Dornach Monastery Garden 2019-2022, "CP", zinc sheet metal, 90 × 45 × 45 cm, Berlin 2018, "FM", steel, hot-dip galvanised montage iron, diameter 120 cm, Berlin 2015, "LF", bronze, interior fittings natural wood lime, diameter approx. 30 cm, Bremen 2017, "BN reinforced concrete, cast iron, interior fittings natural wood oak, 45 × 45 × 45 cm, Lucerne 2018, photos: Christian Jaeggi
The modern notion of an art that distances itself from everything that exists outside itself, and in the best case only suffices itself, has been largely preserved to this day. And when art moves into the vicinity of other systems, it only experiences the legitimizing recognition of its own representatives and institutions if it adopts a decidedly critical attitude. But what about works of art (more precisely sculptures) that say goodbye to the idea of such purpose- and function-free art and serve birds as nesting places and cottages? Fritz Balthaus has often shown in his interventions in public space that art can question and meaningfully enrich us and our environment precisely when it does not enter a space intended for it alone, but that it imperceptibly nests itself in other areas. In all four sculptures, two systems meet, each acting according to its own laws. Balthaus, who was very fond of the monastery garden as a place of nature and culture, asked himself the following questions: Under what conditions can art exist, and under what conditions do birds nest? Would it be possible for the system of art and that of birds to converge in such a way that both sides respect each other, if not influence each other for the better? "When designing the birdhouses, the different conditions and behaviors of art and the bird world were weighed against each other until it was established that a congruent overall form had been found that could do justice to both worlds. Balthaus decided to maintain the connection to art by artistic quotation, be it through familiar forms of spatial art or through the content-related reference of the prominent artist initials CP, FM, BN, LF serving as work titles. The changes in structure, material and positioning necessary for a deviation from the original lead to the suitability of the objects as houses usable by birds. If the external form of each sculpture still refers to the artistic original, the interior is directed towards the requirements of a successful nesting. A precise research of the living conditions of native bird species on the part of the artist was indispensable. Balthaus' hybrid of art and birdhouse, however, knows a predecessor: in the 1970s, birds nested in a sculpture by François Morellet in the garden of a renowned German museum. The employees tolerated this for years, probably also because the barred inner structure of the sculpture made the nest inaccessible. How the four sculptures in the Dornach Monastery Garden prove themselves for the art world as well as for the bird world will be closely observed and reported to the artist in the coming years.
Text: Barbara van der Meulen
Stephan Wittmer, Annegret Steinhauer, René Odermatt, David Hepp: for natural wood installation, work drawing, 3D workshop and practical assistance with the sculpture "BN"; Adolf Maier: for the extraordinary cooperation with the sculpture "BN"; Georg Zey, David Hepp, Harry Heimsoth: for natural wood installation, foundry and practical assistance with "LF"; Sophia Engel: for the bird protection expertise. The Dornach Monastery Foundation, Barbara van der Meulen, Toni Eggenschwiler, Johann Volonté AG, Stefan Moser Schreinerei AG, Andreas Klemm for the realisation in the Dornach Monastery Garden.