The following is a weekly report on the activities of Alexander Curtis which shows how they all relate to the Reloading Humanism initiative.
With the opening of the exhibition at the end of the week, I distribute the last invitations and spend a whole day hanging. The next day I complete the final piece which I hang that evening. On the day of the opening, after my afternoon tea, I practice reading fragments of Humanese poems before setting off. The exhibition fuses sculpture, philosophy and language and tackles head on concerns that I had struggled to address 39 years ago in Edinburgh. Yet where back then, I was fated to repeatedly stumble and fall, now, with an arsenal of tools assembled over decades, I succeed and the endeavour is greeted with interest and enthusiasm. See the Archive section of the Humanese Page for a complete set of images.
As if the excitement of the exhibition is not enough, during the course of the week I find the lead that answers the question of, „Where, in the Burgesses‘ Hospice was the sculpture of Saint Vitus in a Vat orinially displayed?“ This comes in the form of an overview of publically funded renovation work carried out during the sixties and seventies on historic buildings. From the report, I learn that the vaulted arcade next to the bookshop in Krems, was once a closed off, interior space. This means that, not only was it a function suite of impressive proportions, it was also the space via which, from the Burgesses‘ Hospice, the Hospice Church can be directly accessed. Placed at the centre of the room, every day, those who lived and worked in the hospice will have passed by the image of the healing saint. See the article, The 13,14,15 Triangle and the Saint from Krems for more.
The dancing figure is gilded and takes his place on the copper bowl.
The poem of Week 36 is given a last polishing and finished, I decide to incorporate it into the El Très exhibition. Written in a miniture book it will hang from a tablet that shows the three kinds of surface that exist and the two kinds of space that they engender, Euclidian and non-Euclidean or hyperblic space.
Work proceeds apace on what in the El Très exhibition, will be the star of the show: a small gilded figure dancing in a copper bowl against a philosophical diagram that illustrates Parmenides‘ concepts of „The All-Enclosing One“, „The Great Divide“, and „The One pulling Itself back on Itself“, this latter being that introduces a degree of flawed unity back into an otherwise fractured world. This is of course heavy stuff but in philosophy, Parmenides is no fly-weight but rather a behemoth, who along with Heraclitus and Socrates, was a major influence on Plato. The significance of this is that, as Alfred North Whitehead has famously remarked, from Plato, the rest of western philosophy follows „as a series of foot notes“.
Further West, as a part of the „Schallwelle – Festival New Music Festival“ in Feldkirch, the musical version of Floundering is performed with the words being sung by a mezzo-soprano to the accompaniment of clarinet, viola, bassoon and piano under the direction of Antanina Kalechyts. Composer Martin Gut reports that the piece was received with much applause and afterwards people specifically praised the poem with the singer saying that the Humanese coda had something magical about it. Composer and librettist both happy!
In Vienna, a shopping spree results in a number of purchases being made for the reliefs of the El Très exhibition. These include plates, cutlery, glasses and a bottle for a doll’s house along with a miniature bottle of perfume and an oyster shell. This last acquisition involves an enjoyable lunch at the Naschmarket in Vienna (when it comes to wine, goes well with oysters). Where a false pearl serves as a metaphor for the elusive and precious self of our inner lives, the oyster shell serves as a metaphor for the body (that grows ever more crusty with age) that nurtures and protects the self – from everything except hungry gourmets!
Despite its invocation of the philosophy of Parmenides, I still feel that Humanese lacks a connection to something that is fundamental and over the years I have been tinkering with a mathematical formulation of what I am hankering for. This is based on the utterly baffling and unimaginable but nevertheless coherent concept of a surface of constant curvature. This is the opposite of a sphere but unlike a sphere, which is enclosed in space, a SCNC encloses space. Beyond a SCNC there is nothing, whereas beyond a sphere there is always the emptiness of yet more space. The SCNC is thus in many ways equivalent to the all-encompassing One of Parmenides, only being mathematical it can be made mathematically articulate itself using a variety of tricks worked out by top-notch mathematicians during the nineteenth century. Combining this with chaos theory leads to interesting insights which over the week, I formulate in the form of a poem. Whether any of this will make it into the exhibition (I have two remaining tablets whose content is so far undecided) I cannot say but for me at least, this supplies Humanese with the connection that was missing and a lost address has, so to speak, been found. This is nothing less than the address of God himself and the endeavour can be seen as continuing the direction begun by Cusanus. It is also the direction pointed to by the complex geometrical constructions identified by myself and others in the paintings of Piero della Francesca.
In the Ursula Chapel in Krems, Martin’s Am Sound music festival kicks off with two new music landscape compositions by Günther Rabl one of which accompanies the voice of Alexandra Sommerfield as it meanders its way through a series of popular songs, while the other is accompanied by Martin Gut on gituar. The next day (3.9.2023) there is the Sound of Odem with Werner Puntigam playing a conch, Rabito Arimoto playing trumpet and bass clarinet and Günther Gessert as a guest on the Theremin. In these concerts, as with the SCNC mentioned above, there is a reaching out for and the finding of a connection with that which lies over and beyond us but of which we are nevertheless a part of. That there is more to this than just wishful thinking is shown by the fact that these are among the things that Martin and I regularly talk about.
At long last, my article on Saint Vitus and the mysteriously out of place last exercise of Piero della Francesca’s Booklet on the Five Regular Bodies is submitted to the Krems Town Archive for publication in their Proceedings of the Krems Town Archive. As briefly announced in the essay, The Triangle and the Saint from Krems, accessible via the Reloading Humansm Mission Page, the article argues that both in plan and elevation, the composition of a sculpture of Saint Vitus held by Museum Krems is based on the 13,14,15 triangle with which Piero concludes his Booklet. Using a new methodology to make its case, the article then goes on to examine the reasons as to why it was decided to base the composition of the sculpture on a mathematical diagram.
For the forthcoming series of Reloading Humanism Guides, I decide upon the first two titles. These are an introduction to the Ancient Greek philosopher, Parmenides and an account of the self and consciousness worked out by myself, with the latter being briefly summarised in the article, One World Pragmatism, on the Reloading Humanism Mission Page.
At a meeting in El Très, the practicalities of the forthcoming exhibition, The Eresine Tablets are discussed and the opening is fixed for Saturday, 30th September, 19.00. As the philosophy of Parmenides is relevant to the exhibition, there will also be a finissage at which the above mentioned Reloading Humanism Guide will be presented. At this event I will read the beginning of Parmenides‘ poem in the original Greek before reading a lively and radically new translation of the surviving fragments in English.
After draughting the Reloading Humanism statutes, I realise that, as we live in a world dominated by consumerism, if the initiative’s friends, readers and supporters are to be given the chance of fully interacting with what is being offered, then there must be a shop from which appropriate products can be ordered so that they can be a part of what is going on in a way that goes beyond on-line reading. To this effect I spend the week drawing up a list of appropriate products and books, with old products (paper models) being dusted down and re-packaged whilst new products (such as a mug and a coin) are designed from scratch. See the Reloading Humanism shop!
Weeks after beginning to address the business of founding a registered charity, I finally find myself writing the Reloading Humanism statutes. For this I have a template from a lawyer on the internet, which I rewrite and reformulate as necessary. Due to the copyright issues of publishing and the designing and selling of products there is however a certain amount of nitty gritty that needs to be carefully thought through.
After the guide to Krems, this week is dedicated to the audio guide tour of Stein. Where apart from history, the tour of Krems features religion, belief and heresy, the tour of Stein has, as a secondary focus, the river, ships and shipping and fish. Though I myself am no fisherman, I know someone who is and quickly get the low-down on fish in the Danube.
In Lower Austria there are today sixty-four different kinds of freshwater fish. Twenty-nine of these are either endangered, strongly endangered or are by ways of becoming extinct. Another nine are at a critical level and the eel is already regionally extinct. Ten kinds of fish are not indigenous but were introduced to Lower Austria by human beings after 1492. Of these, the latest arrival is the Black Sea goby which by clinging to the bottoms of ships with a sucker mounted on its underside, over the last twenty years has settled in the Austrian reaches of the Danube, unobtrusively joining the other species of goby on the riverbed.
After the lull and collapse of the corona years, river cruise shipping on the Danube is at an all-time high. Sent ashore, disorientated passengers wander aimlessly about Krems and Stein, while other groups are goaded through the towns by guides and subjected to barrages of dates and data. To counter this I decide to offer something more bespoke and informative and on the Reloading Humanism Mission Page augment the News and Wachau Tips with a Wachau Town Tours page. Here Audio guide tours of the four towns, Krems, Stein, Dürnstein and Melk, where the cruise ships stop, will offer carefully crafted, informative tours that can be listened to on a smart phone. My web-programmer coming up with the appropriate App, I immediately start work on a tour of Krems whilst on a day off, I scout out the next door town of Dürnstein and identify both the tour route and the areas where I am lacking in knowledge.
Drawing up a coat of arms, complete with a crest and supporters, I find that to endow their bequeathing with the desired degree of authority and seriousness, two poems must written. To see the arms complete with supporters and read the poems, go to De re juridica, on the Reloading Humanism Mission Page.
A second visit to the BDA, or „State Monuments Office“, answers most of the remaining questions concerning Saint Vitus‘ war years, with the last remaining queries being answered a few days later by a mail from the Austria Salt Works Incorporated, or Austria Salienen AG. The full story of Saint Vitus‘ sojourn in Altausseerland and of how thousands of works of art nearly got blown up, can now be read in the article, The Triangle and the Saint from Krems, on the Reloading Humanism Mission Page.
In order to secure funding for a guide book to Krems and the Wachau and thereafter to enjoy the advantages of a tax-free status on all sales, I have decided to found a charity. For this a set of statutes must be drawn up which is then submitted to the authorities for approval. The drawing up of statutes however raises a host of questions concerning the plans for book publishing, film nights and a sustainability library and café, with all this needing to be thought through so an appropriate legal framework can be drawn up. Yet this in turn raises questions about how the social aspects of these activities are to be managed and how they are to be related to the rhythms of year and the realities of life in general. Here customs, rites and rituals suggest themselves which if they are to withstand the eye of critical scrutiny, must be carefully crafted and tailored so as not to appear too arcane whilst at the same time, they must also be more than just flippant gags and gimmicks, for otherwise, I for one, am not interested. Thus in order to embed the venture of founding a charity in something that is believable and which can be believed in, a considerable of preparatory work with symbols and artefacts is necessary and I find that, to pull everything together, a coat of arms is needed.
This week is ear-marked for the photographing of a heliacal rising of the Pleiades, the constellation of stars known through out Europe as „The Seven Sisters“. The heliacal rising of a star is when a star rises above the horizon shortly before the sun and for a short time is visible before being outshined by the rising sun. During the Bronze Age the heliacal rising of the Pleiades took place much earlier in the year and was a sign for when the corn was to be planted out. Unfortunately, every morning the shy is overcast, with the sun only breaking through some hours after sunrise.
In Vienna I have an exciting time sifting through WW II documents concerning the storage of art and artefacts at Altausse and gain valuable insights concerning the war years of Saint Vitus in a Vat and the other sculptures from Museum Krems. Finding the Bundes Denkmalamt’s Department for Provenance Research was however less than straight forward: as intimated, the office is in the Hofburg above the Sissi Museum/State Apartments but the entrance (an iron gate in the attic) is unmarked and unlit. After climbing up, down and back up the stairs leading to the fifth floor, I bump into someone in the corridor and confirming that I was looking for the Provenance Department, am told to press an unmarked button. This turns out to be an entry phone. Although no one answers, from the shadows a figure appears and I am lead through the darkness into…, a perfectly normal office!
The July edition of Austria Maritim arrives with the last article by myself on my great, great grandfather’s ship. See: https://www.fhsaustria.info.
Over the course of a few days, on the sundial set up in January, the calibration of the hours on the day of the summer solstice is finally completed.
On the internet I find an article detailing the wartime history of a collection of manuscripts that were dispossessed by the Municipaltiy of Krems from the Benedictine Monastery of Göttweig on the other side of the valley. As these manuscripts were also sent to Altaussee and spent time in the mine, the references given give me all the clues I need about where the documents detailing Saint Vitus‘ wartime odyssee are to be found.
Prompted by my visit to Altaussee, I begin the task of reconstructing the wartime history of the Museum Krems sculpture, Saint Vitus in a Vat. This is because some two years ago I made an exciting discovery about the composition of the work and since then have been intermittently working on an article and although this has nothing to do with the sculpture’s wartime history, I feel duty-bound to be informed on the sculpture’s later history. At the end of the Hollywood film, Monuments Men, the Altaussee story is given a very sketchy treatment film but is covered in a more informed manner by the Austrian/German production Ein Dorf wehrt sich. Meanwhile the wider context is mapped out by Lynn Nicholas in her book, The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War. While there is plenty of material on the subject, information on the Krems sculptures is lacking and it is only slowly that I am able to piece together the complicated puzzle that begins exactly eighty years ago.
For Foundering Martin has requested, in addition to the coda, an additional word but I supply two, the first of which is, „soi-e-a-u“ or „soi-e-a-o-u“. This doesn’t have a definite meaning but is life affirming and positive. Another positive exclamation is: „ay-a-o!“ By way of contrast there is: „io-ee-a zazi-apsen re-a-sis“ which means „climbing transformatively out of tar“.
For the music festival, „Am Sound“, held every year in Krems in September, of which Martin is the initiator and organiser, I have been invited to mount an exhibition in one of the festival venues. This is the café El Très, Krems‘ „Spanish sitting-room“. I conceive the exhibition as consisting of reliefs, featuring words and concepts in Humanese accompanied by hieroglyphs and diagrams. Goaded into action by last’s week’s work on the coda, I decide to continue with Humanese and embark on some preparations and detailed planning. The relief’s are made from planks of wood which for a number of years have served as walk-ways through the beds of the vegetable garden.
Not only ripe of age, they are also highly distressed and thus for me, intriguing. Sanding them down, I cut them into shape and treat them for wood-worm. Then upstairs, in my Humanese-English, English-Humanese dictionary, I draw, work out concepts and invent new words.
In Volary, the Raumgreifend exhibition is opened with a number of Raumgreifend members attending.
Invited to take part in the „Schallwelle – Festival New Music Festival“ or „Soundwaves Festival for New Music“ in Feldkirch, Reloading Humanist composer, Martin Gut, has been using the words of a poem of mine, Floundering, as lyrics. This is a four-line love poem on the intoxication of a first meeting:
Tottering on my sea legs I trapsey up the beach
and deigning to approach ask of you foolish questions
as transfixed in the gaze of eyes that intoxicate
you judge me not as I flounder in this world so new.
Although pleased with the way the composition has turned out Martin feels that a coda is needed and has requested something written in the still-in-the-process-of-being-invented language, Humanese. Thus over the course of a few days, I write a euphorically optimistic coda:
eresasine phephlumenete Confused feelings
ittklimaste sassam of love now
thurmorkip ektistessen dissolve an intraversible boundary
ere-anyas sin‘ ayarken their being (carrying) me upwards.
que-e-ayta voita sinassas What deeds are we
net quaysa ettinen ay? not capable of?
On holiday in Altaussee I visit the salt mine where during the war, thousands of works of art were stored, including Saint Vitus in a Vat and a number of other sculptures from Museum Krems. During the last days of the war, the mine and its contents were earmarked for destruction as an over-zealous interpretation of Hilter’s infamous Nero Decree and eight, one thousand Pound bombs were planted deep inside the labyrinthine network of tunnels. Reading a copy of Konrad Kramer’s Mission Michangelo bought from the excellent bookshop in Altaussee, „Buch & Boot“, I learn how, for two weeks, it was touch and go as to whether madness or common-sense would prevail and that during this time a number of important works were removed from the mine and stored not only in the local church but also in the vicarage where I myself am staying! See The Triangle and the Saint from Krems on the Reloading Humanism Mission Page for more.
Finishing the work for Volary is a close run thing but the effort pays off and both formally and in terms of content, the work is step forward and dissolves the jealously guarded borders (drawn up by self-appointed experts) between art and philosophy. With the human figures being much more expressive and communicative than I thought they would be, the need for words written in Humanese becomes unnecessary and so the figures stand and hang, saying everything that needs to be said for themselves whilst the void around them also speaks for itself. See the middle section of the article One World Pragmatism on the Reloading Humanism Mission Page for detailed images of the work.
After five and a half years, the Reloading Humanism website has come of age! On the People Page, there are now twelve „Fellows“, six men and six women listed in alphabetcal order. This the fills out and augments the site’s concern with sustainability and extends the areas covered to include ecconomics. Meanwhile the prism on the Main Menu Page has been re-vamped and instead of being a prism formed from an equilateral triangle, it is now a three-dimensional rendition of a diagram given by Piero della Francesca on the end of his Libellus de quinque coribus regularibus or, „Booklet on the Five Regular Bodies“. The significance of this is the subject of an artice on Piero della Francesca written by myself and which will hopefully be published during the course of 2024. Although details cannot be gone into before publication, the triangle is a 13,14,15 triangle with the internal perpendicular on the side of length 14 being of exactly 12 units in length, while the diameter of the circle that the triangle contains, is 8 units. As shown in the article, the triangle has other properties which Piero was more than aware of, so that by placing the triangle at the end of his book, he is in fact hinting at something that in the exercise is not even mentioned but which was important to him and the geometry on which some of his paintings are based. At Reloading Humanism, while the perpendicular of length 12 fixes the number of Fellows at twelve, the triangle as a whole is seen as a metaphor for that something other towards which we must all work towards if we in the western world are to have a future.
The April edition of Austria Maritim arrives with the second of three articles I have written on a trading schooner captained and partly owned by my great, great, grandfather. Made on a beach in Cornwall, the W. J. C. was named after the Christian names of the original owners and was launched in 1880, with my ancestor being the first captain and remaining master of the vessel up until 1897. Unusally the ship was laid up in the same estuary where she was built and over the years, both as children and as adults, my brother and I have repeatedly visited the site where in the mud, the last remain lie. For the first and second parts of the article, see: https://www.fhsaustria.info, https://www.fhsaustria.info. For the link to the last part, jump ahead to Week 26.
At the Annual General Meeting of the artists‘ group, Raumgreifend, of which I am not only a member but also treasurer, I agree to submit a work for a group exhibition the Czech Republic in a place called Volary. The plan is submit something old that has not been seen outside the UK but the more I think about it, the more unhappy I get with the idea and decide instead to make something new. This is to be a blackboard on which there are two figures accompanied by words in Humanese which outline concepts which the figures embody and illustrate. In addition there is to be a summarisation of how the regular plane figures, as they acquire more and more sides and approach a circle, describe not a straight line but a curve known as a tractrix. This process was seen by the mathematician and theologian, Nikolaus of Kues, otherwise known as Cusanus, as a way of approaching the all-encompassing transcendence of God. See the Laboratorium geometricum mellicensis on the Reloading Humanism Mission Page for more.
The year begins on a note that sets the tone for future developments and finally the golden swimmer sun dial is mounted on the rock face in the garden. Due to the irregularities of the rock, exact calibrations for the hours must be carried out by hand and for the equinoxes and winter solstice, this has already been done. There thus remains only the calibration for the summer solstice.