Zahradní ateliér / Garden Atelier





Marek Trizuljak
On hope

A few remarks on the subject “Spiritual streams in contemporary art” on the background of the cultural and social panorama of our time.

In the early 1990ies I was lucky to take part in activities concerning arrangements and course of several fine-art symposia in the town of Šternberk not far from Olomouc. These art meetings were mainly held in the once Augustinian monastery, in the milieu, which was in spite of a serious devastation still full of the spiritual atmosphere. The Šternberk monastery then became a centre of an interesting cultural activity for several years, which attracted artists from a number of countries.

In connection with pondering the thinking and spiritual motions in contemporary art, I would like to describe some of my personal views and experiences. For many partakers in the Šternberk symposia, there was a characteristic tendency for some sort of “spirituality”, or at least for aiming at a certain mysterious being dimension. E.g. some promoters of the east religion streams were there with a few exotic views. The work on symposium was often accompanied by both naive and informed attempts at magic and occultism, together with the offer of old or new myths and mysteries, esoterism, anthroposophy, Cabbala and African animistic sorcery. Some installations evoked a mysterious atmosphere, reminiscent of the cult places of prehistoric civilizations or pagan sanctuaries, which can be found in Italy. A Swiss painter professed a spiritual power hidden in the trees; another tried to bring about a universal symmetry through her dancing and painting. The Italian sculptor Calogero Condello released an incident, which occurred to him: a mysterious black being from the universe depths appeared to him, and since then all his works have been inspired by that meeting. In years 1994 and 1995 a large group of young artists came from Canada, the ideological leader of which was – at least according to his own words – the writer Mathew Remski, who also for the purpose brought with him the programme manifest. Its core was made by a proclamation “definitely to take from these places their spiritual essence”. From a certain point of view it looked as immaturity demonstration, underlined with would-be strong gestures. After one of the Canadians there remained a work of his in the form of a set of preserving jars, filled with his own excrement. (Anyway, nothing new, when we have a look at the art creations history of the last third of 20th century). The others worked in a rather strong-minded way, and made impressive space realizations, and objects, which emitted something negative and evoked an unpleasant feeling of anxiety. Into the all-round picture there remarkably fit in the appearings of the Russian Do-Theatre and the Pardubice group Jumping Hamada. The Russian ensemble performance was marked with an oppressive grief and a fatal despair. The figures emerged from the dark and then disappeared in it again in a chaotic circling motion: some sequences culminated in a demolition, chairs and other objects flew through the air. The Pardubice group performed a legible paraphrase of ritual dances of demons, as we know them from the East-Asian cultures. Of course the result of these attempts was not the pre-announced “definitive removing” of the Christian spiritual roots of the monastery. One can presume that art has not got such a power. Yet something entirely else proved successful. Together with some further conditions this very activity contributed to some extent to compromise the Šternberk symposia, and that both in the eyes of public, and in the relation to the substantial friends and sponsors. The Canadians were also visited by some of the local young people and they together used to drink alcohol and take drugs. Apart from this they behaved in an anti-social way, they devastated all around, and the result was, that the object had to be closed for several years. The town of Šternberk stopped promoting symposia and the organizers were not given the access to the monastery. The Kroměříž people, too, may well remember the installation of Richard Štiple, the Canadian of the Czech origin, “Reliquium – The Composition in the Living and Non-living”, which was exhibited in the local Archbishopric Chateau.1)  Every tree is known by its own fruit. A negative program can hardly lead to anything else but to a decay of relations and to destruction.

There was however made a number of significant artefacts in Šternberk, the quality of which can be compared to the art activities in the neighbouring world. I could e.g. name a multi-layer action installation, which was made by the German artist Gerhard Schonsee, or the works by the Slovak artist Michaela Klimanová with a profound spiritual concept.

The Šternberk monastery is not an exceptional place, where by some chance and sporadically there amassed the today’s art expressions like the mentioned ones. It is rather a certain cross-section, which in a way gives an account of all what is reflected in spiritual and thought horizons of our culture. Also on other plans and during my further art activities I met with a like situation, accompanied by various forms of seeking a spiritual or religious sense. The whole may perhaps be likened to a certain world hypermarket, where there is an extensive offer of religious traditions, thoughts and culture events. The counters of this market are however full of quick consumption products. You can find there unique, valuable things only with great pains. Another face of the hypermarket is a labyrinth. The genuine will to a bird’s eye-view, to understand what really is good and how to get out, is missing.

Man, who is not mature in his personality and has not got a basic orientation in values, can be easily manipulated. The discrimination criteria are taken away from him, the good and the evil do not exist: there seemingly remains for him the way of his own relish, viewed in a short perspective of several nearest moment.5) People are brought to believe, that just in this way their freedom is unlimited and they fully realize themselves. The incidental phenomenon is increase of subjectivism and egocentrism, and that leads to a bizarre view of the world and to a gradual isolation of individuals and groups to one another. But a society, consisting of atomised and disoriented individuals, is seriously threatened with new kinds of totalitarian manipulation. One could have seen symptoms of such phenomena at the exhibition “Documenta” in the German Kassel. Above all this display is strikingly uniform in the presented artist expressions.2) (The situation at the Bienale in Venice is alike). The not binding multicoloured principle “anything goes3) “ of the last quarter of 20th century slips away. We can sense a visible move in the present culture. The dictate of a relatively small group of those who determine ideas manifests more visibly. Curators and gallery managers keep laying down, what artists are to do and what themes to pursue. “Name” is a product; most of the chosen authors recruit of the artists who undergo initial steps and have not got a mature art opinion, and are willing to take part in this play. As far as “the Documenta No. 11” is concerned, the attempt to formulate new ways for art, is certainly positive. Its art head, Okwui Enwezor, Africa-born, promotes the idea of connecting with the world of politics. Utterly political and social themes were also preferred by a French curator of the mentioned exhibition in 1997, Catherine David. Some serious risks should not be overlooked though. The world of art is threatened that it will be thrown into a duplicate role in relation to mass media, including the hunt after super-news, particularly those catastrophic ones. Rather delicate is the question of art politicising. People from once communistic countries know damn lot about it. On the other side a certain radicalisation of the world of art, acceleration of interest in political subjects, is an undeniable reality. That draws the artists’ attention to the fact that they essentially and necessarily need to live in a profound relationship with the most fundamental human desires and expectations.

Chiara Lubich defines politics as a love par excellence, as the most essential service for mankind to find answers to serious problems and to solve thousands of everyday concrete things, so that most people could live a decent life. Accordingly we can also define art as a “service of services”, a service for beauty to be discovered once more, so that the gates of hope would be opened again.


Discrimination criteria and searching for the way

Art hides in itself a strong dimension of searching for sense and direction. Creative people also today, same as in all previous times, look for the ways forwards, they try to give their work the finishing touches up to a certain raison d’être message. Artists feel intuitively when there is anything out of order, when the harmony is impaired and life becomes ugly. Already for many decades there regularly have appeared attempts of performing various symbolic and prophetic gestures. (E.g. Joseph Beyus, walking along the motorway with a cane birch, or Yves Klein, who several times repeated performances with jumping into the darkness; let us remind of various avant-garde manifests etc.). Quite a lot of what takes place in culture, is sounding the alarm; art in human community is a very delicate signal system. Unfortunately this substantial voice of art is often neglected or drowned in circus hubbub. Yet other voices get an exhaustive attention. Gloomy sorcery forecasts are in vogue. The world of media, which is a superficial essence of various impulses and stir of mind in our culture, behaves as if desired, that some severe disasters should occur. It is sufficient to remind of what all newspapers brought forth about the expected computer network breakdown on the turn of the centuries; how many apocalyptic speculations appeared in connection with some astronomical phenomena, or how it is spoken and written in a fatalist way on the war of civilizations (inevitable, it is said). In the film “Oidipus rex” 5) a Delphian augur tells the hero his appalling irresistible fate with a malicious smile. Art however cannot stop at gloomy auguries. Also there cannot be accepted and defended, that just without respect and shame be reported of human misery, often with a high-handed sarcastic attitude. Let us remind of the recent “artistic” action with a fictitious supermarket “Český sen” (The Czech Dream), which turned into mockery toward all, who had been trapped by the ad campaign.

An icy consistency of a proclamatory art gesture was recently to be seen at an exhibition in Berlin. The aim of the action was to manifest the idea, that “The most perfect act in art is suicide”. In a glass atrium there were “laid” dead people figures, and one day even a figure of the very author of the work, who jumped inside from the height. She wrote a message in advance, in which she gives reason for her act; it is said, that her jump had been recorded as well on video. I sincerely hope it was just a sort of mystification, that the author actually did not kill herself. But even if it were only a virtual project, it is a deviant vision, through and through totalitarian and cynic. I am terrified that another one could draw inspiration from it. Maybe it should have been an “augur act”. If the spiritual roots are removed from the world, if we resign to seeking for the truth and beauty, there will just remain the vicious circle of speculative ideas and ever increasing desperate outcries. It a lot reminds of the philosopher Diogenes, of the well-known story of his suicide in public by holding his breath, just as a proof of his teaching. Where however does it lead? Where are pupils of him, what is the contribution of his philosophy and what ways opened it for mankind? Diogenes was a radical promoter of the Cynic philosophy school. The school proclaimed a life style delivered of material needs, but of religion and culture as well (!) Similar philosophical systems take all away from man, he cannot enjoy material benefits, he is robbed of hope, and drawn from the culture continuity. Dogenes is said to have met Alexander the Great from Macedonia, who admired him. The teaching, the last argument of which is death, claim for renunciation and sacrifices without any spiritual sense, has always been a tool of dictators with world governing lusts. Pseudo-prophecy, which is proud of amazing gestures, of exclusiveness feeling, of manipulation with people and their fates, is dead and fatal. It is not able to see the real future of mankind and knows of the hope nothing.

What in art can be defined as really spiritual? May the basis be made by cool conceptions, hidden teachings for the chosen ones, by mythic impersonal canons, or by various attempts at supposed or real manipulation with unfleshly worlds and quantities? The example of the Italian painter Giotto might contribute to find the answer, since he made a breakthrough in the fine art of his time, and opened new life-giving ways for it. He brought a new revealing form and entirely new subjects. He was the first to picture common people extensively: he managed to express human and spiritual drama of the picture actions and to depict the euphoric emotions of the present figures. Giotto had in addition another remarkable ability. On many places, where he spent some time due to some art orders, he founded a strong painting school, which was able to develop a good independent creation after his leaving. This artist seems to have an incredibly heart-felt relation to people, he knew how to approach them, and with generosity he handed his art over without featuring any form of competition and without jealously hiding his own professional secret. Where are the roots of such human attitudes, and of such strong creative inspiration? Giotto, as is well known, was influenced by Franciscan movement. That was an extraordinarily strong spiritual stream, which stressed once more a heart-felt humanity and uplifted the sovereign value of every human being, even of the poorest and the lowest one, and in thus way it shifted the human civilization evolution forwards. The renaissance philosophers are far less responsible for the European humanism than St. Francis of Assisi.

The distinguishing criterion of the genuine spirituality and the real prophecy is the hope, opening of a new way into the future, based on a positive and graceful view of man. It is the way of life, the way of a living man and his relations. The present time seems to be full of expectations, we urgently need to find a way how to face new totalitarian threats and military fads, how to open a passage to solving chronic hating conflicts, how to get over a conceited arrogance of the world, which in its hands concentrated nearly all economical, political and cultural power. It is entirely clear, that some abstract thought systems or ideas cannot bring solution. The grounds are prepared for a full manifestation of renewing streams, the bearer of which will be people, who in their activities seriously take the living, personal God into account. It is essential to discover ways of brotherhood and reconciliation, the ways of dialogue among worldwide religions and cultures, the new relations among people of different nations, life conditions and status. When I examine examples from the past and a lot of what is present in our culture, I get convinced that art will not keep apart and will bring its essential and not replaceable part.



1)      In the background may have been also a disagreement with the negative message of the work, but mostly it was because several parts were made from rotting pork intestines and skin. An unbearable smell forced the organizers to close the exhibition ahead of time.

2)      Mostly film, magnetic and digital projects and barbarously literal transfers of the human privacy basic spheres.

3)      Everything is allowed, everything is possible, anything holds true.

4)      Chiara Lubich of Italian origin, a significant personage of the Christian world, founder of the worldwide spiritual movement St. Mary’s work, a respected promoter of the worldwide inter-religion dialogue, bearer of many international awards.

5)      The film Edipo Re, the author of which is the Italian producer Pier Paolo Passolini.

6)      Like some young people after reading the book “Suffering of young Werther”.

7)      Diogenes of Sinopa (about 400 – 323 B.C.)