Jeppe Hein – How he got our attention

Danish artist Jeppe Hein doesn’t have a biographer, he has Finn Janning. The philosopher’s two books When Life Blooms  and The Happiness of Burnout serve as manifestos for understanding Hein’s work. The following essay gives a first glimpse into this artist’s mind.

The essay was published–and can be read–in Numéro Homme Berlin.

Because it’s there

The first 10 to 15 years of Jeppe Hein’s artistic career are reminiscent of a mountaineer’s struggle on Mount Everest. The climb to the top of the world’s highest mountain is shrouded in awe, daring and faltering resolve.

When the British mountain climber George Mallory was asked in the 1920s why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, he responded brusquely: “Because it’s there.” In that answer lies an all-too-human impulse, namely the impulse to seek the difficult and overcome the dangerous, apparently without any other ambition than to test your limits.

Naturally, it wasn’t Mount Everest that Jeppe tried—and is still trying—to conquer. It was an artistic career that knocked him out in the first round. He lived without compromise, without any deeper contact with himself.

His sense of direction wasn’t yet well-developed. His anchoring in the now hadn’t been established …

From the book When life blooms: Breathe with Jeppe Hein, in which Finn Janning describes the philosophical and spiritual development of the artist and social entrepreneur Jeppe Hein.

Read the rest of the excerpt here.

When life blooms

I’m pleased to announce that my new book, When life blooms – Breathe with Jeppe Hein will be released November 28th.

The publisher writes about the book:

“Danish artist Jeppe Hein soared to the top of the international art scene before the age of 35. His works were showcased at the world’s finest exhibitions and sold for sky-high prices. Then suddenly his body said stop. In 2009 Hein went down with stress.

In this book philosopher Finn Janning follows Jeppe Hein’s development from the tome immediately after his diagnosis with burn out and onward – a period where Hein underwent psychoanalysis and developed and interest in yoga, breathing exercises and spirituality.

Janning shows how spirituality has become more present in Hein’s works, and in the book, he develops an existential philosophy in continuation of the artists spirituality and art.”

I may add:

It’s a philosophical biography that describes the life of the artist Jeppe Hein. In doing so, I’ve tried to exemplify Gilles Deleuze’s idea that “life is not personal,” that is to say, each life is a case study.

I choose this approach as a way of addressing the narcissism of the artist without making the narrative confronting, or in anyway judgmental.

Instead, I illustrate how Jeppe is formed by the major cultural trends during the last 40 years, such as the growing accelerating and spirituality and social entrepreneurship. He is an artist of his time.

It’s a book that tests and nuances the popularity of today’s spirituality through a philosophical, primarily existential lens.

ENJOY

Whenlife blooms_cover

Last, although I’m glad to have a book of mine being translated into English (it was written in Danish), I’ve detected a few mistakes, see more here.

Når livet blomstrer

Den 28. november udkommer min nye bog, Når livet blomstrer – Breathe with Jeppe Hein.

Jeg har skrevet bogen i forlængelse af den franske filosofs Gilles Deleuzes ide om, at “livet ikke er personligt.” Snarere er livet et casestudie, der kan rumme varierende grader af eksemplariske fortællinger.

Denne tilgang valgte jeg af flere grunde.

For det første, som en kærlig måde at konfrontere Jeppe Heins narcissisme på, uden at dømme denne. For det andet, tænkte jeg, at det kunne være sjovt, at skrive en slags biografi præget af tidens tendenser – fra 70erne og frem til i dag. For det tredje, for at vise hvordan hans kunst i høj grad er formet af tiden, fx den øgede konkurrencementalitet og teknologiske acceleration, der for mange, inklusive Jeppe Hein, fører til stress og angst. Efterfølgende finder mange, inklusive Jeppe Hein, mening i den fremvoksende spiritualitet.

Så, bogen er både eksemplarisk og en mytedræber. Den er et stykke liv på papir!

Forlaget skriver bl.a.:

“I 2009 sidder Jeppe Hein i en flyver i 10.000 meters højde, da han får et angstanfald og ikke kan trække vejret. Efter et år med over 15 udstillinger og utallige rejser siger hans krop simpelthen stop.

”Jeg måtte lære at trække vejret igen,” fortæller Jeppe Hein i bogen.

Forfatter og filosof Finn Janning har været ven med Jeppe Hein, siden de var helt unge. I bogen følger han på nærmeste hold Jeppe Heins menneskelige og spirituelle udvikling efter hans burn out og viser, hvordan den er uløseligt knyttet sammen med hans kunst.

Undervejs i beretningen om Jeppe Heins spirituelle og kunstneriske rejse giver Finn Jannings indsigtsfulde analyser en baggrund for at forstå, hvad der er på spil. Han kommer rundt om filosoffer som Aristoteles og Kierkegaard, den spirituelle tyske lærer Eckhart Tolle, forfatterne Albert Camus og Peter Høeg og mange flere, og dermed bliver bogen en slags filosofisk monografi, som læseren kan bruge til selv at overveje nogle af livets store spørgsmål.

Janning udvikler i bogen en eksistensfilosofi i forlængelse af kunstnerens spiritualitet og værker.”

God fornøjelse …

Når livet blomstrer

Jeg skal prøve at give slip

Jeg er taget til Frankrig for at se udstillingen Your Way af kunstneren Jeppe Hein. Udstillingen finder sted på Chateau la Coste, en fransk vingård, der er smukt placeret i kunstneren Paul Cézannes hjemegn i Provence. Ligesom sin franske forgænger arbejder Hein også med forskelle og gentagelser i sin kunst. Dette sker både, når han tematiserer åndedrættet, men også når hans udstillinger rummer utallige spejle, hvoraf nogle bevæger sig, hvorved rummet konstant ændres.

Cézanne arbejdede med naturens åndedræt, da han malede det samme bjerg, eller snarere – som den franske filosof Gilles Deleuze sagde om Monet’s åkander – hvert maleri han malede gentog det første maleri, men var aldrig det samme. Det, som gentages var originalens forskel. Forskellen er den skabende kraft, som muliggør noget, fx et nyt værk. Hos Hein er åndedrættet dét bjerg, der gentages. Hvert åndedrag er en gentagelse af en forskel, som skaber eller holder os mennesker i live. Dette synes at være den underliggende præmis i Your Way.

Læs resten her.

The Happiness of Burnout

I just released a new book. It’s called The Happiness of Burnout.

A proper philosophical question is: Which life is worth living? The questions invites a plurality of answers from different perspectives. This plurality leads towards an affirmative practice that asks: How might one live a flourishing and happy life without any transcendent guidance?

The Happiness of Burnout deals with these questions. It tells the case story of the Danish artist Jeppe Hein’s burnout. The material for this book is based on more than 100 hours of interviews with Jeppe Hein.

A book launch will take place the 4th of June in Berlin. For more info see Press Release.

theHappinessofBurnout