‘Anselm Kiefer – Johannis-Nacht/St John’s Eve’
Exhibition from 28 June to 28 September 2014 in the Mönchehaus Museum Goslar
Reopening of the renovated museum on Saturday, 28 June at 6 pm
‘Open Day’ on Sunday, 29 June
Press conference on Friday, 27 June at 11 am
‘Johannis-Nacht’ (St John’s Eve) was created in 1990 when Anselm Kiefer was awarded the renowned Goslar Kaiserring for his artistic work. The artist put it together in a former stable and three cellar vaults of the medieval museum complex. It was Kiefer’s first permanent installation in a museum outside his studio, and a work to which the artist still assigns great importance within his total oeuvre. When the Mönchehaus Museum was renovated, it became possible to access the installation once more.
It is accompanied by an exhibition whose works shed closer light on the individual motifs of the installation. A catalogue documents the ‘Johannis-Nacht’ in impressive pictures, while an essay by Aeneas Bastian sensitively explains this key work by Anselm Kiefer to the reader. The reopening of the museum with works by the world-famous artist is a great honour for us, and we are very grateful to him.
Anselm Kiefer, born in Donaueschingen in 1945, is one of the most important German artists of the present time. In his early works, he grappled with German history. The photos and paintings that he created in the process led to heated debates.
In the mid 1980s his gaze ceased to focus on themes of German history. His work now began to reflect his occupation with alchemistic traditions, Jewish mysticism and the myths of Antiquity. ‘Johannis-Nacht’, recalling a date that was anchored likewise in Christianity and popular belief, is a prime example.
Nor is it any coincidence that Kiefer accommodated his installation in a stable and three cellar vaults. He finds caves and cellars intensely stimulating. They are a constant motif in his oeuvre, and provide space for ambivalent interpretations. On the one hand they reflect, for Kiefer, the abyssal and irrational aspects of humans existence, while on the other they provide shelter and security.
‘Johannis-Nacht’ combines motifs, ideas and references that play a role in Kiefer’s work to this day. In the stable room, we see a leaden fighter aircraft, pulling white doll’s dresses and vests behind it. The artist gave it the name ‘Jason’, after the Greek hero who by cunning obtained the Golden Fleece. His eventual failure is reflected in the lead of the aircraft, which is totally incapable of flight.
However the installation also recalls Lilith, Adam’s first wife, who appears in the Jewish Kabbalah as Eve’s antagonist. She is the woman who will not bow to the will of her husband or the gods, and as a punishment gives birth to demons. Her existence bears witness to the spirit of emancipation, but also to the evil in the world. Its origin is explained in the Jewish Kabbalah by the breaking of vessels in which God once streamed Himself into the world. As they were too weak for the emanation of His energy, part of his strength combined with worldly wickedness to create Evil.
When God withdrew from the world, he left for man the creation broken and requiring healing. Anselm Kiefer refers repeatedly to these connections in his installation. The painter’s broken palette in the final room seems to be a symbol of this.
Depiction, in Kiefer’s work, is therefore always metaphorical, and seeks to be understood in his manifold references and ambivalences. The solidified river of lead in the second cellar can be interpreted as the divine emanation from the Kabbalistic creation myth. The white children’s clothes suggest the children’s corpses by which Medea punished the unfaithful Jason.
Kiefer’s mythological explorations in the depths of the cultural memory of mankind never remain in the past, but touch us also in the present. The works in the museum which accompany the opening of the newly accessible installation make this clear. When they concentrate on individual motifs of the work, such as the ‘Secret of the Ferns’, they still concern us directly, as does the whole ‘Johannis-Nacht’ even today.
The exhibition comprises some 50 pictures and photographs; a catalogue will be published by the Distanz-Verlag, with articles by Aeneas Bastian and Bettina Ruhrberg, in German and English, 120 pages, c. 70 coloured illustrations, hardcover, 28 euros
Opening of the exhibition on Saturday 28 June at 6 pm with an introduction by Dr. Aeneas Bastian, Berlin, and words of welcome from the city of Goslar and others.
The exhibition is supported by the Niedersächsische Sparkassenstiftung and the Sparkasse Goslar/Harz.