Horizone Line – Around a Map

We talk about the horizon of cognition, the horizon of occurrences, the horizon of history and so on. This is the topos which has its sources on optical experience. There are philosophical and cosmological metaphors on top of it. They concern cognition, our place in the world, the relationship with space and time. 

We may talk about the ‘human horizon’ marked by the artificial world created by man. Generally speaking the genesis and understanding of the term derives from a specific orientation and structure of our body, from which we take notions of extent and verticality of the quarters of the world. So, the ‘horizon’ is something positively anthropological which exists only for us when considering our position of an upright biped, non-flying terestial animal. It is difficult to imagine a horizon of fish.

Horizon line is undoubtedly one of the basic and most inspiring visual experiences.

A horizontal line of contact between the skyline and the earth or the sea is crossed out with the verticality of the observer’s position. It is possible to abstract from this connection the simplest composition made up by two lines. ‘Purer’ structure is richer in universal meanings. At least such was the conviction of Piet Mondrian. History of art also associated The Baltic with sea horizon, but it reached its peak in the 19th century. ‘A monk at the sea’ by Caspar David Friedrich might be the motto of our exhibition. The beach with the monk contemplating the distance seems to be a synthesis of everything that may be extracted from that motif. The sky on this painting does not stand out in relief against the sea as it might appear in the world of intense colors somewhere in the south of our continent. Here, on The Baltic, the sky frequently merges with the sea what creates a foggy, indefinite profoundess. Friedrich saw in it a sign of transcendence which was placed by nature itself. It was a symbol of unity and divine illimitableness contemplated by the monk. Since that time the artistic vision of The Baltic has been a romantic one. Even though this is not a great sea, sailing it may be like roaming a milky distance in which Gordon Pym from Nantucket submerged when he was going for a meeting with unknown destiny, in a result with himself. Because when you do not have any points of reference you are really alone.

Accidentally, the Baltic Region is lucky to have similar moods not only in art. Its seaside cities hosted many famous metaphysicians (in a broad range of this word). Descartes died in Stockholm. Schopenhauer was born in Gdansk. Kant spent his entire life in Königsberg. So was Kieerkegaard in Copenhagen, to mention only the greatest stars. In the realm of imagination and literary toposes astronomy is neighbouring with philosophy. Johannes Hevelius lived on The Baltic and Copernican Frombork also is not very far…

A new element of this mosaic has recently been created thanks to some Finnish philosophers, namely Jaako Hintikka and his school. Their most spectacular achievement – ‘the semantics of possible worlds’ – is probably one of the most poetic among philosophical formulations, although it is connected with formalized logical apparatus, which seldom interests people of arts.

This is why metaphysical applications of such theories must remain the property of professionals. This often causes a conviction that there are no real philosophers anymore. When languages become specialized, only few insiders can understand them. When it is very difficult to talk about metaphysics in common language and a language of wisdom becomes a professional dialect, the artists try to enter this gap. In a way it explains a specific archaism which is typical for many modern works. Such archaism is frequently very sophisticated and consciously constructed by means of sophisticated technological equipment.  A video work BETA-NASSAU by Piotr Wyrzykowski from Gdansk records with a static camera a rusted ship’s side. This is an excellent exemplification of this phenomenon. In such kind of art we sometimes find a sort of longing for simplicity and the power of expression of facts of art in a very distant past.

Ancient megalights, single or in groups, are testimony to a complicated social organization, unknown and forgotten just as beliefs and rituals to which they belonged. They strike with their austerity, nakedness of their matter and direct reference, but we do not know to what they refer anymore. 

It is hard to call their form attractive. They are rather signs of mystery, i.e. they are what many contemporary artists wish to achieve.

Some say their art is postmodernist, although this is true only when the art of postmodernist world might be called like that. This is the Tower of Babel of sliced languages.

The ambition of Horizon Line was in a sense to create a park of signs of the unknown. This is the reason – besides all geopolitical and historical circumstances – of choosing such rudimentary visual experience as the motto of the exhibition.

Lech Karwowski 

Translated from Polish into English by Cezary Długosz

Organisation: The Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle in Szczecin, Municipality of Szczecin

Curator: Lech Karwowski

Collaboration: Leszek Wójcik

Venue: Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle, Szczecin, 11.08-30.09.1995