Light and Color as Symbolic Forms in Transgressive Art

Denis Grünemeier, Jens Meinrenken

Light and color are symbolic forms of transgression per se. As physical entities they only become tangible through temporal and spacial expansion, immediately touching the eye of the observer. As this lecture’s central thesis will point out, their symbolic meaning thus stands in direct relation to their energetic quality. At the same time, the intensive use of light and color in modern art refers to a specific metaphysical thinking, which is still deeply rooted in religious thought. The interplay of light and color is also not only transgressive, but in a way aggressive, as it provides an arena for competition with established and novel art forms. However, the drive for originality and need for repetition and replication only appear to oppose each other. The lecture aims to illustrate that the most groundbreaking artworks—from painting to film and comics—have triggered an upsurge in appropriation. Vice versa it may be claimed that novel artworks are created only through enduring repetition. Within the transgression of light and color this creative dialectic acquires its unique function—as both a mediator of information and as an expression of a specific, creative way of thinking in modern art.

Jens Meinrenken is an art historian, lecturer, and curator. He studied art history, philosophy, and German language as well as literature in Bamberg, Germany, and Berlin. He is currently working on a dissertation project titled Dynamic Sequences. On the Relationship between Comic, Storyboard and Film. He is chair of the Deutscher Comicverein and has published numerous articles on a wide range of subjects including animated movies, computer games, and comics. His work as a curator includes Heroes, Freaks, and Super-Rabbis. Jewish Dimension of Comic Art at the Jewish Museum Berlin (2010) and Comics from Berlin. Pictures of a City, Haus der Berliner Festspiele (2013). Recent publications are Talos und das Haus der 28 Türen (www.28doors.eu) and “Wenn das Gute über den Teufel triumphiert. Die biblische Apokalypse im Comic,” in: Apocalypse Now! Visionen von Schrecken und Hoffnung in der Kunst vom Mittelalter bis heute (2014).

Denis Grünemeier studied art history and cultural studies at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and at the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow. He works as an art critic and curator, and is currently working on his PhD on light and light design in film. He has published numerous articles in books, exhibition catalogs, and in publications including Monopol, Artnet, and Moskauer Deutsche Zeitung. From 2011 to 2013 he was a scientific trainee at the Jewish Museum Berlin and part of the curatorial team of the exhibition Heimatkunde. How German is it? 30 Artists’ Notion of Home (2011–2012). He then curated the exhibition Bedřich Fritta. Drawings from the Theresienstadt Ghetto, which was on view at the Jewish Museum Berlin from May to September 2013. In 2013, he was a fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude in cooperation with the Hermann von Helmholtz-Centre for Cultural Techniques of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.