2012 biennale


   Tomasz Wendland


The unknown exists with the same intensity as the known or everything already comprehended. Perhaps a better way of putting it is: what exists, exists; what does not exist, exists as well.

Dagmar Reichelt – in Neue Zuricher Zeitung in 2010 – wrote that a creative process is simultaneously a research process which results in a stream of reflection, not only in a verbal form, but most of all in a mental one. Artists seem to be participants in the process of knowledge creation while being also, in a similar way to a viewer, creators of their own interpretation of an image.

If time was conceptualised as a playground, it would be possible to talk about available simultaneity bound only by an ability to comprehend one own's act of participation. Life would lend itself to be seen as a series of limited acts of participation, which outcome would lead us to the natural rejection of some unwanted, faultless possibilities. Awareness suffers from deficiencies and unexpected surpluses which occur as result of the accumulation of experience. On the other hand, the state of unawareness is as equally strong an act of participating as that of awareness.    

David Bohm writes that 'The entire world of material things is a fragment of the whole. Everything is connected to everything else, every part of the whole contains the whole.' Reality defined in such a way may remain unknown. A result of it is a participation in the whole. Nothing is complete in itself and it may fulfil itself only through participation. There exists, therefore, a suggestion that values such as life and mind may develop in the whole. We need to become aware of the fact that we are a part of a such reality and 'we do not think about it but we think it'. What is understandable becomes a tool  for comprehending everything that remains unknown and vice versa. If I were to teach, then I would certainly teach something I do not know. 

Adel ABDESSEMED, Orit ADAR BECHAR, Nicole AHLAND, Makoto AIDA, Istvan BALOGH, Stephan BAUMKÖTTER, Ulrich BEHR, Mane HELLENTHAL, Benjamin BERGMANN, Xu BING, Thomas BJÖRK, Richard BOND, Paulo BRUSCKY, Olaf BRZESKI, Nick CAVE, Stephen CORNFORD, Attila CSÖRGŐ, Joseph DADOUNE, Stanisław DRÓŻDŻ, Wojciech DUDA, Richard FAJNOR, Andrzej FASIECKI, Monika FIORESCHY, Andrea GALVANI, Gabriela GOLDER, Jens HAANING, Nol HENNISSEN, Joanna HOFFMANN-DIETRICH, Nick HORNBY, Ali HOSSAINI, Bernd JANSEN, Magdalena JETELOVÁ, Timo KAHLEN, Adam KALINOWSKI, Tadeusz KANTOR, Grzegorz KLAMAN, Leszek KNAFLEWSKI, Dariusz KOWALSKI, Jarosław KOZŁOWSKi, Corinna KREBBER, Oliver KRUSE, Mischa KUBALL, Takashi KURIBAYASHI, Piotr KURKA, Julie LAIGNEL, Wojciech LEDER, Young-Jae LEE, Sang Nam LEE, Simon LEE, Petra LEMMERZ, Daniel LERGON, Kristin LUCAS, Cristina LUCAS, Wojciech ŁAZARCZYK, Tea MÄKIPÄÄ, Lenore MALEN, Teresa MARGOLLES, Shahar   MARKUS, Alice MICELI, Tatsuo MIYAJIMA, Aiko MIYANAGA, Simon MORLEY, Oscar MUÑOS, Suzanne C. NAGY, Ilona NÉMETH, Charly NIJENSOHN, Morio NISHIMURA , Glexis NOVOA, Motohiko ODANI, Julia OLDHAM, Maciej OLSZEWSKI, Robert and Shana PARKEHARRISON, Fernando PRATS, Nicolas PROVOST, Araya RASDJARMREARNSOOK , Ki-Bong RHEE, Timothy RODA, Maciej RUDZIN, Robert RUMAS, Mithu SEN, Sean SHANAHAN, Regina SILVEIRA, Ran SLAVIN, Alexander STEIG, Attila SZŰCS, Zbigniew TASZYCKI, Gerhard TRIEB, Kin-Wah TSANG, Adriana VARELLA, Heather DEWEY-HAGBORG, Alejandro VIDAL, Alex VILLAR, Bill VIOLA, Quingsong WANG, WITKACY, Alvin P. ZAFRA 

Spirituality in art



Selected exhibitions, 1980 - 2010   

Spirituality in Art

The following list represents selected international exhibitions shown in public museums and sacral spaces (in alphabetical order).

2012 Mediations Biennale continues the heritage of exhibitions, which, in a variety of ways, talk about all that is unknowable and spiritual in art. The following incomplete selection concerns the period between 1980 and 2010. The selection will be updated on regular basis. The motto of the list may be found in the main idea of a treatise by Siemion Frank entitled The unknowable: an ontological introduction to the philosophy of religion.   




Denise Carvalho
Friedhelm Mennekes
Fumio Nanjo Tomasz Wendland






Japan Poland


Drorit Gur Arie

Rita Varga



Jörg Scheller - PL


        Jörg Scheller

Terra Incognita

It seems that a choice of 'the unknown' for an art biennial's theme may provoke an automatic objection. Many may feel that a fascination for 'the unknown' may lead to esoterism, mysticism, or spiritualism. Such issues might be considered as more suitable for the crypts of classical modernism―and thus for an era when the artist Willi Baumeister, for instance, deliberated with a heartfelt seriousness on topics such as 'Das Unbekannte in der Kunst ['the unknown in art']. From a positivist and pragmatic point of view, dealing with the non-evident gives rise to the suspicion that irrationality and escapism are not far away. The question therefore is, if addressing 'the unknown' leads us astray towards an evasive maneuver by clouding problems of the mundane here and now. 


Even if the above accusations in some particular cases have some grounds, the appeal of 'the unknown' has got yet another, universal dimension. Actually, it could be argued that 'the unknown' forms one of the most important and most difficult to capture mainsprings in contemporary western societies, whose genealogies I would briefly like to touch upon in the following.


Pre-modern societies were characterized by ideas about the world which stressed its cyclical nature, as well as by metaphysics whose function was to provide stability. A human being was perceived as 'the image and likeness of God'. Tradition, on the other hand, offered a framework for the life of an individual: „Life then did not know any other form of conceptualizing the world except for the way which espoused a life-preserving, vernacular instinct, organized in a micro sphere and hedged impenetrably in the macro sphere. The world at that time was perceived as the impenetrable socio-cosmogenic extension of an imaginary force which was anchored in the self-centered, monolingual local world as a collective womb for all 'citizens'” (Peter Sloterdijk). Today's ideal of democracy, which continuously invites us to rediscover ourselves, would have been seen as a heresy in the middle-ages. In these times it was Hiob who represented an unrivaled role model for humankind.

Denise Carvalho - oryginal

    Denise Carvalho

4th Mediations Biennial: “The Unknown:” The Americas

Introductory Text by Denise Carvalho


The idea of the ‘unknown’ is not unknown. In the 6th century BCE, the ancient philosopher, Heraclitus, noted: "No man can cross the same river twice, because neither the man nor the river are the same." Even though we try to control our social, natural, and technological environment, we are forced to realize that "everything flows,” and “nothing stands still." Against all linear histories, all human laws, all established orders, the reality of the unknown lies within the boundaries of time and space. Time and space have daunted philosophers and astronomers for thousands of years, coming full circle when Einstein challenged the notion of gravitational pull between bodies in his ‘geodetic effect’, the idea that planets orbiting the sun follow the curved space-time deformation caused by the sun. With Einstein’s theory of relativity, or the notion that planets and starts warp space-time (e=mc2), new possibilities emerged for re-thinking the relationship between matter and energy in ways that even extrapolate space/time gravitational geometry (i.e. string theory). Universal laws, which are unattainable in their totality to the human mind, are present in the microbiology of our bodies, but still are unknown to the human perception and trajectory, an unachievable knowledge that slips away, keeping us on the edge of our perceptions. From our limited standpoint, we see nothing but continuous precedents, latently dissolving into multiple variants and their projected potentialities. As we don’t realize these universal laws that permeate our reality, we lose ourselves in the illusive continuity of our daily lives, programmed to appear linear, progressive, even in its most chaotic moments. Or, instead, see the world as contingent, its future unknown, and life, in its best, a result of chance encounters. As finite variants in space and time, we keep traversing like matter and energy before us, after us, and around us, like planets orbiting around the sun suspended by speed, until something extraordinary breaks the established order and creates a new paradigm.


Denise Carvalho's Conference Abstract

       Denise Carvalho


(conference abstract 04.04.2012)

For me ‘The Unknown’ is resisting preconditioned social functions and challenging established ideas; it is redefining what you think you know by raising smart questions. The artists I chose for the 2012 Mediations Biennale have something to ask about humanity, about the natural and social environment, and about science and technology. They chose to embrace uncertainties and defy determinisms

Alex Villar’s Breathing Understudy explores a forgotten memory of being able to breath underwater. A man places himself upside down under water presenting a series of scenes that conflate the suppression of breathing, body suspension, and the immersion into water. These scenes derive from two distinct but interconnected situations: water sports such as static apnea and torture techniques such as water boarding.

Alejandro Vidal’s Firestorm is also a scene of deception, in which celebratory fireworks are conflated with explosive bombs and shots from firearms. Oscar Munoz, Teresa Margolles, and Alice Miceli comment on the situation of invisibility of so many victims of senseless crimes.

Alice Miceli’s 88 from 14,000 is a video based on photographs from 88 out of 14,000 prisoners killed in a Khmer Rouge prison in Cambodia, which the artist researched locally. Each photo is projected onto a veil of falling sand, as an hourglass that marks the brief time between their incarceration and their execution.

Fumio Nanjo's Conference Abstract

         Fumio Nanjo                                                     


(conference abstract 04.04.2012)


'The Unknown' is a fascinating theme.


Western civilization has for many years been involved in the endeavor of analyzing the material world around us,classifying all the things that comprise it in an attempt to understand them and how they function. This approach has been labeled "science." Where the methodology of science is analytic, that of art is holistic. Art sees both reality and intuition. While science and art have each given us great visions of our world, there are still things about our universe, ourselves, life and death of which we know very little. So the deliberate act of turning our attention to "the unknown" is an important task, because the essence of life, the truth of the world often lies within the realms that to date remain unknown. You could say that art itself belongs to the realm of the unknown, too. Ultimately, it is the unknown that is the source of inspiration and of all creative activity. The most extreme inventions and discoveries always come out of the unknown.

Friedhelm Mennekes Conference Abstract

Friedhelm Mennekes

The Unknown

(a conference abstract 4th April 2012)


Abstractive articulation of such universal truths as sublime, saint, dissimilarity, what is completely different (Paul Tillich), even God...is a dadaist, carried by doubt, wrought by last thought attempts of nonsensical ordeal and an expression of what is unknown to a man. All of the above represents a linguistic articulation of questions. Imagined indicators. Also a sentence, which focuses on God, Where is God? – is and remains nothing more then a question, even if gigantic, global institutions depend on it. All of these questions are based on a hope. It is not much, but it is an atmosphere which gives authentic life: in a question as a question.  


 A question is a form of pulling forward. It is composed of feeling one’s way in search for the unknown. It fundamentally belongs to human life. Only when a man doubts himself, when he looks over himself and divides spiritually from himself, he can understand himself: in a particular time and space; asking about his identity and freedom. A man poses questions, it does not matter if they are, or not spoken clearly out loud. They cannot be skipped, since his I is a question in itself. 



In a vortex of crossing one’s limits, a person questioning reaches beyond himself. If it is done consciously and conscientiously, he will have a chance to experience God as a question. What word God speaks about may be captured at the very beginning as a question. God appears in questions, provided that a human opens himself up for the world and life as a whole. God lives therefore in a question, but God is at the same time a mystery and remains hidden. God is present as deus absconditus.



The questions may be posted in a variety of ways. Questions tend to have different stylistics and they present themselves differently in both religion and art. No other artist, so openly, has opened art up for questions as the American, James Lee Byars (1921-1997). As an artist, he represents an art trend which is practical and questioning. For him, a human fulfils himself if he asks questions.


   Friedhelm Mennekes

What? / Who? / Where? / How? / When? / Why???...

In language there are two unknowns – or: a desperate dance around the unknown: vv, w?


Those troublesome tensions, arising from the internal spaces within a human being, are questions. What is the question?


- Asking questions is a akin to the spiritual breath of a human being. While raising questions, a person  moves about in the air of discovery and self-understanding.


- Posing a question is a conscious and bracing action, in which a man creates for himself an empty space; opening itself before him in constantly new perspectives.


- A question draws a man into a powerful vortex, which espouses an all-being quality. It is here that the  religious aspect of the question opens up. It focuses itself in a word: God, however it remains veiled with mystery. It persists to be deus absconditus.


- In this constant journey, from question to question, humans may give a form to this internal insecurity of all that is ultimate. They may also hold on to it, full of faith.


- Subjective experiences and ones personal perception of the world merge in one temporary piece of knowledge. In questions, powered by doubt, it seems to be constantly subjected to relative thinking.


- It is doubt that drives us to posing a question after a questions. It is only the constant line questions that allows us to discover a responsible and secure life.


- Constant questioning protects us from trapping oneself in everything that is our own. It protects us against the danger of closing oneself of to the world. New questions introduce a new balance to all old answers.


- Answers, in their abstract inclination to assume a fixed expression, are utopian illusions. By the act of asking a human strives for carrying out his life in a realistic and intelligent way; in a constructive and creative way.


- In the constant movement of questions, ‘light’ and ‘life’ of that WORD shines up. The bible speaks about it in the following way: In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness. (John 1:4)


- Our question is unquiet until it rests in God.  (Augustinus von Hippo)


- What is a question? Is life a question? Is art a question? Is faith a question? A question?



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