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Joachim M. Plotzek:
About the Idea and the Task of the Diözesanmuseums in Cologne

Lecture delivered at the Kölner Rubensgesellschaft, 5 March, and at the Kirchbautagung in Freising, 14 April 1994

The following paper will address the factor of »Zeitgenossenschaft« which is maybe best translated as »that which is contemporary« in reference to some aspects of the concept according to which work at Cologne's Diözesanmuseum (Museum of the archbishopric of Cologne) is executed. The concept is not a completed one in a statuesque sense; instead it is a complex structure of a multi-faceted questioning of possibilities which must continually be reflected anew, namely in which direction and with what kind of intensity may impulses be given and to what degree can they be made relevant in a museological dialogue between art and church. I deliberately limit myself to the dialogue which takes place in the museum, although it is also a part of the concept of the Diözesanmuseum to collaborate with parishes in order to try to find out under which conditions contemporary art is capable to occupy the elements of meaning of a sacred space which are pre-determined by the architecture and the liturgy. How can contemporary art, furthermore, visually accompany and possibly intensify the activities executed in this sacred space? Included in this may be spots in the church space which were picked solely for artistic purposes located outside the immediate realm of liturgy and meditation. All this can take place without transforming the sacred space (which would be a negation of its purpose) into an exhibition hall or an art gallery. I am also not going to address more specifically activities that are being offered sporadically by the Diözesanmuseum of Cologne such as lectures, poets' readings, or concerts. It is, however, important to emphasize that the museum not only offers its space for such activities by virtue of supplying a backdrop for a specific ambiance. Instead, there is always a contextualization in connection with the works performed and the works of art in the collection, for instance in cooperation with the Kölner Gesellschaft für Neue Musik (Cologne's Society for New Music). This is for example exemplified with the listening-to or indeed the not-listening-to pieces by John Cage which might be juxtaposed to Roman Opalka's number paintings or the meditation paintings by Agnes Martin in order to perceive related structures, among other things. I will be focusing on the museum's holdings which is a particularly heterogeneous collection of paintings ranging from Early Christian times to such examples dating to the beginning of our century. The artifacts have been gathered over a period of some 150 years. They were assembled rather more by chance and sporadically emerging possibilities than according to a concise plan. The museum is thus quite fundamentally different from all the other Cologne museums as well as many other important collections which were carefully planned as private (ducal or bourgeois) collections. Even the big collection of the Cologne Domherr Alexander Schnütgen, primarily derived from churches in the Rhineland, at the beginning of this century did not become incorporated into the already existing Diözesanmuseum which had by then already been in existence for a long time: Schnütgen's collection was willed by its spiritual owner to the municipality which many decades later founded the Schnütgen Museum. It would have to be the subject of a different investigation to analyze such rather common occurrences, ranging from the last century well into ours, where there were enthusiastic collectors with clerical backgrounds whose talents and merits were neither recognized by the church (which for the most part lacked interest) nor was the church at the time perceived as capable of dealing with art. As the second oldest museum in Cologne, in 1853 the Diözesanmuseum was initiated by the Verein für christliche Kunst (Society for Christian Art) which had just been founded on April 2 of the same year. Cardinal Geissel was specifically in favor of the museum, giving his permission for it and thus officially founding it. The museum opened on May 14, 1860; this was just over one year prior to the opening of the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. In those days the driving force was »to awaken more and more the sense for Christian Art in all areas, to enhance it, and to offer guidance onto the right path in order to secure for Christian Art its scholarship, its preservation, and the re-creation of old works of art as well as to ensure the execution of new works«, (quote from the Society's statutes). This enthusiastic driving force for the museum project had the notion of a pioneering spirit. It is my feeling that once again it is a similar kind of spirit of creating something new which defines the history of the Diözesanmuseum. The foundation and the stimulation for this is the fact that once again we have a Cardinal who is in some ways an art enthusiast and who has considerable knowledge in this métier. Furthermore, open-minded administrators see an opportunity in the Diözesanmuseum to initiate multifold invigorations and to institute dialogues: This entails to demonstrate within the old art contents of the Christian faith in artistic depictions and definitions as well as to substantiate numerous moments of thousands of years old aspects of the history of piety and to further specify them in conjunction with the realm of contemporary art using artistic discourse and positions. This may be achieved by means of invigorating once again the sensitivities of perception – also for unusual subject matters –, and it may lead to an awareness for individual »free spaces« for decisions which may be filled with Christian responsibility. In this way, the Diözesanmuseum can be understood as an opportunity to find a place where one can become aware, where one can explore – along artistic parameters including old as well as contemporary art – virulent religious dimensions which are by no means restricted to humanistic goals. On the other hand lie the possibilities that this endeavor may arouse curiosity and that spontaneity and open-mindedness, i.e. immediacy in dealing with art, are stirred and encouraged. Such an understanding is what has been instituted as the self definition for the museum as well as for the justification of its desperately urgently needed existence. This is the essence of a new beginning, formally realized due to the fact that the museum no longer operates under the auspices of the Verein für christliche Kunst, but under the jurisdiction of the arch-diocese. This happened four years ago, and since then the tasks have become more concrete, the ways of executing the assignments are leading to ever new questions within a very open process. As the creation of the collection makes more progress, however, – this includes concentrated additions in the medieval field and building a collection of contemporary art – this leads to an increasingly dense and precise structure. It is in the emergence of interwoven correspondences which illuminate one another that answers to our interrogations may be communicated. The initial question which we were asking ourselves in the Diözesanmuseum after this constitutional change was one of our ranking, i.e. a query of our spiritual placement. This is if one did not just want to continue to take care of the amassed collections, to do research, to make new acquisitions, and to mount special exhibitions in the most traditional sense; all of the above are of course issues routinely addressed by any museum. In addition to these most commonplace assignments the question arose what was the distinction of the Diözesanmuseum of Cologne. And, more important still, what is the difference such a museum – under the auspices of the church – can make in our age and – cautiously speaking – which ingredient is it that can assure the museum's necessity in the future? The parameters are clear: The arch bishopric of Cologne is a diocese of a certain potency which might most likely take over previously neglected functions or additional cultural tasks which in other dioceses – due to different reasons – would be unthinkable. The consequence of this is the resulting claim that the Diözesanmuseum of Cologne cannot be a regional or a provincial museum in which artifacts of solely coincidental nature survive whose common denominator it is to document the cultural peculiarities of the bishopric over the centuries. On the one hand this is impossible because the holdings of objects do not permit it and it would be impossible to verify anything of substance; on the other hand this function has long since been realized in more than sufficient incidents throughout the diocese in the remaining church furnishings and church treasuries and in special places such as pilgrimage sites (which more often than not are rendered in an attractive manner and, more importantly, they are situated in the immediate context of regional history offering to become an experience in itself.) Another given of the museum concept is the fact that Cologne has a multilayered and solidified array of museums of high standard, among them collections specializing in medieval sculpture, objects, and applied arts, as well as holdings of panel painting reaching all the way to modern and contemporary ensembles of great breadth; these museums are the ones which the Diözesanmuseum will have to measure up to. If my understanding is correct, then the concepts of collecting of those houses are such to obtain the most comprehensive and possibly encyclopedic documentation of art historically defined epochs and to ensure the appropriate in regional references, which indeed is the task of art museums. It can be noted, furthermore, that such concepts of collecting encyclopedic ranges of Romanesque bronze crucifixes, Gothic Madonnas, chalices, monstrances, etc. with didactic intentions had already been pursued by some of the museum founders – as in the case of Alexander Schnütgen. The situation is similar, too, in reference to the collection of modern and contemporary art in the Museum Ludwig where it appears to be the intention to make plausible the polyphonic main- and subsidiary paths of artistic tendencies of this century with their numerous variants. The conceptual difference between a museum type such as the Schnütgen Museum and the Diözesanmuseum is the fact that the latter is not organized in an art historical manner – i.e. it is not the primary goal to uncover and to research artistic- and stylistic dissimilarities, the specifics of a region, of art centers, or of individual artists – but the primary examinations revolve around historical aspects related to and relevant for the church, religion, and piety. Thus, the issues addressed by the Diözesanmuseum are concrete questions in this vein: Which biblical, eschatological, or dogmatic themes or which matters concerning private piety are particularly important at which time; how are they being dealt with and interpreted artistically? And how does art approach these themes in the context of and comparatively to the written and verbal interpretations and traditions? This is to say which are the possibilities inherent in art, which are the themes – motivated by religious or Christian motifs – most impressively addressed at certain times? Thinking this in a utopian way, one might say – though due to various reason this is not or not anymore obtainable – that as a goal-objective for the museum concept it might be feasible to institute artistic structures of interpretation as they relate to religious notions and currents within occidental history. What becomes clear, then, is that beside the criteria of thematic relevance and the selection of areas of concentration stemming from the specific historical background, it is the criterion of artistic ability and quality which is of the utmost importance. That which belongs together and which does not will therefore not be juxtaposed in a formal-stylistic analysis or by virtue of art historical interpretation. Instead, aspects emphasizing correspondences and contrasts will be scrutinized and looked at from the point of view of their spiritual and historical provenance. Artistic documentations will be used as facilitators in achieving these goals because such contents can possibly be clarified most effectively with art. Thanks to the new sponsor, the Diözesanmuseum is able to and does intend to assemble a collection of contemporary art. This is – to remain within Cologne – another difference to the Museum Ludwig, for example. In this area, too, it is not the intention to document without any gaps the major artistic movements of this century or to make them generally comprehensible. Instead, the question will be asked which movement, which artist, and which work within a specific oeuvre does best meet the concerns of the church – regardless of whether the means and methods are achieved by conventional or new means. Which are the artistic discourses and positions best enabled to start a dialogue about Christian subject matters with the church, and which are the ones achieving this in the most thorough and radical manner? It should be stressed at this point that the Diözesanmuseum is an Art Museum and by no means a fictitious requisition of the church to reconfirm or to regurgitate artistic issues that are already commonplace knowledge. Neither is it part of the museum's mission to satisfy pre-existing expectations. One of the prerequisites demanded by both sides is the anticipated openness in encounters in order to comprehend the mental dimensions in artistic approaches in reference to the »creative aptitude« as far as they relate to the church's intent. What needs to be determined is to what extent artistic means achieve the same degree of intensity or authenticity of proclamation as is strived for with other means in the dogmatic and in the verbal areas. Thus, I am not talking about the artwork customarily commissioned by the church. In contrast, I am referring to an understanding of immanently artistic possibilities (including motivations clearly beyond directly religious ones) – in an arena which compared to a church interior might be described as neutral – in light of a competency for a dialogue with the church as well as with regards to requirements by the church which would desire to artistically address means leading to the spiritual and the transitory. The wherewithals for this would be based on a similarly structured understanding of art and religion by applying comparative and existential principals. Just as there are areas of concentration within the collection of medieval artifacts in the Diözesanmuseum, it is also the intention not to assemble a multitude of different voices within the modern field, i.e. to collect large quantities of paintings of the most different artists. We want to choose a stringent selection of works rendered by a limited number of artists who according to our knowledge fit the parameters we have established in the most impressive and the most convincing way. Consequently, intensity and concentration will happen by virtue of a restriction. The effects of the works may also occur in such a fashion that not one work but various ones of an individual artist might be incorporated simultaneously, reciprocally enhancing a constellation or a confrontation. This becomes evident in one gallery in the museum where we exhibited until recently (due among other things to severe space limitations we change our permanent exhibitions very frequently) quite diverse works of the American Paul Thek, an artist who uses unusual materials in order to demonstrate concepts of creation and disintegration, withering, going-through-death as a prerequisite for a new beginning, for a new life revolving around a transitory reality. In this, Thek operates quite in the logic of Joseph Beuys' principle: »Life in its essence manifests itself through death«; this is the »Christ-Principle« about which Joseph Beuys spoke continually. According to him, this is at the same time the pinnacle of the principle of creation with respect to the artistic and the religious experience. Integrated into this gallery space was a late Gothic object of an Ecce Homo a life-size image of the suffering Christ. In the center of this medieval image stands this principle of going-through-death as an act of the utmost sacrificial love. In this piece deliverance through redemptive death is prototypically manifest. The museum's concept becomes thus broadened towards a questioning of the art in the confrontation of old and new with the opportunity to make aware the one in the possible interchange with the other. Such juxtapositions will indeed not be the only principle of our presentations. As a consequence, this means that chronology is but one organizational factor. Neither are the typology of shapes and categories nor are the regional interdependencies the ordering principle. There will remain sufficient space to point out in an exemplar way the different systems of referentials and the correspondences between early Christian, medieval, modern, and contemporary works. Independent of their date of creation and despite totally different artistic media they might very well address similar issues. Naturally, this often does not happen in utter harmony but in the confrontation of two or more works which were created at different times. The following example may best illuminate this point: The juxtaposition of the life-size Romanesque crucifix from Erp (which incidentally with the living Christ on the cross offers a deviation in its depiction from the famous cult image in the Volto Santo in Lucca) with a major work without title by Joseph Beuys, located over a bronze cross with the sun nailed to a chest of ammunition presumably from the First World War is the trunk of a conifer without branches attached to which we find the enigmatic minor's lamp. The most complex work dates from 1972 and was completed using materials from the artist's earlier work phases. The adjacency of these two works shows on one side the logos on the cross, artistically reduced to its frontality; and reduced furthermore to what is doubtlessly clear namely that which has been fixated for one perspective only, compressed to the essentials of the vis-a-vis in a monumental cult image. On the other side we encounter the »Cross of History«, the effects of salvation as depicted in a broken, reflective awareness of history and nature in its incomprehensible fullness and in exploring the biggest possible turnaround. The latter example addresses salvation in history and the divine creation, and it is tied in with the ideas, the utopias, the hopes, and the actions of the human being. A painting by the Catalan Antoni Tàpies from 1965 is displayed in the same room with the Romanesque art. Entitled Petjades sobre fons blanc (Traces on a White Ground) it is juxtaposed to the work by Beuys in a wide axis. In the following, let me explore this vicinity a little more closely. As a sign for his mistrust against illusionistic (i.e. illusory) representation in color, for example, executed in oil or acrylic, Tàpies chooses clay in order to sculpt human footprints on the traditional canvas. Hereby he suggests a bigger degree of authenticity than the assumed reality of realistic painting. Closer inspection reveals, however that the footprints left behind are not real ones but that they have been sculpted as such by the artist. Thus authenticity is not arrived at in a one-dimensional »naive« adaptation of the commonplace action of walking. Instead a broken reflection about this activity leads to an artistic approximation to reality. At the same time this simple and precise artistic process addresses the question of reality and how it might be recognized, it approaches the issue of truth and humankind's ability to grasp it. Because of their protruding profile and their seemingly intact materiality, some of the footprints appear to be fresh. They look as if they had just recently been left behind by somebody. Other footprints show signs of broken-off rims, they appear to have lost some substance and seem to be of an earlier date. And yet others again can barely be recognized anymore; they look like remnants of times long past, one might say. This is if, upon looking more closely, one would not detect that a liquid, possibly water, was poured over the painting, with the idea of waves on the beach in mind which recall the traces in their perpetual attacks, ultimately leading to total oblivion. Poetry of time, a reflection about time: The fresh traces of the present, the distorted traces of the past, the shadows of traces which with their pale contour are but relicts of a distant knowledge and memory. A time dimension of this painting reaching into the remote past. On the other hand this image of time is manifest in relics of human activities, where footprints become the heritage of human presence. The footprints become souvenirs to the effect that at one point there were people here; this is accounted for in an untheatrical way, but at the same time it is rendered with an expressive power to proof, indeed the notion of time is evidenced in an authentic manner. Apart from the time span, in this painting space is defined through the arrangement of the footprints as a dynamic circle-shape (i.e. deviating from geometry) incised into which are – beginning at the periphery – further traces. While some are being adapted to, others are being released from the circle. The result is a walking-in-circles according to the limits specified by the rectangle of the painting which opens up any number of avenues to the spectator for a free interpretation. Hence we are confronted with the directed, straight walk which invariably opts for the shortest distance, wandering from one known spot to the next which is contrasted with the walking-in-circles used here as a metaphor for searching, thinking, reflecting, meditating. The latter is a path without beginning and end, the circular trace an image of the personification of walking, the being-on-the-way, and at the same time encircling the center. Incidentally, due to traces of sweeping, the center in Tàpies' work remains undefined and thereby creates a conscience for the fact that there is a center. Encircling – seeking – reflecting – the search for sense – these are categories which come to mind while one looks at the work. A structure of thought which can be directly recognized within the artistic shape is thus underlying the painting; a search for sense, a search for truth, for the world, for reality. The center, the nucleus, the truth – none of the above can be named directly; yet it can be paraphrased, it can be encircled, and it can be questioned from a distance. This is comparable to a circle from where – by using different angles – questions may be asked about what is sought, questions about the center, about truth, and reality. It becomes clear that art also reflects about itself, that it asks about its conditions. This asking about itself is elevated to being the topic itself. Thereby an identity of the pictorial and the artistic act emerges which has as its goal the statement. It is not the execution of a given theme but the creative act as such which becomes the justification and the painting's content in the artistic work. Tàpies' painting of 1965 is thus also an expression of the 1950s and 1960s. It has its parallels in music, in the philosophy of existentialism, in structuralism, or in the theory of the modern novel of the French »Nouveau Roman«. One is reminded of novels ranging from La Condition Humaine by Malraux or The Stranger by Camus to the short story La Jalousie by Robbe-Grillet. Time and again the same structure may be recognized in all of the above. A center is being excluded because one is unable to grasp it, to recognize it. This is why one chooses to circle around the hero, focusing on his description through the minor characters' different angles surrounding him. Or one limits oneself to the attempt of grasping a room or a simple object in its essence – e.g. the meticulous description of objects changing due to the wandering daylight, which as time progresses puts itself around the things in question like a grand circle – because in their immediate existence they cannot be grasped. The quest for the search of truth as an encircling which leaves out the center. A time-related putting-into-perspective of the Tàpies' painting reveals at the same time that this cogitate method is rooted in a tradition of encyclopedic models of thought and science which reach far back in time: It is related to cogitations ranging from Isidor of Seville to the Humanists of the Renaissance who are striving to understand the meaning of the world by collecting all the knowledge of the different areas of scholarship in an attempt to approximate truth. This is, therefore, also an encyclopedic encircling of the truth, the center of which cannot be grasped. It is appropriate, then, that throughout his life Antoni Tàpies has been studying Raimundus Lullus, an encyclopedist from Mallorca who lived in the thirteenth century. In the work of the latter Tàpies found the »art of the finding-of-the-truth« which is related to the pursuit of Tàpies' artistic principle of thought. In his search for truth the Catalan artist uses the most simple materials. In this case they are clay and sand, and he reveals that in the (divine) creation even the most insignificant object has a worthiness and that it makes sense and that human footprints which are left behind in the coordinates of time and space and of the world and history are proof for a search-for-meaning. Tàpies writes: »I think that a work of art should take hold of the beholder, it should encourage him to reflect about the meaning of life.« The intensity of the experience is up to us. It depends on our readiness to relate to it. The painting itself – though rendered with the most simple means conceivable – in its achieved precision of the intention, is at the same time infinitely open In our museum presentation we have juxtaposed the work of Tàpies with the rudiment of an ornamental floor which appears to have been the center of a Romanesque floor labyrinth in the church of St. Severin in Cologne. It is not unusual that the antique theme of the Minotaurus battling against the Attic King Theseus is preserved in the ornamental labyrinth of a medieval church. It was used as a typological precursor interpreting the battle between Christ and the Devil in the center of the world. In some cases it is also substituted, for instance with the victory of David over Goliath. Transformed into the realm of Christian iconography, there were numerous cathedrals and churches where – during the Middle Ages – plays took place on these ground-plans for Easter. Integrated into this were the bishop and the clergy who assumed the march to the center of the world. This was comparable to Christ entering into Jerusalem before them, and it was in accordance with the maps of the world based on which Jerusalem was the city of salvation (death and resurrection of Christ on Easter morning) and thus the center of the Christian world. The labyrinth can therefore be understood as a pictorial metaphor for the human path of life, as a meandering on paths that are futile or deviations, as the pinnacle in the search for sense. This is true for the profane depictions of antiquity and also for the re-interpreted goals of the Christian vision in medieval church depictions. In its artistic character all this proves to be related to the formal solutions of Tàpies which become apparent in their being side-by-side in the museum's juxtaposition. What is important, however, is that such putting-into-perspective always reaches far beyond formal or thematic points of reference. It must be seen in a more-dimensional relationship in order to reveal interdependencies and insights which might be enlarging, disclosing, and enlightening. Maybe these reflections will make clear that such a concept does not want to remain on the surface of the paintings, on the outer skin of polychrome sculpture – regardless of how important their understanding may be. This concept explores possibilities for artistic pursuits within the spectrum – and this is not only restricted to the topic but is extended to the motivations – possibilities are investigated which in view of the church being the sponsor of the museum are in no way restrictive; on the contrary, their meaning lies in their defining nature. Since the importance of chronological principals is reduced in this concept, it offers room for the unusual, for new insights of spiritually related parallels (which are always dependent on time), it even invites controversial developments. Let us now turn to the movement of process-related art presently so virulent. One of the characteristics of it is the perpetual reflection of and the concentration on the process of creation itself, driven by the ambition and by the hope to advance the limits of what can be achieved and envisioned and wanting to examine coherence. This is for instance what is being emphasized in the minimalist and the conceptual art of the present decade. During the post-war years it was the art of informell, i.e. the utopia that something which could not be depicted in a figurative manner, something that was barely conceivable in abstract terms or could hardly be grasped in its gestural originality. Ultimately the art of informell was trying to create an awareness for that which is unattainable, that which – in a further act – after a liberal decision may either be answered in differently motivated notions, or which may obtain its answer in an ability to believe. This process is an artistic one and thereby it is one for which there is more or less awareness in occidental history. Formulated during Romanesque times by such individuals as Hugo of St. Victor or the Abbot Suger of St. Denis, it is featured in their writings on art appreciation. By using the philosophical terms of analogy or anagogy, the artists' creations are juxtaposed to the divine which cannot be attained. This is a way of balancing the continuously repeated attempts of artistically achieving perfection in the understanding of God – or in the limitations of humankind. After addressing the factor of time, or rather the importance given to chronology of time within the museum concept, I would like to pursue some ideas relating to the factor of space which is complex and of great importance. Let me start with what is most commonplace and seemingly meaningless. Each museum that is built and furnished offers its own spatial qualities which – in interchange with the architecture and the exhibited works – have their idiosyncratic values. The scale on which architecture is ranked ranges from self-important dominance to its fulfilling a serving function. Proportionate to this, the exhibited works of art may either get lost as a mere factor of decoration, or the artwork may thrive in a subdued architecture. Although for the Diözesanmuseum – which is planning a new building – this issue with its problematic ramifications has been addressed before, it is of greatest importance, and it will remain so even after the initial planning stages. I do not want to elaborate on it here, yet I wish to point out that – within a coarse grid – there is a third possibility, which may well be the least fortunate one of all conceivable. It is the one where architecture and the works of art contained in it result in a reciprocal neutralization stemming from an utter lack of momentum. Please pardon my language but I am talking about »Street« - or »Shopping-Mall Museums« with their pompous lobbies and the broad walkways which are designed only in order to accommodate masses of visitors who indeed leisurely walk past objects of art which are conveniently stored there while the spectatotors barely stop to notice them. As investigations reveal, in such places art is appreciated by virtue of superfiscial recognition, often quickly checked-off as known. These »mechanisms of wear« are well known. Every now and then the seemingly endless string of similarly designed exhibition spaces results in a comparable effect: They do not offer new experiences to the visitor, and the utmost they achieve is to provoke recollections of things already known. Something else in the behavior of the visitors needs to be added: It is only too understandable that while dealing with art as something unusual or unknown the information derived from a label may be taken as an appropriate introduction to the understanding of an art object. Glancing at the little sign induces the calming knowledge of creatorship, sometimes even the title and the time of execution are mentioned. Yet initially labels do distract from getting a grasp of the object. In a somewhat exaggerated formulation one might state: To give informtion about say an artist who is unknown to the viewer, or to volunteer references about someone who remained anonymous even to the specialist, results in a block. Similarly a date like »fourth quarter of the fifteenth century« or »1975« or even what may be deemed perfectly logical from the artist's perspective but yet provocative from the point of view of the visitor, such as »Untitled«, may result in a diminished development of openness and a limited willingness and ability to experience the works of art beyond their purely artistic merits into the realm of inter-human relationships and the resulting plethora of relations which ultimately create awareness. As a consequence of rejecting this kind of »pre-information« we do not display any object labels. Instead we distribute a kind of abbreviated guide as an admission ticket. This is similar to what we do for special exhibitions such as our Vaticana exhibition. It soon dawns on the visitors that this »gentle museum education« is not a sacrifice but an enlargement and that our main goal lies in a chronology of perception and information that makes sense. A second argument needs to be added. The common mode of communication about what is shown in the Diözesanmuseum is generally not a tour in which – according to traditional role expectations – a sharade between the knowledgeable and sophisticated guide and the interested listener who absorbs information and educates himself or herself takes place. Much rather, the getting together takes place by virtue of conversations. The passive listener is transformed into an equal participant who brings to this his own experiences, prejudices, dependencies, wishes, and hopes, his perspective, his cooperative thoughts, his stamina to comment, and at the same time his perception is unprotected. Like this the encounter with art is not just a passtime. It is experienced as a chance to detect in the recognition and the careful weighing of artistic proposals and discourses possible foundations of thought for his personal existential sense of life and existence. A person may thereby become more aware of his or her membership in a group of contemporaries. By doing so he himself creates contemporaryness. Art is communicated by virtue of conversations, striving to approach the works. The art itself then becomes the path of sensitizing perception all the way to political perception with the vigor and the intensity to »go-for-it«. By that art becomes an offer not of superficial quantities – one tries to see as much as one can in a museum and also in the rest of the world – but of qualities which remain available within the personal realm of experience. To use the words of the philosopher Henri Bergson – the experience of art will lead to the intensities which individually determine each personal span of experience in each case. To withstand from labeling objects is also a counteraction against a quick and superfiscial observation done in passing – which in itself is a behavior more or less compulsively induced by the abundance and the velocity of information available in the media and advertisements. The former are positions which are introduced beside further restrictive and exclusive actions with the aim of achieving a concentration in which the individual object is put into the center of a mode of observation which demands and presupposes the courage and the chance of a »going-for-it«. In this way the museum might become a place for prickly or contemptuous contents, for resistance, for objection, instead of becoming a place of mere consumption. A museum of thoughtfulness indeed in the sense of the Tàpies painting: thoughtfulness can be seen as a chance to withdraw from the pragmatically demanded vision of thought as the shortest connection between two points – between question and answer, problem and solution. In the words of Hans Blumenberg this means to gain a period of grace vis-a-vis the banal results. In reference to the Tàpies painting the question might be: »Is this art?« And the answer might be: »I, too, can leave footprints in the mud.« A museum is thus also a place leaving an entire playground for thoughtfulness. In light of the architecture of the new building such a goal would have to be especially aimed-for. The architecture should neither nullify it nor distract from this aim. I do not want to pursue this because it seems to be apparent that such a requirement for concentration, for an intense »going-for-it« goes hand in hand with the above-illustrated criteria which –neither in the medieval field nor in the contemporary collection which is yet to be ammassed – do not intend to achieve the broadest possible breadth within the collection. What is intended is a limitation to what is artistically and from the point of view of content-related motivation the most intense and the most important. In the areas of concentration which are chosen, a different kind of abundance and variety may be expected. As an aside it might be mentioned that with these considerations of being only a small museum with a relatively small collection, the shortages may also seem as an assets. In the future too, the Diözesanmuseum will remain a small museum which is striving to make visible the existential possibilities by virtue of questioning art and artistic positions before the ecclesiastical background. – In contrast to what has been outlined above – also in the spiritual sense – i. e. the more horizontally-conceived museum type – the Diözesanmuseum could rather be and become a museum of verticality which invites you to remain longer, to go for the exhibits, to scrutinize the artistic proposals, to come to an in-depth reflection in the confrontation with the unknown and with the multi-faceted possibilities of art, with the ambition to make comprehensible and to make discernable religious dimensions and trails and spirituality in the broadest sense. It appears that art – and this is not restricted to the depicting arts only – is particularly suitable for such a conveyance. Having said this, it becomes emphatically clear that for the choice of the location of the site for the much-needed new museum its central location or the number of visitors were not of primary importantance. Rather, something like the spirituality of the locale is pivotal. This excludes the ramdomness to erect another museum on any available site, where – with the same justification – something entirely different might be placed. The choice of Kolumba increases the thought of verticality under various different considerations. With its visible and tangible archaeological remains of Roman buildings as well as due to various church edifices from early Medieval to late Gothic times – with numerous catacomb rooms, some of which can be used, while others are filled with bones – Kolumba is a central spot within the city. The site is of the utmost densely historic persuasion, a place from which history can be deduced. Consequently, a consciousness in relationship to Kolumba can be developed and kept alive. In addition to that, there exists a small Kolumba-Chapel which belongs to the most frequented places of prayer in the entire city and which is totally accepted by the population. The imagination of a museum which tries to bring together the Middle Ages and the Present – a museum which sees for itself a chance for spiritual profusion, which wants to arouse curiosity, and which seeks confrontation and reflection – not only finds a perfect scenery in Kolumba but in addition sees the opportunity in Kolumba to determine its own historic foundations. Kolumba offers the possibility of an incorporation into the complex locality by virtue of architecturally and artistically reacting to it. The new architecture of the future museum building, which would have to be developed out of the specificities of the location, would certainly not be installed like an alien element. The new structure corresponds with the remaining archaeological monuments in a way similar to the manner the museum intends to bring together medieval and contemporary art. The museum's verticality may, however, not only be found in its spatial links with the archaeological monuments and the buildings superimposed over them; it is also visualized in the spiritual inter-connection with the past history, i.e. in the making us aware of it. Furthermore, the verticality is emphasized in a contemporary artistic reaction to the pre-existing site situation. Envisioned are invitations to artists who will give an answer to this historically incredibly compact neighborhood by defining the site and by making the locale become transparent. This then will no longer be a museum in the traditional sense but an artistically defined locality – also with medieval art and indeed with the objects from the collection – of historic importance where art and church will be able to enter into an intense dialogue. This will be carried by and based in the ubiquity of history and its dealing with it. I would like to briefly illustrate this with one final example. An intensive visit to the site of the museum with the American sculptor Richard Serra resulted in choosing one of his works of 1992 for Kolumba. This steel sculpture consists of two angles which are arranged like mirror images to one another. Each angle is made up of one shorter vertical and one slightly longer horizontal piece. In this they represent the principles of lifting and bearing weight. Because of their proportions and the connected distribution of weight none of the angles has the ability to stand on its own; the angles retain their stability from leaning against one another, from supporting each other.From this relationship alone – as though the one were the mirror image of the other – results a stable structure. Each of the two angles must rely on the other; only as two together can they stand upright. Thereby they demonstrate an existentialist relationship of reciprocities and they give an example of mutual interdependencies. This sculpture refers back to itself; neither does it develop any volume nor does it point into space, but it is closed in itself. It neither invites to be perceived from different points of view by walking around it nor does it permit changes of perspective which might perhaps permit different possibilities of experiencing it. Rather, the sculpture remains unconquerably opposed to the viewer who by observing it quietly recognizes only the frontality of the sculpture and understands the conditions of its existence. Richard Serra always creates his works in conjunction with the history and the spirit of a place without truely illustrating it. The piece represented here bears the title The Drowned and the Saved and dates back to 1992. It was created for a temporary exhibition in the synagogue at Stommeln near Cologne which only survived the terror of the »Reichskristallnacht« (The Night of Broken Glass) because at that time it had already ceased to exist as a place of worship. The parishoners had either already been driven out or murdered, and the memory of Jewish life and its religious center had been erased. The remaining building is only an empty shell, a non-place reporting about what is no more; a place dedicated more to the absentees, the disappeared, and the assasinated than belonging to those visiting it today. Serra's sculpture responds to this situation by relating to the historic activities and – self contained as it is – at the same time distances the visitor from the locality where he finds himself. In the elemental functions of lifting, bearing, and leaning onto one another the relationship of the deceased and the living – who are refering to each other but yet are separated – finds a sculptural analogy. In his reflexions concerning a work for the Diözesanmuseum Serra did not opt for a new sculpture, but – and this was in keeping with our wishes – decided for a translocation of the piece discussed above to Kolumba where it will find a permanent home in the former sacristy of the late Gothic hall church which – with the exception of its outer walls – was completely destroyed during the last world war. The room is located over a vault which is filled with the bones of the dead who have been buried there since the Middle Ages and which were uncovered during recent excavations. The sculpture which will be installed above this will therefore on the one hand refer to that which has gotten lost in the deeper trenches, it will refer to those who are absent, those who have passed away before us. In the sculptural sense it will address the causality of the balance of lifting, bearing, and the leaning onto one another with the result that the living could not exist without the dead. On the other hand Serra's object is also a point of reference for the argument that the former dedication of the site of Kolumba as a sacred space with the tradition of burials does not get lost as soon as the site will be used as a museum. Instead, the museum portrays itself as a place for rememberance and the recognition of the past as a historic monument for the future. The fact that the sculpture by Richard Serra – realized site-specifically for a synagogue – can give just as fundamental an answer in the context of Kolumba for the Diözesanmuseum confirms the remaining openness of art in general, despite all precision of meaning. This is not to be confused with arbitraryness and non-committment. Openness vis-a-vis art is needed because a work like the one by Serra pinpoints a crucial condition fundamental to human existence. Serra's piece can only develop its artistic magnitude if the spectator does not diminish it into the one-dimensionality of a functional or an illustrative availability. With this said my stream of thought brings us back to the idea with which I introduced this paper: The parallelness in the existential understanding of art and religion. Let me close with this and let me wish that some of the motivation for the planned museum has transpired, that it wants to be a place of reflection and discourse, that it will not live off a wide-spread actionism but off a dynamic stemming from spirituality. What is important is the fact that in this multilayered process the church will not cease to fulfill its duties.

© Diözesanmuseum Köln/ Kolumba/ Joachim M. Plotzek 1995
Any quotation, even as excerpt, only with acknowledgement of the source

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KOLUMBA :: Essays :: Idea and Task (1994)

Joachim M. Plotzek:
About the Idea and the Task of the Diözesanmuseums in Cologne

Lecture delivered at the Kölner Rubensgesellschaft, 5 March, and at the Kirchbautagung in Freising, 14 April 1994

The following paper will address the factor of »Zeitgenossenschaft« which is maybe best translated as »that which is contemporary« in reference to some aspects of the concept according to which work at Cologne's Diözesanmuseum (Museum of the archbishopric of Cologne) is executed. The concept is not a completed one in a statuesque sense; instead it is a complex structure of a multi-faceted questioning of possibilities which must continually be reflected anew, namely in which direction and with what kind of intensity may impulses be given and to what degree can they be made relevant in a museological dialogue between art and church. I deliberately limit myself to the dialogue which takes place in the museum, although it is also a part of the concept of the Diözesanmuseum to collaborate with parishes in order to try to find out under which conditions contemporary art is capable to occupy the elements of meaning of a sacred space which are pre-determined by the architecture and the liturgy. How can contemporary art, furthermore, visually accompany and possibly intensify the activities executed in this sacred space? Included in this may be spots in the church space which were picked solely for artistic purposes located outside the immediate realm of liturgy and meditation. All this can take place without transforming the sacred space (which would be a negation of its purpose) into an exhibition hall or an art gallery. I am also not going to address more specifically activities that are being offered sporadically by the Diözesanmuseum of Cologne such as lectures, poets' readings, or concerts. It is, however, important to emphasize that the museum not only offers its space for such activities by virtue of supplying a backdrop for a specific ambiance. Instead, there is always a contextualization in connection with the works performed and the works of art in the collection, for instance in cooperation with the Kölner Gesellschaft für Neue Musik (Cologne's Society for New Music). This is for example exemplified with the listening-to or indeed the not-listening-to pieces by John Cage which might be juxtaposed to Roman Opalka's number paintings or the meditation paintings by Agnes Martin in order to perceive related structures, among other things. I will be focusing on the museum's holdings which is a particularly heterogeneous collection of paintings ranging from Early Christian times to such examples dating to the beginning of our century. The artifacts have been gathered over a period of some 150 years. They were assembled rather more by chance and sporadically emerging possibilities than according to a concise plan. The museum is thus quite fundamentally different from all the other Cologne museums as well as many other important collections which were carefully planned as private (ducal or bourgeois) collections. Even the big collection of the Cologne Domherr Alexander Schnütgen, primarily derived from churches in the Rhineland, at the beginning of this century did not become incorporated into the already existing Diözesanmuseum which had by then already been in existence for a long time: Schnütgen's collection was willed by its spiritual owner to the municipality which many decades later founded the Schnütgen Museum. It would have to be the subject of a different investigation to analyze such rather common occurrences, ranging from the last century well into ours, where there were enthusiastic collectors with clerical backgrounds whose talents and merits were neither recognized by the church (which for the most part lacked interest) nor was the church at the time perceived as capable of dealing with art. As the second oldest museum in Cologne, in 1853 the Diözesanmuseum was initiated by the Verein für christliche Kunst (Society for Christian Art) which had just been founded on April 2 of the same year. Cardinal Geissel was specifically in favor of the museum, giving his permission for it and thus officially founding it. The museum opened on May 14, 1860; this was just over one year prior to the opening of the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. In those days the driving force was »to awaken more and more the sense for Christian Art in all areas, to enhance it, and to offer guidance onto the right path in order to secure for Christian Art its scholarship, its preservation, and the re-creation of old works of art as well as to ensure the execution of new works«, (quote from the Society's statutes). This enthusiastic driving force for the museum project had the notion of a pioneering spirit. It is my feeling that once again it is a similar kind of spirit of creating something new which defines the history of the Diözesanmuseum. The foundation and the stimulation for this is the fact that once again we have a Cardinal who is in some ways an art enthusiast and who has considerable knowledge in this métier. Furthermore, open-minded administrators see an opportunity in the Diözesanmuseum to initiate multifold invigorations and to institute dialogues: This entails to demonstrate within the old art contents of the Christian faith in artistic depictions and definitions as well as to substantiate numerous moments of thousands of years old aspects of the history of piety and to further specify them in conjunction with the realm of contemporary art using artistic discourse and positions. This may be achieved by means of invigorating once again the sensitivities of perception – also for unusual subject matters –, and it may lead to an awareness for individual »free spaces« for decisions which may be filled with Christian responsibility. In this way, the Diözesanmuseum can be understood as an opportunity to find a place where one can become aware, where one can explore – along artistic parameters including old as well as contemporary art – virulent religious dimensions which are by no means restricted to humanistic goals. On the other hand lie the possibilities that this endeavor may arouse curiosity and that spontaneity and open-mindedness, i.e. immediacy in dealing with art, are stirred and encouraged. Such an understanding is what has been instituted as the self definition for the museum as well as for the justification of its desperately urgently needed existence. This is the essence of a new beginning, formally realized due to the fact that the museum no longer operates under the auspices of the Verein für christliche Kunst, but under the jurisdiction of the arch-diocese. This happened four years ago, and since then the tasks have become more concrete, the ways of executing the assignments are leading to ever new questions within a very open process. As the creation of the collection makes more progress, however, – this includes concentrated additions in the medieval field and building a collection of contemporary art – this leads to an increasingly dense and precise structure. It is in the emergence of interwoven correspondences which illuminate one another that answers to our interrogations may be communicated. The initial question which we were asking ourselves in the Diözesanmuseum after this constitutional change was one of our ranking, i.e. a query of our spiritual placement. This is if one did not just want to continue to take care of the amassed collections, to do research, to make new acquisitions, and to mount special exhibitions in the most traditional sense; all of the above are of course issues routinely addressed by any museum. In addition to these most commonplace assignments the question arose what was the distinction of the Diözesanmuseum of Cologne. And, more important still, what is the difference such a museum – under the auspices of the church – can make in our age and – cautiously speaking – which ingredient is it that can assure the museum's necessity in the future? The parameters are clear: The arch bishopric of Cologne is a diocese of a certain potency which might most likely take over previously neglected functions or additional cultural tasks which in other dioceses – due to different reasons – would be unthinkable. The consequence of this is the resulting claim that the Diözesanmuseum of Cologne cannot be a regional or a provincial museum in which artifacts of solely coincidental nature survive whose common denominator it is to document the cultural peculiarities of the bishopric over the centuries. On the one hand this is impossible because the holdings of objects do not permit it and it would be impossible to verify anything of substance; on the other hand this function has long since been realized in more than sufficient incidents throughout the diocese in the remaining church furnishings and church treasuries and in special places such as pilgrimage sites (which more often than not are rendered in an attractive manner and, more importantly, they are situated in the immediate context of regional history offering to become an experience in itself.) Another given of the museum concept is the fact that Cologne has a multilayered and solidified array of museums of high standard, among them collections specializing in medieval sculpture, objects, and applied arts, as well as holdings of panel painting reaching all the way to modern and contemporary ensembles of great breadth; these museums are the ones which the Diözesanmuseum will have to measure up to. If my understanding is correct, then the concepts of collecting of those houses are such to obtain the most comprehensive and possibly encyclopedic documentation of art historically defined epochs and to ensure the appropriate in regional references, which indeed is the task of art museums. It can be noted, furthermore, that such concepts of collecting encyclopedic ranges of Romanesque bronze crucifixes, Gothic Madonnas, chalices, monstrances, etc. with didactic intentions had already been pursued by some of the museum founders – as in the case of Alexander Schnütgen. The situation is similar, too, in reference to the collection of modern and contemporary art in the Museum Ludwig where it appears to be the intention to make plausible the polyphonic main- and subsidiary paths of artistic tendencies of this century with their numerous variants. The conceptual difference between a museum type such as the Schnütgen Museum and the Diözesanmuseum is the fact that the latter is not organized in an art historical manner – i.e. it is not the primary goal to uncover and to research artistic- and stylistic dissimilarities, the specifics of a region, of art centers, or of individual artists – but the primary examinations revolve around historical aspects related to and relevant for the church, religion, and piety. Thus, the issues addressed by the Diözesanmuseum are concrete questions in this vein: Which biblical, eschatological, or dogmatic themes or which matters concerning private piety are particularly important at which time; how are they being dealt with and interpreted artistically? And how does art approach these themes in the context of and comparatively to the written and verbal interpretations and traditions? This is to say which are the possibilities inherent in art, which are the themes – motivated by religious or Christian motifs – most impressively addressed at certain times? Thinking this in a utopian way, one might say – though due to various reason this is not or not anymore obtainable – that as a goal-objective for the museum concept it might be feasible to institute artistic structures of interpretation as they relate to religious notions and currents within occidental history. What becomes clear, then, is that beside the criteria of thematic relevance and the selection of areas of concentration stemming from the specific historical background, it is the criterion of artistic ability and quality which is of the utmost importance. That which belongs together and which does not will therefore not be juxtaposed in a formal-stylistic analysis or by virtue of art historical interpretation. Instead, aspects emphasizing correspondences and contrasts will be scrutinized and looked at from the point of view of their spiritual and historical provenance. Artistic documentations will be used as facilitators in achieving these goals because such contents can possibly be clarified most effectively with art. Thanks to the new sponsor, the Diözesanmuseum is able to and does intend to assemble a collection of contemporary art. This is – to remain within Cologne – another difference to the Museum Ludwig, for example. In this area, too, it is not the intention to document without any gaps the major artistic movements of this century or to make them generally comprehensible. Instead, the question will be asked which movement, which artist, and which work within a specific oeuvre does best meet the concerns of the church – regardless of whether the means and methods are achieved by conventional or new means. Which are the artistic discourses and positions best enabled to start a dialogue about Christian subject matters with the church, and which are the ones achieving this in the most thorough and radical manner? It should be stressed at this point that the Diözesanmuseum is an Art Museum and by no means a fictitious requisition of the church to reconfirm or to regurgitate artistic issues that are already commonplace knowledge. Neither is it part of the museum's mission to satisfy pre-existing expectations. One of the prerequisites demanded by both sides is the anticipated openness in encounters in order to comprehend the mental dimensions in artistic approaches in reference to the »creative aptitude« as far as they relate to the church's intent. What needs to be determined is to what extent artistic means achieve the same degree of intensity or authenticity of proclamation as is strived for with other means in the dogmatic and in the verbal areas. Thus, I am not talking about the artwork customarily commissioned by the church. In contrast, I am referring to an understanding of immanently artistic possibilities (including motivations clearly beyond directly religious ones) – in an arena which compared to a church interior might be described as neutral – in light of a competency for a dialogue with the church as well as with regards to requirements by the church which would desire to artistically address means leading to the spiritual and the transitory. The wherewithals for this would be based on a similarly structured understanding of art and religion by applying comparative and existential principals. Just as there are areas of concentration within the collection of medieval artifacts in the Diözesanmuseum, it is also the intention not to assemble a multitude of different voices within the modern field, i.e. to collect large quantities of paintings of the most different artists. We want to choose a stringent selection of works rendered by a limited number of artists who according to our knowledge fit the parameters we have established in the most impressive and the most convincing way. Consequently, intensity and concentration will happen by virtue of a restriction. The effects of the works may also occur in such a fashion that not one work but various ones of an individual artist might be incorporated simultaneously, reciprocally enhancing a constellation or a confrontation. This becomes evident in one gallery in the museum where we exhibited until recently (due among other things to severe space limitations we change our permanent exhibitions very frequently) quite diverse works of the American Paul Thek, an artist who uses unusual materials in order to demonstrate concepts of creation and disintegration, withering, going-through-death as a prerequisite for a new beginning, for a new life revolving around a transitory reality. In this, Thek operates quite in the logic of Joseph Beuys' principle: »Life in its essence manifests itself through death«; this is the »Christ-Principle« about which Joseph Beuys spoke continually. According to him, this is at the same time the pinnacle of the principle of creation with respect to the artistic and the religious experience. Integrated into this gallery space was a late Gothic object of an Ecce Homo a life-size image of the suffering Christ. In the center of this medieval image stands this principle of going-through-death as an act of the utmost sacrificial love. In this piece deliverance through redemptive death is prototypically manifest. The museum's concept becomes thus broadened towards a questioning of the art in the confrontation of old and new with the opportunity to make aware the one in the possible interchange with the other. Such juxtapositions will indeed not be the only principle of our presentations. As a consequence, this means that chronology is but one organizational factor. Neither are the typology of shapes and categories nor are the regional interdependencies the ordering principle. There will remain sufficient space to point out in an exemplar way the different systems of referentials and the correspondences between early Christian, medieval, modern, and contemporary works. Independent of their date of creation and despite totally different artistic media they might very well address similar issues. Naturally, this often does not happen in utter harmony but in the confrontation of two or more works which were created at different times. The following example may best illuminate this point: The juxtaposition of the life-size Romanesque crucifix from Erp (which incidentally with the living Christ on the cross offers a deviation in its depiction from the famous cult image in the Volto Santo in Lucca) with a major work without title by Joseph Beuys, located over a bronze cross with the sun nailed to a chest of ammunition presumably from the First World War is the trunk of a conifer without branches attached to which we find the enigmatic minor's lamp. The most complex work dates from 1972 and was completed using materials from the artist's earlier work phases. The adjacency of these two works shows on one side the logos on the cross, artistically reduced to its frontality; and reduced furthermore to what is doubtlessly clear namely that which has been fixated for one perspective only, compressed to the essentials of the vis-a-vis in a monumental cult image. On the other side we encounter the »Cross of History«, the effects of salvation as depicted in a broken, reflective awareness of history and nature in its incomprehensible fullness and in exploring the biggest possible turnaround. The latter example addresses salvation in history and the divine creation, and it is tied in with the ideas, the utopias, the hopes, and the actions of the human being. A painting by the Catalan Antoni Tàpies from 1965 is displayed in the same room with the Romanesque art. Entitled Petjades sobre fons blanc (Traces on a White Ground) it is juxtaposed to the work by Beuys in a wide axis. In the following, let me explore this vicinity a little more closely. As a sign for his mistrust against illusionistic (i.e. illusory) representation in color, for example, executed in oil or acrylic, Tàpies chooses clay in order to sculpt human footprints on the traditional canvas. Hereby he suggests a bigger degree of authenticity than the assumed reality of realistic painting. Closer inspection reveals, however that the footprints left behind are not real ones but that they have been sculpted as such by the artist. Thus authenticity is not arrived at in a one-dimensional »naive« adaptation of the commonplace action of walking. Instead a broken reflection about this activity leads to an artistic approximation to reality. At the same time this simple and precise artistic process addresses the question of reality and how it might be recognized, it approaches the issue of truth and humankind's ability to grasp it. Because of their protruding profile and their seemingly intact materiality, some of the footprints appear to be fresh. They look as if they had just recently been left behind by somebody. Other footprints show signs of broken-off rims, they appear to have lost some substance and seem to be of an earlier date. And yet others again can barely be recognized anymore; they look like remnants of times long past, one might say. This is if, upon looking more closely, one would not detect that a liquid, possibly water, was poured over the painting, with the idea of waves on the beach in mind which recall the traces in their perpetual attacks, ultimately leading to total oblivion. Poetry of time, a reflection about time: The fresh traces of the present, the distorted traces of the past, the shadows of traces which with their pale contour are but relicts of a distant knowledge and memory. A time dimension of this painting reaching into the remote past. On the other hand this image of time is manifest in relics of human activities, where footprints become the heritage of human presence. The footprints become souvenirs to the effect that at one point there were people here; this is accounted for in an untheatrical way, but at the same time it is rendered with an expressive power to proof, indeed the notion of time is evidenced in an authentic manner. Apart from the time span, in this painting space is defined through the arrangement of the footprints as a dynamic circle-shape (i.e. deviating from geometry) incised into which are – beginning at the periphery – further traces. While some are being adapted to, others are being released from the circle. The result is a walking-in-circles according to the limits specified by the rectangle of the painting which opens up any number of avenues to the spectator for a free interpretation. Hence we are confronted with the directed, straight walk which invariably opts for the shortest distance, wandering from one known spot to the next which is contrasted with the walking-in-circles used here as a metaphor for searching, thinking, reflecting, meditating. The latter is a path without beginning and end, the circular trace an image of the personification of walking, the being-on-the-way, and at the same time encircling the center. Incidentally, due to traces of sweeping, the center in Tàpies' work remains undefined and thereby creates a conscience for the fact that there is a center. Encircling – seeking – reflecting – the search for sense – these are categories which come to mind while one looks at the work. A structure of thought which can be directly recognized within the artistic shape is thus underlying the painting; a search for sense, a search for truth, for the world, for reality. The center, the nucleus, the truth – none of the above can be named directly; yet it can be paraphrased, it can be encircled, and it can be questioned from a distance. This is comparable to a circle from where – by using different angles – questions may be asked about what is sought, questions about the center, about truth, and reality. It becomes clear that art also reflects about itself, that it asks about its conditions. This asking about itself is elevated to being the topic itself. Thereby an identity of the pictorial and the artistic act emerges which has as its goal the statement. It is not the execution of a given theme but the creative act as such which becomes the justification and the painting's content in the artistic work. Tàpies' painting of 1965 is thus also an expression of the 1950s and 1960s. It has its parallels in music, in the philosophy of existentialism, in structuralism, or in the theory of the modern novel of the French »Nouveau Roman«. One is reminded of novels ranging from La Condition Humaine by Malraux or The Stranger by Camus to the short story La Jalousie by Robbe-Grillet. Time and again the same structure may be recognized in all of the above. A center is being excluded because one is unable to grasp it, to recognize it. This is why one chooses to circle around the hero, focusing on his description through the minor characters' different angles surrounding him. Or one limits oneself to the attempt of grasping a room or a simple object in its essence – e.g. the meticulous description of objects changing due to the wandering daylight, which as time progresses puts itself around the things in question like a grand circle – because in their immediate existence they cannot be grasped. The quest for the search of truth as an encircling which leaves out the center. A time-related putting-into-perspective of the Tàpies' painting reveals at the same time that this cogitate method is rooted in a tradition of encyclopedic models of thought and science which reach far back in time: It is related to cogitations ranging from Isidor of Seville to the Humanists of the Renaissance who are striving to understand the meaning of the world by collecting all the knowledge of the different areas of scholarship in an attempt to approximate truth. This is, therefore, also an encyclopedic encircling of the truth, the center of which cannot be grasped. It is appropriate, then, that throughout his life Antoni Tàpies has been studying Raimundus Lullus, an encyclopedist from Mallorca who lived in the thirteenth century. In the work of the latter Tàpies found the »art of the finding-of-the-truth« which is related to the pursuit of Tàpies' artistic principle of thought. In his search for truth the Catalan artist uses the most simple materials. In this case they are clay and sand, and he reveals that in the (divine) creation even the most insignificant object has a worthiness and that it makes sense and that human footprints which are left behind in the coordinates of time and space and of the world and history are proof for a search-for-meaning. Tàpies writes: »I think that a work of art should take hold of the beholder, it should encourage him to reflect about the meaning of life.« The intensity of the experience is up to us. It depends on our readiness to relate to it. The painting itself – though rendered with the most simple means conceivable – in its achieved precision of the intention, is at the same time infinitely open In our museum presentation we have juxtaposed the work of Tàpies with the rudiment of an ornamental floor which appears to have been the center of a Romanesque floor labyrinth in the church of St. Severin in Cologne. It is not unusual that the antique theme of the Minotaurus battling against the Attic King Theseus is preserved in the ornamental labyrinth of a medieval church. It was used as a typological precursor interpreting the battle between Christ and the Devil in the center of the world. In some cases it is also substituted, for instance with the victory of David over Goliath. Transformed into the realm of Christian iconography, there were numerous cathedrals and churches where – during the Middle Ages – plays took place on these ground-plans for Easter. Integrated into this were the bishop and the clergy who assumed the march to the center of the world. This was comparable to Christ entering into Jerusalem before them, and it was in accordance with the maps of the world based on which Jerusalem was the city of salvation (death and resurrection of Christ on Easter morning) and thus the center of the Christian world. The labyrinth can therefore be understood as a pictorial metaphor for the human path of life, as a meandering on paths that are futile or deviations, as the pinnacle in the search for sense. This is true for the profane depictions of antiquity and also for the re-interpreted goals of the Christian vision in medieval church depictions. In its artistic character all this proves to be related to the formal solutions of Tàpies which become apparent in their being side-by-side in the museum's juxtaposition. What is important, however, is that such putting-into-perspective always reaches far beyond formal or thematic points of reference. It must be seen in a more-dimensional relationship in order to reveal interdependencies and insights which might be enlarging, disclosing, and enlightening. Maybe these reflections will make clear that such a concept does not want to remain on the surface of the paintings, on the outer skin of polychrome sculpture – regardless of how important their understanding may be. This concept explores possibilities for artistic pursuits within the spectrum – and this is not only restricted to the topic but is extended to the motivations – possibilities are investigated which in view of the church being the sponsor of the museum are in no way restrictive; on the contrary, their meaning lies in their defining nature. Since the importance of chronological principals is reduced in this concept, it offers room for the unusual, for new insights of spiritually related parallels (which are always dependent on time), it even invites controversial developments. Let us now turn to the movement of process-related art presently so virulent. One of the characteristics of it is the perpetual reflection of and the concentration on the process of creation itself, driven by the ambition and by the hope to advance the limits of what can be achieved and envisioned and wanting to examine coherence. This is for instance what is being emphasized in the minimalist and the conceptual art of the present decade. During the post-war years it was the art of informell, i.e. the utopia that something which could not be depicted in a figurative manner, something that was barely conceivable in abstract terms or could hardly be grasped in its gestural originality. Ultimately the art of informell was trying to create an awareness for that which is unattainable, that which – in a further act – after a liberal decision may either be answered in differently motivated notions, or which may obtain its answer in an ability to believe. This process is an artistic one and thereby it is one for which there is more or less awareness in occidental history. Formulated during Romanesque times by such individuals as Hugo of St. Victor or the Abbot Suger of St. Denis, it is featured in their writings on art appreciation. By using the philosophical terms of analogy or anagogy, the artists' creations are juxtaposed to the divine which cannot be attained. This is a way of balancing the continuously repeated attempts of artistically achieving perfection in the understanding of God – or in the limitations of humankind. After addressing the factor of time, or rather the importance given to chronology of time within the museum concept, I would like to pursue some ideas relating to the factor of space which is complex and of great importance. Let me start with what is most commonplace and seemingly meaningless. Each museum that is built and furnished offers its own spatial qualities which – in interchange with the architecture and the exhibited works – have their idiosyncratic values. The scale on which architecture is ranked ranges from self-important dominance to its fulfilling a serving function. Proportionate to this, the exhibited works of art may either get lost as a mere factor of decoration, or the artwork may thrive in a subdued architecture. Although for the Diözesanmuseum – which is planning a new building – this issue with its problematic ramifications has been addressed before, it is of greatest importance, and it will remain so even after the initial planning stages. I do not want to elaborate on it here, yet I wish to point out that – within a coarse grid – there is a third possibility, which may well be the least fortunate one of all conceivable. It is the one where architecture and the works of art contained in it result in a reciprocal neutralization stemming from an utter lack of momentum. Please pardon my language but I am talking about »Street« - or »Shopping-Mall Museums« with their pompous lobbies and the broad walkways which are designed only in order to accommodate masses of visitors who indeed leisurely walk past objects of art which are conveniently stored there while the spectatotors barely stop to notice them. As investigations reveal, in such places art is appreciated by virtue of superfiscial recognition, often quickly checked-off as known. These »mechanisms of wear« are well known. Every now and then the seemingly endless string of similarly designed exhibition spaces results in a comparable effect: They do not offer new experiences to the visitor, and the utmost they achieve is to provoke recollections of things already known. Something else in the behavior of the visitors needs to be added: It is only too understandable that while dealing with art as something unusual or unknown the information derived from a label may be taken as an appropriate introduction to the understanding of an art object. Glancing at the little sign induces the calming knowledge of creatorship, sometimes even the title and the time of execution are mentioned. Yet initially labels do distract from getting a grasp of the object. In a somewhat exaggerated formulation one might state: To give informtion about say an artist who is unknown to the viewer, or to volunteer references about someone who remained anonymous even to the specialist, results in a block. Similarly a date like »fourth quarter of the fifteenth century« or »1975« or even what may be deemed perfectly logical from the artist's perspective but yet provocative from the point of view of the visitor, such as »Untitled«, may result in a diminished development of openness and a limited willingness and ability to experience the works of art beyond their purely artistic merits into the realm of inter-human relationships and the resulting plethora of relations which ultimately create awareness. As a consequence of rejecting this kind of »pre-information« we do not display any object labels. Instead we distribute a kind of abbreviated guide as an admission ticket. This is similar to what we do for special exhibitions such as our Vaticana exhibition. It soon dawns on the visitors that this »gentle museum education« is not a sacrifice but an enlargement and that our main goal lies in a chronology of perception and information that makes sense. A second argument needs to be added. The common mode of communication about what is shown in the Diözesanmuseum is generally not a tour in which – according to traditional role expectations – a sharade between the knowledgeable and sophisticated guide and the interested listener who absorbs information and educates himself or herself takes place. Much rather, the getting together takes place by virtue of conversations. The passive listener is transformed into an equal participant who brings to this his own experiences, prejudices, dependencies, wishes, and hopes, his perspective, his cooperative thoughts, his stamina to comment, and at the same time his perception is unprotected. Like this the encounter with art is not just a passtime. It is experienced as a chance to detect in the recognition and the careful weighing of artistic proposals and discourses possible foundations of thought for his personal existential sense of life and existence. A person may thereby become more aware of his or her membership in a group of contemporaries. By doing so he himself creates contemporaryness. Art is communicated by virtue of conversations, striving to approach the works. The art itself then becomes the path of sensitizing perception all the way to political perception with the vigor and the intensity to »go-for-it«. By that art becomes an offer not of superficial quantities – one tries to see as much as one can in a museum and also in the rest of the world – but of qualities which remain available within the personal realm of experience. To use the words of the philosopher Henri Bergson – the experience of art will lead to the intensities which individually determine each personal span of experience in each case. To withstand from labeling objects is also a counteraction against a quick and superfiscial observation done in passing – which in itself is a behavior more or less compulsively induced by the abundance and the velocity of information available in the media and advertisements. The former are positions which are introduced beside further restrictive and exclusive actions with the aim of achieving a concentration in which the individual object is put into the center of a mode of observation which demands and presupposes the courage and the chance of a »going-for-it«. In this way the museum might become a place for prickly or contemptuous contents, for resistance, for objection, instead of becoming a place of mere consumption. A museum of thoughtfulness indeed in the sense of the Tàpies painting: thoughtfulness can be seen as a chance to withdraw from the pragmatically demanded vision of thought as the shortest connection between two points – between question and answer, problem and solution. In the words of Hans Blumenberg this means to gain a period of grace vis-a-vis the banal results. In reference to the Tàpies painting the question might be: »Is this art?« And the answer might be: »I, too, can leave footprints in the mud.« A museum is thus also a place leaving an entire playground for thoughtfulness. In light of the architecture of the new building such a goal would have to be especially aimed-for. The architecture should neither nullify it nor distract from this aim. I do not want to pursue this because it seems to be apparent that such a requirement for concentration, for an intense »going-for-it« goes hand in hand with the above-illustrated criteria which –neither in the medieval field nor in the contemporary collection which is yet to be ammassed – do not intend to achieve the broadest possible breadth within the collection. What is intended is a limitation to what is artistically and from the point of view of content-related motivation the most intense and the most important. In the areas of concentration which are chosen, a different kind of abundance and variety may be expected. As an aside it might be mentioned that with these considerations of being only a small museum with a relatively small collection, the shortages may also seem as an assets. In the future too, the Diözesanmuseum will remain a small museum which is striving to make visible the existential possibilities by virtue of questioning art and artistic positions before the ecclesiastical background. – In contrast to what has been outlined above – also in the spiritual sense – i. e. the more horizontally-conceived museum type – the Diözesanmuseum could rather be and become a museum of verticality which invites you to remain longer, to go for the exhibits, to scrutinize the artistic proposals, to come to an in-depth reflection in the confrontation with the unknown and with the multi-faceted possibilities of art, with the ambition to make comprehensible and to make discernable religious dimensions and trails and spirituality in the broadest sense. It appears that art – and this is not restricted to the depicting arts only – is particularly suitable for such a conveyance. Having said this, it becomes emphatically clear that for the choice of the location of the site for the much-needed new museum its central location or the number of visitors were not of primary importantance. Rather, something like the spirituality of the locale is pivotal. This excludes the ramdomness to erect another museum on any available site, where – with the same justification – something entirely different might be placed. The choice of Kolumba increases the thought of verticality under various different considerations. With its visible and tangible archaeological remains of Roman buildings as well as due to various church edifices from early Medieval to late Gothic times – with numerous catacomb rooms, some of which can be used, while others are filled with bones – Kolumba is a central spot within the city. The site is of the utmost densely historic persuasion, a place from which history can be deduced. Consequently, a consciousness in relationship to Kolumba can be developed and kept alive. In addition to that, there exists a small Kolumba-Chapel which belongs to the most frequented places of prayer in the entire city and which is totally accepted by the population. The imagination of a museum which tries to bring together the Middle Ages and the Present – a museum which sees for itself a chance for spiritual profusion, which wants to arouse curiosity, and which seeks confrontation and reflection – not only finds a perfect scenery in Kolumba but in addition sees the opportunity in Kolumba to determine its own historic foundations. Kolumba offers the possibility of an incorporation into the complex locality by virtue of architecturally and artistically reacting to it. The new architecture of the future museum building, which would have to be developed out of the specificities of the location, would certainly not be installed like an alien element. The new structure corresponds with the remaining archaeological monuments in a way similar to the manner the museum intends to bring together medieval and contemporary art. The museum's verticality may, however, not only be found in its spatial links with the archaeological monuments and the buildings superimposed over them; it is also visualized in the spiritual inter-connection with the past history, i.e. in the making us aware of it. Furthermore, the verticality is emphasized in a contemporary artistic reaction to the pre-existing site situation. Envisioned are invitations to artists who will give an answer to this historically incredibly compact neighborhood by defining the site and by making the locale become transparent. This then will no longer be a museum in the traditional sense but an artistically defined locality – also with medieval art and indeed with the objects from the collection – of historic importance where art and church will be able to enter into an intense dialogue. This will be carried by and based in the ubiquity of history and its dealing with it. I would like to briefly illustrate this with one final example. An intensive visit to the site of the museum with the American sculptor Richard Serra resulted in choosing one of his works of 1992 for Kolumba. This steel sculpture consists of two angles which are arranged like mirror images to one another. Each angle is made up of one shorter vertical and one slightly longer horizontal piece. In this they represent the principles of lifting and bearing weight. Because of their proportions and the connected distribution of weight none of the angles has the ability to stand on its own; the angles retain their stability from leaning against one another, from supporting each other.From this relationship alone – as though the one were the mirror image of the other – results a stable structure. Each of the two angles must rely on the other; only as two together can they stand upright. Thereby they demonstrate an existentialist relationship of reciprocities and they give an example of mutual interdependencies. This sculpture refers back to itself; neither does it develop any volume nor does it point into space, but it is closed in itself. It neither invites to be perceived from different points of view by walking around it nor does it permit changes of perspective which might perhaps permit different possibilities of experiencing it. Rather, the sculpture remains unconquerably opposed to the viewer who by observing it quietly recognizes only the frontality of the sculpture and understands the conditions of its existence. Richard Serra always creates his works in conjunction with the history and the spirit of a place without truely illustrating it. The piece represented here bears the title The Drowned and the Saved and dates back to 1992. It was created for a temporary exhibition in the synagogue at Stommeln near Cologne which only survived the terror of the »Reichskristallnacht« (The Night of Broken Glass) because at that time it had already ceased to exist as a place of worship. The parishoners had either already been driven out or murdered, and the memory of Jewish life and its religious center had been erased. The remaining building is only an empty shell, a non-place reporting about what is no more; a place dedicated more to the absentees, the disappeared, and the assasinated than belonging to those visiting it today. Serra's sculpture responds to this situation by relating to the historic activities and – self contained as it is – at the same time distances the visitor from the locality where he finds himself. In the elemental functions of lifting, bearing, and leaning onto one another the relationship of the deceased and the living – who are refering to each other but yet are separated – finds a sculptural analogy. In his reflexions concerning a work for the Diözesanmuseum Serra did not opt for a new sculpture, but – and this was in keeping with our wishes – decided for a translocation of the piece discussed above to Kolumba where it will find a permanent home in the former sacristy of the late Gothic hall church which – with the exception of its outer walls – was completely destroyed during the last world war. The room is located over a vault which is filled with the bones of the dead who have been buried there since the Middle Ages and which were uncovered during recent excavations. The sculpture which will be installed above this will therefore on the one hand refer to that which has gotten lost in the deeper trenches, it will refer to those who are absent, those who have passed away before us. In the sculptural sense it will address the causality of the balance of lifting, bearing, and the leaning onto one another with the result that the living could not exist without the dead. On the other hand Serra's object is also a point of reference for the argument that the former dedication of the site of Kolumba as a sacred space with the tradition of burials does not get lost as soon as the site will be used as a museum. Instead, the museum portrays itself as a place for rememberance and the recognition of the past as a historic monument for the future. The fact that the sculpture by Richard Serra – realized site-specifically for a synagogue – can give just as fundamental an answer in the context of Kolumba for the Diözesanmuseum confirms the remaining openness of art in general, despite all precision of meaning. This is not to be confused with arbitraryness and non-committment. Openness vis-a-vis art is needed because a work like the one by Serra pinpoints a crucial condition fundamental to human existence. Serra's piece can only develop its artistic magnitude if the spectator does not diminish it into the one-dimensionality of a functional or an illustrative availability. With this said my stream of thought brings us back to the idea with which I introduced this paper: The parallelness in the existential understanding of art and religion. Let me close with this and let me wish that some of the motivation for the planned museum has transpired, that it wants to be a place of reflection and discourse, that it will not live off a wide-spread actionism but off a dynamic stemming from spirituality. What is important is the fact that in this multilayered process the church will not cease to fulfill its duties.

© Diözesanmuseum Köln/ Kolumba/ Joachim M. Plotzek 1995
Any quotation, even as excerpt, only with acknowledgement of the source