Once upon a time a house in the middle of the woods was the epitome of loneliness. It’s where Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother lived and Snow White hid with the Seven Dwarves. When you wanted to be really, really, really alone, you went into the desert, preferable for 40 days. Or you got lost and ran in circles for 40 years, yet that’s another story. But no matter what, you were still part of the tight-knit network of people living in the same area. You were accounted for, known, and you had a place.
Of course, you had a family history to live with, and expectations and prejudices to deal with. Your rank in the pecking order was pretty much set. It wasn’t perfect. But it fulfilled a basic need that every human being has – to belong.
One of the worst punishment possible was to be outcast. E.g. Dante never got over the fact that he couldn’t return into the embrace of his beloved Firenze and it wasn’t just the streets and stones he missed. Coriolanus died because yet outlawed and driven from his home, he didn’t find the strength, not even in his rage, to have the place he belonged to once destroyed and every living being killed.
Today, the lone house in the woods has probably internet. And being in a desert doesn’t necessary mean you lost access to the world wide web – ask me, I would know. Being connected that way hasn’t just become normal for many of us, it has become a necessity. We are available 24/7 and have the world at our fingertips, access to everyone everywhere constantly, member of groups and circles and what not. Being well connected, center of a vast network, constantly informing the world, who we are and what we do, is a must in order to get anywhere and find a place.
In reality however, it is like you live constantly on a train station. The people around you stand there waiting with you. Some walk a little bit with you in the same direction. Some might even take the same train for a while. You talk. You feel a connection. And they are gone. You start again in search of the one thing about which psychologist say it is one of three must haves in order to be content – the feeling to belong.
We gave it up when moving into anonymity in pursuit of happiness in wealth – which btw does not show up in said short list of the psychologists. Our craving for it however just increased with every new technological way to stay connected. The more we merged our corporal and non-corporal personalities, the stronger our need to hear from others that we really exist and are seen.
I chose King’s Cross Station in London not just because it is a train station or because its incredible architecture worked perfectly in the composition of the painting. It’s at King’s Cross that Dumbledore tells Harry “Of course it is all happening in your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?” The whole internet thing, our need to belong, our craving for attention as the unique being we are, our loneliness – it all happens in our heads, very real.
The Loneliness of Arachne is the third of my paintings in the series Nothing New in the West, in which I deal with the idea of man created and reflected through art and hence the media since World War I. The horrors of the war that was meant to end all wars, but soon needed to be named with a number, led the leading artists of this time to consider human kind as a complete failure and insist in a radical change of the approach of all arts to create a new idea of man. A hundred years later I ask myself, what the results are so far and hope that others will join me.
I incorporate or base my paintings in this series on paintings created around WWI – here a work by Otto Dix. I also add lines and sentences from letters originally written by soldiers from the trenches of this war. Here they become of special importance as this link to their parents, siblings or spouses remained the soldiers’ link back to humanity between death and destruction, a link to humanity we search on the internet as well.