An essay and a preview of the new series “Atemporals” from Paris based artist Stephan Breuer.
I am not satisfied with the notion of Contemporary Art anymore, but are any of us?
We need to fast-forward from the stultifying effects of the Contemporary and create a comprehensible and unified line between the past, present, and future. For the first time in human history we are connected to temporalities at the speed of light. Through our computers and phones we can connect, within a blink of an eye, to the aesthetics and knowledge of the most ancient civilizations; we can travel to any destination in the universe while simultaneously documenting the present and projecting ourselves into the future. This unique moment in history allows us to escape being a prisoner of time and space, it asks us to reflect on what constitutes our humanity and its evolution at the dawn of the digital age. To me, the Contemporary doesn’t mean anything anymore; we have mutated into ATEMPORAL beings.
This idea of the mutation of our relationship to time and space is explored in my new line of work named ATEMPORALS. For me, we are precisely at the origin of this new paradigm that will continuously intensify with the apparition of 5G, the discovery of new energies to explore the universe, and most probably even new ways to envision aging and death in the near future.
“We need to fast-forward from the stultifying effects of the Contemporary and create a comprehensible and unified line between the past, present, and future.”
The Cathedral of Notre Dame burst into flames a few weeks ago in Paris. The world watched in shock, not only because of the horrific images but because the notion of permanence and stability that we all attach to such monuments suddenly were destroyed. Let’s remind ourselves of the latin definition of Monumentum: a reminder or a memorial. Do we want to live in a world without memory? I don’t think so. The Contemporary seems to be suffering from a deep amnesia while it runs forward into the present and is surrounded with superficiality. It appears we can’t be sure of eternity anymore. What the fire of Notre Dame reminds us however, is that perhaps now it is time again to meditate on the past, present, and future, and that perhaps this might be the only way to rebuild our cathedral with a true vision.
For me, it is time to stop and reflect. It is time to enter into a new zone, a zone as wide as you can imagine; we are now limitless, more powerful than ever, and we can finally redefine the notion of the sublime. What zone are we immersed into when we listen to one of Beethoven’s symphonies on our iPhone, sent by bluetooth to our earphones or speakers? One could reply that we are actually living in what constitutes precisely our contemporary time and its technological possibilities. I am not speaking of where time and space locates you precisely on a map; I am speaking of a time where we are each in our own specific minds, perhaps listening to a classical piece while riding the subway or on a plane flying at Mach 1, instantly transported into ATEMPORAL as only Art can lift us to.
“The Contemporary seems to be suffering from a deep amnesia while it runs forward into the present and is surrounded with superficiality.”
ATEMPORALS is about the sudden moment of levitation where our ultra-connected minds enter this new zone. This zone is not the same as in the past, when one might have an experience while looking at the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, (is it even possible to truly look at it while being surrounded by hundreds of tourists?). The ATEMPORAL isn’t constrained by time and space anymore, it is where we can experience the idea of the Masterpiece and their reproductions as they transport us to their true concept.
What is fascinating today with such paintings like the Mona Lisa, is that they have travelled through centuries and their voyage still continues today; from digital screens and being exchanged on social networks, to being a defining part of what constitutes us as human beings as expressed on our walls. While many of us are not art historians, we find ourselves attracted to these masterpieces without necessarily fully grasping the reason why. Not only have these masterpieces defined our idea of aesthetics and harmony, they have also been delivered to us, filtered through history, by individuals who have analyzed them down to their finest details. They are X-rayed and thousands of writings have been made about them, none of which we will likely ever read. But what we can feel from these Masterpieces after all these years of voyage through space, time and mind, is much more than just an image, but rather an inherent network that radiates from them.
“While many of us are not art historians, we find ourselves attracted to these masterpieces without necessarily fully grasping the reason why.”
We don’t physically need to be in the Louvre anymore to experience such Masterpieces. In the digital world, these works are everywhere and nowhere at the same time, they are mixed with all kinds of other images, also that define us. I find it funny to see such extraordinary works colliding with a meme or a pussy cat video. ATEMPORALS questions this notion of value in art, and the idea of high art and low art since the limited walls of the museums is no longer the only inherent network. Everything and everyone is now mixed in a new 2 dimensional, flat reality. In this new context, an ultimate painting from Van Eyck, such as L’adoration de l’Agneau Mystique (The Ghent Altarpiece), has equal value to the video of a skater in LA riding while smoking a joint, or even less if you take in account the number of likes.
ABOUT STEPHAN BREUER
Stephan Breuer is a Paris based artist whose work is primarily concerned with the immaterial. Working with new technologies, he questions the sublime at the dawn of the digital age. Breuer has been shown in major historical monuments in France such as the Imperial Palace of Compiègne and the Chateau de Blerancourt and has worked on monumental installations for the Palais Royal.
Stephen Breuer, Atemporals, 2019