In November 2010 an impenetrable chunk of rock appeared as if out of nowhere beneath the shovel of the mechanical digger excavating the construction site of the German Federal Cultural Foundation at the Francke Foundations. A boulder – or, in German, Findling – was discovered. Material: granite. Weight: 8 tons. Origin: 2,000 kilometers to the north, which is to say: from the Saalian stage of glaciation some 130,000 to 200,000 years ago.
On a metaphorical level, the ice-age Findling in Halle could have hardly ended up in a better place: there is, in Holland, the word »foundling« – which means an abandoned child, an orphan. And it was there that August Hermann Francke – even before he began to build his orphanage in Halle – had intensively researched how these »foundlings« were successfully integrated into the workforce and rehabilitated into Dutch society.
Dutch artist Marc Bijl’s current work, in the context of the exhibition »Certainty.Vision« reaches back to this intra-European educational import from the 17th century: placing the ancient argentine Findling rock on a pedestal before the Francke Foundations and recalling the modern »foundlings« that constitute the nucleus of Francke’s project of reformation. Having travelled thousands of kilometers, the granite block itself becomes a sign of a Pietist educational vision that would be unthinkable without numerous foreign stimuli from both Europe and beyond.
Marc Bijl’s work is a kind of dual monument: on the one hand, his Findling alludes to August Hermann Francke’s international engagement with the world’s less fortunate – in Holland, England, Russia, Africa and India – in order to give form and longevity to a courageous educational vision; on the other, it alludes to the disgracefulness of the continued relevance of this reformer of Halle to a contemporary era in which the distress of child poverty and insufficient education with which Francke was confronted can hardly be considered adequately vanquished either in Germany or internationally.
There are many possible ways of answering the question of August Hermann Francke’s contemporary pertinence. Understandably, the artistic approach undertaken by Marc Bijl seems especially appropriate to the German Federal Cultural Foundation. The particular quality of this exhibition does not, however, reside merely in the diversity and originality of the various artistic positions to be seen in Halle, but rather also in the courage of the Francke Foundations to take even the celebration of an anniversary as a renewed occasion to address the issues of social justice, educational opportunity and inclusion that drove the great theologian who was their founder.
The German Federal Cultural Foundation is thrilled to support the project »Certainty. Vision«. We would like to thank the Francke Foundations under the direction of Dr. Thomas Müller-Bahlke as well as the curatorial team led by Peter Lang and Moritz Götze, and we look forward to all the treasures that will be unearthed when the artists of today begin to dig into the historical groundings of the Francke Foundations.
Executive Board / Artistic Director
Executive Board / Administrative Director