PASSIONS FOR LINNAEUS

1. ON LINNAEUS AND PASSIONS

With the title of his exhibit, Valery Grikovsky emphasizes that Linnaeus is still alive in our culture, even if we have trouble remembering his contribution to science. And what is more, the passions surrounding him do not fade, even if his name is not mentioned. Who is Carl Linnaeus? And what are the passions?

Linnaeus was one of the founders of the worldview that we live in. He was a naturalist and a physician, but most importantly, he created the unified classification of flora and fauna that summarized and ordered knowledge from all previous developments in the natural sciences. Passion for Linnaeus is a passion for classification, systematization, and restoring the order of the world – a world that today seems to ever more resemble a mess of information streams, capital, and human resources.

It is important to note that Valery Grikovsky is both a scientist and an artist, a representative of the two worlds of science and art. This clarifies the title of his esthetic and research project, Passions for Linnaeus. A passion for knowledge may be the driving force behind both the artistic and the scientific pursuit, but later the paths of the artist and the scientist usually diverge. In Grikovsky’s Passions for Linnaeus, these paths converge and diverge in turn. And this happens in each of the three parts of the exposition.

 

2. INTERSECTING VIEWPOINTS IN THE THREE PARTS OF THE EXHIBIT

Part One includes two works: the Big Picture, a classical image built out of elementary particles – small strips of paper – and the “little picture”, a concave reflection, like the reverse side of the Big Picture. The little picture dissects the Big Picture. The little picture is the directed gaze of the Big Picture. One picture looks at another picture. The pictures are self-contained and do not seem to expect an audience to appear between them. The viewer-subject disturbs the relationship between the pictures. As soon as a viewer appears, the exposition from Linnaeus’ ordered cosmos turns into Einstein’s field of relativity. The subject’s varying point of view changes the entire picture, transforming it from a scientific absolute to artistic relativity.

This effect is achieved because each element of the Big Picture is fastened on an entomologic pin like a collector’s specimen, and all at different heights. The surface comes to life, ripples, and shimmers in between two dimensions and three dimensions. The artist moves beyond the plane, and the picture is assembled and dissembled before our eyes. This is what deconstruction of the Big Picture is at a time when analog technologies are being replaced with digital. In a paradoxical way, the elements of this picture could be called analog pixels.

Part Two is made up of a series of “entomological boxes” that contain artistic objects instead of scientific displays. These objects are endemic histories. The objects are dissected and presented in sealed boxes, not assembled, but in a disassembled form. Theoretical art reveals its scientific background. The relics of vision belong to both art and science.

Part Three is the assembly place for points of view. What does this mean? That the person does not assemble the picture, but the picture assembles the person. More specifically, looking at a realistic picture, a person centers himself. The artist shows us a utopia of perspectivism. After the radical revolution that occurred in the arts and sciences at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, a return to perspectivism, mimetology, and academism doesn’t just look like a naïve return to human monocentrism, but like scientific totalitarianism of Linnaeus’ persuasion.

Valery Grikovsky’s three expositions perhaps show the most significant problem of the contemporary world, including the world of science and the world of art – a passion for an all-encompassing Big Picture, which only leads to its disintegration. We are witnessing ongoing attempts at the nostalgic resurrection of the Big Picture.

 

3. ON THE TECHNIQUE AND GRAPHICS

In the technical sense, the image is deconstructed using minimal means – the language of graphics. All three parts of the exposition are graphic. They are based on conceptual black-and-white drawings. The artist’s tools are paper, pencils, glue, and a paper knife. The extreme technical simplicity contrasts the incredibly complex conceptual graphemes of scientific writing.

This contrast gives birth to a new technique that Valery Grikovsky calls “minusGraphic”. The three-part exhibit Passions for Linnaeus is a continuation of the artist’s exploration in the area of graphics, and it paradoxically turns out to be not an installation, but graphic script. An installation is appearance. The exhibit’s objects are the visible effect of invisible writing.

Passions for Linnaeus does not deconstruct the Big Picture as much as Big History. Today, when science has become a religion, when just saying the holy words “scientifically proven” causes a person to tremble in awe, art seems to be a unique place for potential freedom of thinking. MinusGraphic is a zone of resistance to the PlusSystem of the positivist Big Picture. If the religious aspect appears in the exhibit, it is in the spirit of Aby Warburg’s formula, “God is in the details”. MinusGraphic is the dark matter of Passions for Linnaeus.

 

 

Viktor Mazin