artist / participant
In Waiting for Godot, Irish playwright Samuel Beckett explores the question of the purpose of human life. For Beckett, there is no apparent meaning to existence, and the world is nothing but chaos. Our lives are entirely dependant on chance, and nothing we do can ever change this. To protect ourselves from the devastating consequences of this realization, we continually invent patterns of behavior and imaginary goals, designed to impose order on things. Our consciousness of life’s essential meaninglessness drives us to rely on outside forces for structure and direction, as Vladimir and Estragon rely on Godot. The two tramps know nothing, forget everything, repeat the same ritual day after day; only waiting for Godot provides some form of orientation: "What are we doing here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer.
Yes, in this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come."But what if it were possible to make a system of chance? To embrace chance itself as this ordering principle? To let it produce something beautiful, living, and stimulating rather than something bleak? Chance as a symbol of infinite potential, rather than infinite futility? In the work of George Korsmit, it is chance that provides the foothold, and the artist is his own Godot.
In Korsmit’s work, every painting has its own strict set of rules. Each painting’s structure (emphatically not “a composition”) is determined by a throw of the dice and its coloration by a blind groping into a box filled with Pantone color chips. This stringent working method results not in rigidity, but in complete flow. The anchor of chance, the impossibility of changing anything once fate has decided, produces not anguish but a kind of euphoria. Stripped of all contingency and yet in some sense entirely the product of accident, the paintings are more or less self-generating. The artist dictates the guidelines and throws the dice, but what is produced is beyond his control. His subjectivity is thereby erased, transferred to the work itself, which then bears witness to the process of its own creation. It is a subject, never an object.
The viewer’s encounter with the works is a dialectical one. Knowing the system by which they were produced, we experience the foothold chance provides and, simultaneously, its cancellation in the colorful chaos we see before us. The result is disorientation: the rigorous use of fortuity has produced something confusing, a landscape through which we are forced to wander aimlessly; a flat yet pulsating surface where the eye finds no resting place, no respite from the exigencies of the system. There is something confrontational and disharmonious about these paintings – despite the fact that the colors, although chosen at random, always seem to work together – a sensation underlined by the sometimes explicitly aggressive titles. But oddly, none of this is disagreeable; in fact, we begin to feel a bit of the freedom that giving oneself over to chance and fate can provide. The works thus replicate the pure existential moment, not its horror (as in Beckett), but its pleasure. The only thing that is certain is uncertainty, but there is nothing painful in this realization. For all the visual stimulation of Korsmit’s paintings, for all that they unbalance us, there is actually something reassuring in it.
Rachel Esner, Amsterdam, April 2006
George Korsmit: Out of Nowhere