Perhaps he, or she, looks a bit like a shrimp. Although the head, if that's indeed what it is, seems to have more in common with a giraffe, or a horse. Perhaps the effect is also due to those two rather touching front legs, if that's what they are, because giraffes also happen to have shorter front legs than hind legs. In any case they stand at a more slanted angle than horses and this one is even reclining comfortably in his/her chair.
If Immanuel Kant, the 19th-century German philosopher, read this, he would probably shout: 'Yes, yes, yes, I knew it!' And he would gloat, because instead of writing what I see, which I cannot express in words, I write what this sculpture reminds me of, things that I can find words for: giraffe, horse, head, legs. He already described this in his 'Critique of Pure Reason': you don't see things the way they truly are, but the way they appear to you. If I had never seen a giraffe, this sculpture would not make me think of the word giraffe. I can only see something in it that I once saw elsewhere or something that I can imagine would look something like this. Kant would say: 'Das Ding an sich ist ein Unbekanntes' ('The thing-in-itself is an unknown entity'). The thing-in-itself, its true nature, is something I can never know. I can only recognise something that resembles it.
Let us imagine for a moment that Maartje Korstanje, the sculptress of this work, is an true connoisseur of bugs. (Of course, I don't know if she really is.) Let us also imagine for a moment that she made an effort to reproduce the sedate Heteropterus Elephans (Elephant Bug - probably doesn't exist) in the greatest possible detail. It would still mean nothing to me, because I have never seen a real H. Elephans before.
So what is left for us, the sculpture tourists? Don't worry, there's plenty. We can experience our observation of this sculpture. It is our feelings that are important, not our brains, with their knowledge of all the categories and subcategories of bugs. Maartje knows that too. She probably did not intend to reproduce an actual bug, but has instead created a thing that evokes a bug-like sensation in me. Or a shrimp-like sensation. Or the taste sensation of a nice hard-baked almond cookie. Or a combination of all of the above. Even the word 'lethargic' came to mind. Not out of nowhere, but evoked by something in this sculpture.
This sculpture is not lethargic, however, nor is it an almond cookie, a horse, a giraffe or shrimp. I can observe the Thing. I can see it, touch it, smell it when it produces an odour and hear it when it makes noise. I can experience it as an entirely new thing in my existence. And I can discuss it with you, to whom it might also be an entirely new thing.
- Well, what do you think of it?
- I don't know, it must be modern art and I don't know much about that.
- Oh, are you not supposed to understand it, then?
- No, as long as you see something in it, I believe that's good enough.
- Perhaps, but what is its purpose, then?
Kant would know how to answer that. He would make four fundamental statements:
1 A judgement based on taste is disinterested
2 A judgement based on taste does not involve understanding
3 Beauty relates to exterior forms; it has a purposive purposelessness
4 Everyone thinks it's beautiful; it inevitably produces pleasure
If you take a good look at this 'sculpture without a title' by Maartje Korstanje, if you sit down and relax, you'll see that it's all true.
- It doesn't have to be anything.
- It is not even possible to understand it.
- And yet you can appreciate its beauty.
- Just like everyone else. Isn't that enough?
That is what sculpture is. Sufficient in itself. Simply because it is. A thing-in-itself. Enjoy it!