Sunday, May 26, 2013

haus bill in blue light


dear mr honegger,
dear dr thomas and mr schmid,
dear ladies and gentlemen,

art is a political, a strategic means. its most important function is to form the way we think, to predetermine our decisions and actions. art is the substance of culture which creates the values of our society. it explains both the similarities and the differences between us. it can build bridges, but it may also provoke conflict. therefore, the people involved in art production and distribution hold a unique social responsibility. the seeds that we plant today are essential for tomorrow’s harvest of social tendencies.

if we analyse the ongoing processes that take place in our society, we will conclude that our continuous endeavours towards material progress have led to various scientific and technological advancements. for instance, we live in comfortable and secure, (even earthquake proof) buildings; we could instantly transfer our thoughts to the other side of the planet and practically be there in less than a day. we have defeated many illnesses that were incurable in the past. these achievements facilitate and save millions of lives across the so called developed world.

but yet, they are unknown to the majority of the earth’s population of which one quarter still lives without electricity and only a third of it uses the internet. today billions of people survive without access to basic human needs such as fresh water, food, medical supplies and education. slavery does still exist. even in the developed world. it is wrapped in a cellophane and it is euphemistically called corporate career. apparently, there is nothing new under the sun - the allocation of wealth is uneven just as it was 5,000 years ago. so where exactly is the human progress here?

furthermore, disregarding the values of all non-western cultures and ignoring the finite nature of the earthly resources, we constantly try to outsmart our natural environment. short term (‘scientific’) solutions are being applied in order to quench our civilisation’s thirst to subdue and to possess. thus, we generate a tremendous failure record and leave a heavy legacy of debt to the future generations. it is ridiculous to believe that nature can be conquered or tamed. and yet, we do not give up this predictable race while, nature is always a step ahead.

no doubt, today’s modern society is in a deep ethical crisis. a crisis of the senses i would say. there is a devastating global tendency of alienation which results in our inability to communicate with each other. we look, but we do not see; we hear, but do not listen; we memorise, but fail to remember; we touch - without a feeling; we dwell together, but we are so far apart.. we live, as if we are already dead. we create, but we make postmodern art.

the latter was meant to be a joke, but if we think about it, creativity in the developed world is mainly exercised today between the shelves of the supermarket.. or in the process of changing tv channels thanks to the remote control. in fact, this is one of the major issues of contemporary society. and i do not mean that we should be all aiming at becoming the next leonardo da vinci or inventing a new fire and a new wheel. the problem is that we use our knowledge and inventions in the wrongest direction possible; automatically, without any historical or long-term consideration.

certainly, the media has contributed a lot to the imposition of overconsumption as the determinant of our daily agenda. it constantly stimulates our fears and prejudices. but not only the media has been dominated by the increasingly powerful corporations. each day the national legislatures pass laws in order to ensure the longevity of their economic interests. moreover, corporations have expropriated the educational function from the schools and the academia. they act as implicit mentors to the students or directly train their employees in corporate procedures and policies. this is how today’s relations of production enter our homes and bring up our children.

an aging father once gave each of his three sons an equal amount of money. he commanded them to go on a journey and bring back home the most valuable commodity in the world. with it, he said, you will fill up your rooms and i will decide which one of you will inherit my fortune. it took a couple of years for the three men to return home. the eldest son brought in a huge stack of hay. what will you use it for, asked the father, who started coughing when he neared his room. i will become an animal merchant and this is what i will feed the animals with. good, said the father and carried on to the next room which was full of cotton bolls. what will you need all of this cotton for, asked the sneezing father. to produce textiles and clothes, replied the second son. very good, said the father and moved on to inspect the room of his youngest son. when he entered the room it was clean and tidy - there was nothing but a lighted lamp in the middle of the table. what did you do with the money i gave you, asked the stunned father. i went to school, replied the young man, and with what was left i bought this lamp to fill up my room with light..

light captures truth, contours it.
  creates a universal form, a beat
     whose brightness spheric is, a unity..
        that turns our optics obsolete.   

this old indian story will remain with an open end. everyone of you can choose alone in whose hands did the old man’s fortune go to. my personal preference goes for the youngest son, not only because i was the one who composed the verse above, but also because of the occasion that brought us all here today.   

for many decades now gottfried honegger has been particularly concerned with the philosophy of synthesizing and spreading light in various ways. one brief look at his oeuvre as a painter, designer and a sculptor gives a clear evidence on his personal cause to make the world a more sensible place. he has long realised that art has nothing to do with competition and is much more than a simple act of self-therapy. most of all, he has realised that art is a powerful tool for aesthetical education and social architecture.

this very creed is visible in mr honegger’s activities as a publisher (vitrine, 1940; vernissage, 1953), educator (lecturer, kunstgewerbeschule zurich; founder of eac, mouans-sartoux), thinker and a public figure. for over 20 years l'espace de l'art concret has been one of the world's leading strongholds of concrete art. the institution operates as both a museum and a learning centre which keeps its main focus on the eye education of children and young people. there is hardly a brighter way to unlock talent and add wings to one’s genuine dreams. this is how one creates hope and becomes an inspiration, an example to follow.

*  *  *

and before i collapse in front of you, i would like to cordially thank dr angela thomas - an art historian who does not only write about, but creates history of art - for giving me the opportunity to meet all of you at haus bill and open this ceremony.

georgi dimitrov
haus bill, zumikon
18 may 2013

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