Aris Kalaizis

The Delirium of the Upper World through the Underworld of the Real

In a first approach exam­ines the in Cologne liv­ing and to Lacan and Freud prac­tising psy­cho­ana­lyst Fotini Ladaki the paint­ings of Leipzig paint­er Aris Kala­izis under the aspect of a won back mys­ti­cism. Fur­ther­more she describes the integ­ra­tions neces­sary for it of the upper world and underworld.

Aris Kalaizis’s paint­ings appear dream­like and mys­tic­al, akin to a syn­thes­is of sev­er­al worlds: sub­ter­ranean and not of this world. The avow­al from Virgil’s Aeneid “Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo” (“If I can­not bend the gods above [the upper­world], I shall raise hell below [the under­world]”) springs to mind – which, incid­ent­ally, also appears on the title page of Freud’s The Inter­pret­a­tion of Dreams. For art, a mes­sage like this can nev­er be too mys­tic­al. It seems to orbit the spir­it of art as a source of inspir­a­tion or an epi­phany, as defined by James Joyce in the aes­thet­ic the­ory sum­ming up his own writ­ing. For it is this mes­sage alone which can cap­ture the inter­de­pend­en­cies between the upper­world and the under­world bey­ond all the hom­il­ies and laws of reli­gion. This is why "New Leipzig-School"-painter Aris Kala­izis work was described by art his­tor­i­an Car­ol Strick­land as sot­toreal­ism. Sotto is the Itali­an word for ‘beneath’ or ‘under’ while real­is is Lat­in for ‘con­cern­ing the thing’. Yet the ‘thing’ plays an import­ant part in Heidegger’s philo­sophy and also Jacques Lacan’s psy­cho­ana­lyt­ic­al the­ory. Lacan attrib­utes the thing to the ‘real’. How­ever, the ‘real’ should not be equated with real­ity, which is merely the ordered sec­tion of the ‘real’. Instead, the ‘real’ is part of the topo­logy of Lacan’s Bor­romean knot (RSI = the real, the sym­bol­ic, the ima­gin­ary) – a fig­ure he uses to define the psych­ic struc­ture of the speak­ing sub­ject. Accord­ing to Lacan, the ‘thing’ makes a ‘hole in the real’. Lacan regards the ‘real’ as some­thing incom­pre­hens­ible and indes­crib­able which res­ists the ima­gin­a­tion and sym­bol­iz­a­tion, and to which dream, trauma, chaos or hor­ror are attrib­uted. Moreover, the body (rather than the idea of an image of the body) is part of the real.

The whole pro­gress of the sub­ject is then ori­ented around the Ding as Frem­de [‘thing’ as ‘ali­en’], strange and even hos­tile on occa­sion, or in any case the first out­side. It is clearly a prob­ing form of pro­gress that seeks points of ref­er­ence, but with rela­tion to what? – with the world of desires. (1)

What do Aris Kalaizis’s paint­ings show? The under­world of the upper­world – or the upper­world which hypo­thet­ic­ally is still in the clutches of a hal­lu­cino­gen­ic under­world? This can be asso­ci­ated with the sen­tence from Karl Schlögel’s book In space we read time. But what time and what space are we deal­ing with?

The under­world of the upper­world – or the upper­world of a hal­lu­cino­gen­ic underworld

What about the space which presents itself like an open book and yet appears inher­ently apo­cryph­al? First of all, it is appar­ent that this can only be a poet­ic space. After all, when the huge stump of a chopped-down tree com­plete with its roots, twis­ted and torn, sud­denly appears inside a nor­mal liv­ing room, what sort of dream­like vis­ion is this? Where have this stump and its roots come from? The image puts us in mind of our own roots, our fam­ily tree, the his­tory of our devel­op­ment, our extrac­tion, our ori­gin, per­haps also con­cepts like home and home­land. In an era of mass migra­tion, it’s like an over­arch­ing, float­ing symbol.
Are the objects selec­ted and depic­ted place­hold­ers for sig­ni­fi­ers? Sig­ni­fi­ers is the term used by Lacan to refer to those sig­ni­fied lin­guist­ic ele­ments which are inten­ded to rep­res­ent a sub­ject for anoth­er sig­ni­fi­er. Art is always depend­ent on achiev­ing “a tri­umph of the gaze over the eye”, a quote from Lacan’s Sem­in­ar XI bor­rowed by Sla­voj Žižek in his psy­cho­ana­lys­is of Alfred Hitchcock: 

The trans­fixed gaze isol­ates a stain of the Real, a detail which ‘sticks out’ from the frame of sym­bol­ic real­ity – in short, a trau­mat­ic sur­plus of the Real over the Sym­bol­ic; yet the cru­cial fea­ture of these scenes is that this detail has no sub­stance in itself – it is, so to speak, ‘sub­stan­ti­ated’, caused, cre­ated, by the trans­fixed gaze itself. The objet petit a of the scene is there­fore the gaze itself…(2)

Aris Kalaizis’s work­ing pro­cess (sta­ging a non-exist­ent world, cap­tur­ing it in pho­to­graphs, and finally trans­fer­ring it to the can­vas) resembles an optic­al illu­sion, albeit not in the tra­di­tion­al sense. He arranges in space a world of real objects which, although taken from real­ity, acquire the char­ac­ter (accord­ing to Lacan) in this arranged space of a non-exist­ent, eer­ie ‘real’.

One strik­ing fea­ture is the recur­rence of the num­ber three. Three steps, three stages of a com­plex work­ing process

Since every artist pro­ceeds demi­ur­gic­ally and pro­duces a cre­atio ex nihilo, Kala­izis like­wise pro­duces an aes­thet­ic space. When he does so in the pro­cess of cre­ation, this is remin­is­cent of a trans­gres­sion, of cross­ing a desert – per­haps the ‘Desert of the Real’, to bor­row the title of anoth­er book by Sla­voj Žižek? 
One strik­ing fea­ture is the recur­rence of the num­ber three. Three steps, three stages of a com­plex work­ing pro­cess, three levels: sta­ging, cap­tur­ing and trans­fer­ring. Is this a delib­er­ate par­al­lel of a trin­ity – or a trip­tych? In his the­ory of beauty, Thomas Aqui­nas also spoke of three strict stages of a dia­lectic: per­fec­tion, har­mony and clar­ity (integ­ritas, con­son­an­tia, clar­itas). And in Ulysses, which is based on Homer’s epic poem Odys­sey, James Joyce ima­gines anoth­er trin­ity: para­lys­is, gnomon and simony.

His soul, his essence, sud­denly dis­solves before our eyes from the envel­ope of its appear­ance. The soul of the most com­mon thing, the struc­ture of which is out­lined in this way, begins to shine in our eyes, and now the thing under­goes its epi­phany. What does that mean? That this phe­nomen­on means the same for things as death for man­kind: the instant of para­lys­is, the moment of truth. Being the height of art, the epi­phany reveals the hid­den real­ity of the world and sim­ul­tan­eously reduces it to its pure essence. (3)

But surely Aris Kala­izis could paint any­thing he’d thought up? Why does he require this elab­or­ate pro­cess? Are these arrange­ments in the real world sup­posed to prove that the scene shown could actu­ally be real­ity? Is he cre­at­ing a space deli­ri­um which claims to be more real than real­ity itself?

The appear­ance of the real in the pres­ence of the grotesque

If we under­stand Joyce’s concept of epi­phany to be fun­da­ment­al to the pro­duc­tion of a work, this begs the ques­tion of what per­meates the work epi­phan­ic­ally. On the one hand, Aris Kalaizis’s scen­ic arrange­ments sug­gest cross­ing the desert of the real. A hyper-meta­phor of the demi­ur­gic­al seems to be circ­ling above the elab­or­ate work pro­cess. God cre­ated the world in sev­en days. Not for noth­ing does Joyce replace God with art. As soon as God had told Adam to name the things and the anim­als, the things were mor­ti­fied. The name as a sym­bol means the death of the thing, says Lacan. This also reminds us of the pres­ence of the grot­esque in paint­ings by for instance Hieronymus Bosch, Brue­gel and Gal­lot. In lit­er­at­ure, Kayser assigns the works of Goethe, Lenz, Büch­ner, Vic­tor Hugo, Jean Paul, E.A. Poe, E.T.A. Hoff­mann, Kafka and so on to the grot­esque. And he adds play­wrights like Wede­kind and Schnitz­ler to the list. In his book The Grot­esque in Art and Lit­er­at­ure, Wolfgang Kayser writes as fol­lows: “Friedrich Schle­gel tries not only to situ­ate the grot­esque in the con­text of aes­thet­ic con­cepts such as the naïve, the com­ic­al and the sub­lime, but also to con­nect it to mod­ern-day chaos the­or­ies.” The explan­a­tion shortly after­wards is very remin­is­cent of Lacan’s ‘the real’: “Kayser’s double thes­is that the grot­esque refers to the unavail­able, the incom­pre­hens­ible and unpor­tray­able….” Orna­ment­a­tion and the mini­ature also come into play. Isn’t this also the nature of the real?
The lengths to which Aris Kala­izis goes in the trin­ity of his cre­at­ive pro­cess are evoc­at­ive of a return to the real. Wheth­er a home­com­ing is also involved as in the hyper-meta­phor of Homer’s Odys­sey is uncer­tain, although this is an aspect indic­ated by the paint­ing fea­tur­ing a (fam­ily) tree. He ven­tures to cre­ate this space and enter it in the ima­gin­a­tion. But before it dis­ap­pears, he cap­tures it pho­to­graph­ic­ally, cre­at­ing evid­ence that the sub­sequently non-exist­ent scene did indeed once exist.
If these the­or­et­ic­al assump­tions are to explain some­thing about Aris Kalaizis’s work, we need to exam­ine wheth­er, through his style, he con­sti­tutes both unpor­tray­able real­ity and this part of the grot­esque in the twenty-first century.

Kayser W.: Das Groteske. Seine Gestal­tung in Malerei und Dich­tung, Stauffen­burg Ver­lag, Bri­gitte Narr, Tübin­gen, 2004
Lacan J: Die Ethik der Psy­cho­ana­lyse, Das Sem­in­ar Buch VII, Quad­riga Ver­lag, Wein­heim, Ber­lin, 1996
Par­is J.: Joyce, Rowohlt Taschen­buch Ver­lag, Ham­burg, 1960
Schlö­gel K.: Im Raume lesen wir die Zeit, Hanser Ver­lag, Munich, 2003
Žižek S.: Willkom­men in der Wüste des Realen, Pas­sagen Ver­lag, Vienna, 2nd edi­tion, 2014
Žižek S.: Quer durchs Reale, Pas­sagen Ver­lag, Vienna, 2012
Žižek S.: Ein Tri­umph des Blicks über das Auge. Psy­cho­ana­lyse bei Hitch­cock, Turia und Kant, Vienna, 1998

Fotini Ladaki, 2016
Fotini Ladaki, 2016

Fotini Ladaki, born in 1952 in north Greek land, is a psy­cho­ana­lyst (to Lacan and Freud) and works in her prac­tise in Cologne. In addi­tion, she works as a free author. Thus she writ­ten beside many essays about art and psy­cho­ana­lys­is, stage plays, stor­ies and lyr­ic also an essay about Ger­hard Richter„ Mor­itz“. About the fright of the exist­ence exper­i­ence or pos­sibly„ Freud came to Parla-Dora“. Their oth­er pub­lic­a­tions are to be found under the fol­low­ing web page:

©2016 Fotini Ladaki | Aris Kalaizis

© Aris Kalaizis 2024