SCHEFFKNECHT: CECI N’EST PAS UNE PLANTE
Today's practice is inspired by the Viennese gallerist Georg Kargl, who died on Tuesday at the age of 62. In the few times I spoke with Georg, I understood his vision for art as a means of fostering dialogue, inquiry, and reflection, and last year he introduced a shift to his eponymous gallery in the name of prioritizing content over consumption.
When we look at a piece of paper, Thich Nhat Hanh writes, we can see its interbeing with all of the other elements that collaborated to aid it into being: The rain, the sun, the loggers, the wheat that feeds the loggers, and even ourselves: In the moment we look at that piece of paper, part of its state of being lies in the perception we apply to it. This speaks to the Heart Sutra’s thesis that form is emptiness, emptiness is form, and there is no form other than emptiness. In this case, emptiness means empty of an independent state from the other elements that aid in the being.
Art, too, is empty in this case, and I think that’s something Georg innately believed: It’s impossible for art to have a separate life from all that creates it, and all that perceives it. Liddy Scheffknecht’s 2016 exhibition at Galerie Georg Kargl — sciography — comes to mind as exemplifying this emptiness of art. Without a shadow, Scheffknecht argues, art history would not have been born. These were used to capture an instant by the artist, an instant that had passed by the time others viewed it as the shadow had moved further. And yet that instant was influenced by all that came before it and we view it from the added perspective of all that came after it.
One of Scheffknecht’s pieces in sciography, an homage to Magritte with the title Ceci n’est pas une plante, shows a plant tacked to the wall. We see one perception of it, a bird’s-eye view, but as the day wears on, we also see the shadow of it, we see its representation in an instant. This is accompanied by photographs of the plant at different parts of the day, representations of those moments. So much causes these images to be: The time of day, the weather, the time of year — much of it beyond Scheffknecht’s control. These aren’t images of plants; they’re representations of interbeing.
Notice your breath in this instant — where it’s most apparent, the temperature of the inhale and exhale, how long or short it lasts. Notice the many details that contribute to this specific inhale and exhale — the quality of the room you’re in, what you had for breakfast, the time of day, what your grandmother ate for breakfast on her wedding day. Can you sense how much contributes to this moment? Can you sense eternity in this one, seemingly instantaneous combination of inhale and exhale?