A COMMUNICATIVE IMPULSE
by Rüdiger Horstmann
1. dito – prehistory
When I used to write my regular faxes to my wife Ulrike, from Argentina, our children also wanted to read them. In order to make this possible, I added illustrated pictures to the words. These conveyed the meaning of the words. Thus enabling our children to read them also. My faxes were then glued to the inside of a cabinet door and collected. Later, at the request of the children, two little souvenir books („Daddys Faxes“) were to be made for them.
Then, during my time as a learning companion at the „Freie Hofschule Salzburg“ the situation occurred that a boy asked me to help him with a drawing. I answered, truthfully, apologizing, that I could not draw! Thereupon he said: „But Mr. Horstmann, you always tell us if we can’t do something yet, we should keep trying to learn it!“
dito – I was confronted with what I had said before! Immediately I felt I had been caught and started drawing that day.
An important reason for my drawings was our stated goal to observe the children attentively during their actions and to document what was seen in as many ways as possible. I decided to use my drawings to learn how to observe and document myself better. The focus was on my stick figure stories, which recounted the daily routines of the learning research project and which I drew while the children were writing their learning journals. Often, the children who had finished their work came to me and wanted to see my drawings.
A drawing intermezzo was my bumbling attempt to add and summarize the „Little Forest Men and Squirrel Stories“ that I used to tell my children while putting them to bed in former times, into small memory books – supplemented with a few pictures.As a result, I began independently to draw everyday stories and attitudes with my medium of stick figures, which I – inspired by the prehistory – began to call ‚dito‘. These stories will be familiar to many observers, they tell about everyday life. Nevertheless, some individuals – and I am essentially concerned with this impulse – will remember situations of their own lives; this rethinking and thus the opening of the possibility to change attitudes is important to me.
2. Gesture und content
As before, I prefer to draw from the spontaneous idea; in essence, without correction. I am less concerned with brilliance in the stroke or execution, but rather with my most authentic statement and transmission of my feelings, attitude or a situation. I want to portray real life and get into conversation about it with the viewers. I see myself as a drawing storyteller, not as an artist.
With my graphic associations I see myself as a CommunicARTor.
The simplicity of the drawing as well as the everyday nature of the content are an essential element to the accessibility of the drawings for each viewer. So, I understand dito as a futhur initiative for the democratization of art to that effect that I want to contribute to reducing the reserve to deal with ‚art in the broadest sense‘.
3. Communication and pictures
Undoubtedly, human communication and media consumption have undergone massive changes through digitization. The daily duration of use of digital end devices (PC, mobile phone, laptop) was,in 2015, already over three hours by adolescents. The videos on youtube and the pictures on Instagram are supplemented by selfies and emoticons (Emotion and Icon). The emoticons are the digital trailers for feelings in a communication that is largely distanced from speech, writing and letters written in ink.
My dito images thus meet the increasing need for graphic communication, but offer a highly individualized and not digitally processed platform. Accessible via digital channels, the authentic hand-drawn ditos create a constellation of tension that helps to question the quality of the term ’social networks‘. They profit by an unexpectedly direct approach to the personal feelings and thoughts with which the drawings are charged.
4. Background thoughts
Dito interests me because of the fascinating triangular relationship constructed by me, between the verbal meaning (= „as I said“), the figurative form of expression (the dito’s – illustrated stick figure) and the literal english expression „do it“ (do it, call to action).
dito – derived from ditto (ital.), is the past participle of the Italian verb „dire“ (Latin: dicere) = to speak, and means translated: „said, spoken“. Linguistic synonyms are: the same, likewise, as I said. Language as a fundamental human cultural activity enables the transmission of information, the formation of realization and the transmission of knowledge. However, dito mainly talks non-verbally – so it works independent of language and speach. Dito is globally understandable and opens as a simple, very reduced form of communication. An understanding and a confrontation without explanations. That is my goal.
The drawings (my language – communication form) often describe the past, they „retell“ and emphasize therefore practiced life, following the idea to think about it, reflecting it – reflecting and studying ourselves and our behavior, our roles. It is about understanding and developing oneself as a social being in order to create and implement adequate action consequences.
As a stick figure dito is the radical reduction of human representation and not accidentally also the oldest (Bronze Age, rock carvings in Tanum). It is also the first pictorial representation of humanity practiced by all of us as an infant, our beginnings in artistic creation, in the figuration of our surroundings and the world around us. With circle and line (R. Steiner: the crooked and the straight line) I use the two most original and simplest symbols. The straight line stands for separation, duality, contradiction and the connection between the separated. The circle is the symbol of the perfection, the closed round, the divine and the all-embracing unity.
In Modern Art, simplistic males have been used already several times, so by A.R. Plenck, Harald Naegli (Sprayer of Zurich), Joel Shapiro, Matt Mullican and probably best known by Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
In my drawings and stories the stick figure stands for the action-oriented social dynamics of the human individual as well as the human responsibility – for the social handling with global problems (hence: do it – dito).
Individual gestures or attitudes are sufficient to make a statement, to convey information. Our body language and movements have a far greater share in our communication than most of us realize. With our words and movements we tell our fellow human beings about ourselves. I am very interested in these non-verbal messages, which are so important in exchange with other people, that is why they are an important part of the dito drawings.
Picture stories (Strip cartoons)
The first dito stories came about in my faxes from Argentina to my family around 1998. They found their continuation in my drawn „daily reports“ in the „Freie Hofschule Gaisberg“ (starting from 2005). The most retelling everyday , previously experienced situations, enabling identification, encouraging the reflection of one’s own behavior or confronting other behavioral patterns – they encourage examination/dispute.
The option of speech bubbles, that I picked up a year ago, makes it possible to convey certain contents more precisely through ’non-spoken words‘. For the interactive reinforcement of the drawings on the „Why EUROPE“ project, this supplement seemed to me to be appropriate and necessary in order to bring certain arguments into conversation.
Gesture or character
The drawings, taken from life refer to the real essential – the content, the statement. I am not concerned with the image, but rather with the question whether the image is meaningful, whether it expresses my personal statement intelligibly, or even transports it to the viewer.
The deliberately casual, simple gesture or character of the drawings reduces the „threshold“ between the viewer and me, facilitates our communication. The sometimes perceptible humoristic level in the drawings is also a conscious instrument of condensing or intensifying the exchange. Formerly, my ditos still had faces, but also here a reduction was successfully achieved and the gesture and posture has, therefore, gained even more importance.
If, when looking at the dito’s, the idea arises, „I can do that too, there’s nothing to art“, then I have almost won. Because that’s exactly what it‘s all about – each of us is able to, and should, do it oneself, both drawing stick figures as well as thinking about our behavior and learning from it, in order to responsibly participate in the shaping of society.
DO IT – #CONNECTENDAPPROACH
The arising proverbial request (do it, make it) to action is the dito concept, derived from the same letters: „do it“!
The call to action relates to the social obligation of each individual to participate actively, to take part in the forming of society. „Gesamtkunstwerk“/total work of Art (J. Beuys) of society. Though, my personal drawing style is not perfectionistic, but rather kind of „I can do that too‘ provocative and thus both emotional binding energy and – in the best case – animation, to start drawing oneself – to dare something new, including „do it“!
Desire and change
My dito’s tell our stories about life. They are about understanding and using your own life span as a development opportunity. We go through situations like a film is made up of frames, but we tend to lose sight of the process. We like to stay in the known, believe it and we know each other and ignore that it is not up to us to dictate unity to the development. Nature – the social – our lifeflows – never stand still.
Nature and social
Our births each time connect the framework of our conditionality, clarifying our foundations: nature and society. We need the natural conditions every day, oxygen, water, food – we are forever dependent. Just as vital are our social dependencies, the nourishing mother, the protective family and the social learning and interaction contacts that allow us to become social beings
Body and senses
The act of sexual procreation also embodies this defining symbiosis in the most pleasing way, which is why it is clear why we think about sex so often and, too inexplicable, why we talk about it so rarely. If the conditions are favorable, the physical union of two people of different sex initiates a pregnancy and the development of a new person. But that cannot be reduced to a purely physical, sexual experience, at least not if love, eroticism and lust are involved. And desire should always be with the game and the willingness to change.
Individual and Liberation
We all find formative framework conditions in nature, family, business and society. Our self-determined, critical way of perceiving, accepting, questioning or changing these existing norms and conditions will determine our lives. This applies to every single person, because we all have to find out who we are in a youthful learning process and then work increasingly independently on who we want to be. The mixture between working in a disciplined manner, risky mountain tours, endless TV evenings, international friends, inspiring sex, good literature, political activity or too much alcohol – it is increasingly up to us, our decision and will change us. This is how we create ourselves, are our own freedom.
Individual and Society
Everyone has and lives their own individual story, goes through their own path of development and, in reciprocal relationship with their experiences and possibilities, decides which parts of their potential they develop. Every single person lives in the tense relationship between social framework conditions, which influence him and his life economically, morally, politically and ecologically. Likewise, the individual person works through his participatory action as well as through his passive, complete stay out of the design process of the public framework, as it were as a sculptor in the social total work of art society. Therefore the famous sixty-eight sentence: “The private is also political ! “Social relationships, like social relationships, like people who have social potential themselves, have their own special origins and are therefore also a living development process, so not a frozen sculpture.
Freedom and limit
“The freedom of the individual ends at the limits of the freedom of fellow human beings”, this is a shortened, widespreaded definition broken down on few letters.
It sounds simple but it doesn’t work. Freedom is not a personal autonomy status to be demanded based on ominous independence, “which should be limitless above the clouds”. Freedom is a social process in which everyone is called to participate. Each of us realizes this in the straight line, as we are able of our own accord to let the natural and socially correct and meaningful become the guideline for our actions. Nature and society are our determinants. So if we contribute to the improvement of all of our basic conditions through our actions, we promote an improved coexistence of people and nature, both individually and in general.
Local is global
This approach of seeing freedom as a social, even global task, corresponds to all of our fundamental human struggles, especially the noblest of the United Nations Peace Charter and general human rights, which so many people in the world have been waiting for so long to realize, at least gradually . Why should it not apply to us what applies to all other living beings: those who live in harmony with their basic needs and living conditions and who work together to improve both worldwide have the best chances.
dito – format and content
The dito figures are known to all of us. The ditos tell our stories, they lead our lives: they work in the garden, clean the house, go with the dog, demonstrate, they love each other, dance and drink. They lead us in front of and into the perspective of the observer. They change themselves and us – for example, do they suddenly have an open box instead of or as a head? They ask us questions, they question us, they talk to us. They alternate between real images and irrational fantasy and thereby open up. Metamorphosis: they arise from circles and straight lines! Pictures, stories – mysteries.
For me, dito embodies the need to live individual and societal learning in order to be able to implement common knowledge in action-oriented global responsibility (17 United Nations Sustainability Goals).
Create your life as a work of art every day.
dito - do it!