SENSITING TO THE OTHER, ENDURINGLY
(Exzerpt from: Thomas Nölle. Tiempos dorados/Golden Times. Badajoz: MEIAC Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo, 2008.)
[...] The alienations that Thomas Nölle works with are extreme. They organise “Chock” experiences, as Benjamin characterised Dadaist image strategies in his famous Work of Art essay—they fly like bullets at the viewer. Colourful macaws, to European eyes still exotic birds even if they are outside a cage, sit dazed on rusty iron poles and a workbench in an abandoned building pit. An Amazonian Indian with traditional body painting, dressed in a loin cloth and armed with a long blowpipe, stands proud and resolute in the sterile glass and steel interior architecture of an airport, as though he is guarding the tourists, businessmen, and the artificial-looking palm trees there; another Indian in a similar posture seems to be taking care of the horribly dirty trash containers in the rotting backyard of a shop. Repeatedly it is the almost naked indigenous inhabitants of the Amazon, who offer themselves rather defencelessly to the world, and are in sharp contrast to the built environment dominated by the right angle, consumption, and hard materials.
From a post-colonial point of view, the people may seem to be strangers in these surroundings. However, in a magical way Thomas Nölle reverses the relationship between familiarity and Otherness. It is not the Indians that have been inserted into these wretched scenes of post-capitalism who are the “aliens” in his pictures, but rather the surroundings, the context that has been built around them, carelessly and inhumanely. Juxtaposed with the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, our own culture seems repugnant, obscene, foreign.
As long as anyone can remember, the South has provided the dependent heterotrophic beings in the northern hemisphere of our planet with vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables, with oil and other sources of energy, so that they are able to survive. The South also grants them entry into artificial paradises, such as coffee, sugar, guarana, cocaine, opium, so the Northlings can feel warm and good anytime. It offered and offers them refuge, when they are cold or in difficulties, and can bear the barbarisms of the North no longer. And the South untiringly offers itself to satisfy their desire for sun, sea, naturalness, and the exotic, even if nowadays this mainly exists as a projection and a designer product. The North was developed by the South and through the strength of the South, and not the other way round. England, Germany, France, the Netherlands, also Spain, and especially the USA, were the Third World Countries at the time of the ancient cultures of Egypt, India, Mesopotamia, and of the Byzantine, Greek, Roman, and South American high cultures. It is long overdue that we do justice to this history, and begin to reverse these circumstances again. In this sense, Thomas Nölle’s works can also be understood as gifts, as gifts given back within an economy that accepts only one currency as valid: the uncompromising respect towards what is different in close connection with aesthetic surplus value. Art that is developed from this is pure extravagance. Yet increasingly this is becoming the most essential art, the more everything is sacrificed to the delusion of productivity.
Berlin, August 2008
© MEIAC, 2008.