Therme Art Program

WELLBEING CULTURE SYMPOSIUM | HILDEGARD VON BINGEN

Therme Art joined forces with the One Health Research Centre, Serpentine and IKEM to present the Wellbeing Culture Symposium on Hildegard von Bingen in Meisenheim, Germany. The symposium was co-curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Mikolaj Sekutowicz, and hosted by Christian Held, to encompass three days of engaging, multidisciplinary keynotes and roundtable discussions inspired by the legacy of the twelfth-century Benedictine Abbess, Hildegard von Bingen, whose approach to life is still considered remarkably integrative and progressive.

Marking the 10th anniversary of her canonization and nomination as ‘Doctor of the Church’, the symposium took place the backdrop of Meisenheim and Disibodenberg, the site of the ruins of the monastery where Hildegard spent most of her life. Thought leaders from diverse fields of expertise and regions of the world came together to discuss the role of culture as a force for positive change in light of the most urgent issues facing humanity and the natural world. Envisioned as an interdisciplinary and collaborative exchange, the symposium’s programme was positioned at the confluence of science, the arts and spirituality and gathered of experts from the arts and sciences, locally and internationally.


METAPHYSICS, THEOLOGY AND BIOLOGY

As the Hildegard von Bingen Wellbeing Culture Symposium’s opening keynote, Kennedy Yanko introduced participants to her intrinsic practice as an artist and sculptor

Kennedy Yanko Hans Ulrich Obrist and Mikolaj Sekutowicz

KENNEDY YANKO

“While I was creating organically, I realized that so many of these Daoist principles I had been studying years before were how my practice was working. I was working in a transient state because I was letting the material show me the direction of it. I realized the material would always make a better piece for me than I could do myself.”

By observing the life that her works carry as organisms of their own, she has come to view her practice through spiritual and Daoist principles that guide her on her unique journey as an artist and in her position as a creative healer. Creating a connection between Hildegard von Bingen’s theological and mysticism-driven discoveries, Kennedy Yanko observes the organic life that exists in her work, the processes, stresses, and permutations that accompany it, and how these shape her personal endeavours as they reverberate into the rest of the world.

Keynote: Kennedy Yanko
Moderators: Hans Ulrich Obrist and Mikolaj Sekutowicz


MATERIAL HISTORIES: A PRELUDE TO MAKING GROUND

Architect Sumayya Vally shared a meal with guests at the Hildegard von Bingen Symposium, posing it in the form of a living, ever-changing and dynamic archive

Sumayya Vally

SUMAYYA VALLY

“There are so many frustrations, so many instincts and so many urgencies that I feel that my practice works to bring about into the world; I think Hildegard is an ancestor in this realm.”

This meal created a prelude to “Making Ground,” Sumayya Vally’s initiative at Therme Art, a project she created to establish alternative, living archives that can connect histories together through the produce we source and the food we eat.

The notion of creating archives was extended from her conception of the 20th Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Counterspace, which honoured places of gathering for migrant communities in London as it extended its Fragments across the city, marking significant locations of identity, community, belonging and gathering.

Meal ideated by Sumayya Vally
Developed by Markus Pape, Chef of Meisenheimer Hof


DISIBODENBERG MONASTERY RUINS AND WINERY

Disibodenberg

 

The historical tours in the afternoon took participants to Disibodenberg. Luise von Racknitz led the way up the hill to the ruins of Hildegard von Bingen’s monastery, lined by trees her family had planted. Standing inside the atmospheric ruins of a hospital and guest house from 1400, the group was treated to the songs of Hildegard von Bingen, performed beautifully by Ute Kriedler as a light layer of snow fell from the sky. A tour of the vineyards of Disibodenberg led by Christian Held followed, concluding with a wine-tasting in the cellar.


KINCENTRIC ECOLOGY

On the evening of Friday April 1, artist Tino Sehgal held a talk, after which he was joined by Kennedy Yanko, Es Devlin, Jeanne de Kroon and Sumayya Vally in a roundtable discussion

Tino Sehgal, Kennedy Yanko, Es Devlin, Jeanne de Kroon and Sumayya Vally Hans Ulrich Obrist and Mikolaj Sekutowicz

 

Tino Sehgal explored the vertical model of transcendence of religious cultures and political systems of the past, in opposition to the horizontal transcendence that fashion, art and entertainment offer us today in our secular cultures, the subject of which inspired the roundtable discussion that followed.  He illustrated the pathways to fulfilling this expanded and interdisciplinary perspective, creating a continuum of progression through history. The roundtable built upon these ideas, evaluating the boundaries of the Christian cosmology in the development of value systems.

TINO SEHGAL

“The way most cultures worked before secular culture in the west, is that people were focused on the sky, focusing towards the transcendental, on what comes after this life, living a good life, but then life is not the end. Horizontal transcendence became a massive part of secular urban culture.”

SUMAYYA VALLY

“In Zulu ‘Ubuntu’ means ‘I am because you are and we are’. It’s a recognition of humanity in relation to everything else around us.”

Keynote: Tino Sehgal
Roundtable Discussion: Kennedy Yanko, Es Devlin, Jeanne de Kroon, Sumayya Vally
Moderators: Hans Ulrich Obrist and Mikolaj Sekutowicz


MICROCOSMS AND THE MESOCOSM ON GAIA

The second day of our Hildegard von Bingen Wellbeing Culture Symposium opened with keynotes by social entrepreneur Jeanne de Kroon, artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen and art advisor and curator Claudia Paetzold

Jeanne de Kroon, Jakob Kudsk Steensen and Claudia Paetzold

 

Jeanne de Kroon presented an exploration of the earth as feminine body, highlighting the cyclical knowledge provided by the earth to guide us forward, as Hildegard von Bingen intuitively understood. ​​Artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen introduced his practice of documenting human and natural landscapes, which were brought to life in multi-dimensional detail with video game technology, amplifying the rhythms of living, pulsating biomes. Curator and art advisor, Claudia Paetzold gave a talk on reestablishing our relationship with the earth, by allowing our artistic and cultural production to be guided by etymologies and philosophies rooted in interconnectivity.

JEANNE DE KROON

“In old Europe, religion focused on birth, growth, death and regeneration, as well as crop cultivation and the raising of animals. People in this area pondered the untamed natural forces, worshipping goddesses, or God in its many forms. How can we reintegrate the cyclical and earth-based wisdom, which I think is incredible?”

JAKOB KUDSK STEENSEN

“I often present my work in contexts that focus on the didactics between ecology and technology, and not on generating integrative dialogue. Here, at the Hildegard von Bingen symposium, the conversation can go straight to what is truly interesting to me, which is the ways in which poets, artists and biologists can collaborate very intuitively.”

CLAUDIA PAETZOLD

“To connect, that is the fundamental importance of art. What I have envisioned in the projects that I have been creating is to connect, to reconnect, and to understand that we belong to something much larger than ourselves. For Hildegard von Bingen, visual art was the key to transmitting her messages.”

Keynotes: Jeanne de Kroon, Jakob Kudsk Steensen, Claudia Paetzold


SOCIAL EMPATHY AND THE NATURAL WORLD

The afternoon symposium session was initiated with a call for the global community to acknowledge and address climate change through keynotes by Patricia Espinosa and Hoda El Shawadfy

Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, Hoda El Shawadfy, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Mikolaj Sekutowicz

 

One of the Hildegard von Bingen Wellbeing Culture Symposium’s honoured guests was Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, who urged the global communities to raise their ambitions. She highlighted that empathy on an individual and collective level was the key to mobilising the necessary efforts to enact change, a salient link to Hildegard von Bingen’s empathetic relationship with the natural world.

PATRICIA ESPINOSA

“Climate change recognises no borders and no ideologies. It is about every person, every business, every community throughout the world making decisions and acting within the limits of the planet, the limits that we have unwittingly reached through the accumulation of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.”

Hoda El Shawadfy, the Assistant to the Minister for Ecotourism Affairs in the Ministry of Environment of Egypt, shared the ministry’s immediate and long-term plans to promote ecotourism to Egypt’s natural protected areas, and outlined strategies to generate public interest in sustainability. She placed emphasis on educational tools as the means through which to awaken public empathy towards natural environments.

HODA EL SHAWADFY

“Without the help of the local communities in the conservation of the environment, we will lose in the fight against climate change.”

Keynotes: Patricia Espinosa Cantellano and Hoda El Shawadfy


VIRIDITAS AND ARIDITAS

The multidisciplinary approach to tackling issues of climate change at the roundtable discussion presented opportunities for collaboration

Patricia Espinosa, Hoda El Shawadfy, Dorothea von Hantelmann, Es Devlin, Sumayya Vally, Alia Al-Senussi, Simon Schäfer Stradowsky and Florian Hertweck, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Mikolaj Sekutowicz

 

The key roundtable of our symposium featured experts on environmental sustainability, architecture and culture, to address pressing issues of climate change, in relation to global market drivers and energy economies. The discussion focussed on possible solutions presented by cultural change, to be initiated in exchange between all disciplines, from the arts to politics, to place empathy and healing at the forefront of decision-making.

SIMON SCHÄFER STRADOWSKY

“To preserve our planet we must address the contradictions in our fragmented legal system. A part of the solution is the One Health approach, which we committed to by founding the One Health Research Centre, to consider the environment, climate and our health. Climate negotiations should apply that too, and take responsibility for the health and wellbeing of society.”

SUMAYYA VALLY

“Art and politics are important vehicles for storytelling, and are directly involved in making worlds. In 1994, Archbishop Desmond Tutu used the idea of the Rainbow Nation to encourage South Africa to celebrate diversity and democracy. Those forms of storytelling became really powerful, and artists need to consider that very seriously.”

FLORIAN HERTWECK

“To lead the transition we need very powerful narratives. In the social concept of Reparaturgesellschaft, the repair, care and maintenance is extended from the built to the unbuilt environment, and thus turns every action against the creative destruction, as we must apply the same care and repair to the natural environment.”

Roundtable Discussion: Patricia Espinosa, Hoda El Shawadfy, Dorothea von Hantelmann, Es Devlin, Sumayya Vally, Alia Al-Senussi, Simon Schäfer Stradowsky and Florian Hertweck
Moderators: Hans Ulrich Obrist and Mikolaj Sekutowicz


HILDEGARD HEALING

Saturday’s closing roundtable brought together artists and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa to explore the small and large-scale modes through which healing can take place

Koo Jeong A, Es Devlin, Patricia Espinosa, Kennedy Yanko, Sumayya Vally and Jakob Kudsk Steensen, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Mikolaj Sekutowicz

 

The roundtable discussion saw participants present methods to redefine our relationship with our environments, beginning with introspection and self-healing practices and expanding outwards on a greater societal level, in the arts, through architecture and diplomacy.

MIKOLAJ SEKUTOWICZ

“Every true artist is not only an artist, but also a botanist, or a scientist, sociologist or psychologist. We are creating all these boxes. But actually the true value happens in between these boxes, and maybe without boxes at all. A true artist is somehow also a healer.”

KOO JEONG A

“From point A to B, B to C, C to D and turning back to A, the North and South energies are using different values of power, free-flowing energy and the opposite energy, for healing. The point of the city corresponds with the meridian points of the body. It was a great inspiration for healing myself in the last five years.”

KENNEDY YANKO

“I think pushing things down inside of ourselves is the mucus of humanity. That is where things come together and get stuck, so that there is no longer any movement and circulation— we always need circulation and we are always looking for that movement to happen.”

Roundtable Discussion: Koo Yeong A, Es Devlin, Patricia Espinosa, Kennedy Yanko, Sumayya Vally, Jakob Kudsk Steensen
Moderators: Hans Ulrich Obrist and Mikolaj Sekutowicz


HOLISTIC CULTURAL FRAMEWORKS

In conversation with artist and designer Es Devlin, and art historian Dorothea von Hantelmann

 Es Devlin, Dorothea von Hantelmann, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Mikolaj Sekutowicz

 

Es Devlin, in conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist, shared her reading list and studio process for large-scale installations. Through her work she has observed that profound shifts in empathy and understanding experienced by humanity towards the natural world and itself have occurred throughout history, and that this collective outpouring of empathy could be replicated anywhere in man-made and natural environments going forward.

ES DEVLIN

“This compassion that we are finding, it is here and we have it. If we can access that already, we could extend from that. Why aren’t we offering it to the butterfly and the sparrow? If we can make that connection between the linguistic, ethnic and biodiversity that is threatened, now is quite a moment for it.”

HANS ULRICH OBRIST

“I wish we could get back to the natural rhythms of the world, to rise when the crow sings, and to sleep with the sound singing in our dreams, and to use candles like Plato must have done in his philosopher’s cave. That would be a good start.”


 

Dorothea von Hantelmann explored our current cultural framework and how these systems of operation came into being. She noted that true paradigmatic shifts would not be possible without redefining the framework entirely. In line with the beliefs of Hildegard von Bingen, these changes would bring forward new and holistic worldviews.

DOROTHEA VON HANTELMANN

“To absorb and rethink the wisdom of Hildegard von Bingen and to opt for the paradigm shift necessary today, we need new genealogies of holistic world views fuelled by the spiritual, the feminine and the indigenous.”

Keynotes: Es Devlin, Dorothea von Hantelmann
Moderators: Hans Ulrich Obrist and Mikolaj Sekutowicz


RECEPTION AT FÜRSTENWALDER HOF
Exhibition by Matthias Zinn

Matthias Zinn, Es Devlin, Koo Jeong A, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Mikolaj Sekutowicz, Florian Hertweck

 

On Saturday evening, upon conclusion of day two at the Symposium, guests visited artist Matthias Zinn’s exhibition “Hier”. Chef Markus Pappe at Meisenheimer Hof served guests a stellar five course meal in celebration of a successful day comprised of keynote lectures and roundtable discussions.


CALL FOR SYMBIOTIC FUTURES

Architect Tatiana Bilbao expounded on the collective need to rethink the fundamental form, purpose, and application of architecture as a form of care, rather than that of colonisation and discrimination

Tatiana Bilbao, Tatiana Bilbao, Simon de Pury, Youssef Nassef, Sigrid Krauss and Joel Dietz

Tatiana Bilbao called into question humanity’s relationship with the natural world and with itself, and extended an invitation to challenge long-standing assumptions of what cities, and more broadly, societies, should look like in the future.

TATIANA BILBAO

“Architecture provides a basic form of care. It holds a body to exist. Instead of being a form of care, it is used as a form of colonization. It’s the purest form of discrimination. We architectd are just repeating its forms without even questioning them. But why did we normalize the type, the house, that is one of the most important tools of command?”

The roundtable was initiated by Youssef Nassef of the UNFCCC, who noted that the dialogue on systemic change, particularly on climate change, had to be transformed into that of paradigm shifts, engaging with the empathy present in all human beings. The discussion centred on the recent and tangible evidence that global societal shifts could be made, placing a greater emphasis on healing and empathy, starting with the home and expanding beyond.

YOUSSEF NASSEF

“Many of the challenges we perceive in this transformation are self-imposed and ingrained in the way we conduct business. One is short termism. In discounting future costs and benefits, we teach an absence of intergenerational equity. A new world does not need new inventions, it just needs a change in how we perceive humanity.”

JOEL DIETZ

“How do we get people to participate in the civic life of our country and in the metaverse? Make it fun first, make it an engaging experience and then layer in the civic aspects. After, there is already traction and a lot of opportunity, as people start to experiment with new forms of creation and are given tools to feel empowered to create something.”

Keynote: Tatiana Bilbao
Roundtable Discussion: Tatiana Bilbao, Simon de Pury, Youssef Nassef, Sigrid Krauss, Joel Dietz
Moderators: Hans Ulrich Obrist and Mikolaj Sekutowicz


The engaging dialogue shared during this symposium, expanding our collective knowledge and renewing our hopes for a better future, would not have been possible without the rich and interesting contributions of our wonderful participants. Thank you all so much!