I am a Thief

“I am a thief. I steal someone’s creation. I take someone else’s ‘success and make it my own.” Jóhann Eyfells

There is an inert and outward beauty in these so called found objects that Eyfells selects as his own. How is he able to recognize the inherent genius that created each of these objects? Is it God or is it Man? When each of these forms were initially created, they were designed and manufactured for a single function use to serve mankind. Jóhann Eyfells recognizes, not only the brilliant unambiguous engineering in each of these object, but also the inherent beauty of obsolescence. Most of these pieces share a common fate. They experienced a similar array of forces that it took to create, utilize and destroy them. Eyfells is merely there to bring these forces to light by displaying these objects in their various stages of disintegration and dissolution. He will also go as far as to give them new life and re-purpose them into functioning pieces of art. Thanks to Jóhann they begin a new life of artistic expression.

Object1sm

(photo courtesy of Hayden de M. Yates)

Should you wish to participate towards the making of our feature film documentary, A Force in Nature, you can do so right here:

https://paypal.me/VitruviusCreations

Advertisements

My life with Jóhann

It is a rare moment when I can fully reflect on my life and acknowledge how a single human being has significantly influenced my life.  But after almost 10 years of knowing Jóhann Eyfells, as an artist and a human being, I have finally managed to do just that.

JohannHayden

The art of Johann Eyfells is not an embodiment of the person but rather an expression of  something beyond the person, beyond the rational constructs of modern civilization that have shaped our physical lives. When you stand and face an Eyfells’ sculpture be prepared to be intellectually, psychically and spiritually challenged. You are about to enter a reality that is both unfamiliar and irrational. It is truly the unknown, seemingly chaotic, which most of us will avoid at all costs.

I have no doubt now, that Jóhann Eyfells is as nimble, precise and swift with his understanding of the cosmos and the physical world we live in, as he was in the ring as a boxing champion in Iceland. It is with this almost ‘supernatural’ agility that he is able to conceptualize and execute all of his projects, whether it is his collapsions, in which ‘time’ as an abstract concept is visually revealed, his cairns, his rocks or his multiple installations of ‘industrial made’ found objects of massive proportions, sometime weighing up to 14 tons.

HMY_3810

And let me tell you, when I stop to think how a 92 year old, whose body is as fragile as porcelain, can manage to lift and precisely position these huge rusted steel remnants of an industrial age past to satisfy his aesthetic compulsion as an artist, I am often left speechless and astonished.

HMY_3806

Yes, indeed, he often sees the inherent beauty of something that would otherwise seem obsolete and discarded to most of us seemingly ‘forward thinking’ humans, and that is precisely what these objects have become to him, beautiful expressions of human engineering and brilliance. Recently, they have become necessary and critical components to articulating to the world our often unsettled and sometimes fearful relationship with the unknown and irrational. It does seem ironic that he uses the very elements that not only embody the rational and physical world, manufactured tools and elements of the industrial age, like giant turbine propellers, to open our minds to the unfamiliar seemingly insane world of Eyfells.

As a true artist, he tirelessly challenges our tendency towards complacency, brought on by the comforts and conveniences of the industrial, electronic and now, digital age. I see him as the Don Quixote of the 21st century, tirelessly and against all odds, confronting the rational world, except this time he does not represent a tragic character that ultimately gives in to ‘convention’ and renounces his ‘insanity’ to become a mere shepherd. No, instead, he selflessly provides us with the opportunity to see for ourselves how collectively we can easily be allured by the deceptiveness of rational thought, that it is ok to embrace the irrational, the unknown. He is our new hero, without a doubt, and it will take us a little while to realize this. Its highly probable that he will not see this revolution of thought take hold before he passes on, but I would hope that he will bare witness to a larger audience and more global appreciation of his accomplishments.

where-in-the-universe-81

If WE are willing and courageous enough to allow ourselves to be immersed into the unknown and uncharted aspects of our intellect and psyche, I promise, like I have, YOU will in fact see the light and wisdom of Jóhann’s aesthetic expression and art, and as a result, be forever transformed.

Today, thanks to the insight I’ve gained through Johann’s work and vision, I feel I am at a better place in my life, simply because I am not defeated by the fear of the unknown. In fact, it is that fear that signals that part of me to move forward instead of backward, to take risks and ‘leaps of faith’. It is also through those ‘leaps of faith’ that I discover new understanding, not only of myself, but of the cosmos around me. I will certainly miss Jóhann when he is no longer with us, but his insight and joy of life will eternally course through my veins.        Written by Hayden de M. Yates

Johann52614e

Photos by Hayden de M. Yates and Ian Candler

To see the trailer of the new documentary film, A Force in Nature, go to the following link:  https://vimeo.com/135532487

The Opposite of Murphy’s Law

The life and work of Jóhann Eyfells is a constant reminder that “if something can go right, it will go right.” Since the first day I met with my friend Jóhann, almost nine years ago, my life has taken a whole new meaning, and for the better, without a doubt.

JEyfells2See this teaser, A Force in Nature (password: spirals), a feature length documentary film looking at the life and work of Jóhann Eyfells.

Sigurður Pálsson – “To be alive is to Become…”

sigurdur_palsson

“We were not intended to Be, but to Become”

We would like to thank Sigurður Pálsson for his beautiful contribution to A Force in Nature.

Born 30. 7. 1948 at Skinnastadur, Iceland, Sigurður Pálsson studied French in Toulouse and Paris 1967-1968, drama and literature at the Institute d’Etudes Théâtrales, Sorbonne, Paris 1968-1973 and again from 1978-1982, obtaining maîtrise and D.E.A. degrees. He also studied at the Conservatoire Libre du Cinéma Français, obtaining a cinema direction diploma. He was professor at the University of Reykjavik and the National Academy of Dramatic Art. Sigurdur Pálsson has also published thirteen books of poetry from 1975 to 2006.  Some of his poems have been translated  into French, Swedish, English, Danish, German, Bulgarian, Chinese, Estonian, Italian, Spanish. He is also a cinema producer.

He was nominated for the Nordic Council Prize for Literature in 1993, and for the Icelandic Literary Prize in 1995 and 2001 and finally in 2007 for Minnisbók (Notebook from Memory) for which he received the Prize. Minnisbók is a memoir of his stay in France during 1967-1982, a playful, bittersweet, funny and charming description of an époque. He was awarded the annual Literary Prize of the Icelandic Radio 1999 and the Booksellers’ Prize for Poetry, 2001. Selected poems were published in French in 1993 in a bilingual edition (Poèmes des hommes et du sel) by Editions de  la  Différence. A selection of Pálsson’s poems was published in Bulgarian in 2005 and in Italien (with texts by two other Icelandic poets) in 2006. A selection in Spanish, Vientos y Nubes, was published in 2008. Pálsson has written eleven theatre plays that have been staged from 1975  to 2008, many of them by the Reykjavik City Theatre while the two most recent ones, a much acclaimed play on the life of Edith Piaf, and the last one, Utan gátta, were put on by the Icelandic National Theatre. One libretto: The Moonlight Island, world premiere in 1997 in Beijing. Music by Nordic Council Prize Winner, Atli Heimir Sveinsson. Three novels: Parísarhjól (The Big Wheel of Paris) published in 1998, Blár þríhyrningur (Blue Triangle) in 2000 and Næturstaður (Night Lodging) 2002.

Pálsson has also produced two full-length features (in 1983 and 1992) by Kristín Jóhannesdóttir.  As in Heaven was selected in the Official Selection (Out of competition) in the Cannes Film Festival in 1992  and has won about twelve prizes in international film festivals. He has directed three TV films and several theatre plays.

Pálsson has translated over twenty titles from French into Icelandic, works by Camus, Genet, Adamov, Arrabal, Ghelderode, Feydeau, Bailly, Queffélec, Prévert, Éluard, Carrère, Augé, Deforges, Cordelier, Châtelet, Vinaver, Anne, Kvaran and Schmitt and also two plays by Arthur Miller. Sigurdur Pálsson was President of the Alliance Française of Iceland from 1976 to 1977. Chairman of the Writers’ Union of Iceland from 1984 to 1988.  He was awarded the three  years Honorary Stipend of the City of Reykjavik in 1987 and has several times been granted a Writer’s Stipend from the State of Iceland. He was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1990 by the French Minister of Culture and Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite in 2007 by the President of France.

http://vimeo.com/52449621  password: “spirals”

You Asked Me to Explain Jóhann Eyfells: In the spirit of “Receptualism” or “Uncreationism”

Image

Our Problem:  The Unconscious versus the Conscious. All great activities escape consciousness.

I assume it is a fundamental trait of human nature to desire an explanation when faced with something unknowable, or in other words to be comforted by something that can “only” be sensed. As an abstract artist in the modernist tradition, I generally shy away from trying to explain the “unknowable” that belongs to the eternal nature of all things. On the other hand, I am always more willing to make an attempt at unraveling the categories of an infinitely active beginning-less and ending-less continuum, which is always implicitly present in all creative manifestations. Additionally, and perhaps more fundamentally, I would also be more than willing to attempt to unravel and elucidate the infinite ability of “our” creative unconsciousness to reach beyond anthropomorphic concepts of symptoms and symbols, and thus try to penetrate into the obscure conceptual categories of the unconsciousness itself.

CHANCE

The driving force and the only unifying factor behind all of the investigative endeavors as articulated above can be made more specific by the employment of the all-inclusive, yet radically dualistic and ambivalent term: “operational necessity.”

The reader will most likely recognize the term from the vernacular of industrial or military strategies, yet this expression has a much more immediate and radically different dynamic application in the domains of philosophy and art, the two domains where our use of the phrase, “operational necessity” exemplifies a momentary rejection of all established values. If we imagine two unequal and irreducible forces, one dominant and the other dominated in close proximity to one another, then what we witness at the very moment when they enter into a relationship is a necessary formation of a whole or an absolute birth of an “event” which cannot be scientifically verified. It is only to be observed and perhaps described. Thus our “operational necessity” serves no established patterns and is of the kind that contains no known causes (no know “WHYs”). This enigmatic, yet super-positive version of our quarry contains, however, a totally fresh “uncreated” and an almost esoteric essence or a will, which appears or turns out to be necessarily constituted by two irreducible halves, Chaos and Circular Motion, where oppositions do not exist. Thus our quarry becomes the “embodiment” of the impossibility of the existence of “absolute” wholes, but exemplifies instead, the ceaseless and absolute genesis of something. Again our “operational necessity” must thus be recognized as the thought of pure becoming a momentary creation and a chance occurrence. A specific yet unbiased “example” would be “THE THROW OF THE DICE.”

Furthermore, and concretely, the double meaning of “operational necessity” depends on whether we affirm our own difference (positively) or deny that which differs (negatively). Finally and most deeply, “operational necessity” is defined negatively as the ”affirmation” of established values and positively defined as the transmutation of all known values.

Similarly, the multiple phenomenon which I call “Singularicity” exists as a unique whole or being of sensation that cannot be measured or compared. It can only be sensed. It is the kind of complex unity that ideally would exemplify the union of life and thought, sometimes referred to as a “pre-Socratic unity.”

 THE ART

This is the essence of art. It can only be affirmed as a necessity of chance (i.e. as a creative thought). What occurs in the innermost nature of my mind as I imagine eternity or infinity is the concept of the (new) positive version of “operational necessity”, i.e. only the affirmative and positive kind as articulated above. I have no choice but to act in light of this joyful and profound event. Thus, I am attempting to express through my work infinity joyously announcing itself. Poets and great composers of music are pioneers in similar pursuits, and I would go as far as to say that this mode of being could become a universal human quest, entirely momentary and positive.

In reference to my work, the reader inevitably will be aware of a physical rupture of a continuum as is clearly evidenced by my spirals and even more so in my dissected cubes and rocks. And it is surely the space in-between that becomes a domain of revelations and that will elevate our perceptions. I strive to evoke a sense of an eternity of aesthetic invisibility into my pieces. It is my hope that this infinitely repeated aesthetic “something” is there as surely as are the support structures and the pedestals that I build to support each piece.

All authentic aesthetic feelings that are affected by a work of art must, ideally gain their tone meaning as the magnificent gifts from outside that I strive to portray. Much rewardingly, I have had people look at my work and tell me positive things I could never have anticipated. Occasionally, I have been elated beyond measure by some viewers’ reactions to an art piece I created, and of course, I have been moved in similar ways by the work of my fellow artists on numerous occasions.

 THE MOVIE

Does “exterior reality” sometimes feel like we are in somebody’s movie? Do you “almost” hear and see the unknowable script echoing in and passing through your head as you keep wondering what existence might conceivably be about? Does the unknowable leave you unsettled, feeling incomplete and skeptical? Don’t despair…confronting the unknowable is the concrete form of the human condition, and we must have total faith in and embrace this feeling of radical ambivalence, because it initiates the necessity of our faith in the world and that which becomes the fundamental source and cause of everything, a sort of a “womb” of absolute genesis or that which I call “only a birth”. It exists as the entirely momentary fact of living or the glittering “Being” of the flash of eternity. It is the inside of the inside, a version of infinity that wants to show itself. That is the “durational” movie you and I are in; a movie that is the highest functionary of what IS – a power that has the ability to instill in us as deviations/spirals, again, or eternally “once more”, faith in the world, and only new faith in living can re-join us to the movies’ script: “our” seeing, “our” hearing, “our” feeling, “our” loving, “our” creating, etc, etc. Embrace it! We (as dispersed absences of the origin) call it “Receptualism”. Welcome it!

I = M∞2

Image

What is the role of the artist?

Image

The following is an interview of Jóhann Eyfells in the early 60’s, shortly  after he decided to leave architecture for sculpture.

Published Interview – October 17, 1964 – Visir (Icelandic newspaper) by Steinnun S. Briem

SB. What are you expressing with this?

JE. “I think that this work of mine does a better job of saying something about me, than I can say about ‘it’. It is very difficult to analyze and explain one’s own work. The artist expresses himself through a certain form, and through this particular form he says all he has to say. When I have expressed myself in sculpture, I cannot repeat the same thing in another form, that is to say in words. This does not mean that I don’t know what I am doing, but I express myself as a sculptor, not as a man with words. All outside influences, that affect me, all inner movements of the emotions, must inevitably find expression in my work. No artist can exist outside his times. The forces of his era always surround him. Perhaps one can detect anxiety and apprehension in my work; ruins, timelessness…how long will this live?…how long does mind live in matter? So much remains unsaid.”

SB. Are you a kind of artist-philosopher?

JE. “No, I am not. Some forms of visual expression base their life on intellectual reasoning, but my art relies more on the logic of feelings. It is two different things to know and to understand. We may know what we are doing, although we may not understand it. We turn on the light by pressing the switch, but we do not understand electricity. We understand nothing.”

“We are constantly taking new steps into the unknown, both in science and art, but do we really understand what is happening? I do not think so. That is why I cannot say much about my work. I can discuss my position and attitude towards art, but not the expression of what I sense. That is in my work and nowhere else.”

And here is some info about A Force in Nature, a feature documentary film due out in Spring or summer of 2013

You can join us on Facebook at Friends of Jóhann Eyfells
Twitter: @haydenyates

Take a look at a few scenes from our film below. Don’t forget the password:
http://vimeo.com/52449621
password: “spirals”

Redefining Art in the 21st Century.

Screen Shot 2012-06-22 at 2.45.54 AM

Jóhann Eyfells, a defyingly driven 89 year old Icelandic sculptor living in Texas, redefines the meaning and purpose of art for the 21st century. Art is no longer a commodity or something that is there merely as a status symbol or to satisfy a superficial aesthetic need. It has a higher more profound purpose, to reformulate human consciousness. It is there to remind humanity of its own eternal infinite nature that goes beyond time and space. As a young man in Iceland, he was considered to be an exceptional boxer who had never experienced defeat. He would win over his opponent not because he was stronger, but because he would be faster, infinitely so. Boxing provided him with a glimpse of a boundless universe in which everything traveled at infinite speed.

Through Jóhann’s penetrating insight and body of work, we can begin to catch a glimpse at an infinite and ‘unknowable’ universe that resides around us…in spite of our precarious fondness of the visible and physical world.

“Complacency is the unwillingness to explore the chaotic unknown and the undefinable, and resigning ourselves to the coziness of the knowable.” Hayden de M. Yates

Jóhann’s fiery loyalty and commitment had not always been limited just to art. At 23, he left his home in Iceland, land of fire and ice, to forge a new life in America, where he would eventually meet the love of his life, Kristin, also an Icelandic sculptor/painter, with whom he would spend the next 54 years.

Jóhann and Kristin, in their undiluted love for one another would both become consummate and masterly artists, each pushed by the other’s genuine passion and tenacious commitment to their craft, as an expression of humanity and beyond.

And here is some info about A Force in Nature, a feature documentary film due out in Spring or summer of 2013. The password is “spirals”.

You can join us on Facebook at Friends of Jóhann Eyfells
Twitter: @haydenyates

Take a look at a few scenes from our film below. Don’t forget the password:
http://vimeo.com/135532487

Power of Passage – Reykjavik Museum of Art – Jóhann Eyfells

A major exhibit of Jóhann Eyfells’ collaption along with a video installation by filmmaker, Þór Elís Pálsson at Iceland’s Reykjavik Museum of Art.

As the title suggests, Power of Passage explores the passing moment and its image. The focal point of the exhibition is the large scale Cloth Collapsion by Jóhann Eyfells (b. 1923) which is shown alongside a three-channel video installation created by video artist Þór Elís Pálsson, using his own interviews with Eyfells about his philosophy of art and life.

The exhibit is from September 12 to January 6, 2013

See the trailer for A Force in Nature, a full length documentary film about the artist.

http://vimeo.com/50200612

Jóhann Eyfells takes on the art world.

David Hickey (born circa 1939) is an American art and cultural critic. He has written for many American publications including Rolling Stone, Art News, Art in America, Artforum, Harper’s Magazine, and Vanity Fair. He is currently Professor of English at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and Distinguished Professor of Criticism for the MFA Program in the Department of Art & Art History at the University of New Mexico.

John Rajchman (born June 25, 1946) is a philosopher working in the areas of art history, architecture, and continental philosophy.  John Rajchman is an Adjunct Professor[1] and Director of Modern Art M.A. Programs in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University. He has previously taught at Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Collège International de Philosophie in Paris, and The Cooper Union, among others. He is a Contributing Editor for Artforum and is on the board of Critical Space. John Rajchman received a B.A., from Yale University and Ph.D., from Columbia University.

My challenge to both John Rajchman and David Hickey:

Dave Hickey, in the 1990’s, stated “nothing new has happened for 30 years.” I don’t agree. I feel, Mr. Hickey has to redeem himself. He has to reevaluate that statement. He says that nothing new has happened during my lifetime. That made me loose interest in investigating what he was saying. In fact, I don’t think I read anything by him since that statement because I judged it all worthless. I need a different kind of attention. As a thinker and an artist, I need to be aroused, not be put to sleep. In a way, putting people to sleep is common now. They should be giving lectures to a group of cows. No kidding! Have you ever seen a cow look up? They don’t look up. They just act like “life is wonderful.”

John Rajchman I believe does have an insight in what I do as an artist. Yet, I also question some of what he writes. He stated that “The house (materiality of life) has not been designed yet”. The word ‘design’ in this context I find questionable. It implies that creation or birth is intentional and that there is a Creator behind it. That’s a very culturally correct phrase to say, yet in my mind, birth is unintentional in it’s purity. John Rajchman writes “the jurisprudence of the singular,” I say, “the laws of chance.”

My fundamental questions to people are, does infinity have to have a starting point? Are beginnings the opposite of infinity? Is everything made of two halves?
If you ask a scientist today why the solar system works the way it does, his response would probably be because it simply does. There is a word for the solar system in Icelandic which literally means “Circular Nonsense.”
This acceptance of nonsense or unexplained events around us is the basis of faith. Even though it is nonsense, we have to have faith in it, in order to enjoy it. Chaos and delirium are necessary, for we should accept them for what they are. They are simply things without an end product or result. My recent sculpture, Plus and Minus Zero, represents the eternal synthesis of the infinite past with the infinite future. It’s the strangest unity in the universe. It’s also hard to distinguish between a Creator/Super Author and the actual creation or product. It’s a synthesis of contrast.

Only eternity is autonomous and self sufficient, and only a birth implies an absolute critic. We need a new perspective, period.”

Jóhann Eyfells

Dave Hickey’s response made April 24, 2012:

“I was wrong. I am writing a book called Pagan America to make up for it, so I’ll have to wait for redemption. Thanks.”  David Hickey

Receptual Cairn V

Image

Receptual Cairn V - Photo by Hayden de M. Yates

 

“The piece you are looking at above is titled “Receptual Cairn V”, a powerful representation of two significant ideas. First, the idea of “receptualism”, a neologism which encompasses Eyfells’ conceptual approach to art, teaches us that existence is very fragile, organic and inorganic. Although this piece seems so massive and indestructible, it is quite fragile and temporary. This “power of passage” eliminates time, and we are left with an unencumbered reality which is calming. Secondly, the cairn, a way finding symbol, expresses the primal nature of necessity and chance, for Jóhann Eyfells did not create this piece with hammer and chisel, rather he let it form itself from molten materials poured into molds then fired at the foundry.”   Sherryl Brown