The Aesthetics of Reversibility in Modern Art
This study researches a unique form of aesthetic expression in modern art reversibility. The term ‘reversibility’ refers to the property of being able to return to a former state. 1 It is used widely in relation to mathematical, chemical and physical processes and systems. The S wiss developmental psychologist, Jean Piaget, suggests that even people’s cognitive development entails a process of mental reversibility. The concept of reversibility, such as reversibility between body consciousness, subject object, ego world and thought language, can also be found extensively in Maurice Merleau Ponty’s philosophy. 2 Edmund Husserl names these relationships ‘reversible mutuality’ to reflect that they both cause and influence each other. The concept of reversibility breaks with Descartes' d ichotomy between spirit and flesh, presenting intriguing characteristics, such as uncertainty, ambiguity and precariousness. These are precisely the source of inspiration for art and literature. In fact, we can find the rendering of reversibility in the wo rk of many modern artists and it offers different meanings in the context of different artists’ practices. Josef Albers’s Structural Constellations , Lygia Clark’s Mobius Strip series, Georg Baselitz’s inverted motifs and Marcel Duchamp’s Spinning Optical E xperiments , to name but a few, all present a kind of reversibility. Why are so many artists fascinated with this rendering? What are their respective strategies for achieving reversibility? What is the meaning of and background to the practice of reversibi lity? What are the causes of extensive reversibility and what is the significance of this to the development of modern art? In relation to these problems, this study focuses on the Russian artist El Lissitzky and his Proun series, and the Brazilian artist Lygia Clark and her Mobius Strip series, engaging with them as research objects to carry out a detailed research and analysis of this topic.