How does our exchange with the environment take place? How do exterior influences and interior sensations become evident? How do insight, existence and awareness of the self become accessible? How does knowledge convey itself around the world? Since the 1980s Matt Mullican has been working on a concept on the systematics of everything tangibly existing and non-tangibly thinkable.
In order to categorize the most varied accesses to the world and forms of things, Mullican established a five-part hierarchy whose attribution of meaning can be deduced from 5 WORLDS 12 BENCHES: grids, reminiscent of ground plans or city layouts, are combined with signets, diagrams or pictograms. These references were particularly evident on the Vienna Graben through the surrounding advertising signs and the facade decor of the boulevard. But some parts of Mullican’s visualizations also have the effect of scientific illustrations. The “Wiener Banke” (Viennese Benches) are also similar to organograms, statistics and information pictures. Mullican therefore also calls the series of his systematic picture signs “Charts.”
Mullican’s design for the Kunstplatz Graben provided two rows of benches that were placed side by side. The first line presented graphic arrangements in a black outline, the second colored variations in a similarly rigid geometry. One bench stood for subjectivity, a second for language and forms of expression, a third one stood for the framed world, which art also belongs to, the fourth one for the unframed world and the world as such and the fifth for materiality. The remaining sixth one comprises all these meanings.
The work reflects the dimensions of sense and the five categories to the world: the green of the first benches seen from Tuchlauben and Naglergasse represents nature. For Mullican, green designates the substance of everything tangible, not only the landscape and ecology. Correspondingly, here the four elements can be found: the green circle in the middle shows the signs of water, earth, fire and air. Two rectangular yellow corner fields, flanking the circle, remain empty. Yellow stands in general for the idea that does not overlap with nature in this chart. On the bench next to it, the yellow squares draw towards the middle line — in the center is a blue field in which signs of everyday life such as human beings, houses, food and trees are inscribed. Besides the yellow squares, which now come together in the middle, the two following benches show halfcircles at the sides. Seen from above they appear like the throwing circles of a handball field. In one case the half circle is red on black ground, which expresses “subjectivity,” in another case green, again recently the mentor for “nature” or simple materiality as such, yet this time in a blue neighborhood. So the intersection with “everyday life,” the unframed world, becomes the subject. In the center of both charts are yellow fields filled with doubled pictograms. In Mullican’s color vocabulary, yellow means the discursive captivation of the world, the “idea,” a form of the platonic development of the real. In this field, the arts gather. Two signs each represent theater, film, painting and literature. The adjacent bench, dominated by the color blue, shows the signs for dance, music, photography and sculpture. On the following, the last but one bench, blue draws extensively to the outside and the yellow fields again move apart. They empty themselves. Yet it is this bench that comprises all the signs of all five world categories. The last bench, closest to Jungferngasse, concludes the symmetrical composition. At its centre there is a red and white circle — mirroring the green circle of the other end in the north — the core of human subjectivity.
Text: Thomas D. Trummer
Kunstplatz Graben, at Graben 21, 1010 Vienna
*1951 in Santa Monica (US), lives and works in Berlin and New York
About the work
5 WORLDS 12 BENCHES, 2013
steel and varnish
12 benches, each 44 x 98 x 196 cm