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The idea STOA169

Bernd Zimmer

In the winter of 1989/90, I travelled to the south of India for the first time. Fascinated by the Hindu temples and the relics deep within their expansive complexes, my interest was concentrated increasingly on the antechambers, the columned vestibules, halls and the waiting rooms that guide one through to the inner sanctums of these hallowed structures. The halls, consisting of anywhere from 100 to 1000 columns, served not only as spaces for meditation but also as protection for pilgrims from rain and sun and, additionally, as places of refuge during wartime for those in need. Even today, visitors still come to seek repose, to share a meal together or to “meditateˮ all the while surrounded by the individually designed columns. Chiselled in stone, each one uniquely tells stories about the divine family, battles, conflicts, erotic yearnings and love. It was already during my first visit, more than 25 years ago, that the idea of an artists’ columned vestibule began to crystallise in my mind. The first specific plans were drafted, their technical details and possibilities were discussed, and as I undertook, in 2016, this time with my wife Nina, my second journey, to India’s Hindu shrines, my long-standing desire to realise this hall of pillars, with 169 artists from around the world, presented itself anew. The implementation of it should no longer be postponed. In times of war and famine, of displaced persons and refugees, it is my ambition with this artistic project to lay down a marker for peace and solidarity. A hall, supported by pillars individually crafted by 169 artists from all continents, will become a symbol for boundlessness, peaceful co-existence, and respect for the freedom of others. The diversity of artistic design and the interplay of colour, form and material will contribute to a surprising and spectacular event that encourages contemplation and immersion. The juxtaposition of different notions of art – here conceived and manifested in the simple form of a column – bears witness in STOA169 to the role of artistic thought and fine art in our world, thereby giving rise to an island of free discourse.