‘To be able to live in different realities at the same time’

Hester Koper, our Editorial Manager, shares an awe-inspiring speech given by artist Marianne Eigenheer at the opening night of her exhibition at von Bartha in Basel

Hester Koper, our Editorial Manager, shares an awe-inspiring speech given by artist Marianne Eigenheer at the opening night of her exhibition at von Bartha in Basel

A painter and drawer of endless lines, Marianne Eigenheer (1945-2018) was also a master of words, which she proved in her poems – painted on window panes, or spoken aloud in her speeches. Inspired by lyrics, poetry and essays by people she admired, she loved to write.

I was once privileged to hear her give a speech at the opening dinner of the first exhibition of her work at our showroom in Basel. As she wove words and phrases from a seemingly different world into one another, much like the lines in one of her drawings, we all sat in awe when she finished. We would like to share excerpts of the speech from that evening with you here – a text that provides insight into her unique creative process, combining excerpts from writings by authors including Michel de Montaigne (Essays, 1580), Bruce Springsteen, and Lewis Carroll.

Spider Woman, her infinite patience and the weave of lines in art: God is a DJ
Excerpts from a speech by Marianne Eigenheer

Puebloans [Native Americans in the Southwestern United States who share common agricultural, material, and religious practices] described the Spider Woman, the creator of the universe, with names such as Kokyangwuti, Tsitsicinako, Sussistanako, Thought Woman, Thinking Woman. The world was the child from her head. She began the creation by spinning two threads East-West and North-South. She created two daughters: Sun and Moon. She shaped humans on earth from white, yellow, red and black clay. She destroyed the world several times and recreated it anew, as spiders do with their webs.

“Nothing is believed in as firmly as what we know the least of”

We are the ship We are the captain We are the water and the air, We are the gulls and the dolphins that play around the ship.

An on-site installation at Kunstmuseum Basel | Gegenwart by Marianne Eigenheer, 2018
Detail shot, on-site installation at Kunstmuseum Basel | Gegenwart by Marianne Eigenheer, 2018

Is NOW a place? Where is the past? As a child, I was happy to have found a place with the possibility to be when I was making music. The hands formed sounds and no one could comprehend where and who I was in these moments, for me the infinite, indeterminate NOW.

In an exhibition in Zurich, a professor of the ETH who studied and deals with artificial intelligence described my drawings from 1986: They depict the movements of your DNA, the many small changes that appear on the sheets, spread and then disappear again. (At that time I was thinking of drawings by Penck at the Kunstmuseum Basel; something very similar happened there).

From 1948/49 reading, reading, reading: German weekly newspapers, Life magazine, a little later C.G. Jung, Sven Hedin, Einstein’s theories, no one was bothered by this. In addition, children’s books, Ivanhoe, Prince Ironheart in Vienna, Tarzan-comics in Bern. Later Antonin Artaud, Georges Bataille, Pierre Klossowski, Jean Genet, his rope dancer accompanies me to this day. Hubert Fichte, Carlos Castaneda, the red Mao booklet, a lot of feminist literature and the course book and much that took place on different levels of reality. Serge Golovin in Bern, Timothy Leary in Lucerne. Continue reading, reading alongside intellectual literature also Chick Lit from London, wonderful. Rumi, Hafiz, Ramon Llull, Jörg Rheinberger, David Deutsch, Max Raphael, Gertude Stein, Victor Schklowskij, always keeping on reading and thinking, think to this day.

Einstein and Shakespeare sitting having a beer Einstein trying to figure out the number that adds up to this Shakespeare said, “Man it all starts with a kiss”
Einstein is scratching Numbers on his napkin Shakespeare said, “Man, it’s just one and one make three. Ah, that’s why it’s poetry”

I took all of this to the school of arts and crafts and drew the way I played notes, listening to space, time and lines, they sounded like music. There was no other way. To this day, I don’t know when I draw or write, whether I don’t always make music, so I compose what I was forbidden to do as a child, because women couldn’t, my mother’s verdict, just like mathematics.

M_Ei 4060
Marianne Eigenheer
Untitled, 1977
Colour pencil on paper
32 x 24 cm, framed 35 x 27 cm
M-Ei-4061-image (1)
Marianne Eigenheer
Untitled, 1977
Colour pencil on paper
32 x 24 cm, framed 35 x 27 cm

“Oh you fire lily,” Alice said.
For there was one growing there and rocked gracefully in the wind.
“if only you could talk!”
“We can already,” said the fire lily,
“as long as there’s someone worth talking to.”
“If you have to ask what it is, you will never know.”

Mozart’s sonatas are unique, too light for children and too difficult for pianists.

A very incisive event, the unexpected death of my teaching analyst, stopped my academic career at university and training as a psychoanalyst and literally threw me back into the pictures, big long picture rolls, lots of small works, first day and night, with a lot of alcohol. Every night then looking at what had been created, in the old rooms of the Art Museum, I could not see the works lying on the floor at home. A lot of reading, a lot of writing and drawing, besides always making money, so it should go on for many years now. Intensive long-term dialogues with very good friends and girlfriends were the lifeline not to dive.

Don’t say
It is the fault
Of poetry
It’s life
Rhythm of things
This Eternal Up and Down
The new experiences
Heroes no longer exist
We are human beings
People you understand
Bad and good

In addition to the traces of the change of colour game,
Nothing to see, nothing that could help me.
Understanding the rules of this game.
A different vision develops only slowly
From many many signs,
safe as the flight pictures of black birds
cold and strange in front of the windows.
From the children’s worlds of the three colours
Back figures are becoming more and more visible in the picture,
The memories quietly rise from the wall.

To be able to live in different realities at the same time and to be able to perceive this, as David German describes it in his books or my friend Idan Segev from Jerusalem, who is professor of computational neuroscience and finds art extremely important today, because just keep drawing lines, that’s bliss! In addition, the discussion about the place of time in the art field, where is the present, what is the past, or does it go on energetically after death, perhaps simply in the memory of the passed-on DNA? Post-contemporary can also be experienced properly, directly, while working, mixing intellect and sexuality. For more than 60 years, I have not done much else than try to float in the infinite water, without beginning or end, ideas, images, impressions that simply pass through me, like arrows, from all sides and sometimes I can imagine that this will continue endlessly in the water-turning as it started in the endless, perhaps.

“I need your voice” says the man armored in iron,
“sing me your song”.
Two marigolds glow in my hands, the angel stands by.
“I’m a dreamer,” the man says.
“I shall sing your dreams that are also mine,
the gray wolf and the black leopard at my side.”

The whole world can be seen in a drop of water.

Texts by: Michel de Montaigne (Essays, 1580), Bruce Springsteen, Lewis Carroll, Francois Jacob, genetic biologist and Nobel laureate (The Inner Statue, Zurich 1988), Louis Armstrong, Junichiro Tanazaki, In Praise of the Shadows, Artur Schnabel, Glenn Gould, Rose Ausländer all other texts M.E.

Marianne Eigenheer
Texts on Sheets of Glass
Shingle Street 2004-2017
M-Ei-4169-image (1)
Marianne Eigenheer
Untitled, 1981
Mixed media on paper
40 x 30 cm
Marianne Eigenheer
Untitled, ca. 1976
Wax crayon on paper
ca. 150 x 1050 cm
Header image: Detail shot of this work

To be the first to know about our activities, sign up for our newsletter below.

By sharing your email you agree to our Privacy Policy.

We use cookies for the best experience possible. Read more