Als in Dresden am 13. Februar 1945 um 21.45 Uhr der Fliegeralarm losging, ahnte wohl keiner, dass 45 Minuten später rund drei Viertel der Altstadt in Flammen stehen würde, dass in einer zweiten nächtlichen Angriffswelle weitere Teile der Stadt zerstört würden und nach einer dritten Bombardierung am nächsten Tag Dresden fast dem Erdboden gleichgemacht war. Bis zu 25.000 Menschen fanden damals in diesen wenigen Stunden den Tod.
Zum 70. Jahrestag der Luftangriffe gedenkt die Stadt deren Opfer auf eine besondere Weise: Die Ss. Trinitatis Kathedrale Dresdens wird mit der Lichtinstallation „Lebensatem/Dresden“ des New Yorker Künstlers Stuart Williams aussehen, als ob sie atme.
Stuart Williams ist ausgebildeter Architekt, Ingenieur, Stadtplaner und Environmental Artist.
Feuilletonscout sprach im Vorfeld mit dem Künstler. Im Gespräch erklärt er, was ihm das Projekt persönlich bedeutet, wie ihn der geschichtliche Hintergrund beeinflusst hat und was ihn an Outdoor Installationen begeistert.
Feuilletonscout: Could you say there is a personal relationship between you and the city of Dresden?
Stuart Williams: As a foreigner, I think it would be quite presumptuous for me to say there is some kind of personal relationship between me and the City of Dresden. At the same time, there is a personal element to this project for me, given that my father was fighting with the Allied forces in Germany in 1945. Now, seventy years later, I am honored to have been welcomed by this city to install “Breath of LIfe/Dresden” at the historic Dresden Kathedrale Ss. Trinitatis.
Feuilletonscout: The aim of the installation in Dresden is to remind us of the dreadful bombing of the city in February 1945. How does a historical background like this influence your art, the concept of the installation?
Stuart Williams: As a Baroque city of unparalleled architectural treasures, I think the destruction of Dresden in the closing days of World War II was a profound loss to the cultural heritage of the whole world. Here is a public artwork linking two former adversaries from World War II — the single most deadly war in human history — offering a breathing beacon of hope, and a compelling message for world peace.
Feuilletonscout: At the Kathedrale Ss. Trinitatis in Dresden you are planning a light installation with which to create the impression that the Cathedral breathes. What exactly is it you would like to express?
Stuart Williams: Given Dresden’s destruction in February 1945, I think the vision of one of Dresden’s most important historic landmarks appearing to “breathe” will be extremely moving. I see this project as a way of honoring Dresden’s survival and renewal…and ultimately, as an affirmation of life itself.
Feuilletonscout: About two years ago you carried out a similar project in Columbus, Ohio, which is Dresden’s partner city; this then lead to a commission for one of these installations to be presented in Dresden. How do you avoid repeating yourself?
Stuart Williams: “Breath of Life/Dresden” was, in fact, envisioned as a parallel installation to “Breath of Life/Columbus,” as a way of honoring the sister city relationship between both cities. So the concept was the same for both cities, but Dresden’s powerful story, with its nearly total annihilation in a devastating fire storm, gave the concept of a “breathing” building particularly potent symbolic meaning.
Feuilletonscout: What tickles your fancy, what appeals to you about outdoor installations?
Stuart Williams: I think that outdoor public art installations have the potential to reach a vast audience, given that they don’t require a special trip to a museum or a gallery… they are simply there, out in the open… free for all to see. They can be stumbled upon by accident, and if the concept is a compelling one, they can have a far reaching impact.
Feuilletonscout: You’re a fully qualified architect, engineer and urban planner. How have these professions influenced you in your art?
Stuart Williams: Soon after graduation from the College of Architecture at the University of Michigan, my interests gravitated decidedly to fine art, and more definitively to site-specific, environmental art. I think my education, with its blend of architecture, art, engineering and urban planning, provided me with an intimate understanding of historical context, scale, and three dimensional space. It also gave me a firm grasp on the importance of relating to the unique aspects of a specific site and locale. All of these factors helped to propel me into the realm of large-scale environmental art, with a focus on both urban and rural locations.
Feuilletonscout: Do you personally have a favourite project?
Stuart Williams: The site artists of the 60s, such as Walter Di Maria and Robert Smithson caught my attention early on — as did the work of Robert Irwin, James Turrell and Dan Flavin. And the luminous colors of the painters, Richard Diebenkorn, Mark Rothko and Henri Matisse have long been an inspiration to me.
Feuilletonscout: What in particular do you want people to remember about you and your art?
Stuart Williams: That my artwork is routed in a deep passion, and that I have made every effort to create work that moves and inspires people in a powerful and unique way.
Thanks for the interview, Stuart Williams!
Die Installation beginnt am 13. Februar um 18.45 Uhr im Beisein von Repräsentanten der Stadt Dresden und deren internationaler Partnerstädte sowie dem US-amerikanischen Generalkonsul Scott R. Riedman.
Sie endet am 27. März 2015.
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