Based on my interest in the counter-culture of the Sixties, the Monte Verità in Ascona (Ticino) became a central motif for my Swiss exhibtion. Harald Szeemann, in his 1978 exhibition presented the Monte Verità as a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’, bringing back the ‘Mountain of Truth’ into the consciousness of the public.
Monte Verità, in the beginning of the 20th century, was the site of an extraordinary utopian community, today seen as the cradle of alternative culture. This was the mountain where a number of advocates of utopia lived, loved, thought and built. They sought refuge from the industrialised culture dominating Northern Europe, in the form of a counter-movement. The aim of the community was the establishment of a society promoting a ‘reform of life’ and it became a centre for the focus on the ideologies of Pacifism, Anarchism, Theosophy, Anthroposophy, psychoanalysis, and new religious and spiritual values. They practised heliotherapy, naturism and advocated a symbiosis with nature. Their dwellings were to be liberated houses of light and air and their diet consisted of natural foods.
Many artists, refugees and emigrants have been attracted by this hill, e.g. Hermann Hesse, Carl Jung, Erich Maria Remarque, Hugo Ball, Else Lasker-Schüler, Stephan George, Isadora Duncan, Carl Eugen Keel, Paul Klee, Carlo Mense, Rudolf Steiner, Mary Wigman, Max Picard, Ernst Toller, Henry van de Velde, Fanny von Reventlow, Rudolf Laban, Frieda and Else von Richthofen, Otto Gross, Erich Mühsam, Walter Segal and Gusto Gräser, whose works and presence provided the mountain with a notion of mysticism.
By distilling source material from historic photos, personal snapshots and film-stills, a complex network has been created, which relates to the different rooms of the gallery.
In the first room the viewer is met by some inhabitants of the Monte Verità. Here the ‘work of truth’ is depicted as been carried out mainly on the exterior of the mountain and the inhabitants show a strong similarity to the archetype of the ‘Wild Man’ (woodwose). The woodwose, pilosus or ‘hairy all over’, was often armed with a club and formed a link between civilized humans and the dangerous elf-like spirits of natural woodland, such as Puck. The image of the wild man survived to appear as supporter of heraldic coats-of-arms, especially in 16th century Germany.
The hermit and cave dweller Gusto Gräser (later known as the guru of Hermann Hesse, who devoted him a literary benchmark in Demian) shows us the way into the second room for the search of the truth inside the mountain.
Going down the cave, we can see ourselves as in a mirror. Almost in every culture, caves are places where the inner and the exterior worlds coincide. Quite often, the caves form motives in myths, dreams or fairy tales. Following the analytical psychology in the tradition of Carl Gustav Jung, the cave forms a metaphor for the so called mother-archetype. Following Plato’s allegory of the cave, we bid farewell to the phenomenon of the exterior world and are offered the inner world in the form of wise women (which in the tradition of the Alps are called Salige, who are imprisoned in the mountains), apparitions of the Holy Virgin and crystals which, as Aldous Huxley described in Heaven and Hell, offering access to the Otherworld.
After the ascension into the third room of the gallery, we are finally faced with our ‘Total Enlightment’.