Jochen – The Artist and His Model

The plant answers to the name of Jochen. Unlike people, pets, or zoo animals, not to mention ships, cars, and weapons, plants don't usually have a first name. The magnificent Monstera plant was adopted by the artist and his partner when its former owner went to Cambodia. In its new home, in the corner of the large living room, it developed a strong, fear-inducing presence, almost like a monster. So much so, that the young plant parents could only keep it in check by giving it a name. Jochen is part of the Monstera family, especially popular in the 1950s, because of their large, heart-shaped leaves with oval slits and holes and their long air roots. They are often and mistakenly called Philodendrons – "friends of trees." Yet, its real family name is Monstera, and this particular family member is called Monstera deliciosa, because its fruit tastes delicious. It's a shame that the fruit does not appear when the plant is grown indoors. The leaves were also popular as objects of speculative research. With the help of Kirlanian photography, an electromagnetic corona was shown around the leaf edges that supposedly showed the joy or horror felt by the plant, depending on whether one turned to it in a friendly manner or, for example, intended to cut it. It was also claimed that the Monstera had ears, and a feeling for beauty, for while hearing cultured classical music it grew more vigorously and more quickly, but not, however, with pop and jazz.

In William Engelen's studio, Jochen, besides the restful, pleasant voice of the artist, often hears "new" art music, and he seems to thrive to it. The close relationship between plant and art inspired William Engelen to create a series of twelve large-format portrait drawings executed in black Indian ink. The lovingly accurate drawings are also to be read as graphic scores. Written for saxophone or clarinet, they are thus an attempt to give the plant back its own music.
Five elements of representation and musical notation can be distinguished from one another:

The shapes and silhouettes of the leaves and their negative image, the holes and slits, provide, in the form of surfaces and lines, references to singular musical events, their course and density.
Leaf stalks and shafts reveal in delicate, narrow, compact lines and hooks individual tones, their relative duration, volume, phrasing, and the breaks between them.

The criss-crossing of the delicately curved lines of the air roots mark frequency, rhythm, and the sequence of the instrument's valve sounds.
Stems and branches are represented by longitudinally angular lines and small boxes in a black-and-white contrast. They should be read as multiphonics that the musician can generate on his instrument.

Each drawing is independent of the others. They can be played individually and in random order. Their duration is undefined. The musician can "leaf" through the drawings as he or she sees fit, and repeat elements. There is no written legend or playing instructions for the performance of the graphic signs. However, the artist would like to communicate to the musician his ideas in conversation. He would like the direction of the reading and the performance sequence to follow the organic growth of the plant. Behind the musician, Jochen's photographs and drawings are projected, so as to allow the listeners to follow the imaginative pro-cess, the musical transformation of the plant portrait. The ideal, of course, would be to perform in Jochen's presence. Here, the musician must show how well he or she is able to put himself or herself in the plant's position. A perfect interpretation would result in the leaves, stems, and branches swaying almost unnoticeably to the flow of the music. The eroticism of the playing would cause Jochen to blush, which for the Mexican Monstera deliciosa would mean that its saturated, satinated green would turn an even deeper and more "sonorous" shade.

Matthias Osterwold