Regina Dürig, Patrizia Bach — Jun 9, 2021
Innigkeit is not a cultural practice, yet. But we would be more than happy to live in a society or community in which Innigkeit guides and shapes our interaction; our way of being ourselves and being with each other. Innigkeit as a way of tender appreciation, of unquestionably acknowledging the other as Other, and quietly embracing their existence as a whole.
Innigkeit, following the seminal German-language dictionary of the Brothers Grimm, has three meanings: the innermost constitution of a human character, a meditation
or prayer, or, in more contemporary terms, a deep sentiment.1 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is quoted to account for the latter definition. As he writes in Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship):
Wie will der Weltmann bei seinem zerstreuten Leben die Innigkeit erhalten, in der ein Künstler bleiben muss, wenn er etwas Vollkommenes hervorzubringen denkt.2
So there’s a cosmopolitan (back in the day a man of the world) who has a scattered or absentminded life and thus cannot hold fast to the kind of Innigkeit in which an artist has to envelop themselves in order to create something absolute. I am not with Wilhelm Meister here – I guess you just cringed, too – about the creation of perfection as what the artist strives for, but we can leave this irritation aside and instead have a look at Innigkeit here: it thwarts an unfocused state of mind; it is something to be or dwell or be encapsulated in; it implies seeing the state of world rather than covering distances on its surface.
Innigkeit is a sentiment, but to me it has an important notion that luminaries Grimm and Goethe hid behind knee-deep pomp or didn’t think or know of at the time: a point-blank naïveté, an unconditional and welcoming openness. The best way to describe Innigkeit is to think of yourself in a house with a child or children and remember how they run up to you in the morning after you haven’t seen them in a long time, how they hug your legs with their arms and compact hands, how you bend down to embrace them and smell their hair, how they close their eyes, and you, for a moment, do too. This moment of two presences being connected, not through necessity but admiration or care or wonder alone, is the essence of Innigkeit.
The above child is not coincidental – to love someone innig (dearly) is a phrase that you would say about a kid (she loves her teacher innig) and not about an adult (or only metaphorically – my husband loves his coffeemaker innig). Innigkeit is a questionless and unquestionable practice of gentleness and enthusiasm that, like so many others, kids seem to instinctively know, whereas the grownups have to be reminded, mindful about.
Innigkeit can also be practiced in reading. I infinitely enjoy the one breath in which my eyes are closed and somebody else’s words embrace my body’s warmth. Like this, I read Ludwig Wittgenstein or Martin Heidegger or Helène Cixous or Luce Irigaray. I cannot own or control; I cannot manipulate or master. All I can do is be present, holding up my end of the text, leaning carefully in. It was in such circumstances that, to my surprise, I found that Innigkeit cannot be translated to English, at least not in one word. I read Heidegger’s essay »Language« first in German and later in the English translation. And this is what I was told: »For world and things do not subsist alongside one another. They penetrate each other. Thus the two traverse a middle. In it, they are at one. Thus at one they are intimate. The middle of the two is intimacy.«3 But in Heidegger’s original, the »middle of the two« is not »intimacy.« The middle of the two is Innigkeit: nothing carnal or sexual, nothing that needs to be awkwardly shown or carefully hidden or joyfully talked about, nothing that potentially conjugates distance or silently points into difference. Maybe Innigkeit is intimacy, but minus all the physical awkwardness that may or may not occur.
Apropos awkwardness – the English version of the Goethe quote. I know that most attempts at definition fall flat, which to me is a true relief because it means that drawing lines and borders is more nonsensical than we can ever imagine. But in the official 1885 translation of Wilhelm Meister, the absence of sense is quite spectacular. There seems to have been a veritable Innigkeits-struggle, a linguistic exertion which called for, quite mystically, the appearance of a special object: »And after all, how shall a fashionable man of the world, with his dissipated habits, attain that intimate presence with a special object, which an artist must long continue in, if he would produce anything approaching to perfection?«4
The special object – a strongbox, a blanket, a fountain pen. Iron or wool or ivory. An object to make sure that body wasn’t meant? A necklace, a heavy coat, a midnight blue carpet. How would one achieve an intimate presence with an object anyway? The object appears as counteragent for the genuine ability to be gently present. A presence without calculation or tradeoff maybe even without consequence.
In an economy of Innigkeit, the currency would be presence without denomination. In a world that is built on welcoming the other in a silent embrace, we would have enough time to find words to say to each other and about ourselves without the fear of being confused with an object whatsoever. It would be a world, perhaps, a world and a writing .in which we don’t manufacture word-objects, cans, jewel boxes, ›books.‹ We create paths, in movements.5
Text: Regina Dürig
Drawings: Patrizia Bach, 20x14cm, pencil on paper, 2020
Courtesy of the artist
Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm: »Innigkeit,« in: Deutsches Wörterbuch; http://woerterbuchnetz.de/cgi-bin/WBNetz/wbgui_py?sigle=DWB&mode=Vernetzung&lemid=GI00520#XGI00520 (accessed September 30, 2020).
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, in: Goethes Werke. Hamburger Ausgabe in 14 Bänden. Band 7. Hamburg 1948, pp. 209–16 http://www.zeno.org/Literatur/M/Goethe,+Johann+Wolfgang/Romane/Wilhelm+Meisters+Lehrjahre/Viertes+Buch/Zweites+Kapitel (accessed September 30, 2020).
Martin Heidegger: Poetry, Language, Thought. New York 2001: p. 199.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Goethe’s Works, vol. 4 (Recreations of the German Emigrants, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship), 1885; https://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2274#Goethe_0841-04_1460 (accessed September 30, 2020).
Helène Cixous: Weiblichkeit in der Schrift, Berlin 1980: p. 20. Translation by the author.
Regina Dürig, born 1982 in Mannheim, Germany, is a Switzerland-based writer, performer, lecturer, and researcher. She has published miniatures, short stories, audio dramas, children’s books, and young adult novels. She closely collaborates with the musician Christian Müller in the experimental story and sound duo Butterland, and with artists in other disciplines, notably Patrizia Bach. Dürig’s writings have won several awards, including the IBBY Honour List, the Wartholz Literature Prize, the Peter-Haertling-Preis, and the Literature Prize of the Canton of Berne. She was a fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude in 2018.
Patrizia Bach is a visual artist living and working in Berlin. Her main artistic medium is drawing, and her work focuses on topics such as archiving, collecting, and re-arranging; as well as approaching the city as a site of memory, history, and storage. For the past decade, she has been focusing on long-term projects that include in-depth research processes, which result in expansive drawing installations that take over architecture. She works in several interdisciplinary collaborations, notably with Regina Dürig. Bach has received numerous scholarships and was a fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude in 2018.
© 2023 Akademie Schloss Solitude and the author