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Roland Schimmel: Innocence and Experience

The last 10 years the words innocence and experience have been circling around in my head. The mural I made in Het Oog (Van Abbemuseum) in 2012 was called The innocent Eye; the title refers to the subtle mechanism of seeing fleeting after-images that, once you focus on them, happen spontaneously and beyond (conscious) control.

Afterimages are exactly complementary to the original colour-inprint. Together with halo's they are whole-field effects. Whilst causing from inside an exciting feeling of being out of controll, they simultaneously counterbalance penetrating forces and can have a healing and balancing effect.

An innocent baby, in the first stages of its live, experiences the world as an overwhelming chaos of unarticulated impressions in which literally anything is possible.
According to psychoanalyst Daniel Stern a baby is at first unable to make a distinction between the different senses: perception in this pre-cognitive stage of live is still multimodal and hyperdifferential. (For instance: the visually calculating of distances has been preceded by touch and that’s how tactility lives on in vision, on a subconscious, virtual level. I am inclined to think of this as a primordial way of interdisciplinary collaboration...)||

As we grow up this immense potential of possibilities is being pruned by learning processes and language. In this way our original endless ability to respond (response-ability) is being more and more tailored by education, experience and societal restrictions. Resulting in an apparently seamless and stable environment. Paradoxically this stability is also due to our eye movements that are goal oriented by nature: the eyes move from one fixation point to another without noticing the split second of the movement in between (1). It seems as if we are blind for this interval, or maybe not raised to acknowledge it.

And yet it is during this interval that decisions are being made: it is the necessary time/space to process impressions, to recover and attune. It is also the space of our imagination and the time of making connections. (2).

The senses, embedded in the rich soil of the body, are a product of history and evolution. Collaboration of the senses, each from its own bio-cosmic memory, adds colour and flavour to the quality of the experience.
We need the capacity of being affected by the instability and subtlety of the senses in order to experience 'the wild beyond to the structures we inhabit and that inhabit us' (Jack Halberstam in The Undercommons).


1. Jonathan Crary '...the fixed immobile eye... is what annihilates the seeming 'naturalness' of the world and discloses the provisional and fluid nature of visual experience, whereas the mobile glancing eye is what preserves the preconstructed character of the world. (Suspensions of Perception, 299/300).

2. Some fascinating, related views on the interval:
In Minima Moralia Adorno describes the shellshock of soldiers returning from the war as: 'Everywhere, with each explosion, (war) has breached the barrier against stimuli beneath which experience (Erfahrung), the lag between healing oblivion and healing recollection, forms... Life has changed into a timeless succession of shocks, interspaced with empty, paralyzed intervals.'
Carl Einstein: 'The image is a hallucinatory interval, that irrationalizes the world' (Didi-Huberman, Picture = Rupture, Papers of Surrealism Issue 7, 2007,18).
And Erin Manning in a chapter called Attuning to the Interval: 'Relational movement generates and is generated by intervals' (The Minor Gesture, 120).


1. William Blake, Innocence and Experience (Tate Enterprises Ltd.)
2. quote from: Ruskin cited by Jonathan Crary in Techniques of the Observer, 95
3. Paul Cezanne, Trees and Rocks at Chateau Noir, watercolour
4. William Blake, Samson Subdued, c.1800(detail)
5. Roland Schimmel, The Innocent Eye, wall painting in Het Oog, Van Abbemuseum (2012)
6. Erin Manning: fragment from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7yQaicWD_M
7. Carl Jung, The Red Book
8. Quote from: Giuliana Bruno, Surface Encounters: Materiality and Empathy (in: Mirror-Touch Synaesthesia, edited by Daria Martin, pg 116)
9. Mirror-Touch Synaesthesia, edited by Daria Martin
10. quote from: Daria Martin, Introduction in Mirror-Touch Synaesthesia, 12
11. Card for the Warburg Institude, London
12. an exemple of how books are ordered in the library of the Warburg Institude 
13. page from A.E. Thierens, 'De Astrologie als Levensleer'.
14. Roland Schimmel, Blind Spot 3, computeranimation (loop), music by David Lopato, technical realisation by Maurice van Brummelen, Plaatsmaken
15. Daniel Hesidence, Untitled, 2018, oil on canvas
16. Pierre Huyghe, Uumwelt, 2018, Serpentine Galleries
17. Daniel Stern: fragment from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_j4q45GHDY
18. Climate Change, poster for an exhibition by Tenant of Culture
19. sunrise from the train

20. Bridget Riley, Current, 1964 (detail)
21. Laura U. Marks, I Feel Like An Abstract Line, (from: Mirror-Touch Synaesthesia, edited by Daria Martin, 168)
22. Janne Schimmel, Lamp on Lamp, 2019

23. reflections in my sink
24. Rockwell Kent, Moonlight, Winter, 1940, oil on linen (detail)
25. Iwan Wyschnegradsky, Hemisphere of 5184 Cells, 1943, crayon, graphite and ink on paper and cardboard
26. Nam June Paik, Nixon 1965-2002 (detail)

27. Experience, 2016, Jones, Mather and Uchill, edited by Arts at MIT
28. Side table in charity shop, London
29. Fred Moten, fragment from: moten: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6b5N_u7Ebs