Heidegger Among the Sculptors: Body, Space, and the Art of Dwelling
Andrew J. Mitchell
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In the 1950s and 60s, Martin Heidegger turned to sculpture to rethink the relationship between bodies and space and the role of art in our lives. In his texts on the subject—a catalog contribution for an Ernst Barlach exhibition, a speech at a gallery opening for Bernhard Heiliger, a lecture on bas-relief depictions of Athena, and a collaboration with Eduardo Chillida—he formulates his later aesthetic theory, a thinking of relationality. Against a traditional view of space as an empty container for discrete bodies, these writings understand the body as already beyond itself in a world of relations and conceive of space as a material medium of relational contact. Sculpture shows us how we belong to the world, a world in the midst of a technological process of uprooting and homelessness. Heidegger suggests how we can still find room to dwell therein. Filled with illustrations of works that Heidegger encountered or considered, Heidegger Among the Sculptors makes a singular contribution to the philosophy of sculpture.
but we are taken up and drawn out with it, both surged through and pulled along. One is not in the world without being it and one cannot be oneself without this continual bodily entry to world. This interplay of body and space is what Heidegger admires in the series of heads that Heiliger sculpted. Heidegger had previously mentioned the head (Haupt) in a much different context in 1945, while reflecting upon his 1933 rectoral address, “The Self-Assertion [Selbstbehauptung] of the German
presence” (HK 13). Such a coming forth into presence is a perpetual entering of the world, for the nature of limit is such that it keeps delivering the thing out beyond itself. Paradoxically enough, the limit gives the thing to the world endlessly. In giving form to the thing, in other words, the artist co-creates the invisible world beyond the thing into which it radiates. By her gaze, Athena tells us that the artist must keep in view the limit, must negotiate with limitation, if the invisible
in the same harmonious and ever developing space. The volume of musical sound fills the silence with tension; similarly there could be no volume in sculpture without the emptiness of space. In the void the form can continue to vibrate beyond its own limits; the space and the volume together, selecting from all the potential structures inherent in the form, build up its final shape. The rhythm is determined by the form and is renewed with it.3 Both Heidegger and Chillida seek a space that would
informs his work. The well-defined faces and hands of these sculptures emerge from the incomprehensible and unexplored masses at their heart. Barlach’s work shows the formless other that inhabits every body, our own included, and gives us to understand that even the exposure of existence would be impossible without this unshaped material earthliness. Heiliger’s sculpture records the struggle of existing in a world beyond ourselves that is never empty or void but that operates with a material
Hermann, ed. Dino Larese zum 50. Geburtstag am 26. August 1964 (Dino Larese for His 50th Birthday on 26 August 1964). St. Gallen, Switzerland: Zollikofer, 1964. ———, ed. Dino Larese zum 60. Geburtstag am 26. August 1974 (Dino Larese for His 60th Birthday on 26 August 1974). St. Gallen, Switzerland: Zollikofer, 1974. Stubbe, Wolf, ed. Ernst Barlach: Plastik (Ernst Barlach: Sculpture). Munich: R. Piper Verlag, 1959. Tank, Kurt Lothar. Deutsche Plastik unserer Zeit (German Sculpture of Our Time).