A Different Feeling

Dr. Jacek Barski

Drawing in a Space

This approach, which essentially comprised the application of sophisticated strokes and interventions to allow the material to find its own expression, was quickly to become Danuta Karsten's trademark, following the realisation of numerous installations and projects. The main feature of this trademark was manifest in the development that then took place, serving exclusively to enhance the implementational procedures for expressing the artist's intention and not to pursue some future commercial success.

This allowed Danuta Karsten relatively swiftly to achieve an inner stability in terms of the constant rejuvenation taking place in her projects; indeed it is this astounding constancy that has enabled the artist to achieve increasing independence in her creative endeavours.
This soon had the effect that her new installations were able to convey a correspondingly high level of confidence in the artistic process. Again and again, it could be observed how material from one project would be incorporated in subsequent installations, after applying deliberate deformation and reworking. A process evolved whereby old was constantly refashioned into new, without the material or the idea from the former work being relinquished or the content undergoing any major discontinuation.
The inner continuity in Danuta Karsten's work is not only unmistakeably in evidence in her installations but now made up a central feature of what is a continuously evolving complete work. In so doing, that which was later to develop into a law was by now becoming increasingly clear: that Danuta Karsten's art is not made for the warehouse and certainly not borne of a need to comply with external categorical restrictions. It can only ever be seen in the context of her work as a whole, in the form of its latest realisation. Consequently and logically, what can be discerned at this point in time of the artist's inner development is precisely the kind of maturity which is paradoxically unavoidable in the consolidation of a constantly evolving art installation: the exemption from form.
Astoundingly, the attainment of artistic inner stability and the confidence of her realisation allowed her to take precisely this step, a step from which autonomous art seems to thrive. It is not form itself which forms the centrepiece of the artistic treatment, but that which underlies it as an artistic idea. The ability to work freely in this type of environment as an artist accordingly requires a clear shift of emphasis from pure formal treatment to the concepts to be realised and, ultimately, to the inner being of the artist, which can lead to a retreat from external form as a central factor. In the case of Danuta Karsten, this is indeed taking place.
It is only thanks to this paradigm shift, which creates a safe distance between the artist and her tools, that it is possible to recognise that form as an element of the design and realisation of an artistic idea can be employed unburdened and in its widest sense independently, that only with this step can a sure and honest basis for the artistic activity that orients itself towards these ideas be gained, and, above all, that this artistic activity is anchored so firmly in the process of life that one may be permitted to establish the following statement, which, as a sure sign of maturity and constancy,  is attributable exclusively to the "established" artist: "our element of life is a state of constant immaturity". 7

The attainment of this is sometimes a long process. However, the initial quasi-natural form-dependence, not to mention the generally prevailing form-reality, seems to have been rendered invalid in favour of a personal concept of art. Accordingly, Danuta Karsten enters her own artistic reality, which, once it has been summoned into being, not only shows that it obeys its own laws, but, and this has far more significant consequences, it can no longer be halted. From this point in her development, her art begins to enjoy an autonomous existence, which also means that it begins to render itself independent of the artist.
However, not only that is the price of artistic maturity, but also that which the artist has searched for in vain in her work and with which she must now inexorably live: the loneliness of the creative process. For, "as soon as one has broken through the circle of those institutionalised opinions, which are as little distributed among us as the Madeleine or the Palais de Justice … and come up against that which is true, i.e. invisible, it seems all the more likely to be that each one of the people lives on his own little island, with no point of transition from one to the other, and it is quite surprising to find out that they are sometimes actually in agreement about something.“ 8

In this respect, Danuta Karsten has attained the field in which she, as an artist, can finally act freely in her quest for her individual "unbearable lightness of being", even though she is at the same time entering a zone in which she is forced to question herself, alone, every day, and to undergo re-examination on a daily basis, for the precise reason that there are no points of reference and no points of comparison, apart from her own artistic work. Accordingly, from this point on, the following must apply to this work:
"Everything is experienced with an immediacy, for the first time, unprepared.
Like an actor taking the stage without ever having had a rehearsal. But what worth can life have when the first rehearsal is for life itself? For this reason, life always resembles a sketch. Even then, sketch is not the right word, because a sketch is always a draft version of something, the preliminary stage of an image, while the sketch of our life is a sketch of nothing, a draft with no following image." 9
Through her art, Danuta Karsten has experienced precisely what it is by which the invisibilities which appear in every artistic development are finally overcome. The artist can now devote herself freely to the content of her work, fully aware that invisibility has become a part of the content's truth, and safe in the knowledge that she is now finally completely independent, but that she is at the same time alone on the stage, with no possibilities for comparison. She has found the terrain on which she must expose herself and her art to the dangers of the public, but, on the other hand, she can now finally bring her decisive strength to bear unreservedly: her artistic sensitivity.

Lovis Corinth Prize 1998

Witold Gombrowicz,  Ferdydurke, Institut Littéraire S.A.R.L., Paris 1969, German edition: Munich Vienna, 1983, p. 109. Gombrowicz was a Polish author and story writer working in Argentina and southern France. He is regarded as the inventor of the "false novel", which was particularly popular in the existentialist period, in which objects are constructed, only for them to surrender themselves in the moment of their construction in favour of the idea represented by the work.

Maurice Meleau-Pony, Le Visible et I'lnvisible, Editions Gallimand, Paris 1996, German: Das Sichtbare und Unsichtbare, Munich 1986, p. 30.

Milan Kundera, Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí, Paris 1984, German: Die unerträgliche Leichtigkeit des Seins, Munich, Vienna 1984, p. 11/12.