BrAiN / StOmAtA

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Metamorphoses

Peter Nowotny, the artist and engineer, is fascinated by Daphne: the woman who evaded an impending rape by transforming herself into a plant. Whereby he is not so much concerned with the offence – he is not a lawyer, after all – but with the process of metamorphosis or transformation. It is no coincidence that his new exhibition bears the double title “Brain Stomata”. These are the places or organs where communication and transfer between the outer and inner worlds take place. One does not only recognise oneself – an ancient romantic topos – in the other, but one becomes the other or the other becomes oneself. One is composed of what one is not. This is called metabolism. One could also say “I am an Other” – in a somewhat broader physical meaning than the one Rimbaud once had in mind.

Anyone who knows how much Nowotny is excited by the Nobel Prize for Louise Glück, anyone who listens to him and learns how “nature writing” in all its varieties fascinates him, anyone who takes seriously what he says: that he is following the trail that is laid out in all this and that his own work changes as a result, is then nevertheless surprised when he sees Nowotny’s new works. Because Nowotny remains – fortunately! – Nowotny and, to put it a little more pointedly, one could say that inner and outer nature, the “stuff”, matter are voids in his work. Or more radically: their heightened, even more intense presence is revealed in their consistent absence. Just as he once learned from the Jewish and Islamic advanced cultures, the

religions, that one must not profane and trivialise God, that which is most important to one. What one inevitably does when one makes the highest, the transcendent, that which not coincidentally eludes our gaze, even our words, the object of our imagination.
even words, becomes the object of our imagination. One must, even if it is difficult, refrain from wanting to hold on to or even “only” to write down what one longs for. That is why in Nowotny’s great art everything is a sign, a reference. The fullness appears by deleting the superfluous. “Becoming empty of everything empty” is what Meister Eckhart called it, the extremely influential mystic to whom we also owe concepts such as “real”, “reality”, which we have long since taken for granted.

Peter Nowotny is a master of metamorphosis; of permanent transformation, without which our world would not exist. Those who want to possess everything inevitably become poor; those who only ever see themselves become violent criminals. Theodor W. Adorno, who saw in nature and art a last refuge in the administered world, recognised in love the ability to perceive the similar in the dissimilar. “Home” is only where everything is different – and may remain different.

Dr. Helmut Hein
Philosopher and cultural journalist