The (Blue) Void Stares Back
As any of the editors to this zine can attest, I am terrible with deadlines. I never can seem to get my act together and finish a piece I plan or think about for Things Created by People. A big part of it is the fear of writing something terrible and having your friends, enemies, and your mom read it. I also want to attribute my inability to meet deadlines to two aspects of my character: my internal critic and aspirational self.
I love to read, and if I write something, I want it to be perfect. It should somehow encompass and address anything and everything written about the topic. But it should also be accessible, entertaining, and engaging. Obviously this is impossible and one should not hold his writing to such standards. Your writing should definitely be accessible, entertaining, and engaging, but in no way can it ever be both those things and comprehensive, even if I want it to be so badly. I’ve also got to accept that I am not an amazing writer, and I’ve just got to keep practicing to get better. Please consider this my attempt at writing without (or with less) fear.
One of my favorite purchases this year is a book that I think does this incredibly well; it presents its ideas without trying to be more than a jumping off point. I will never let you borrow this book. Not that I am selfish or jealous; I like to think of myself as the person who will loan out any of his books to someone expressing a genuine interest. The reason is that my favorite addition to my collection this past year is an artist book printed in an edition of only 100, and I am lucky beyond measure just to have it. My copy of the book in question, Yves Klein — Tobias Fünke by Chris Nosenzo, is actually a 2013 second edition of the book, which was originally published in 2011. I saw the first edition in Printed Matter in 2012, and vowed to return to buy it when I had more money. When I returned a few months later, it was sold out. I was absolutely giddy when I found the book at Printed Matter again this fall when I just happened to be perusing the shelves!
The book is a comparison of the persona and work of Yves Klein and the eccentric character Dr. Tobias Fünke from FOX’s Arrested Development. I first watched Arrested Development in the fall of my freshman year of college in 2010 and was hooked. I watched the show the full length through every semester of college through the summer before senior year. It was a fundamental part of my friends’ humor and my understanding of the OC (don’t call it that). Dr. Tobias Fünke, played by David Cross, is a disgraced therapist attempting and failing to become an actor in Hollywood. From hackneyed auditions and headshots to his Freudian slips regarding his sexual preferences, the character of Fünke culminates in his deluded idea to become a back up performer for the Blue Man Group by painting himself blue. Nosenzo connects this to Yves Klein’s Anthropometric paintings in his signature shade of blue paint. Nosenzo takes stills from the TV show and displays them side by side with photographs of Klein and the performances where he made these paintings by covering models in blue paint and using them as a paintbrush on his canvases.
Nosenzo wants us to think a little deeper about both men, Fünke and Klein. He argues that both are playing a character: David Cross plays Tobias frequently attempting to portray a character in his acting, and Yves Klein creates the persona of Yves the artist in his Anthropometric paintings and other antics. Nosenzo writes, “In the end, hopefully this book is one more testament, one more thumbs up to what both Klein and Fünke have made, and how placing them side by side is a simultaneously hilarious and pleasurably academic act.” I hope to honor his wish by not overanalyzing every comparison to the point I’m too overwhelmed to write anything. Instead, I invite you to create your own experience by perusing the excerpts on his website.
I will, however, leave you with two facing pages that capture the essence of this book. On facing pages in the book are two strongly connected images; on the right is Klein’s Le Saut dans le vide [Leap into the Void] from 1960, and on the left are two stills of Tobias Fünke jumping off the second floor landing in his Mrs. Featherbottom costume. Klein’s photograph – actually a montage – illustrates his view of himself as an artist whose work sources its materials from everyday life, but at the same time departs from the known world into an open sky of the unknown and the unprecedented.
Although not nearly as heroic or graceful, this comparison calls us to give Tobias more credit than one may originally think he is due. Tobias is also departing the everyday to create an original self. Tobias dons the matronly outfit as a tragicallymisplaced attempt to be closer with his teenage daughter and by posing as a whimsical nanny a la Mrs. Doubtfire. Comparing his antics as Mrs. Featherbottom to Klein’s bold vision of flight, my feelings toward Tobias’s charade shift from pity to bemused admiration. It takes a special kind of heroics to leap into the void wearing fake tits and and a wig just to try and make your daughter smile.