Paradiso Perduto


“...every person should know two or three landscapes in the smallest details. These specific landscapes are enough for thinking. Because a person cannot think without arranging some images on the forever reflected landscape in the brain. Besides, these lots of relief are also enough for combining dreams”.
Taras Prokhasko, FM Halychyna, 26.11

“It is a weird time: some obscure Kharkiv myths have become reality for me while our accepted reality inevitably turns to myth” [5, p. 10]. Since 1994, when this entry was written, Pavlo Makov has almost never departed from this formula. Significant elements of the psychological environment still find their expression within printed paper spaces which struggle to become real. One such element, emerging from the mythological depths of Kharkiv, is an industrial and clothing market. Usually such places become passwords on the lips of smugglers or develop seeming social significance, obscuring entrances to subway stations, those ghostly reflections of the descent to Hell. These are places of bizarre coincidences, traumatic and silently in agreement with their indigenous residents. The mentality of the Kharkiv market is a prototype for Makov’s boards covered with images of containers. Favored by thousands of “hunters for happiness”, the market is given the name of the astronomer Mykola Barabashov, who made a significant contribution to the craft of stargazing.

The surprise that is supposed to accompany such discovery (too strongly rooted in everyday life for being easy to make) turns out to be so rare and insignificant on the world’s scale that its meaning simply fades away, leaving everything in place. It is this stifling invariable mood of “bare life” that prompted the creation of a separate series by Pavlo Makov. Paradiso Perduto (Lost Paradise) serves as a kind of heraldic maxim, asserting that the order of human existence does not currently include contradictory questions about “when was it lost?” or “when does everything come back?” In a sense, it is a Christian directive for earthly life that extends between the expulsion from the Garden of Eden and the possible return to the Kingdom of Heaven. It does not explain the exact chronological meanings, but turns these questions into another dimension — about “where?” Those who ask discover the existence of absence through their own topos. Lost Paradise is a place.

Visual fixation of places is an old professional feature of engravers who travelled and printed images, thus working for printed editions and encyclopedias to replenish visual knowledge. Pavlo Makov’s etchings “talk,” using their own linguistics, and the alphabet of boards. At the same time, the purpose of these received “sentences” is not in the transmission of knowledge or meanings but in the creation of so-called “effects of presence.” In theoretical terms Makov avoids the spectacular play with theories, focusing on “the Culture of presence” (as it is called in contemporary humanities). This concept, meaning the culture that opposes the one of interpretation and meaning, was developed in the works of the German philosopher and literary critic Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht. In the book “Production of Presence: What Meaning Cannot Convey,” 2004, Gumbrecht proclaimed the need for “new attention” — not to the entities that supposedly open if one dives deeper beneath the surface, but to the very materiality, form and “bodiness,” whether of a novel, movie or Scrabble game. For this reason, the encounter between Makov and Gumbrecht, though brief and more or less unexpected, revealed rather fruitful coincidences, the widest of which is an appeal not to grant so many privileges to time, giving space the possibility to disclose its potential.

It was after “Ukrainian Alphabet” (2011) and “Blanket, Garden, Tower, Cross, Fate” project (exhibited in full in PinchukArtCentre in 2012), where an image of the container was widely used, and while working on “Paradiso Perduto”, that Makov read Gumbrecht’s book (After 1945: Latency as Origin of the Present, 2013), finding there the concept of the container. Gumbrecht wrote, “While containers gather and condense the natural world, they do not make readily available to humans what they collect. Hollow containers in particular, like the tents that we know from the tales of the Torah, like graves and coffins, fortresses and jails, give protection and take away the freedom to exit, and while they deny that freedom, they become signs for the closeness of death” [8, p. 195]. The accidental simultaneous association of various “containers” (from glasses with alcohol to the poetical motives of Paul Celan) forms a single concept, crucial for understanding the atmosphere of post-war Europe. Along with the development of boards as “containers,” this becomes an additional signal of something common, of an existential container of some kind, which holds not only thoughts and pictures of two people with different backgrounds and from different parts of the world, but also with completely different stories, those from the West as well as those from the East. In “Blanket, Garden, Tower, Cross, Fate” hundreds of containers constitute one titanic “Tower. Dream” — a grand formula of false happiness, a visiting card for success in the lost paradise: “if you have a container — then you’ve lived a good life.” Thus, containers emerged first in clear and unambiguous forms, in unusual works, not similar either to Makov’s “Utopia” or the “Gardens”. In “Paradiso Perduto” containers are distributed on paper lots.

Fundamental features of space can be explained through the differences of such concepts as “map” and “scenery.” The ability to communicate with the audience plays a significant role in these concepts. They create opposition in the conversation about space. Maps ignore peculiarities for the accuracy of geometric proportions. The map abstracts from the fullness
of reality, so it’s easier to involve viewers through its functionality: it forces them to find themselves on it. On the contrary, the landscape concentrates on the multidimensionality and the monotony of nature; it’s more attentive to the details than to the schemes. Scenery will never be useful to a traveler. To be seen, it requires a certain distance, because, as a rule, “the farmer doesn’t know the scenery” [7, p. 158]. Based on such differentiation, we can say that Makov creates neither sceneries nor maps. The “removal” of such opposition is a third thing, namely, “landscape”, in the sense that Taras Prokhasko uses this word. Landscape is a place that is well known without the help of further representations. It’s a place where one is “tossed” and where one “finds” himself. The viewer is always a part of the landscape, so he doesn’t look for himself there as he does on the map. The landscape is felt, so it doesn’t need intentional distancing or going beyond. It can be guided by the abstraction within the space and highlights some important objects. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that those masterly products of natural precision are abandoned.

The landscapes of “Paradiso Perduto” are eleven works of various size, filled with mood (Stimmung) and latency. Both words are crucial for the series and were suggested by Humbrecht in “After 1945.” They draw our attention to the new features of the presence — not to the bodies themselves, but to their effects, not to the texts, but to something that can be found between the lines. For these gaps also are the elements of the world, the perception of which does not necessarily depend on meaning. “Paradiso Perduto” is a terrain full of latency, which attracts our gaze to places where something is hidden, where finding ourselves in “an eyewitness situation” we not only look but also feel the presence of something that has not yet manifested itself clearly, but retains the possibility of happening.

The pointer to “Paradiso Perduto #8” invites us to the closed space of abandoned gardens, where, according to the logic of containers, it is easy to get in but almost impossible to get out. To capture latency the mood is set gradually, first by an inscription on the fence: “РАRАДИSО РЕRДУТО” (Paradiso Perduto #3), that precedes any experience. Then this feeling, transmitted through letters, is supported and grows with immediate hints of things we cannot yet name. Our attention starts with picking up details from the landscapes, full of deadly calmness: phantoms of plants and buildings, notes from the alphabet of tin soldiers that inhabit a hospitable “Paradiso Perduto #8” and the shapes of human targets, and continues into a clear area in the garden or a pond fed by a dwindling stream. Things capture the attention not with “innovation” or “surprise”, but with the presence of silence: from tin soldiers who keep watch near containers (Paradiso Perduto #6), to red fish near a bank with overhanging sunflowers. As a result of a great loss, any boundaries are redistributed and overwritten. “Paradiso Perduto #2” is an apotheosis of boundary trauma. Roads are being erased, running over one another, breaking up while narrowing, pressing on lake trails. Pieces of paper pasted on top are meant to fix broken, vandalized routes that begin in nowhere and lead to nowhere. A similar story, but involving fences, is told by “Paradiso Perduto #7”. Broken threads of connections are opposed by “Paradiso Perduto #5,” where full lines keep accurately numbered containers in tight embrace, somewhere outside of the work stuck to the “Tower. Dream” The clarity of these lines removes any attention to the surrounding lawns with ghostly hares, and probably does not refer to the Independence monuments which these lines pass by. “Paradiso Perduto” consists of somewhat altered “family ties” and unattended “family trees”, which create the effect of unsystematic gardens and sparse woods (Paradiso Perduto #3, Paradiso Perduto #4) that, from the angle of a viewer, appear to be unfinished fingerprints.

Empty places, hollows that attract the eye to where there is nothing, are the literal expression of latency. Holes, cut in the paper, behind which, depending on the installation, one could find a piece of wood or a bare wall, form the vault of heaven (bound by pencil like a garland) in the composition of “Paradiso Perduto #2,” while in “Paradiso Perduto #1” hollow circles of stars fuel the veins of a settlement. The blind spot of the Moon hangs over “Paradiso Perduto #3” and “Paradiso Perduto #6”, unconsciously recalling the first heaven in Dante’s “Paradiso.”

Unfortunately, this dominating latency leaves almost no possibility for movement anywhere except towards the final rule of absence. Holes cannot be perceived as lights, as they do not have the most important thing, namely the light, but are seen as “broken places,” lost, forever forsaken, yet constructing a sense of latency. Some lines from Hannah Arendt, which in their original context relate to entirely different issues (namely those of violence in the bureaucratic society), now also describe this “dangerous path” of inertia, dissolution in the latency: “...rule by Nobody is clearly the most tyrannical of all, since there is no one left who could even be asked to answer for what’s being done. It is this state of affairs, making it impossible to localize responsibility and to identify the enemy, that is among the most potent causes of the current world-wide rebellious unrest” [1, p. 45].

Today Makov considers “Paradiso Perduto” as an already “passed level,” one which even if it hasn’t gone to the past yet, undoubtedly will be there soon. In the artist’s opinion, another, already announced project “Fate” (one of the works was represented at the previously mentioned exhibition “Blanket, Garden, Tower, Cross, Fate,” 2012), which touches on the topic of responsibility, is on time. As a direct consequence of “Paradiso Perduto”, “Fate” provides the opposition: latency has to finally happen as the event — through a found responsibility, as the final reign of Nobody leaves us not in the lost paradise and not even in Hell. It leaves us in the third song of “Hell,” in a place, which precedes Hell — where there are miserable souls that did neither good nor evil in their lives. The upcoming “Fate” has as its foundational image a fingerprint germinated by plants of a well-groomed garden on the etching. The fingerprint that can be read as a synonym for the human face (successfully used in Alfred Hitchcock’s film “Blackmail,” 1929) is a step towards individuality, without which no search is possible, nor is any question about loss and return. “Fate” gives an opportunity to leave the container: “Till I beheld through a round aperture / Some of the beauteous things that Heaven doth bear; / Thence we came forth to rebehold the stars” [4, p. 286, XXXIV, 137—139].

Together with “Paradiso Perduto”, “Fate” not only returns the real name to Barabashov, but also robs the very formula of “lost Paradise” of its irresistible totality. The determination “to let something happen and give oneself a feeling of how the horror of certain images and certain magic places affects us personally and sometimes unexpectedly — perhaps this is what we need” [2, p. 100]. When the fingerprint is left without fear, then this trace (mark) will become a sign in the Creation. Then “to lose a Paradise” will also mean “to cultivate a garden”.


Borys Filonenko


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