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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Trials in Approaching Art: Beyond the Object, Beyond Sensation

by Nathaniel Williams

Today there are many trials in approaching art! Many approaches never come within the proximity of artistic experience or artistic inspiration. Indeed, many people are suspicious of inspiration which can lead to its marginalization in any investigation of art. Our lives are tremendously varied and complex. Within this complexity of experience, art and imagination have a particular power. Movies, music, literature and pictures take root in all manner of human lives and suddenly leaf out into moments of profundity, mystery and harmony. These subtle, yet powerful, experiences are not limited to culture. Sometimes similar moments surprise us in the midst of ordinary life. A friend may laugh and suddenly become a short story we wish we could write, or a wren, moving in the cloud-padded sunset’s pink, becomes a dance we cannot perform, while our breath is checked by a sudden intimacy in life’s bustle.
We can identify these experiences or terrains but it is difficult to speak about their nature. But before we try to speak we should start with an account of a profound experience of art’s transformative power from a real and particular life. Henrik Steffens (1773-1845), the Scandanavian philosopher, scientist and writer, wealthy in experience and then reminiscences (10 volumes of the latter), describes a number of such moments in his memoir, Was Ich Erlebte. Steffens, known mostly for his work in Geology, Physics and Anthropology and for his dedication to the sciences also had an artistic sensibility.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Beyond the Object – Beyond Sensation: A Narrative Report

By David Adams

Let me state up front that for me this conference last July in Hudson, New York, was probably the most inspiring, stimulating, and innovative anthroposophical event I have participated in during forty years of involvement with anthroposophy. I’m not sure everyone there would feel this way, but it was a very diverse group of participants. This conference not only explored and showcased a number of new, cutting-edge modes of activity in the visual arts that anthroposophists are beginning to experiment with, in the general direction of adding elements of motion and time (and observer involvement) to the visual arts to give them more of the nature of music, a direction that Rudolf Steiner said art must take in the future. It also can be seen as pioneering a new mobile structure for an anthroposophical conference – partly by the design, preparation, and openness of the planners, partly by the creativity of those present, virtually all of whom were visual artists and/or musicians. This new form of anthroposophical gathering is essentially permeated by the artistic element but also brings deep content in a way that leaves the participants free to attend to it, even to modify it, as well as to deepen it with further contemplation and activity, or not. Participation is possible at a number of different levels simultaneously. However, I’m not yet sure how much this sort of approach can be extended to other kinds of conferences on other topics. Still, it gives me hope that anthroposophy may, in fact, continue to evolve in the forms of its expression. 

Link to the whole article

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Goetheanum as White Magic, or Why Is Anthroposophical Architecture So Important? by David Adams

As the Anthroposophical Society prepares in 2013 to once again close down the Goetheanum auditorium in Dornach and over the next year to perform a variety of overdue restoration work on the stage, roof, and terrace of this now 90-some-year-old building, it is worth inquiring once again just why this Goetheanum artwork is so significant for anthroposophy and for the world.

It is not generally known that Rudolf Steiner, in addition to the seventeen buildings he designed, delivered more than seventy lectures about architecture, primarily concerning the Goetheanum?1 He also wrote several essays on this topic and included many more important discussions and references on architecture and the Goetheanum as ”side topics” in other lectures. Why did Steiner feel the Goetheanum, and architecture in general, to be such an important subject? We know he would not have come to such a judgment lightly. 

For link to the whole essay click here. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Upcoming October Workshop with Van James

Transformative Power of Art Part 2: Rudolf Steiner's Aesthetic and the Art of Color

Van James "Architypal Plant" motif after Steiner 

A retreat-workshop with Van James
October 14-19, 2012
Prado Farms, Lubao, Pampanga, Philippines

For artists, teachers, art therapists, and creative people of all kinds ...
Join renowned teaching artist Van James, (, author of Spirit and Art: Pictures of the Transformation of Consciousness and The Secret Language of Form, in The Transformative Power of Art II: Rudolf Steiner's Aesthetic and the Art of Color, the second visual arts retreat workshop in the Philippines, from October 14 to 19, 2012.

Link to more information and PDF for retreat-workshop flyer 

Monday, April 30, 2012

Rudolf Steiner’s 1918 Project with Jan Stuten for a New
Colored “Light-Play-Art,” Metamorphoses of Fear
by David Adams

Jan Stuten, Sketch No. 13, Metamorphoses of Fear, ca. 1919-1937. 

Jan Stuten, Sketch No. 15, Metamorphoses of Fear, ca. 1919- 1937. 

IN1918 at the end of the first world war Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), the Austrian-born founder of anthroposophy, gave the musician, composer, and scenery designer Jan Stuten (1890-1948) a task. Arising from his concerns about mechanizing, materialistic (or, in anthroposophical terminology, “Ahrimanic”) influences from watching the inartistic silent films of his day, Steiner had the idea of a new, alternative color- art combining sound, colored light, color-movement, and colored shadows in a way that would leave the viewer free to interpret what was seen and would keep the spectator inwardly active (as opposed to the passivity of watching films). 

Link to whole article

Friday, April 13, 2012

Free Columbia ART Dispersal

Sunday/ Monday - May 20/21 3pm-9pm Basilca Hudson
ART for 100% of People

#12 Dan Pate 24x29 inches

Red, Yellow, Blue   Laura Summer 10x10 inches

#3 Nick Pomeroy 8 X 10 inches

Can you imagine going to visit someone and finding their home full of artwork? Can you imagine needing to stop and ask directions on your way there and finding that person’s home full of artwork? Can you imagine appearing in court to pay your parking ticket and finding the courtroom walls covered with paintings  that were  somehow consistent with your being in a courtroom? Can you imagine a society where many, many people are working artistically and everywhere is something that has been created by someone? Can you imagine a society where these people also have time and materials and enough to eat?

The Free Columbia Art Course is a year long investigation of art in relation to the spiritual aspects of the human being and the world. As a new experiment in our ongoing attempts to de-commodify art, Free Columbia is planning an art dispersal event. See the web album at
As a society we have placed original visual art outside of the financial means of the majority of people. At the same time we have impoverished most of our artists. We need to turn this situation around.

At the art dispersal event, which will occur on May, 20 and 21, 2012 we will present three different, and not necessarily connected, actions.
  1. We will make approximately 100 pieces of visual art by various artists available for dispersal to people who would like to live with them for an unspecified amount of time. This means that the recipients will take the work home and will not need to return it. If the time comes when they no longer want to keep the artwork they can give it to someone else who does want it or they can contact the artist to return it.
  2. We will have festive cultural evenings with music, food and conversation. People will be encouraged to support the event but there will not be admission charges.
  3. We will let people know that Free Columbia is trying to raise the majority of our yearly budget, ($55,000) so that we can be one year ahead of our operating expenses. In order to create a free cultural space Free Columbia is supported by a freely given gifts. Everyone at Free Columbia is encouraged to participate, but these new donations would allow us to teach for the year free of asking our current students to support the current year. Any money that was collected in donations during the year could assure the existence of the next year’s program. If we raised an amount over $55,000 we could expand Free Columbia’s programming. We have had strong and positive experiences of what happens when you separate education from tuition and we are convinced that being one year ahead of our expenses will significantly increase the experience of what we, as a community, can bring. 

How are these actions connected? Only in terms of visibility, time and space. That is, the event will make people aware of the availability of the artwork and of the possibility of contributing to the gift economy that supports Free Columbia. Those who take paintings will be encouraged to make a financial contribution but it will be clear that this is not connected to a value assigned to the art work, rather it is an opportunity to support creative activity which the person obviously values since they are taking the work home. Also people are free to contribute to Free Columbia and need not take any artwork home.  We don’t know what will happen but we will know more after we try it.
There are a limited number of paintings available for people who do not live locally. These can be seen at contact Laura Summer if you are interested
We will hold the main dispersal event at Basilica Hudson, 110 Front Street, Hudson, New York on Sunday and Monday, May 20 and 21 from 3pm to 9pm.
Perhaps you have wanted to live with a painting by one of these artists, perhaps you have wanted to contribute to free culture but how to do this was unclear, perhaps you are simply curious about what will happen…    for whatever reason, please participate in the art dispersal event.

Let us see what happens when we ask people to support the conditions for creativity instead of purchasing artwork.

Artists Participating:
Lailah Amstutz
Simeon Amstutz
Lisa Archigian
Laura Charlton
Lindy Chicola
Christine Hales
Martha Loving
Christiane Marks
Cassidy Muckleston
Brooke Nixon
Dan Pate
Nick Pomeroy
Mado Spiegler
Laura Summer
Nathaniel Williams

See the web album at
Basilica Hudson 110 front street hudson NY 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Free Columbia Summer Art Courses

3 courses with renowned and inspiring musician and visual artist -  Manfred Bleffert
Color and music through the circle of the year
June 16-22 – Instrument Building - The breathing process of the earth, and of the cosmos, as a musical base for the development of new instruments and musical form. We will make iron and copper gongs and Glockenspiele

June 25-29 – New Music Improvisation - What does music want to become now and in the future? And what is North America’s role in the development of new music? With Manfred’s guidance, we will explore these questions together through ever-varied improvisation and listening exercises.  Using both our own instruments and Manfred’s uniquely designed new instruments (chimes, gongs, Glockenspiele, among others), we will bring to consciousness the elements of musical breathing and listening that allow new musical experiences to come to birth. In this co-creative process, each individual contributes to the breathing, listening, and sounding within the group. All experience levels welcome!

July 2-6 – Color and Tone in Relation to Rudolf Steiner’s Soul Calendar Using painting and music we will explore the cycle of the year in creative process. We will work with the relationships of color and tone in the Calendar of the Soul by Rudolf Steiner. We will see what is revealed in gesture and movement when we enter the world of tone, color, sound and form as we follow the course of the year.

Manfred Bleffert has dedicated his life to developing new music. His work includes a unique approach to graphic notation, composition and instrument building. His research is both broad and profound. His compositions are improvisational and unique. He is both a musician and a visual artist and a dynamic and inspiring teacher.

July 14-18
5 days of experimental work with color, light, music and puppetry
with Laura Summer, Nathaniel Williams, Faye Shapiro and Marisa Michelson

July 23-27
Seeing the Word through Painting
a workshop with Laura Summer
Working with poems and stories as well as watercolor, pastel, charcoal, and collage we will explore this subject. Through relaxing our expectations, while playfully manipulating our media, we will experience the realm of creation and develop skills for our further work.

July 23-27
Orientation Toward an Inner Voice
Vocal Experimentation with Composed and Improvised Music
 with Marisa Michelson and Faye Shapiro
The lands of the soul open up and show themselves to us- we see them with our imagination, we travel them with our voices... With exercises aimed to free the body and awaken the soul we will explore possibilities given to us in the voice. We will improvise together and compose music in real time, we will try to find a relationship to music inside, around and outside of ourselves with the aid of imagining. All that needed is the desire to sing. 

All of the work at Free Columbia is based on an understanding of the importance of creating a free cultural space, therefore there are no set tuitions. Rather we offer suggested donation amounts based on what it costs to run courses. If you prefer it is possible to make a monthly pledge to support Free Columbia rather than making a one time donation.
A commodity fee of  $180 will be charged to each participant in the instrument building workshop. This fee is related to your being able to take home the instrument you build. This fee is in addition to the suggested donation.
5 day courses suggested donation $250 – 450
instrument building fee = $180
all supplies are included but not housing or food
contact: Laura Summer 518 672 7302

July 20,21,22
beyond the object
beyond sensation

a conference concerned with experience, light, movement, color and sound
including presentations of ideas, presentations of work, discussion, conversation and a exhibition of work.

The conference will take place in Columbia County New York. If you are interested in more information you may contact :
Nathaniel Williams       518 672 4090
Laura Summer         518 672 7302
suggested donation – sliding scale $200-$120

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Recent Review of Exhibit at the Guggenheim in NY by Nathaniel Williams

Lee Ufan, Marking Infinity at the Guggenheim

Lee Ufan creating work at the Guggenheim

Lee Ufan work in the Guggenheim

Lee Ufan creating work at the Guggenheim

This Fall the Guggenheim in NYC hosted a retrospective of the contemporary Korean artist Lee Ufan and called it marking infinity.  His work and questions concerning art are extremely revealing not simply of his person but of the greater questions of our time.  If I were to try to encapsulate the fundamental mission of Lee Ufan it would be in two points.  One is to fight against culture and visual art being thought of as objects which exist in self sufficient contentment.  The second was to facilitate experiences for people, in which they could genuinely say that they encountered some aspect of nature, or reality.
An illustration of the first and second point would be a work consisting of two objects in a room, a natural stone and a metal plate.  The plate is leaned against a wall and the stone resting on the floor.  The experience is of the whole space and the relations alive in it which de-objectifies the art.  The experience is of materials, objects and spaces which Ufan has minimally engaged.  Ufan wants to facilitate meetings between natural objects and people and sees that the museum is one place where everyday awareness can be infiltrated.  For Ufan, contemporary inner life is a place of images that have lost “their exteriority.  Generally speaking, we can see gesture as an artistic act that cuts into and opens up holes in the systemized fiction of the everyday environment determined by assumed values.”[1]  So for Ufan, Duchamp’s placing a porcelain urinal in a museum was such an incision, suddenly assumed values fall away and we meet an object we supposedly knew already.  The artists job is to facilitate such meetings.
It is unfortunate that we experience culture as contained in some few magical objects and not as simply aspects of the great cultural reality of our daily life.  The desire for artistic creations to be experienced as meaningful, not only as specialized objects for a high brow society, but for all human beings and modern life in general is easy to understand.  We do not have this culture currently.  In fact our inner experience of life, our “assumed values” are so barren that we want to escape our culture.  But where can we find solace?  Ufan offers encounters with nature, or things as they are.  With this he testifies that human culture has lost touch with spiritual inspirations of the same elemental power as natural inspirations.  In the past these spiritual inspirations have never been the same as natural inspirations, though they share in the same spirit.  When the cultural vigor wanes, it is understandable that we run to nature for nourishment.  Rudolf Steiner indicated this already on the multiple occasions that he described the advent of landscape painting as a result of the withdrawal of a higher cultural inspiration.[2]  He also pointed out that no artist stood a chance in competition with nature.  The landscape will always triumph.  It is when a painter brings something new to nature, as an inspired higher nature, that their work is really justified.  Ufan has at least given up rendering nature, and simply brought her into the museum.             

[1] Lee Ufan-In Search of Encounter- The Sources of Contemporary Art
[2] Rudolf Steiner-Lecture IV in-the Social Future, October 28, 1919

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Recent Essay by Nathaniel Williams

Imagining Cultural Freedom
by Nathaniel Williams

The role that culture plays in society is one of the most widely discussed issues of our time. Some people argue that cultural freedom is the root of economic injustice and inequality. Others argue that freedom is the most important and sacred characteristic of culture. When we train our ear to the varied discourses in the world we hear this question being approached in the most varied forms. It is impossible to act with resolve in any direction without developing these perspectives into some coherent interrelationship. This essay is an attempt at exactly this, to show that these various perspectives unite in a surprising way, revealing that what is called free culture today is often an impotent poverty. We will start with considerations from the art world as they lead to an understanding of broader contemporary culture.

Since the ‘60s art and culture are less likely to be described in aesthetic isolation and they are being seen more and more as essentially indistinguishable from economic and political realities1. This new attitude sees that many people are still floating in the dreamy soup of culture without raising context of culture into focus, yet this old, na├»ve state is quickly vanishing. To see art as an expression of creative spirit emanating from the artist’s activity, is becoming more and more difficult. 

Click on this link to read the whole essay