UNPAINTED artist Birthe Blauth from Munich has prevailed against other well-known artists with her participative, spiritual work “Poem of Pearls” in the contest for the artistic transformation of the Saint Elisabeth Church in Kassel, Germany, during the Documenta Summer 2022.
The Catholic Church had invited three artists to develop an artistic idea for the Saint Elisabeth Church in Kassel in 2022 and to presented it in a public event. The presentation of the five ideas took place as a live stream in March 2021 due to corona. Now the preparatory group for the exhibition in the documenta summer of 2022 has decided on the design “Poem of Pearls” by Birthe Blauth. “Birthe Blauth inspires with her proposal, which allows us to perceive the space of the Elisabethkirche anew.
With her artistic interventions, she triggers a wealth of inner images and thoughts that lead deep into the tradition of Christian pictorial worlds, and at the same time enable a journey to one’s own self,” says Martin Matl, diocesan cultivation master and conservator of the Diocese of Fulda, explaining the decision in favour of the Munich artist. Birthe Blauth is very much looking forward to realizing her concept for the Saint Elisabeth Church: “I like working with architecture and with the meaning and function of a space. In the Saint Elisabeth Church, due to the lateral opening of the church in garden courtyards and the function as a sacred space, the germ of the paradise garden is already present for me.”
A wide space
“Poem of Pearls” is the name of the installation, which includes forecourt, main and aisles. On the forecourt, a labyrinth is painted on, which invites you to leave. A transition zone in the entrance area leads from the noise of Friedrichsplatz into the silence of the Elisabethkirche. In this space, visitors are asked to take off their shoes or to use the available protective cover. Because entering the church with street shoes in the time of “Poem of Pearls” is not announced. The chairs currently in use will also be outsourced. If you want a chair, you can take it from the transition area to the church. In the wide open space stands a bowl with beads. Birthe Blauth: “Visitors can take a spiritual journey from the labyrinth on the forecourt to the Paradise Garden with the pearl bowl. As a symbol and reminder, they take home a pearl. Poem of Pearls invites you to think, to be on the way and to enjoy with all your senses.” The pearls give the installation the name “Poem of Pearls”. “Poem
does not mean beautiful verses,” explains project manager Christoph Baumanns, “but as in the saying ‘something is a poem’, i.e. something extraordinary becomes extremely clear in its peculiarity.”
Birthe Blauth earned her doctorate at the LMU Munich in Sinology, Ethnolgie and Art History with a focus on anthropology of religion. She has been working as an artist since 2003. It deals with the patterns and laws that determine our perception, with which we structure our environment and develop our culture. She has received numerous awards for her work, for example the HausderKunstPreis or the Dr. Theobald-Simon Prize. She was a resident at the renowned International Studio & Curatorial Program in Brooklyn / New York. since
For years she has been represented in numerous international exhibitions.
“Birthe Blauth has found a lot of support in our parish with her proposal,” reports Georg Klein, spokesman for the parish council of the parish of St. Elisabeth, to whose four parishes the Elisabethkirche belongs: “We are looking forward to this radical and at the same time poetic intervention in the church space. The new spatial experience responds wonderfully to the architecture, in which the architect deliberately created an addition to the then modern building material concrete with glass and bricks by two green side courtyards.” The art historian Michaela Tünnemann is a member of the preparatory group and will help shape the guided tours of Poem of Pearls. What she likes about art is that it makes the hidden visible through alienation: “Birthe Blauth’s artistic idea will greatly change the church space. This gives rise to thoughts, feelings, encounters and irritations, which we want to address in the guided tours in all freedom and openness.”
For pastoral consultant Stefan Ahr from the Dean’s Team Kassel-Hofgeismar, Birthe Blauth’s installation emphasizes the inviting character of the Elisabethkirche on Friedrichsplatz: “In the hustle and bustle of documenta, as with the previous exhibitions, the Elisabethkirche is a space of silence and relaxation – open and inviting for all visitors indiscriminately. This hospitality is one of the basics of the church.”
A separate space for contemporary art
As in 2002, 2007, 2012, and 2017, the Diocese of Fulda and the Catholic Church of Kassel will continue to seize the opportunity during the documenta period in 2022 to open up their own space for contemporary art: the Elisabethkirche at Friedrichsplatz. In 2012, the tower figure by Stephan Balkenhol caused a sensation and a fierce debate in Kassel. On Anne Gathmann’s installation “Statics of Resonance”, a band of more than four thousand aluminium elements, which measured the entire nave in the form of a curve, attracted around 58,000 visitors.
For diocesan master builder Martin Matl, the images and spaces of the church are always more than just a fulfillment of assigned functions: “The Diocese of Fulda is committed to the dialogue between church and art, because forms and images can emerge there that lead out of everyday constraints and open up the vastness of existence. Contemporary art can trigger discussions and experiences that we always need anew in church and society.” PGR spokesman Georg Klein is convinced: “Poem of Pearls will not only change the space of the Elisabethkirche in the documenta summer, but also the people who visit it.”
Text by Christoph Baumanns / docKIK
Hear the audio contribution by Carsten Gohlke from hessischer Rundfunk: “Paradise at Documenta”: