THE REVERSE TEMPLE
The Section for the Visual Arts must be organised anew. I would like to wish this would happen with a much higher measure of research and investigation of Rudolf Steiner’s heritage than has happened hitherto.
The exhibitions of the art of today and Steiner
The exhibition “Rudolf Steiner and Contemporary Art”, which is on show in Stuttgart at the moment (February - May 2011), highlights this subject. It is the same exhibition which took place last year in Wolfsburg (May - October 2010), showing the work of seventeen contemporary artists together with works of art by Rudolf Steiner. The preface of the catalogue explains the new and surprising interest in Steiner and his holistic, all-embracing view of art - art is looked at in the context of politics, questions of the environment and the unrestrained world of banking. The interest was also woken by what the authors call “a religious search for meaning”. The importance of Steiner’s contribution culminates in the foreword in the following sentences: Rudolf Steiner's ideas are among the most exciting chapters in modern art and intellectual history. To take part in this leads “way beyond art itself”. In contrast to this openness to Steiner, it is obvious that in the planning and execution of this exhibition no artists from an Anthroposophical context were considered. For in the catalogue it is stated that many from the Anthroposophical movement are “not so open” to other approaches. Even if I would not express myself so categorically, I think that this cannot quite be dismissed out of hand. I base this opinion on particular experiences which I have had during the last decades in my profession as an architect and also from the studies I undertook in order to get a picture of Steiner’s attitude towards the visual arts. I published the results in a book in 2010 (in Norwegian). In the book I convey that I am now more convinced of the significance of Steiner than I was before I began my work. Also, that a lot of work is needed to make Steiner’s legacy more accessible to the younger generations.
In my perception it is crucial that we stop presenting Steiner’s earliest and partially unfinished thoughts as if they are of pressing importance for us today. I sense that there is a tendency to do just that in our Section. Steiner’s legacy is full of riddles, of fragments and of contradictions, Nevertheless, is the intention is very promising and future orientated. The legacy has to be taught in the language of our time and I would hope that more of this kind of work would be carried out in the newly formed Section in a stronger way than before; with a variety of activities, through which this legacy can be processed, a continuous review of that which was available then in order to relate to what is happening in our time.
But there I have to insert a confession, I am, as I said, an architect; the Art Section also includes painters and sculptors. Already in the relationship between architecture and painting I see many unanswered questions. I leave those aside for now. Please take my reflections and observations as those of an architect.
A search for deeper meaning
If the exhibition in Stuttgart points in its search towards a “religious meaning” for our time, this is a remarkable statement in our secularised world. Presumably it is not so much about religion in a conventional sense, but rather a desire to engage in deeper existential questions and the amazing thing is that this deeper understanding of existence appears side by side with the need to understand global environmental problems. The curators obviously assume that in Anthroposophy these elements are related: the outer and the inner worlds.
These words are simply a slightly different way of expressing the Rosicrucian motif and the path which Steiner treads in Munich in 1907. I do not want to take the example of the Stuttgart exhibition too far; much in it can make a superficial as well as a speculative impression, but it is important as a symptom. A number of world famous artists point to Anthroposophy as a link between the outer and the inner, and that is not really strange because that is exactly the tone of Anthroposophy and art is the link. This thought accompanied Steiner throughout his whole life from that day in November 1888 when he gave his first lecture on Goethe - in which he referred to Goethe because he had understood the balance which existed between the world in myself and the world around me. This is why Goethe introduced the new way of observation and perception through the arts, according to Steiner.
The beautiful and the ugly
In 1888, Steiner’s description is still very philosophical and actual reality cannot be perceive yet. The longing for a pure and idealised world in which the ideal of beauty is art, characterises his thought. This ideal of beauty corresponds to a purity which we can only find in ourselves. In the archetypes we find purity, says Steiner, referring to Goethe. Art should develop in accordance with these archetypes in order to stand in front of the outer world pure, unblemished and uninfluenced by the situation. The First Goetheanum came into being in this atmosphere, but as this thought ripens through the practical execution, the foundation is laid for the form language of the Second Goetheanum. An architecture is created in the interactive play of outer and inner forces and, in the same way, art is produced, as is reality, in the struggle between forces and their counter forces. The ideal of beauty gives way to the confrontation between the beautiful and the ugly. This happens when we approach the second Goetheanum. However, it is often the formulation of Steiner’s very early work which is presented as typical of his outlook. This often leads, in my opinion, to misunderstandings. I am convinced that the way of thinking about the arts which Steiner presents to us, not only in 1888, but during his whole early phase, is work in progress. It will be added to by him later, in accordance with his own practical, artistic experiences.
Steiner’s constant new attempts to express himself though art
Another example of Steiner’s dynamic attitude to the theme of art exists in his numerous experiments to order the different arts of sculpture, painting, music and so on, in a comprehensible manner. There are known and rather unknown classifications into seven, there are also fivefold divisions such as those which are close to Hegel’s famous ordering, and there are classifications into two or three. The tendency is clear; the purpose of separating the different types of arts recedes more and more into the background.
On some occasions Steiner describes, in connection with the first Goetheanum, how a sculptural element can be developed further and become a musical experience. He certainly strives relentlessly towards finding out how art must be understood in our time and, as if all those different experiments were not enough, he performs “art forms” which suggest a completely different and realistic way of looking at art: the art of healing, the art of education.
Everything now a work of art
The division into different arts, first many, then fewer, then more intertwined and finally with every day activities such as nursing and education, all points to further and closer to the lives which we actually live. Beuys’ famous formula “Every human being is an artist” can be understood in this way. The academic disappears, the biographical appears. What lives inside me and around me are two sides of my reality, as described in the morning verse for Waldorf Schools. What I perceive from within myself and what I encounter from outside must always be in tune with each other, and tuning is connected to hearing. What I want and what comes towards me has to be balanced and brought into the right form. Even if I am late for the bus and then have to run, my creativity is awakened. How can I rush through a crowd of people without embarrassment or without running someone over? A child who needs comforting needs the appropriate words and the fitting tone of voice. Everything I do results in bringing that which is my surrounding into the right relationship with that which lives inside myself. Outside, inside - whatever I do, it will always deal with the mediation of these two sides, just like breathing, and it must always lead to the one or the other outer gesture. Behold, the origin of art. Every second has the potential to be created by myself; anything can be art and each thing is now a work of art. This is the small scale.
The earth as art
The large scale is the world around me; the space in which I move and the time I use. For this world is the place of my larger self. Space and time are instruments of destiny, not passive backdrops. The order world, through which I move, is part of myself in the same measure as that part of myself where I think and feel. So when this world is polluted then so am I. If this world is too hot, I am too. I do not stand above the challenges of the world around me, but in them I meet myself in a deeper way. Outside of Anthroposophy there are hardly any other world views that suggest that the earth on which we tread is in the deepest sense ourselves.
Understanding it in this way, this planet becomes our personal responsibility and, at the same time, a raw material for art. When the foundation stone was laid in 1909 in Malsch, Steiner himself sounds that note. There he talks of making “our mother earth a spirit filled work of art”. Here is a further theme for the Art Section, because the model in Malsch was a sketch of a possible temple and this “ideal of a temple” has, in many people, a central place in their idea of an Anthroposophical architecture.
The reverse temple
Last year the Art Section held a seminar on the theme of “Art as a Mystery Impulse”. Temple building was spoken of, as well as of Steiner's prediction that in the year 2086 there would Goetheanum buildings on the hilltops of Europe. I suppose most of you know this famous quote of something which Steiner was supposed to have said. Maybe these buildings will be erected, maybe not, but it cannot possibly be a concern of the Art Section. We do not really need temples, unless we have not taken on to build a church or a mosque. Steiner indeed uses the word temple in regard to the first Goetheanum, but does he stop there? What I mean is that in his architectural work there is a clear trend where the sacred gives way to more artistic forms. These forms are not only part of an Anthroposophical view of the world, as was the case with the first Goetheanum, but they are also part of our time and are more universal, inclusive and freer, as was attempted with the second Goetheanum. As an architect I know of the effect architecture has and precisely because of that I don not understand how we can give ourselves the task of building temples. Temple buildings raise us up, make more of us than we would be without them. In their walls sit powerful forces which spare us from having to decide for ourselves. I would like to give myself the task to build “reverse temples”, which do not take away the work of me lifting myself, but inspire me to lift myself up out of myself, if I decide to do so.
Steiner’s legacy itself has such a power that it becomes visible in today’s cultural life. Examples of this are the exhibitions in Wolfsburg and Stuttgart. I believe that Steiner’s natural urge to make everything into an art will increasingly go hand in hand with other trends of our time. Paradoxically, this will also lead to a kind of end of art itself. This will happen whether the Art Section takes part or not, but I would wish that the Art Section participates. I am hopeful that everything in Anthroposophy will prove itself to be relevant and that misunderstandings will be resolved. Particularly the one which claims that “Anthroposophical Art” is primarily an internal affair. I am convinced that it is this misunderstanding which contributed to the unhappy solution which was chosen when the auditorium of the Goetheanum was renovated about ten to fifteen years ago.
The renovation of the Auditorium 1999
Many have experienced the renovation as introverted, as looking back. I can recall it well because I experienced it myself. For some people it was such a strong experience that, due to this event, they resigned from the Anthroposophical Society. I think that this is known here to everyone, but what is the problem? Again, I am convinced that it is related to what I call the misunderstanding. It seems as if Steiner’s early views and their unfinished nature had come to be applied without considering what experience he had gained later. The project did not really take serious account of the new and liberal achievements of the second Goetheanum, but slipped back into the atmosphere of the first Goetheanum. I know many people who took part in this project and realise that everything took place with the very best of intentions, but the chosen solution does not reflect our time and a rare opportunity was wasted. Who is to blame? Can we say anything other than we all are? Then, fifteen years ago, the sum total of the Anthroposophical position and insight presented itself that way. It is my feeling that, as much as I disagree with the result, we have to share the responsibility for it and be answerable for it together. This is also the reason that I am writing this because, in the shared responsibility, also lies the shared commitment to move forward, and here I see a challenge: it seems as if what I call the “misunderstanding” of Steiner’s legacy has not yet appeared on the agenda as a problem. Here follows an example.
The Anthroposophic style
In recent years, we had a new leader of the Art Section who emphasised the importance of the realisation of an 'Anthroposophical' style, amongst other things. This it seems to me that we are back to the syndrome of the auditorium. What we are building does not have an “Anthroposophical style”. We build with Anthroposophy in our hearts but the “style” in its present meaning is contrary to the basic tenor of an organic project. There are numerous and clear statements which Steiner made about style. One hundred and thirty years ago, when Steiner first made his investigations into 'style', the significance and meaning was much more multifaceted and freer than anything we associate with this term. I could write a separate essay on this subject, for which this article is not the right platform. What matters is that we have to fulfil our creativity, our own concepts, rather than take their content from the past. The only thing which proves the Art Section’s legitimacy is that we create our own art and do not copy Steiner, neither in what he did nor in what he thought.
Actively care for Steiner’s legacy
Of course I do not suggest that you suddenly stop dividing the various arts or that art should deal with running after a bus. Art Galleries and sculpture still have their place and are part of our time. To connect with it is as natural as tying in to Steiner’s legacy, or to ourselves, to our lives and to the country from which we come. All this we should do and then work slowly on things. This is what I would wish, but I would like a stronger will to work with the legacy of Steiner’s activity and bring it up to date, so that by time of the next exhibition on contemporary art and Steiner, it will be taken for granted to ask Art Section people for their participation.
Bergen 25 May 2011