Gert Germeraad Rationality, Intuition and Emotion: Exploring an Artistic Process This submission presents an interesting and complex framework for interweaving artistic strategies and visual expressions to investigate the sensitive matter of representing the vulnerable human being. It focuses on the visual representation of the classified human being as the joint bases of artistic expression and exploration.
I especially appreciate the exploration and interrelation of highly artistically connotated means such as sculpture and drawing to produce not a formal debate but instead an integral approach to a sensitive issue. This makes this submission outstanding and worth publishing.
Questioning the human condition and its visual representation is a challenging issue, especially in times of ongoing and often covert discrimination on the grounds of race, and of physical or mental disabilities. The submission as such deals with highly relevant intellectual and political concerns.
Considering figurative sculpture, abstract drawing, and writing the research project seems at first sight to promote the “classical” media of art. Only the concrete use of three-dimensional sculptural moulding, two-dimensional drawing, and writing a journal indicates that different artistic means help investigate a multilayered and highly sensitive subject-matter. In this way, all means lose their mostly disciplinary significance and support an overarching concept.
This research project reveals a highly transdisciplinary subject that encompasses both the fundamentals of the creative process and the current use of artistic media, as well as various ways of representing the human being as an Other (as a not self-evident but discriminated and therefore wounded subject). This makes this submission interesting not only in terms of its specific contents but also in terms of approaching human vulnerability in our globalised world. The fundamental question remains: “Who is represented how?” It includes, by further implication, its negative counterpart: “Who is not represented and why not?” Overall, the submission addresses important issues in the debate on artistic research. Its discussion will interest a wider audience concerned with the revision of the conditio humana and its visual consequences.
This submission exemplifies artistic practice as a form of research that first explores the creative process and its components, and, secondly, questions the established scientific and social ways of approaching human representation. While the author does not advance a clear research question, he searches for hitherto unrecognized intersections between racial biology, its classification systems, and the visual representation of human beings. His project as such contains an implicit research question, whose outcome is chiefly practice-based and practice-oriented and yet touches on a central area of social and political life.
A vital scientific aspect of this submission is given through its direct link to anthropology, notably physiognomy and racial biology. In his earlier artistic work, the artist refered to Johann Lavater, the famous 18th-century physiognomist, who linked a person’s outer appearance with their (inner) character. Lavater thus produced not only a challenging task for visualization, but also many popular and scientific fallacies up to the point of eugenics and racism. It is a matter of fact that such fallacies can hardly be erased. What is therefore needed are haunting visual or intellectual arguments. As this submission shows, art can without doubt be a strong agent in this discussion.
The artist approaches the visual representation of the vulnerable human being from different sides: first, by investigating photographic memories and documentations of the victims of biological discrimination, he draws a line in the field from a more scientific-oriented, external perspective. His choice of photographs of Jewish children as the most vulnerable victims of eugenics and racial biology during WWII leads us directly to a painful and inglorious chapter of European history. This is just a starting point. In a next step he rethinks and reworks these traditional forms of memory and representation by converting the two-dimensional images into three-dimensional figurative portraits. This sculptural form-finding-process is a mainly rational one.
Second, the artist adopts an internal perspective, by searching for an emotional approach by re-processing his personal experiences as a psychically injured self. Through arranging charcoal or ink on paper, he creates elementary signs and abstract forms in contrast to the naturalistic portraits. Using such primary drawing features and intuition, he tries to establish adequate visual expression. How can these apparently antagonistic artistic outcomes be brought together? Here text comes in: The author has decided to describe the artistic process in the form of a diary—a journal written over a period of 13 days. This is not only feasible but also helps retrace the ongoing creative process in its different phases.
While the artistic approach to interweaving intuitive and emotional decisions with rational findings in order to create art is not new in general, its connection with an especially sensitive subject-matter turns the approach into an appropriate and promising method.