Within the context of cultural history as shaped by the West, the concept of perspective is often traced back to 1425, when the sculptor and architect Brunelleschi painted a picture based on geometric linear perspective for the first time in Renaissance Florence. However, we now know that the theory of perspective originated in Baghdad, where the mathematician Ibn al-Haytham established a new visual theory based on geometric abstraction already in the 11th century. These two points of origin have since become a unified notion of the image as an illusionistic, open window onto reality, one which has come to dominate the visual arts and become the norm of pictorial depictions of spatial configurations.
Making a leap from art history to the present day, we now interpret the concept of perspective more in the sense of a world-view or personal orientation. For any given person, these are determined by the peculiar rhythms, timelines, views and interpretations of developments, opportunities, and dangers of their own cultural environment.
Our cognitive abilities are limited. Therefore, in order to organize the variety of information, images, and perceptual fragments into a perspective on the future, we must transform these complexities into simplified, meaningful narratives for ourselves. ‘The World’ is never an autonomous reality, but, rather, an image, a construction of our imagination. People have many methods and processes to engage in such ‘world building’.
In the early 20th century, Marcel Duchamp and Marcel Proust, two influential representatives of radically new conceptions of individuality and art as means for conceiving of the world, both dealt with the topic of perspective. Since 2017, the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection has analyzed and contextualized the work of Duchamp from different standpoints and will take up this thread again for the current topic.
With nearly 60 works by around 40 artists, the exhibition at Mercedes-Benz Contemporary on Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, attempts to include the full spectrum of contemporary interpretations related to perspective, which can only be hinted at here. Variations in geometric image construction—conceptual investigations into patterns of human perception—the motif of the window onto the world—spiritual and religious associations—inversions and rearrangements of scale and spatial orientation—multiplication and dissolution of fixed points of view on the world—interpretations of the present and associated futuristic designs for political and social contexts.
Curator: Renate Wiehager