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  • My name is Ursus Wehrli, and I would like to talk to you this morning

  • about my project, Tidying Up Art.

  • First of all -- any questions so far?

  • First of all, I have to say I'm not from around here.

  • I'm from a completely different cultural area, maybe you noticed?

  • I mean, I'm wearing a tie, first. And then secondly, I'm a little bit nervous

  • because I'm speaking in a foreign language,

  • and I want to apologize in advance, for any mistakes I might make.

  • Because I'm from Switzerland, and I just don't hope you think this is Swiss German

  • I'm speaking now here. This is just what it sounds like

  • if we Swiss try to speak American.

  • But don't worry -- I don't have trouble with English, as such.

  • I mean, it's not my problem, it's your language after all.

  • (Laughter)

  • I am fine. After this presentation here at TED, I can simply go back to Switzerland,

  • and you have to go on talking like this all the time.

  • (Laughter)

  • So I've been asked by the organizers to read from my book.

  • It's called "Tidying Up Art" and it's, as you can see,

  • it's more or less a picture book.

  • So the reading would be over very quickly.

  • But since I'm here at TED, I decided to hold my talk here in a more modern way,

  • in the spirit of TED here, and I managed to do some slides here for you.

  • I'd like to show them around so we can just, you know --

  • (Laughter)

  • Actually, I managed to prepare for you some enlarged pictures -- even better.

  • So Tidying Up Art, I mean, I have to say, that's a relatively new term.

  • You won't be familiar with it.

  • I mean, it's a hobby of mine that I've been indulging in for the last few years,

  • and it all started out with this picture of the American artist, Donald Baechler

  • I had hanging at home. I had to look at it every day

  • and after a while I just couldn't stand the mess anymore

  • this guy was looking at all day long.

  • Yeah, I kind of felt sorry for him.

  • And it seemed to me even he felt really bad

  • facing these unorganized red squares day after day.

  • So I decided to give him a little support,

  • and brought some order into neatly stacking the blocks on top of each other.

  • (Laughter)

  • Yeah. And I think he looks now less miserable.

  • And it was great. With this experience, I started to look more closely

  • at modern art. Then I realized how, you know, the world of modern art

  • is particularly topsy-turvy.

  • And I can show here a very good example.

  • It's actually a simple one, but it's a good one to start with.

  • It's a picture by Paul Klee.

  • And we can see here very clearly, it's a confusion of color.

  • (Laughter)

  • Yeah. The artist doesn't really seem to know where to put the different colors.

  • The various pictures here of the various elements of the picture --

  • the whole thing is unstructured.

  • We don't know, maybe Mr. Klee was probably in a hurry, I mean --

  • (Laughter)

  • -- maybe he had to catch a plane, or something.

  • We can see here he started out with orange,

  • and then he already ran out of orange,

  • and here we can see he decided to take a break for a square.

  • And I would like to show you here my tidied up version of this picture.

  • (Laughter)

  • We can see now what was barely recognizable in the original:

  • 17 red and orange squares are juxtaposed with just two green squares.

  • Yeah, that's great.

  • So I mean, that's just tidying up for beginners.

  • I would like to show you here a picture which is a bit more advanced.

  • (Laughter)

  • What can you say? What a mess.

  • I mean, you see, everything seems to have been scattered aimlessly around the space.

  • If my room back home had looked like this,

  • my mother would have grounded me for three days.

  • So I'd like to -- I wanted to reintroduce some structure into that picture.

  • And that's really advanced tidying up.

  • (Applause)

  • Yeah, you're right. Sometimes people clap at this point,

  • but that's actually more in Switzerland.

  • (Laughter)

  • We Swiss are famous for chocolate and cheese. Our trains run on time.

  • We are only happy when things are in order.

  • But to go on, here is a very good example to see.

  • This is a picture by Joan Miro.

  • And yeah, we can see the artist has drawn a few lines and shapes

  • and dropped them any old way onto a yellow background.

  • And yeah, it's the sort of thing you produce when you're doodling on the phone.

  • (Laughter)

  • And this is my --

  • (Laughter)

  • -- you can see now the whole thing takes up far less space.

  • It's more economical and also more efficient.

  • With this method Mr. Miro could have saved canvas for another picture.

  • But I can see in your faces that you're still a little bit skeptical.

  • So that you can just appreciate how serious I am about all this,

  • I brought along the patents, the specifications for some of these works,

  • because I've had my working methods patented

  • at the Eidgenössische Amt für Geistiges Eigentum in Bern, Switzerland.

  • (Laughter)

  • I'll just quote from the specification.

  • "Laut den Kunstprüfer Dr. Albrecht --"

  • It's not finished yet.

  • "Laut den Kunstprüfer Dr. Albrechttz von Ohlenhusen

  • wird die Verfahrensweise rechtlich geschützt welche die Kunst

  • durch spezifisch aufgeräumte Regelmässigkeiten

  • des allgemeinen Formenschatzes

  • neue Wirkungen zu erzielenglich wird."

  • Ja, well I could have translated that, but you would have been none the wiser.

  • I'm not sure myself what it means but it sounds good anyway.

  • I just realized it's important how one introduces new ideas to people,

  • that's why these patents are sometimes necessary.

  • I would like to do a short test with you.

  • Everyone is sitting in quite an orderly fashion here this morning.

  • So I would like to ask you all to raise your right hand. Yeah.

  • The right hand is the one we write with, apart from the left-handers.

  • And now, I'll count to three. I mean, it still looks very orderly to me.

  • Now, I'll count to three, and on the count of three

  • I'd like you all to shake hands with the person behind you. OK?

  • One, two, three.

  • (Laughter)

  • You can see now, that's a good example: even behaving in an orderly, systematic way

  • can sometimes lead to complete chaos.

  • So we can also see that very clearly in this next painting.

  • This is a painting by the artist, Niki de Saint Phalle.

  • And I mean, in the original it's completely unclear to see

  • what this tangle of colors and shapes is supposed to depict.

  • But in the tidied up version, it's plain to see that it's a sunburnt woman playing volleyball.

  • (Laughter)

  • Yeah, it's a -- this one here, that's much better.

  • That's a picture by Keith Haring.

  • (Laughter)

  • I think it doesn't matter.

  • So, I mean, this picture has not even got a proper title.

  • It's called "Untitled" and I think that's appropriate.

  • So, in the tidied-up version we have a sort of Keith Haring spare parts shop.

  • (Laughter)

  • This is Keith Haring looked at statistically.

  • One can see here quite clearly,

  • you can see we have 25 pale green elements,

  • of which one is in the form of a circle.

  • Or here, for example, we have 27 pink squares with only one pink curve.

  • I mean, that's interesting. One could extend this sort of statistical analysis

  • to cover all Mr. Haring's various works,

  • in order to establish in which period the artist favored pale green circles or pink squares.

  • And the artist himself could also benefit from this sort of listing procedure

  • by using it to estimate how many pots of paint he's likely to need in the future.

  • (Laughter)

  • One can obviously also make combinations.

  • For example, with the Keith Haring circles and Kandinsky's dots.

  • You can add them to all the squares of Paul Klee.

  • In the end, one has a list with which one then can arrange.

  • Then you categorize it, then you file it, put that file in a filing cabinet,

  • put it in your office and you can make a living doing it.

  • (Laughter)

  • Yeah, from my own experience. So I'm --

  • (Laughter)

  • Actually, I mean, here we have some artists that are a bit more structured. It's not too bad.

  • This is Jasper Johns. We can see here he was practicing with his ruler.

  • (Laughter)

  • But I think it could still benefit from more discipline.

  • And I think the whole thing adds up much better if you do it like this.

  • (Laughter)

  • And here, that's one of my favorites.

  • Tidying up Rene Magritte -- this is really fun.

  • You know, there is a --

  • (Laughter)

  • I'm always being asked what inspired me to embark on all this.

  • It goes back to a time when I was very often staying in hotels.

  • So once I had the opportunity to stay in a ritzy, five-star hotel.

  • And you know, there you had this little sign --

  • I put this little sign outside the door every morning that read,

  • "Please tidy room." I don't know if you have them over here.

  • So actually, my room there hasn't been tidied once daily, but three times a day.

  • So after a while I decided to have a little fun,

  • and before leaving the room each day I'd scatter a few things around the space.

  • Like books, clothes, toothbrush, etc. And it was great.

  • By the time I returned everything had always been neatly returned to its place.

  • But then one morning, I hang the same little sign onto that picture by Vincent van Gogh.

  • (Laughter)

  • And you have to say this room hadn't been tidied up since 1888.

  • And when I returned it looked like this.

  • (Laughter)

  • Yeah, at least it is now possible to do some vacuuming.

  • (Laughter)

  • OK, I mean, I can see there are always people

  • that like reacting that one or another picture

  • hasn't been properly tidied up. So we can make a short test with you.

  • This is a picture by Rene Magritte,

  • and I'd like you all to inwardly -- like in your head, that is --

  • to tidy that up. So it's possible that some of you would make it like this.

  • (Laughter)

  • Yeah? I would actually prefer to do it more this way.

  • Some people would make apple pie out of it.

  • But it's a very good example to see that the whole work

  • was more of a handicraft endeavor that involved the very time-consuming job

  • of cutting out the various elements and sticking them back in new arrangements.

  • And it's not done, as many people imagine, with the computer,

  • otherwise it would look like this.

  • (Laughter)

  • So now I've been able to tidy up pictures that I've wanted to tidy up for a long time.

  • Here is a very good example. Take Jackson Pollock, for example.

  • It's -- oh, no, it's -- that's a really hard one.

  • But after a while, I just decided here to go all the way

  • and put the paint back into the cans.

  • (Applause)

  • Or you could go into three-dimensional art.

  • Here we have the fur cup by Meret Oppenheim.

  • Here I just brought it back to its original state.

  • (Laughter)

  • But yeah, and it's great, you can even go, you know --

  • Or we have this pointillist movement for those of you who are into art.

  • The pointillist movement is that kind of paintings

  • where everything is broken down into dots and pixels.

  • And then I -- this sort of thing is ideal for tidying up.

  • (Laughter)

  • So I once applied myself to the work of the inventor of that method, Georges Seurat,

  • and I collected together all his dots.

  • And now they're all in here.

  • (Laughter)

  • You can count them afterwards, if you like.

  • You see, that's the wonderful thing about the tidy up art idea:

  • it's new. So there is no existing tradition in it.

  • There is no textbooks, I mean, not yet, anyway.

  • I mean, it's "the future we will create."

  • (Laughter)

  • But to round things up I would like to show you just one more.

  • This is the village square by Pieter Bruegel.

  • That's how it looks like when you send everyone home.

  • (Laughter)

  • Yeah, maybe you're asking yourselves

  • where old Bruegel's people went?

  • Of course, they're not gone. They're all here.

  • (Laughter)

  • I just piled them up.

  • (Laughter)

  • So I'm -- yeah, actually I'm kind of finished at that moment.

  • And for those who want to see more, I've got my book downstairs in the bookshop.

  • And I'm happy to sign it for you with any name of any artist.

  • (Laughter)

  • But before leaving I would like to show you,

  • I'm working right now on another -- in a related field

  • with my tidying up art method. I'm working in a related field.

  • And I started to bring some order into some flags.

  • Here -- that's just my new proposal here for the Union Jack.

  • (Laughter)