A Wedge To Open The New Year
The red wedge in our garden
Uit de keuken van de curator

A Wedge To Open The New Year


A few weeks ago I promised not to write about the nice trips I make and the interesting people I meet, at least not for the time being. Many people fill their Facebook pages with that kind of information and pictures, assuring us that their life is one marvellous success story. I thought I would be able to keep myself away from that, but reading back I suddenly noticed that all sorts of glamor aspects of my work had entered unwittingly in this kitchen blog: a visit to a big city, an interesting international conference, a meeting with this or that person, huge receptions, copious dinners, delicious champagne and ice cold vodka richly flowing. I was caught in the blogger’s trap of keeping up Facebook appearances you could say. And that is the last thing I want.

Moreover I would like to ban this kind of ‘personal promotion’ from this kitchen blog because my working life is not at all only success and people around me fortunately are not always smiling into the camera. A lot of work is just work that needs to be done; planning, budgeting, letters, e-mails, meetings, contracts, payments and invoices. The cooking starts with the peeling and cutting of onions. My work for the Van Abbemuseum surely has its glamorous aspects, but all in all the glitter is only 5 percent I guess. So let’s talk about everyday down to earth work, about the 95 percent of sweat and about things that provide new ideas. Inspitranspiration.

While chopping wood for the stove during the holidays (real work just for pleasure) I remembered Lissitzky’s Red Wedge and suddenly realized why this is such a strong image. It is an abstract form, a triangle with two equal corners and one sharper one, let’s say two of 80 and one of 20 degrees. It remains just a triangle until you call it a wedge. You need a wedge to break strong solids that you cannot break with your bare hands. I needed it to split thick trunks that were too big for the stove. The wedge is the tool that enables you to do this; it is an extension of your hands for this purpose. It splits the solid into pieces that can be handled, dealt with.

You need a kind of wedge too if you want to split the opposing political party, or deal with a massive block of problems. So you draw the triangle, call it a wedge and show how it breaks what needs to be broken. The image shows that the problem can be solved and that the block can indeed be split. It encourages you to do so. Your work will not be in vain. Do not lean back in apathy thinking there is no solution. No, jump up, take a wedge and beat it into the opposing block! Slash and split it!

El Lissitzky, Beat The Whites With The Red Wedge, 1920

Of course this metaphorical use of the wedge is propaganda. There is nothing wrong with that. You could also call it useful art. The image of the wedge can be used to activate people and to show that their purposeful action can indeed have results. Thus it was used by Lissitzky during the Civil War in 1920, but also by Nikolai Kolli before him in a design for a decoration on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Revolution.

Nikolai Kolli, Red Wedge, Decoration on the occasion of the first anniversary of the October Revolution, 1918

And the image of the red wedge is still useful today as I saw on a political poster a few weeks ago in Hamburg. I also found a pink version of the wedge on a shirt recently designed by students of ArtEZ in support of the suppressed Russian LGBT community.

Poster in Hamburg, 2013. Photo: Albert Lemmens.

There will be more of these visual wedges to break heavy blocks because the wedge works both literally and as an image. It is truly a tool for conviviality. Only once in a while it needs sharpening.

Shirt by ArtEZ students, 2013