Artistic Form as a Distancing From the Content of the Work of Art (From Girl Squatting to Squatting Felt as a Girl)


Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s “Girl Squatting” (1910)

Can squatting be separated from the object that is squatting? Can the squatting posture be perceived independently – differently from the squatting object? Isn’t the pleasure we take from observing the squatting girl a pleasure from observing squatting as such, without the girl as soon as it is squatting of the girl registered by Kirchner’s painting?

In other words, is art identical with its content? Or is it rather a celebration of art’s freedom from its content through identification with its form, when the object of work of art renders herself to its construction as a sublime/spiritual double of itself, as losing its material/fleshy “origin”, as soon as it is perceived by the aesthetic, not completely human, emotion of its creator? Is aesthetic perception like squatting without the girl?

Kirchner’s sketch seems to be a celebration of squatting without the squatter, squatting distanced from the squatter, squatting for which the squatter is a forgotten past, like body is a memory for the spirit separated from it. In this sense a painting steals from its own content – with immediate amnesia of what happened, what is stolen and how and why. May be, the squatter never existed or she exists only in the work of art, in the painter’s emotional alchemy?
Is artistic form a hypnotic forgetfulness of life and art’s content (representing life inside the work of art), like the ogre of eternal life is a cannibal of our existence? Well, even Botticelli is ambiguous here – even (naturalistic) beauty of the body keeps some emotion of admiration alive (the feeling that the naturalistic body is lifted) while simultaneously, perception of the admired object is “falling down” onto the bodily surface. But Kirchner is much more unambiguously ambiguous. Here the body has not only been already, as if, lifted up but while able, as if, to recover its earthly heaviness, it is immediately transformed into its aesthetically distorted (beautified) ghost. Among the garden of colors we see a bud from which a giant flower of the body opens its petals to light and to sight.

Life is more important than beauty. But beauty according to Kirchner is life disinterestedly living in front of us. But the key to disinterested living is in the hands of beauty that asserts its superiority over life only to surrender it as life of aesthetics itself. Kirchner’s aesthetic sublimation allows for intensified pleasure of perception in a condition of overcoming life’s rigidity, hardness, inertia and a lack of self-reflection.

We don’t know is the squatting girl beautiful or gracious and we don’t care. But with Kirchner we know that her very life in the painting is real, beautiful and gracious. Can there be anything more beautiful than living “in” the canvass (than being this flower of the flesh coming out of earth)?

That is the mystery of the squatting – recognition of our connection with the earth, of how our very body is born from earthly womb creating life – the primordial beauty of living among colors of life where blue transforms into green, pink into orange, orange into brown, and violet into black lines of the contours and covers and openings. Squatting is a monument to the connection of human body with earth, the very posture of the unity between human body and earth-body.

Kirchner discovers squatting as the very birth of human womb from the womb of the earth, the primal flower of the human body as a flower of the body of earth. “Girl Squatting” Kirchner transforms into squatting of the girl and then into the squatting (girl-squatting, squatting-girl, squatting felt as a girl) – the mother and the child of earth and sky. And the girl’s lips are the very kiss of mother earth’s womb.