Pedagogical Sketchbook: An excitingly unfamiliar interpretation of the world
Book review: Text reveals Paul Klee’s view of Earth as a living, breathing artwork
Paul Klee was a Swiss-born German artist and painter, and a key member of the Bauhaus movement. Pictured at his Bauhaus Studio in Weimar, Germany, 1924. Photograph: Culture Club/Getty Images
I’m forever indebted to those artists who remind me of the considerable limitations of my own viewpoint. It is through art that I’ve been forced most effectively, most pleasurably and startlingly to comprehend all of the infinitely proliferating possibilities when it comes to how to perceive our world.
Yes, there are those who use content to achieve this (most obviously in the novel form) but there are also those who address the matter more directly, without allegory. Sometimes their ways of perceiving are so startlingly alien to our own, that to be forced to confront them shocks us into a sudden awareness of the totality of otherness. Reading, viewing or hearing art like this is akin to first learning that the stars we see are no longer there.
Examples of these include John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, which addresses the viewing of art directly (and, through art, life), Mark Fisher’s writing on contemporary politics and society, Miles Davis’s complete reformulation of sound, and Annie Ernaux’s discovery of the concept of “palimpsest time” in The Years (by which she means how experience is layered, not linear, with all those gone before traced across each present moment).
The Pedagogical Sketchbook, then, is like these (as, of course, is Klee’s artwork) in that it offers, in its strange markings, its lines and planes, an excitingly unfamiliar way of interpreting the world. In this slim text, a gathering of notes and sketches from Klee’s decade of Bauhaus lectures, we are presented with a way of approaching art through lived reality which, in fact, reveals Klee’s natural tendency to view the world as a sort of living, breathing, ongoing artwork – one in which everything is connected and everything has the capacity to be beautiful.
Every movement, angle, line, every regular or irregular pattern, be it shadows across a lawn or the flight path of two butterflies, has the potential to reveal to him Earth’s grand schema, which it is the artist’s job to capture, reflect and interpret – much like translating into notes the music of the wind.