Foundation 20 21, New York

15 Gramercy Park South Suite 8D
NY-10003 New York

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artist / participant

press release

Foundation 20 21 is pleased to announce an exhibition of collages, diagrams and other works by Jimmy Raskin in conjunction with the publication of his book, The Prologue, The Poltergeist & The Hollow Tree....

Grounded in The Prologue of Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Raskin's highly original book investigates the figures of the Poet and his counterpart, the Philosopher, and proceeds to anatomize their delicate relationship on the path to the overman. Raskin's interest in the existential condition of the Poet as a metaphor for the artist in general confronts the modern Philosopher's quest to become Poet. The book-a dynamic interplay of text, drawings, collages and a series of stunning diagrammatic representations of thoughts-manifests the stakes of this problematic merging and rigorously traces the thin line separating these two fundamental forms of Being. "The Poet's madness was something I had to salvage," says Raskin, "for the Unknown is only possible when distance collapses."

Today the overman has been turned into a process, a mere method, so it is the Poet's failure that we need to learn more about. Identifying the precise location of this failure is the ultimate aim of this lyrical text, which mourns the fact that the Poet does not survive any longer without the Philosopher.

In his past performance work, Raskin documented his interest in The Poet's vicissitudes using visual and theatric media within the context of a performative event he modeled upon the academic lecture. During these often comic shows, there were films of a poet jumping to and cowering in a corner; sometimes a documentarian struggled to capture the "poet within." Always, the extremities of The Poet prevailed and lecture became performance, diagrams became cartoons.

Nietzsche, it seems, understood that a new kind of philosophy would have to involve a merger with poetry. Thus Spoke Zarathustra is aimed at elucidating and proving this realization. Someone who achieves a fusion of this kind of Being, of Philosopher-Poet, becomes a New Being. He is the artist as thinker and thinker as artistothe overman. Raskin argues that all contemporary poetics emanate from a moment like The Prologue of Thus Spoke Zarathustra-a big bang that opens another, better universe.

For the author, The Prologue contains not only Zarathustra's vital speeches, but also a sub-textual account of the lessons Zarathustra had to learn, based upon the tightrope walker's life and death. The tightrope walker is a fundamental metaphor; he lives in the beginning of the beginning. Later, Raskin compares him to an illustration from a book of physics-if an elementary particle, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant, was just slightly out of place, the universe as we know it would not exist and the argument in the physics textbook would fail.

In The Prologue, the new philosopher, Zarathustra, grasps his first metaphor and undergoes his initial test as Poet: surviving the death of meaning. This first metaphor is the elementary particle from which Zarathustra's New Being is composed.

Based upon the tightrope walker's importance to Zarathustra's transformation, Raskin proposes a fantastic "what-if." What if Zarathustra's most important and catalytic metaphor tried to escape the book to which it belongs? The Prologue, The Poltergeist & The Hollow Tree recounts a failed escape that leaves the tightrope walker blocking us, the readers, at the foot of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. We, the author and reader, are forced here into a position of recalling, of coming to terms with the potential of this simple metaphor on the path to the New Being. The tale of the tightrope walker's death, which is also, for Raskin, the story of Zarathustra's failure (before his subsequent enlightenment and success), needed to be retold. The death of The Poet and of meaning must be properly mournedothis book, along with the images, diagrams and collages that were created in tandem with the text-are a eulogy upon those deaths.


Jimmy Raskin
The Prologue, The Poltergeist & The Hollow Tree