Spielzeit 26.08. - 09.10.

Programme 2009


Primal moments

Whoever walks into the industrial halls of the Ruhrtriennale enters a strong magnetic field and is pulled into an atmosphere of almost forgotten energy and power that still resonates around the empty spaces of these huge buildings. The giant wheels might have stopped turning, but it is as if they are holding their breath, waiting for an impulse that will prime their movement again, release their frozen energy and send it to the depths. They remain a powerful symbol on the landscape of the Ruhr and a potent image for this determined penetration of the core. Our longing – expressed within the programme of the forthcoming Triennale – to penetrate to another level of those depths, to dig for the roots and the innermost core of human concerns, is wedded to the still tangible aura of these industrial buildings, apparently of no further use. From within these buildings matter and raw materials used to be mined with unimaginable power and sometimes with ruthless determination; our search, on the other hand, within the provocative emptiness of these allegedly-dead giants, is for the intangible, for art for art’s sake, here to find a new coherence, a new concreteness.

We accommodate so to speak this impulse of movement into the core and set out to search for the roots of human consciousness and an elemental longing for greater coherence. In the same way that industrial power extracted the raw material for coal, we want to mine for the spiritual raw material of human existence – for the primal moment of the religious.

The word religion is a word sapped of meaning by overuse, worn out by superficial, careless exploitation. Disfigured to the point of being threadbare, a tattered word, blurred, just a facade of letters. And religions shares this terrible fate that befalls some words (frequently the most important ones) with another word, love. Both are closely related, both are tragic siblings. Constantly on everyone’s tongue, all talk and act as if they knew what they mean, and yet no one can vocalise their meaning clearly. There are as many meanings for each word as there are people.  Both words want to say everything and as a result, say absolutely nothing. People carry out their most beautiful and also their most terrible deeds in their name. The dilemma of these related words is that their actual existence blocks access to the phenomena that they really want to describe. In the moment that I transcribe religion or love with words, I have missed the point – it’s exactly the same with the word art, the third of the sibling trio in this tragedy of words. As with love and religion, so too for art there can be no definitive or final definition.

When I experience great art, then I know that I am experiencing great art, and yet I can neither explain nor prove it. Nor does love actually take place in the arena of linguistic ascertainability, but at the furthest point away from it. And the first impulse of the religious comes from the energy with which I break down the walls of language and concept.  Words are the very last barrier on the way to another reality in which love, art and religion can regain their shared meaning.

At the mere sound of these words one is inevitably exposed to a bombardment of meanings and interpretations. Under the yoke of emotion, misunderstanding, deformation, abuse and distortion, words break into a thousand pieces of thought. Then, on the battlefield of meanings, they become closer, perhaps become one and the same thing – three helpless words for the exact same original phenomenon. And at the point where they flow into each other, where the husks of words lie broken, does it become clear that their shared tragedy lies in the fact that they cannot be spoken, they can only be experienced.

The forthcoming Triennale is concerned with that primal moment, the moment before the tragic deployment of words and on the far side of conceptual meaning. With the question of the source, the mutual well-spring of art, religion and love.

It is about the relationship of the arts and the artist to the primal moment of the religious. Not about religion as a ready made system or about institutions or churches, but about that great theme of art - aside from love and death - the quest and desire for a great connection that overcomes the limitations of one’s own existence. Our times, and above all the spaces in which the Triennale takes place, are strongly marked by upheaval and the search for new reference points. Following the collapse of the great political utopias, the individual and society at large finds itself in a crisis of identity and orientation. In this connection, and in the besieged problematic of globalisation and loss of traditional values, the question of the possible meaning of the religious quest, of spirituality and transcendence must be asked through art and from the artist’s point of view.

In terms of focus, over the next three years we will be looking at a different spiritual tradition. In 2009 this focus will be on Jewish culture and Jewish thought. At the heart are great works that transcribe Jewish thought, such as Arnold Schönberg’s Moses und Aron, Joseph Roth’s Hiob, texts by Franz Kafka and poems by the great Else Lasker-Schüler.

We want to take you with us on our quest for the primal source, we went to enthuse you with this “artistic archaeology of meaning” and we are hopeful of great experiences of primal moments, in which for one wonderful, fleeting moment, art comes into contact with the truth of our lives.

Willy Decker
Willy Decker