Rarely mentioned, seldom cited, the iconoclastic Dutch art historian Simon Stuyn holds a pivotal place in the development post-modernism. As a lecturer at the Universiteit Beeldende Kunsten in Maastricht, his centrality within the discourse is belied by the arbitrary fortunes of geography and language. What little he has published has yet to be translated into English, (his most important work, Weerzinwekkend Bewijsgrond has been adequately translated into French under the inexact title Pensées Inhabituelles), and as a militant opponent of capital punishment he refuses to travel to the United States.
His influence on the work and intellectual development of my eclectic friend David Schoffman has been profound.
|Portrait of Simon Stuyn, charcoal on paper, Orestia Shestov, 1998 (private collection)|
His most accessible (though least plausible) theory is that all products of the imagination begin with what he calls "spraak tijken" or language tics. These 'tics' are unconsciously yet deliberately misunderstood and ultimately filtered into what he strangely calls "reverie artifacts" or "mijmering artefacten." Literature, according to Stuyn is a "groot tijk" or a "big tic" whereas the visual arts are "minderjarige tijken" or "minor tics." The principle condition of post-modernism is what Stuyn calls "de verschrikkelijke synthese van grote en kleine tijken," or "a maudlin medley of major and minor tics" (translation mine).
When David and I were students, new theories of European pedigree had tremendous currency among young artists eager to break from the conventions of formalism. Schoffman was taken by Stuyn, Grissold, Lacan, Jabotinsky and the entire Rotterdam School. His work has been a distillation (although a gross misunderstanding) of these ideas ever since.
I personally think that Stuyn is what the Dutch call a "heide hoofd" (loosely translated, a "bog brain') and that David's entire career has been a misguided attempt to render visual the incoherent blatherings of a third-rate theoretician.
Sadly, this explains a lot.