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Androgynies (sculpture)

In the world of painting, perspective, that is to say, the third dimension, is a convention. What our eye catches is, given the nature of the medium, everything that is to be seen. With a sculpture, three-dimensionality is a fact, not a convention. Consequently, you cannot see it at once from all possible angles.

As a matter of fact, the contemplator of a painting is very much alike the deistic God, for whom spatial dimensions are inherent to his own intellect. There is no space outside the categories of extension inherent to the mind. But the experience of a sculpture is essentially different from this “domesticated” form of understanding space. The “raw” three dimensionality of a sculpture cannot possibly be embraced or controlled by our natural perception. Space becomes something that funda mentally escapes us. From this point of view, the way we experience space in the world of sculpture is closer to a mystical experience, in which God can be understood or perceived only via negationis, not in what He is, but in what He is not.

What is special about Volker Leyendecker’s iconic entities is that they attempt to bridge the enormous gap between the deistic three-dimensionality of painting and the mystical three-dimensionality of sculpture. At first sight, what we have on the wall is the equivalent of a painting or a picture, which could be embraced, seized and controlled almost instantaneously by our visual perception. But, at the same time, we are compelled to keep in mind that we are confronted with the image of an object which has previously been generated (computer-generated, to be more precise), not only imagined, by the artist. An object that, as we contemplate its image, simultaneously exists, in its own specific, but very real, form of three-dimensionality, in the digital space. If we are lucky, the artist himself might be around, spinning this object around, for our sake, on the display of his computer. The resulting experience is definitely close to the one you derive from the encounter with a piece of sculpture. Volker Leyendecker’s iconic entities have a double status, a double condition of being. Like the light, which can be alternately understood as a wave of energy or as a multitude of particles. Leyendecker attempts a synthesis between the mental projection and the physical generation of an image-object that makes one think of a kind of spatial androgyny. That is to say, the intimate association between the triumphant experience of a manageable, purely virtual, pictorial three-dimensionality and the disquieting experience of failing to perceive the actual threedimensionality of a sculpture.

A regular aesthetic object cannot be distinguished from the direct experience you have with it. In some essential way, it is that perspective, or that experience, no matter if we speak of physically bi- or three-dimensional works of art. But these computer-generated images create a screen between our experience of the artistic object and the object as such. They force us to acknowledge that they exist not only for and through us, but also, proudly and defiantly, apart from us, beyond our reach. The imageobject of painting is construed as a radiating focus because its form of virtual spatiality is subject to mental control, and mind can by definition organize a field of perception around a center. But the image-object of sculpture is, in some way, a revelation of absence, of the absolute limits of our perception. Since it cannot be ultimately grasped in all its possible hypostases, it rather becomes a radiating absence, very much on the line of the “black sun” of the mystical gnosis. The spatial androgyny imagined by Volker Leyendecker brings together the focus of plenty and the focus of void, waiting to see what will evolve out of this paradoxical vicinity.

And the result is that, at the end of the day, we become less self-assured when we deal with images built around the perspectival illusion, we begin to question our capacities to understand what they really are. While, at the other end, we grow more familiar with the resplendent, oozing spatiality of sculptures, and we manage to temper down the diffuse terror we normally experience in their presence. To start this kind of Yin- Yang balancing of the spatial experience going is the one of the essential effect counted on by Volker Leyendecker.

But the modes of construing or worshipping spaces are not the only apparently unmatchable elements that this form of digital art tries to reconcile. Another level on which this process is going on is the one of alternative understandings of the value of the sensory perception.

Perceptions are the emphatic expression of the border that divides inner and outer world. The attention we pay to them, in our cognitive process, exposes our deep conviction that we have always to relate to and to manage some kind of indeterminate and unpredictable “out-there”. Which makes perception, understood as a basic sensory unit, as a sensory quantum, the very essence of attention, lucidity, self-awareness.

But there is another way of understanding perception – not as “focusing” but rather as “absorbtional” procedures. From this other perspective, our psyche is supposed to work like a sort of vacuum-cleaner that accumulates, through the channels of perception, the necessary quantity of sensory quanta, that is going to be used, eventually, in the purely inner processes of creating narcissist models and patterns of significance that we project as our reality. In this second account, perceptions appear as the basic agents of, so to say, dreaming.

Volker Leyendecker’s iconic entities are the result of an attempt of mediating between these two philosophies of perception.

One level of his creative process consists of a slow and patient accumulation of minute observations, completely similar to those implied by scientific research. But this experience of empirical accuracy is, actually, projected against the virtual and the hypothetical – what means that we are invited to experience the tangible, sensory but also sensual, proximity of a mental object. The focused, lucid cognitive perception, as we construe it mainly in connection with empirical science, slowly glides towards a world of pure possibilities. This pharmaceutical dosage of sensory details leads us, as with a Möbius continuum, towards a kind of opulently hypnotic, unrestrictedly dreamlike, general atmosphere. The perceptual androgyny inherent to Volker Leyendecker’s iconic entities connects a sense of perception as adaption to a larger, ever-changing and unpredictable environment, with a sense of perception as self-discovery and self-invention.

The artist’s taste for the coincidentia oppositorum, for reconciling opposites, is also expressed at the level of what I would call utopian androgyny. Utopian means, etymologically, “devoid of place”, which could be understood in two different ways. Utopianism can, of course, allude to the idea of something that is too perfect, too pure for the world, as we know it. Having no place, or no room, implies that it is situated in an ideal space, a space beyond empirical precariousness, beyond the fallible physicality of the world.

But, logically speaking, having no place can also imply being constantly on the move. Where movement would not translate simply as kinetics, as a form of physical unrest, but it would also (or rather) mean the pos- sibility to commute between alternative interpretations of an experience, alternative courses of action or alternative ways of being. This second kind of utopianism is not connected to the vision of a potentially liberating hyperspace, but to the liberating effect attributed to the refuse of getting rooted into a definite location, of subordinating to specific spatial coordinates. This form of utopianism implies the free oscillation between actuality and potentiality, under the provision that there is no fixed hierarchy between the two, and that the latter can, at intervals, gain precedence over the former.

When I speak of utopian androgyny, I mean the simultaneous and interpenetrated presence, in one and the same form of visual representation, of two forms of utopianism. Two forms of utopianism rooted in two forms of understanding and experiencing virtuality: one related to the human psyche, with its capacity for anamorphic fluidity and radial, unlimited connectivity, and the one of the digital space, which, with its funny, impalpable, but undisputable physicality, with its disquieting and hieratic “out there”-ness, conveys a sense of the unalterable and the serene.

Volker Leyendecker’s works represent an attempt to mediate between these two forms of utopianism. His objects seem to open themselves up to the diaphanous homogeneity of a purified absolute space. But, at the same time, they seem to pulse between different possible modes of their being. They are, at the same time, perceptual objects, and thinking/emotional processes. They are strictly confined between their purified contours and surfaces, and, at the same time, ready to burst at any moment into a daze of pure vibrations.

All the above observations could bring one to reconsider the fact that the great majority of Volker Leyendecker’s iconic entities are representations of plants. Actually, we are confronted with botanical beings that do not exist as such in the real world, but are issued in the research laboratory of the artist. Nevertheless, this does not alter in any way the fact that they are meant to speak to our imagination as plants. That is to say, as the creatures which offer the highest and most sophisticated examples of androgyny in the whole natural kingdom. It is through this flora of the possible that Volker Leyendecker tries to convey to us his sense of fascination for the most impossible unions.

Caius Dobrescu