygmies.

[2]        No thought can be as dubious as the thought of Novelty. (Nothing is closer to me than the End, but being a real parvenu I am running ahead of things.) Even if there is nothing new under the sun, really nothing new, as G.R. repeatedly observes, new experiences still remain possible, for nobody experiences nothing nowhere, except pain, the eternal collapse and grey disintegration of this and that and a well-thumbed splinter of beauty, and furthermore, and this is what I mean, these experiences aren't nowhere imparted to nobody, so that nothing will ever change, except here and there, thanks to the work of a few nutters. And this imparting, making visible and palpable of what fooling around down here really means, this is what I call New, which actually is Old, and Unique, though I sometimes come across it in the splashing of Panamarenko. As far as art is concerned, it meant to people like Warhol, Beuys and Panamarenko that artists no longer had to concern themselves exclusively with putting down - on beautiful grained paper or canvas, with a subtle touch! - their inner troubles or devotion, nor with wild or calculated demolition of the current canon, but with anything whatsoever, power structures, representations of soup cans, or tricycles.

[3]        "… judging the letters correctly," Olga says with regards to a letter that plays a key role in The Castle, "is  quite impossible, their value constantly changes, they give rise to endless considerations, and how far we go is determined only by chance, so any opinion must be coincidental."

[4]        For the rest, Panamarenko's work has nothing to do with the subject matter of Kafka's work; he hasn't read it. He reads almost exclusively scientific publication or works about physical or technical problems. (His knowledge in the fields of entomology, materials science, mechanics, chemistry, electronics, astronomy or aerodynamics is impressive.) The only literary works he has actually read are the works of Henry Miller (Black Spring, Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn). "Miller," he told me recently, "possessed a certain freedom that would enable any snotty-nosed youth to liberate himself from the restrictive rules and oppressive future that his environment held up and forced upon him." "A year ago, six months ago," writes Miller, "I thought that I was an artist. I no longer think about it, I am. Everything that was literature has fallen from me. There are no more books to be written, thank God." And elsewhere: "Passion is quickly exhausted. Men fall back on ideas, comme d'habitude. Nothing is proposed that can last more than twenty-four hours. We are living a million lives in the space of a generation. In the study of entomology, or of deep sea life, or cellular activity, we derive more…"

[5]        Jean Leering, Gesprek met Panamarenko, in: Boezem/Panamarenko, catalogue of the exhibition of the same name in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, 1970, pp. 17, 18.

[6]        In KNOCKANDO. Een interview van Panamarenko door Hans Theys. Appendix to NOUS, Brussels, 4 April 1989.

[7]        Or, as Panamarenko himself put it in 1972: "What interests me above all is the relations of power between things, the materials you have to use to make a machine viable and which simultaneously determine its shape. If I build an aeroplane, for instance, the whole has to be as light as possible and eventually I'll  get to something which in the beginning I didn't have a clue of and which is often more beautiful than I could have imagined. Most of the time the most logical shape also happens to be the most beautiful. Anyway, whether beautiful or not, the aim is to be able to make an object of which I can say: it was worth working on it, an object that doesn't make you ask: now, is this art, or isn't it?" Quoted in French by Irmeline Lebeer, Les machines volantes, in Chroniques de l'art vivant, no 27, February 1972, pp 20-21, also published in the catalogue Panamarenko. Automobile und Flugmaschinen, Lüzern, Düsseldorf, Stuttgart, Germany, 1972-1973.

[8]        Michel Foucault, La volonté de savoir, Gallimard, Paris, 1982.

[9]        In an interview with Jean-Pierre Van Tieghem on 21 May 1975 and published in Joseph Beuys, the catalogue to the exhibition of the same name at the Galerie Isy Brachot, Brussels, 1990.

[10]      My italics.

[11]      Obviously, this does not say anything about Joseph Beuys' works, or about the general tenor of his ideas (See also note 2). Beuys wanted to extend the artist's domain. The artist had to concern himself with everything and everybody could concern themselves with art. His own work, however, has in the mean time turned out to be the preferred domain of the "vulgar peasants of sensitivity", as Panamarenko recently called them, curators, specialized gentlemen art-lovers and conservators, who devote their eminent observations to the subtlety of coffee stains completely torn from their context.

[12]      Michel Foucault, Les hommes infâmes

[13]      Says Ange Nevada: "Personne n'est à l'abri."

[14]      John Holland Rose, Litt. D., The Life of Napoleon I, G. Bell and Sons Ltd, London, 1916, p. 463.

[15]      The concept Form may not be taken too narrowly. Form is nothing but a word for a changing reality, which can also be described as habit, convention, style, expectation, name, power, structure, etc.

[16]      Pierre Cabane, Entretiens avec Marcel Duchamp, Editions Pierre Belfond, Paris, 1967.

[17]      Dernier interview, in Witold Gombrowicz, Contre les Poètes, Editions Complexe, Paris, 1988, pp. 97-109.

[18]      When Pierre Cabanne asks Duchamp what his interpretation is of Le Grand Verre, he replies: "I haven't got one, because there isn't a single idea on which it is based." "In fact it rarely has anything to do with ideas," he says somewhere else. "It is mostly about small technical problems brought about by the elements I use. Like glass, etc." (In Pierre Cabanne, Entretiens avec Marcel Duchamp, Editions Pierre Belfond, Paris, 1967.) True or not, it really means that Duchamp's distinction between art that is aimed 'at the retina' and 'at the spirit' is artificial and would be exclusively based on the addition of a few scribbles as a title ("to lead the spirit of the beholder to more verbal regions"). "Not a single outside influence," writes Victor Chklovski in Mille harengs, "can increase the impact of a work of art: only the actual structure of the work is able to do this" (Victor Chklovski, La marche du cheval, Editions Champ libre, Paris, 1973, p. 161). Chklovski asserts that works of art should best be approached as objects with a wayward texture, not as a sort of translation of the other 'reality' or the thoughts of the artist. A title can be part of the texture, but hardly anything sensible can be said about it in the light of Duchamp's  foolish and opportunistic distinction between mental and retinal art.

[19]      The opposite is Panamarenko's case: his passions and occupations ended up with art.

[20]      We are not concerned here with the empty fun that is foisted upon us from all sides, but with the possibility to create new forms of pleasure, separate from, for example, the codes of sexuality mentioned above. "I find there is a lot more to SM," says Foucault in an interview, "it is a real creation of new possibilities for pleasure, which people were not able to imagine in the past. I feel it is a kind of creation, a creative endeavour, with one of its most prominent characteristics what I would call the de-sexualisation of pleasure. (…) These practices emphasise that we can create pleasure with very remarkable things, with unusual parts of our bodies, in unusual situations, and so on." One of these unusual situations is science stripped of its protocol and its name.

[21]      "I think that this book is very welcome," writes Sir Derek H.R. Barton in a Foreword to a book about accidental discoveries in science. "Reading it makes one realize how much scientific advance cannot be planned. When you write a proposal for a funding agency, it is based on current knowledge, not on the unknown. Yet the most interesting science is to be found in the unknown world. How do you go from the known to the unknown? The best way, in my opinion, is to back those who have done it before." (Royston M. Roberts, Serendipity. Accidental Discoveries in Science, Wiley Science Editions, New York, 1989.)

[22]      In the forties, fifties and sixties filmstars, comic-strip characters and the protagonists of science and space travel took over the role of Proust's Mme de Guermantes.

[23]      Similarly, this artist only managed to become who he is by remaining himself and at the same time calling himself Panamarenko.

[24]      Shabaritch! A Blind Man in Conversation with Boris Karloff, published in the catalogue Panamarenko, MUHKA, Antwerp, 1989, p. 124-126.