About “sanctuary”

In Lodz a symposium was organized to discuss about “sanctuary”. Here you find two contributions.

Alicja Kujawska, PhDSacredness, sanctuary and art

Motto of the meetings in many European countries, quoted here: „Spaces of art. are contemporary sanctuaries” seems to me not just a beautiful metaphor, but inclined me to think about defining currently categories like: sanctuary, sanctity, art. Sanctuary, in the history of religion, is a place related to the hierophany, or manifestation of divinity. I mention that, because currently in more and more laik culture, it’s meaning is falling into oblivion. Particle of the word „sanctuary” is from the word sacrum, meaning non-human, divine forces, forces of nature, for instance, or Absolut, identified with God. Troughout the ages, people found, or rather experienced moments of time-space continnum, and connected it with Divine. I use the phrase „time-space continuum” deliberately, because most of the time they are certain moments in time in very certain places. They were accompanied by sacred stories – myths and rituals. One can mention sunsets and sunrises, equinoxes, eclipses, solstices, full moons, and new moons as well, or – just to point out the last remnant of the lunar calendar in the Western world – the Easter, celebrated at the fist Sunday after the first spring full moon. These short moments are characteristic because the time was/is losing it lineal form, started to running round and round, inside of the circle of the sacred stories. Spaces like forest, or deserts, summits, or caves, secluded and „wild”, were believed to be places visited by gods. It’s very interesting that gods in the cities had to reside only on the tops of ziggurats, or towers of mosques and cathedrals, always above the crowd, while in the country preferring old oaks and other trees, lakes, fiery bushes, lightnings, and crossroads. The place of the epiphany used to be protected afterwords as a sacred place. It was guarded by phisical, symbolical and mystical gates: veils, guardians-angels-animals,  mazes. It shows that to meet the Divine forces, only the brave one was chosen. Those chosen onces were – apart from shamans, magi, alchemists, or ministers, also artists. A famous anthropologist with an excellent wit, said once that the first art. was gekochtes – a piece of meat, or in wider sense of the word, an art of cooking. There is something in it, indeed. It seems trifle, but it leads our thoughts into forming an idea: every form of concious (and it need to be stressed – concious, aware) human activity, who aims to make human life more profound and meaningful, can be taken as art: baking, playing harph,  poetry, dance, cave painting, waving, chorus singing, gardening, writing Orthodox icons, theatre, or love – just to mention Ovid among the others. And also skills that used to be called art., and now defined as crafts (with a trace of it in a word Meisterstoeck, for instance), a masterpiece, a piece of art. of the master in its craft. So what seems important was not the domain of art., but the excellence achieved.

And if there is excellence, a mystery happens: people who meet it, and contact with the masterpiece emotions are awakening, whose who can not be restrained, sometimes awakened by the beauty of the storm, the view of the horizon or playing child – feelings of perfection and completion. And another feeling: oneness. We all long for these feelings of perfection and oneness. Time and space become less meaningful, or have no meaning at all. Excellence in making piece of art. – be it samurai sword, butoh dance, or calligraphy, seem to be out-of-this-wordly, and sometimes even non-human and „talk to” us troughout the centuries and continents.

A contact with sacredness understood this way, required very special preperations and education, sometimes also sacrifices (have you noticed, that the word sacrifice also is referring to the word sacred?) like fasting, training of the body, self-discipline or transformation of the body, and – last but not least – alienation, or isolation. That who were to experience contact with the Divine was „not in this world” too sacred, and too strong for the other people (by the way: a word „święty”, sacred, in Slavic languages means strong). I’m sure that most of you, us, can recognize yourselves in this description, as well as your artistic work: moments of noetic experience, once called intuition or inspiration, time spent on working, perfecting the idea, and then – coming back to the world to present the results of our work. Sacred space is also a save place, a shelter, or a refuge, a protection, like a cave or a monastery. A place when one can hide safely. Return back to reality must be painful, but we still can not reside in a sacred place all the time, as we can not look at the sun without harm.

Maybe the art. is not contemporary sanctuary – or ancient, or future. Maybe it’s the human who can be more oneself, the real one, unlimited by the form of the „cottage of the body” expression of the sanctity of life when – as gods – he creates. Then any space can become a space sancified (!) by the aware spirit. I have to agree and disagree with the motto of the Sanctuary project, presenting my version: „Human is a space of sanctuary, and art. is his/hers expression and refuge”. Wherever they are.

Dr Aurelia Mandziuk, PhD

Sanctuaries – picking up this subject is quite difficult in Poland for too easy associations of religious nature: „Sanctuary, a place taken as sacred, when God is bestowing  us with distinquish graces”. So, how to approach the subject still keeping in mind all aspects of the word „sanctuary”? We are looking for a PLACE/SPACE and DIVINITY.„Spaces of art. are contemporary sanctuaries” is a phrase describing my personal attitude towards the subject, and proposed by me, as motto of our meeting. The word „space” has a double meaning, describing both place and – in a certain way – art.Then I have invited you to places that are distinguish to the local landscape: old factory halls, palaces transformed into art. spaces.  Old factory warehouses, Gardener’s House are the parts of Goldner’s factory complex, where PATIO Art. Centre of University of Humanities and Economics is operating, and one of the Grohman’s palaces – the seat of Museum of Artistic Book turned into meeting places and artistic activities, very much connected with our search for contemporary sanctuaries. This quest for contemporary sanctuaries, in my opinion, has it’s purpose not in finding the answer where modern human can extract some power, or what kind of „graces” we want to obtain, but much rather is just asking questions, related to ourselves and the reality that surrounds us.

I have asked many artists to, in their own way and in their own style, approach the subject. This resulted in proposal of intermedia exhibition – the idea of a show of many means and techniques, when context of the space and art. – especially when it comes to „Sanctuary” – is very important.

As for the Sanctuary project is realized in the spaces of university (University of Humanities and Economics in Łódź), I have invited artists – professors and students of fellow Artistic Department in Pedagogics Academy in Kraków, Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Łódź, and from University of Humanities and Economics.
Space of the art., as a place itself, can be a kind of laboratory, where one can „check” various artistic offers. It is an open, unique space that absorbs creative initiatives.And what apart from places/spaces?But ART., of course. She allows us to have a fresh vision, helps us to break patterns of thinking, stimulates imagination and sends us off to the land of our inner freedom, where each one of us is making one’s own – so the only real one for us – vision of the world. It applies to both artists and audience. Art. breaks axioms, throws away conventions of perception and communication, and – what’s the most important – allows us to experience what’s beyond the Language and beyond the Culture.

Is a sanctuary as an art. space, only an idea?Just recently we have had a pleasure to host an artist and „creator of  states of emergency”, as he describes himself. Gerhard Jürgen Blum – Kwiatkowski, who presented a documentary of the one of a kind – in world’s scale – An Open Book Project. Blum – Kwiatkowski, in cooperation with many famous artists, had created in German village of Hünfeld very original ensamble of visual poetry on the walls of the village houses. This small village then became „a Mekka” for artists involved in visual poetry, and for the inhabitants and the city hall, the art.  in public space became their pride. One can say, that Gerhard managed to bring a sanctuary into life in Hünfeld – something we are looking for in our project.

Postet on 03.06.2011 by Rolf Dennemann
Categories: EU Project Sanctuary | Tags:

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