• Yves the Monochrome 1960. Truth Becomes Reality

Article, 1960

Yves the Monochrome 1960. Truth Becomes Reality

Yves Klein

… Leaving my mark beyond myself, I have done it! When I was a child … My hands and my feet dunked in paint, then applied to a surface, and there it was, I was there, face to face with my own psyche. I had proof of having five senses, of knowing how to make myself function! Then I lost my childhood … just like everyone else (one must have no illusions about that). Repeating that little game as an adolescent, I very quickly encountered nothingness. I did not like nothingness, and this is how I came to know the void, the profound void, the blue profundity! As an adolescent, I wrote my name on the back of the sky in a fantastic realistico-imaginary journey, stretched out on a beach one day in Nice … I have hated birds ever since for trying to make holes in my greatest and most beautiful work! Away with the birds! Having arrived in that place, in the monochrome adventure, I no longer had to make myself function; I simply functioned. I was no longer myself; I, without the I, became one with life itself. My every gesture, movements activity, creation was original, essential life in itself. It was during this period that I said: Painting is no longer for me a function of the eye. My works are only the ashes of my art. I doggedly turned. I doggedly turned my canvases into monochromes, then the all powerful blue emerged and reigns still as it will always. It is then that I began to doubt myself; I took models into the studio, not to paint them as models, but to be in their company. I was spending too much time in the studio alone; I did not wish to remain by myself in that marvelous blue void. Here the reader will smile, no doubt. But remember, I was free of the vertigo that all my predecessors had experienced when faced with the absolute void, which must be and is the real pictorial space … But how much longer would it last? In the past, the painter used to go to the subject, working outdoors in the countryside, both feet on the ground. It was healthy! Today, easel painting has become completely academized, so much so that it has imprisoned the painter in his studio face to face with the atrocious mirror of his own canvas … … In order not to retreat by shutting myself inside the excessively spiritual regions of artistic creation, using the plain common sense that the presence of flesh in the studio would benefit my incarnate condition, I consequently engaged nude models. The shape of the human body, its lines, its colors of between life and death are of no interest to me; it is the emotional atmosphere that I value. The flesh … ! ! ! ! All the same, from time to time I did look at the model … … I very quickly perceived that it was the block of the human body, which is to say, the trunk and a part of the thighs that fascinated me. The hands, the arms, the head, the legs were of no importance. Only the body is alive, all-powerful, and it does not think. The head, the arms, the hands are intellectual articulations around the flesh, which is the body! The heart beats without thoughts; the mind cannot stop it. Digestion occurs without either our intellectual or emotional intervention; we breath without being aware of it. Certainly, the entire body consists of flesh, but the essential mass is the trunk and the thighs. It is there that one finds the true universe, hidden by our perception. The presence of this flesh in the studio has long steadied me during the enlightenment provoked by the execution of my monochromes. It preserved in me the spirit of the cult of health”that makes of us at once carefree and responsible participants in the universe. Strong, solid, powerful, yet fragile, like animals in the state of waking dreams in the world of perception, like the vegetal and the mineral entranced in this same world of ephemeral perception … … This health that makes us be, the nature of life itself, all that we are! As I continued to paint monochromes, I almost automatically reached the immaterial, which made me understand that I was clearly a product of Western civilization, a true Christian who rightly believes in the resurrection of bodies, in the resurrection of flesh. Then a whole phenomenology revealed itself, but a phenomenology without ideas or rather with no systems of official conventions. What was revealed is separate from form, becomes immediate experience. The mark of the immediate. This is what I needed! … One will easily understand the process: at first my models laughed at seeing themselves transposed onto the canvass in monochrome, then they became accustomed to it and loved the values of the color, different for each canvas, even during the blue period where it was more or less the same tone, the same pigment, the same technique. Then while pursuing the adventure of the immaterial, little by little, I ceased producing tangible art, my studio empty, even the monochromes were gone. At that moment, my models felt that they had to do something for me … They rolled themselves in color, and with their bodies painted my monochromes. They had become living brushes! Having had rejected brushes as too excessively psychological already earlier, I painted with rollers, in order to be remain anonymous and at a distance between the canvas and myself during the execution, at least intellectually … Now, what a miracle, the brush returned, but this time it is alive: it was the flesh itself that applied the color to the canvas, under my direction, with a perfect precision, allowing me to remain constantly at an exact distance x from my canvas and thus continue to dominate my creation during the entire execution. That way my hands stayed clean, and I no longer dirtied myself with paint, not even tips of my fingers. The work the completed itself in front of me, with the absolute collaboration of the models, and I was in a position to show myself worthy of it by welcoming the work into the tangible world in a fitting manner wearing a tuxedo. It is at this time that I noticed “the marks of the body” at each session. They disappeared immediately, for it was required that everything should become monochrome. These marks, pagans in my religion of absolute monochromy, hypnotized me right away, and I worked on them secretly, always in absolute collaboration with the models, in order to share the responsibilities in case of a spiritual bankruptcy. The models and I practiced a perfect and irreproachable scientific telekinesis and it is thus that I presented The Anthropometries of the Blue Period, first privately at Robert Godet’s in Paris, in the spring of 1958, and then again, in a much more perfected form, on March 9, 1960 at the Galerie Internationale d’Art Contemporain. … Hiroshima, the shadows of Hiroshima in the desert of the atomic catastrophe, terrible evidence, without a doubt, but evidence of hope all the same, hope for the survival and permanence, albeit immaterial, of the flesh. With this rather technical demonstration I wanted to , above all, tear away the veil from the temple of the studio. To keep nothing hidden of my processes and thus perhaps merit the grace of later receiving new subjects of amazement through such new technical devices, just as valuable as always, and just as unimportant. These results continue to astonish me just the same. With or without technique, it is always good to conquer! This was my slogan in competing for the judo championships in Japan! I was taught in Judo to achieve technical perfection in order to be able to deride it; to be constantly in a position to display it to all my adversaries, and thus, although they know it all, to conquer all the same. The shreds of this torn veil of the temple-studio provides me even with miraculous shrouds. All is useful to me. My old Monotone Symphony of 1949, which was performed under my direction, by a small orchestra on March 9, 1960, was destined to create an after-silence, after all sounds had ended, in each of us who were present at that manifestation. Silence … This is really my symphony and not the sounds during its performance. This silence is so marvelous because it grants happenstance and even sometimes the possibility of true happiness, if only for only a moment, for a moment whose duration is immeasurable. To conquer silence, to skin it and cover oneself with its hide to never be chilled again spiritually. I feel like a vampire face to face with universal space! But let us return to the facts; still there in the studio with my models, in 1956, I am reading the journal of DelacroiELACROIx and suddenly these lines appear: I adore this little vegetable garden … this gentle sunlight over the whole of it infuse me with a secret joy, with a well-being comparable with what one feels when the body is in perfect health. But all that is fugitive; any number of times I have found myself in this delightful condition during the twenty days that I am spending here. It seems as if one needed a mark, a special reminder for each one of these moments.1 What an artist needs is the disposition of a reporter, a journalist, but in the wider sense of the words, one perhaps no longer understood today. I understand now the spiritual mark of these momentary states. I understand it through my monochromes; and the mark of the momentary states of the flesh, through in the imprints pulled from the bodies of my models. … But the mark of the momentary states of nature? … I leap outside and there I am on the riverbank amidst the bulrush and the reeds. I dust everything with pigments and the wind, which bends the delicate stems, comes to apply it withprecision and delicacy upon my canvas that I thus present to the trembling nature: I obtain a vegetal mark. Then it begins to rain, a fine spring shower; I expose my canvas to the rain, and it is done. I have captured the mark of rain! The mark of an atmospheric occurrence … An idea comes to me: I have, for a long time, desired to temper nature’s climate with the aide of either solar mirrors or other scientific techniques yet to be discovered. The first steps have been made with the architecture of air that I am presently realizing in collaboration with the architect Werner Ruhnau and that will permit us to live nude everywhere at ease in immense regions that we have rendered temperate and transformed into a veritable, regained earthly paradise. It become completely natural that the model at last leaves the studio with me and that I take imprints of nature, and that the model should be there suddenly, taking her place in nature, and also mark the canvas there, where she feels good, in the grass, amidst the reeds, at the waterside or beneath a waterfall, naked, in a static pose or in motion, as a I might even forego colors and work instead with the perspiration of the models mixed with dust, perhaps even with their own blood, the sap of plants, the color of the earth, etc., and time will turn the results obtained into I.K.B. blue monochrome. Fire is clearly to be included in this. I must have its imprint! The anthropophagous era is drawing near, frightening in appearance only. It will be the practical realization on a universal scale of these famous words: Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.2 Spiritual words, certainly, but these are words that will be effectively practiced during a time prior to the advent of the blue era of peace and glory; total Edenic liberty re-conquered by man atop the immaterial sensibility of the universe. Whatever one may think of this, all of this is in pretty bad taste and, indeed, it is my intention. I shout it out very loudly: KITSCH, THE CORNY, BAD TASTE. This is a new notion in ART. While we’re at it, let’s forget ART altogether! Great beauty is not truly true if it contains, intelligently mixed in, AUTHENTIC BAD TASTE of EXASPERATING AND UTTERLY CONSCIOUS ARTIFICIALITY with just a dash of DISHONESTY. One must be like FIRE in NATURE; to understand how to be both gentle and cruel, to know how to CONTRADICT oneself. Then, and only then, does one really belong to the family of UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLES OF ENLIGHTENMENT. … NO, I am not LITERARY. All my past manifestations have been EVENTS. On the occasion of my first presentation of the VOID in 1957 at Colette Allendy’s, I already liberated the entire THEATRICAL theater in a SINGLE blow, freed it from its yoke, the AGE-OLD yoke of PERSPECTIVE! It is thus, by publishing this text, that I want to make it clear to all artist, young or old, whom I have pulled into my wake these last years a little everywhere in the world, into this path of the monochrome, and then into the immaterial and the void (which they are still far from having reached), that I have not in fact changed in any sudden or brusque manner. … In fact, for some time I have been told repeatedly that the adepts of the monochrome movement that I have created in today’s international art world are rattled by my most recent works. … Oh well … Nothing could be more natural than that I reached this point, and I am sure that they will reach it too. They were also, at first, disconcerted by my monochromes, which they soon after took up with enthusiasm, each in their own style. Thinking of all that has transpired, I feel today like the proverbial worm in the cheese of the history of science, which eats, and eats and makes holes; it creates a void around itself and moves on … from time to time, it encounters a hole that it is obliged to bypass in order to advance, in order to live, indeed, in order to eat! One day, there is no more cheese because the worm has eaten everything; there is nothing more than the void, the great void. The worm is then levitating, free, happy in space, but only for a moment, then it falls quite naturally onto another cheese and continues to eat and continues to create the void around itself, and that reminds me of a poem that I wrote at the age of eleven, and which my mother has had to wisdom and goodness to save for me. It says just what I have always wanted to say: SILENCE The soft sound of a dead leaf dragged by the wind A stone falling There, a small hole is dug The silent space struggles Suddenly, shadows, steps, A shepherd, his army of sheep at his side Their bells ring beautifully That’s it, he has won! The silence, around him … Is behind him … Paris, 1939 … It is not with rockets, Sputniks, or missiles that modern man will achieve the conquest of space. That’s the dream of present-day scientists who live in a romantic and sentimental state of mind that belongs to the nineteenth century. It is through the terrific yet peaceful force of sensibility that man will inhabit space. It is through the impregnation with human sensibility in space that the ardently desired conquest of this space will be achieved. For human sensibility is capable of everything in immaterial reality; it can even read in nature’s memory about the past, the present, and the future. It is our potential of effective extradimensional action. Proofs? Precedents?: … In the Divine Comedy, Dante describes with absolute precision what no traveler of his time could possibly have discovered, the invisible constellation of the Northern Hemisphere known as the Southern Cross. Jonathan Swift, in the Voyage to Laputa,3 gives the distances and periods of rotation of two satellites of Mars, though they were unknown at the time. When the American astronomer Asaph Hall discovered them in 1877, he realized that his measurements were the same as those of Swift. Seized by panic, he named them Phobos and Deimos – Fear and Terror! May the authentic realism of today and tomorrow live on. I want it to live with the best of me, in total freedom of mind and body. The universal cannibalism that is approaching, the anthropophagous era through which we are soon to pass, is by nature neither cruel nor fierce nor inhuman; quite to the contrary, it will become the living expression or, rather, the assimilation of a biological synthesis. It will definitively free us from some of the rare tyrannical aspects of …