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Mark Rothko, Seagram Mural, Section 6 (Untitled, 1959)

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Jasmin B. Frelih

This entire year I have been haunted by triumphs. This painting was my cellphone background for a while. Found it on the web. Triumph over mastery. Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes, burnt through with red, are disappearing under the long white strokes of the worker. Why is the figure a worker? Isn’t it? A creator. Isn’t it? Are the frescoes, which took four years out of Michelangelo’s life, more important than the whiteness which will cover them? Would Michelangelo still have painted them, had he known that they will once fall victim to the same whiteness which threatened him before he wounded it for the first time with his brush? We contend that he would. The triumphs of the original state have never discouraged anyone. In the same way the worker might be aware that this whiteness will once be wounded anew. This awareness does not stop him. Pay attention to the worker’s shadow. It is cast over the image of the past, but in his triumph his body is not solid enough to block the light. The body disappears in its purpose. The long white strokes of the paint roller create a reality where the hand that makes them does not exist. This is the triumph of an idea over the individual. One must imagine the worker happy.


Jasmin B. Frelih

Mark Tansey, Triumph Over Mastery II, 1987

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The path to the second triumph was complicated. You are looking at The New Merzpainting.

Kurt Schwitters, Neue Merzbild, 1931

1931 – DADA. Merz = Kons = DADA = constructivism Merz = Komerz = Commerce The wonderful wheels of commerce make our world spin. Trade keeps us engaged in games where the losers are not unduly harmed, merely disappointed, despondent, kept in check. But without the wheels spinning ‌ shudder.


So it seems that tr force of peace. But what is its esse it from a clearer per machine might view Without the colo nuance, without al that must come alo grapples with matt Just black and white

Are we supposed to point of a machine?

Jasmin B. Frelih

Google Maps, 2016

trade is a powerful

ence? Can we gleam rspective, the way a w itself? or, texture, depth, l the human foibles ong when an artist ter. e, yes and no, 0 and 1.

o consider the view-

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Manhattan = commerce. A map is a heuristic, a reduction for better orientation. Without gravitation, as Kosovel would say. We place the wheel on the site of the former World Trade Center – commerce – and the point of gravity on my point of entry – the Brooklyn bridge. The plan was to inscribe the New Merzpainting into Manhattan, but at the point where I wanted to begin I found a new triumph.


Lorenzo Pace, Triumph of the Human Spirit, 2000 (Manhattan, 10/25/2016, 6:13 pm)

The triumph of the human spirit. The sculpture was erected in 2000 and it bears witness to the transatlantic slave trade. commerce The form of the statue was inspired by the South-African CHI WARA antelope statue, symbolizing responsibility toward future generations and the celebration of a bountiful harvest. I stared transfixed into the column, only reading up on what it meant much later. It was a few days before elections. People seemed lethargic, frozen still in a not even particularly chilly November.


Jasmin B. Frelih

Supreme court building nearby. The shape of the sculpture made me think of a book I brought with me to read on the subway rides. Underworld is a novel by Don DeLillo, eight hundred pages of prose designed to make you feel what it means to be human. DeLillo is a peculiar writer. Once he said he draws inspiration from two folders: one titled ART and the other titled TERROR. I love reading on the subway. I don’t ride just to ride, like Oswald in DeLillo’s Libra did, I ride and read. The title of the prologue to the novel is – The triumph of death.

Noma Bar, Underworld, Picador Books, 2011

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Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Triumph of Death, 1562


Jasmin B. Frelih

What can we say here? Did master Bruegel know that one day humanity will hold the keys to destruction in its own hands, without any need for fantastic visions? Look at all those broken wheels ‌ Mr. DeLillo’s novel opens with this triumph at a baseball game on the 3rd of October 1951; Ralph Branca throws and Bobby Thomson hits a homerun, Giants take the game, and on the same day the Soviet Union conducts a test of its first nuclear warhead. The cold war begins.

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Death is noticeably absent from the cemetery. Calm and peace. Trees shed their leaves. Gorgeous Sunlit Beauty Sculptures made of stone. Just names. No bodies. No souls.

Yankee Stadium, 11/01/2016, 2:58 pm

Beyond the gates the Roaring of engines Burning of fuel Our cells dividing We’re shedding our skin Together – we’re dying.


Jasmin B. Frelih

I read the novel on my way to a cemetery in the Bronx. I went up from the underworld, looked at the setting of the ‘shot, heard around the world’, and on my way home, I wrote something resembling a poem into my notebook.

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I took this picture on Election Day, No 8th, 2016, at Ground Zero in Manhattan. ret Elaine Mattic, one of 5 sisters Mattic September eleventh. Shortly before her de wrote a play with the title Vision, about of clairvoyance. The color white is a symbol of peace. Tha Melania Trump wore white. The White Ro a group of German students who non-vi resisted the Nazi regime.


Jasmin B. Frelih

ovember . Margac, died on eath she the gift

Ground Zero Memorial, 11/08/2016, 2:29 pm

at night ose were iolently

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Mark Rothko, Seagram Mural, Section 6 (Untitled), 1959

That same day I chanced upon an exhibition of Rothko’s paintings in Pace gallery in Chelsea, Manhattan. Rothko is the title of the concluding story of Tiny Ideologies, so I could not resist the chance to see the works. The centerpiece was this painting of two red squares in unbearable tension. To the left was a black & red canvass, bursting with energy, and to the right a canvass with a streak of the bluest, iciest, coolest blue I have ever seen. The curator must have been commenting on election day in a purportedly neutral fashion, but was Rothko ever consciously guiding the viewers’ political choices with his painting? I would find that incredibly sad, were it true, even though we have all heard the tales of abstract expressionism as CIA’s counterfoil to Soviet social realism. I choose to believe that artists express what their soul wills them to, and cannot be held accountable for the subsequent use, abuse, and exploitation of the work by the machine.


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Franz Xaver Messerchmidt, Character Head: The Yawner, 1771-1783

The red was, in the end, too strong – but this is not a cry, though at first it may seem so. It is a yawn. Exploring what an artwork could be, I wrote a strange short story Fait Accompli in 2010, when the whole world was in protest against the calamities stemming from the financial crisis of ’08. A banker pays a pair of artists to deliver him from misery, and they behead him. The star power of a name is evident in the fact that this banker’s name is Donald Donald. Head = capital. On the first glance it cries, but in reality it is always yawning, opening its mouth wide for more. Capital commerce. Fait accompli.

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Franz Xaver Messerchmidt, Character Head: The Yawner, 1771-1783

Peace equals boredom. Remember the triumphs? The worker paints with white and triumphs over mastery. The sculptor Lorenzo Pace – pace can mean rhythm, but the Italian name of the artist compels us to take a look at pace in Italian. It means peace. The gallery where I saw Rothko’s paintings is, again, called Pace. Peace. And the last sentence of DeLillo’s novel Underworld, on page 827, consists of a single word. You guessed it. Peace. Those who want peace should not scream. They should yawn. Sophie Scholl, one of the leaders of the White Rose movement, was beheaded at 21.


Jasmin B. Frelih

The Power Broker, Knopf, 1974

Is it possible for the worker to yawn? Is it possible for the worker to sleep? The whiteness of peace, the blank page, tabula rasa, the equilibrium of matter that surrounds us always beckons and taunts us. The first temples of the world, pyramids, skyscrapers are all a testament to the human need to wound the blank, empty spaces. Even a pleasant peace is not sustainable for man. We must engage our creative energies somehow. I graduated with a thesis on postwar New York City, and one person stood out as a central figure in the story. Robert Moses, a civil servant who wrote laws for his own positions and ended up building some of the largest public works the States had ever seen. Among other things he acquired the lot for the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan, built thousands of miles of highways and some of the then largest bridges in the world.

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Verrazano Bridge, view from

This is the Verrazano Bridge, connecting the boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn. On Sunday, November 6th 2016, it was the setting of the New York Marathon. The next day I was in the Museum of Modern Art and I talked to a Slovenian neurologist who ran the whole thing through. He told me that it was very windy on the bridge. A bridge divides the sea in half. Robert Moses was almost certainly terribly racist.


Jasmin B. Frelih

m Brooklyn, 10/24/2016, 4:32 pm

We must understand that whiteness and peace are not a sanctuary for everyone. What some experience as peace can be a terrible time for so many thers and we must never confuse our personal well-being for a general well-being of the world. But since relinquishing our personal peace out of our debt to the pain of others does not seem to be a very productive strategy, simply being mindful of the things which connect us is one way of not discarding our humanity.

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54th Street Entrance to the Museum of Modern Art, Manhattan, 11/07/2016, 1:11 p

You are looking at a strangely coinc juxtaposition of the elements on the st the rear entrance to the Museum of M Art in NYC a day before the election, w went out for a smoke.

The blue merz is tired. A missing wheel, fo side the museum in a Duchamp’s sculptur


Jasmin B. Frelih


idental treet by Modern where I

The red worker. All primed and ready to go.

ound inre.

Pay attention to the tiny red dot.

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The yellow warning sign on the lift saying: DANGER, stay clear of the machine while BOOM is being operated.


Faith Ringgold, American People Series #20: Die, 1967 (MoMA, 10/31/2016, 3:59 pm)

How much violence can the white canvas take? After a short tour reminded it can take a lot. Friends tell me that the situation was similar in the French museu the curators have apparently not yet succumbed to rage. This painting is now, I believe, on tour somewhere in London.

What gives rise to violence in art? And why do we in certain times we don’t? Psychology of the artist? Personal turmoil, situation through veins, a desire to inflict damage upon the world commens of this same world, channeled through the medium of artistic exp Periods of turbulent societal change always seem to produce equall a feedback loop between the society and the artist which pump each


Jasmin B. Frelih

r through the museum I am

ums. But in German museums

show it and in other times in life, hot blood running surate with the experience ression? ly intensive art – but is this h other up and intensify the

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already tense situation, or are the arts our best safety valves, taking in the distress of societies, channeling them into intense expressions that return a degree of equilibrium to society? When we express our discontent with the world, are we causing more harm, or are we in any way remedying the situation?


Is violence humanity’s mastery? Our flagship? And how can we triumph over it? When the futurists saw a tank tearing the field in half they did not see a mechanical contraption which all the previous contraptions led to, from the irrigation machines of Mesopotamia through Da Vinci’s scribbles in his journal to that present monstrosity emitting fumes of black smoke into the air, they rather saw a giant eraser plowing through the babble and noise of centuries, clearing the debris of accumulated human despair, and bringing up the page of the present into sharper focus as it truly is – blank. Open. Free.


To them, their future seemed li state I suppose they could be ing to make the most of it. For movement, action, dynamism, yo But to us, their future is not it actually turned out to be. There are no possibilities in th of tomorrow turns into a fact And the facts of history are v for keeping their promises.

Jasmin B. Frelih

center: Umberto Boccioni, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, 1913 left: Giacomo Balla, Street Light, 1909 right: Umberto Boccioni, The City Rises, 1910 (MoMA, 11/07/2016, 1:55 pm)

imitless, and in that forgiven for wantor calling for great outh and speed. thing else but what

So should the city rise? Should there be light? What can we say to keep the world in balance? Truth is not color. Truth is not form. Truth is not even text. Truth is the beating of a heart.

he past. The promise t of yesterday. very seldom known

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And when it stops?


UNITED, List of Deaths, 2016 (MoMA, 10/31/2016, 3:36 pm)

When they write you down on a wall in a museum as a drowned No Name? O who set himself on fire in the middle of Amsterdam after a failed asylum req

There is no exile in a unified world, said the French philosopher Guy Debo there is no refuge in a unified world? For Kambiz there was none. And we are freedom, our experience of an open future with the world that came before u good luck that the world we came into has welcomed us, that the choices of ble for us to develop and grow, to make our own choices on a canvas which is would have liked, but it nonetheless makes choice still possible. And some of without a choice. Can we use our freedom, our own choices, to open the spac of their own? Was this the dream of the futurists, or was their dream a self


Jasmin B. Frelih

Kambiz Roustayi.

Or as Kambiz Roustayi, age 36, quest? Kambiz Roustayi.

ord. Does this also mean that e all in a sense negotiating our us. So many of us have had the f those before us made it possis sometimes not as blank as we f us find themselves in a world ace for others to make choices fish one?

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Talking about him as a refugee,as an asylum seeker, as a man without a choice seems to do nothing more than bring up the reflexive emotional web we have already woven around this abstract ‘problem’of modern displacement. I give rise to an emotion or two. In the best possible case a firm decision to do something about it, to help; in the worst case I just add to the general fear.


You are looking at the woolen world of today’s migration routes. You are looking at a woolen world. The connections we build each day map the reality of our tomorrow. It is terrible that this sounds like a corporate slogan. Every interaction we have with a fellow human creates a thread through time and space – and in our information age the threads are so numerous they should make it impossible for our world to come apart. So why does it feel like the world is unravelling? That there are forces at play which want to keep the threads from connecting? Why does this woolen world seem so ominous? Do they think we can’t handle the whole world at once? We can. We do. We talk, we travel, we trade, we build, we share, and we multiply the threads, and we will continue to do so and there is no force that can stop us. We will run out of wool long before we run out of our desire to connect.


Jasmin B. Frelih

Reena Saini Kallat, Woven Chronicle, 2015 (MoMA, 10/31/2016, 3:35 pm)

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Alison Saar, Skin/Deep, 1993 (Whitney Museum of American Art, 11/21/2016, 4:25 pm)


Jasmin B. Frelih

Don Dellilo’s novel Libra opens with a quote from Lee H. Oswald’s letter to his brother: “Happiness is not based on oneself, it does not consist of a small home, of taking and getting. Happiness is taking part in the struggle, where there is no borderline between one’s own personal world, and the world in general.” The borders of my skin are at times unbearable.

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I read the final chapter of Underworld on DeLillo’s eightieth birthday, November 20th. When Ralph Branca, the baseball player who threw for Thomson’s ‘shot, heard around the world’, died three days later, I knew it was time to leave. To run home. On my last evening in New York I was walking around Manhattan and chanced upon another triumph. A triumphal arch. The inscription reads: “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God.” – George Washington I hope the standard can still be raised somewhere, somehow. The wise and the honest deserve it.


Jasmin B. Frelih

Stanford White, Washington Square Arch, 1892 (Manhattan, 11/28/2016, 9:03 pm)

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Jasmin B. Frelih, Tiny Ideologies v1, 2014 (Street Gallery, Kranj, 10/19/2016, 3:53 pm)

Jasmin B. Frelih, Tiny Ideologies v2, 2016 (Vodnik’s Homestead, Ljubljana, 03/03/2017, 12:12 pm)


Jasmin B. Frelih

Jasmin B. Frelih, Tiny Ideologies v2, 2016 (Munich Residenz, MĂźnchen, 10/28/2017, 1:08 pm)

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A visual essay on New York City in the month of the 2016 presidential election.

“When the futurists saw a tank tearing the field in half

they did not see a mechanical contraption which all the previous contraptions led to, from the irrigation machines of Mesopotamia through Da Vinci’s scribbles in his journal to that present monstrosity emitting fumes of black smoke into the air, they rather saw a giant eraser plowing through the babble and noise of centuries, clearing the debris of accumulated human despair, and bringing up the page of the present into sharper focus as it truly is – blank. Open. Free.”

presented in: Vodnik’s Homestead, Ljubljana, Slovenia 03/03/2017 Munich Residenz, München, Germany 10/28/2017

Profile for Jasmin B. Frelih

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A visual essay on New York City in the month of the 2016 presidential election. "When the futurists saw a tank tearing the field in half th...

Report 1314  

A visual essay on New York City in the month of the 2016 presidential election. "When the futurists saw a tank tearing the field in half th...

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