Monte Verità. Back to nature

19.11.2021-10.04.2022

A journey in search of freedom, in a place where you can breathe true utopia and dream of a different world. At the dawn of the twentieth century, the colony of Monte Verità settled among the luxuriant woods and the gentle hills overlooking Lake Maggiore prophetically anticipated themes that are vital today, between the ecology of living and the ecology of the soul. Its founders were absolute pioneers of organic and eco-friendly living, vegetarian culture and natural body care. Since then, this history and this journey to the origins of a regenerated relationship between man and creation has been nourished by an extraordinary force of topicality.

The Museo Novecento, in collaboration with the Monte Verità Foundation (Ascona Canton Ticino), presents the exhibition Monte Verità. Back to nature, dedicated to the famous hill of utopia, to its founders and illustrious guests who saw in its spaces suspended in time a good retreat away from the drama of wars and also from the ideological clash between capitalism and communism that was going through Europe. Cradle of an existence based on primitive rhythms, it became the laboratory of a new culture, a counter-culture born in response to bourgeois conformism and dominant thought, which attracted thinkers and anarchists, philosophers, theosophists, writers, artists and architects from every country. . All together, welcomed in a land kissed by the sun, they adhered to the model of community life promoted by the German movement of the “Lebensreform,” (reform of life).

Curated by the director of the Museo Novecento Sergio Risaliti, with Nicoletta Mongini and Chiara Gatti and organized by MUS.E, the project traces the centenary experience of Monte Verità which intertwines the destinies of intellectuals and masters of the twentieth century. From the anarchist Bakunin to the Hungarian choreographer Rudolf von Laban, from the anarcho-communist theorist Pëtr Kropotkin to the Dadaist Hugo Ball, from the dancer Isadora Duncan to the great writer Hermann Hesse; and, again, from the Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius to the artists Hans Arp and Paul Klee, from Carl Gustav Jung to the curator Harald Szeemann who, fascinated by the history of the place, dedicated to him in 1978 a traveling exhibition in Europe with the emblematic title “Monte Truth. The breasts of truth”.

Germinated from the ribs of nineteenth-century romanticism and anarchism, the vocation of the colonists represents the first, true and larval historical reaction to the harmful achievements of modernity: industrialization and urbanization, individualism and exploitation, social divides, repression and militarism. Against the backdrop of a chaotic metropolitan development, the sudden loss of direct relationship with nature had produced that long literature of escape, made tragic and epic by the pages of Joseph Conrad and Jack London, by Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau and by the paintings of the Nabis. The so-called “wilderness” of American tradition found precisely in Monte Verità a counterpart of extraordinary importance, a precursor of a contemporary sensibility, of a critical reasoning anticipating the most recent tensions between globalized capitalism and nationalism.

Vegan nutrition, heliotherapy and nudism, gymnastics, dance and meditation were the daily practices of a community that inspired, among the many subjects, also the famous 2018 film by Mario Martone, Capri-Revolution, testifying to a widespread interest still today towards the radical episodes of anarchist experiences as a social utopia, a pacifist and libertarian dream made possible by a “reform of life” that starts precisely from the regeneration of the body and spirit in a place, as Ise Gropius would later say, “where our forehead touches the sky».

The exhibition is divided in three-stage, between the philosophical origins of the Monte, the development of its architecture and the art of dance, sinks into the memory of this remote paradise, recalled by objects, testimonies, models, photographs and works of art. It all begins with the original leather and cardboard suitcase of the founders who came from the north and the “vegetarian chair” made of intertwined branches and used by the anarchist Karl Gräser. Examples of bio-climatic design, in advance of current green architectural experiences, can be found in the images and models of the “air-light huts”, constructions designed to house the patients of the ancient sanatorium in simple but pure environments open to benefits Of sun. The veggy menus, the advertising brochures, the vintage photos of domestic occupations go hand in hand with the maps that demonstrate the growth of the colony and then the change of ownership. After the emigration of the founders, in 1920, to Spain and then to Brazil, the hill was in fact purchased by Baron Eduard von der Heydt who commissioned the construction of the Bauhaus-style hotel and welcomed the masters themselves of the famous Weimar school of design. . The itinerary includes furnishings used by the architect Fahrenkamp for the hotel rooms, including the Wassily Chair designed by Marcel Breuer who also lived on the Mount, as well as works by Hans Arp who, together with Marianne von Werefkin, Alexej von Jawlensky and Hans Richter , he was among the first artists to breathe its atmosphere.

Other images, in addition to projections kindly made available by the RSI Archives, sounds and stage costumes, complete the history of this multidisciplinary cenacle, which found in dance one of the most practiced artistic expressions thanks to the school that Laban created on site, reached as a student like Mary Wigman, the Duncan or the Gothic-Egyptian dancer Charlotte Bara who built her theater on the slopes of the mountain, entrusting its construction to another architect with Bauhaus style Carl Weidemeyer. Two precious Charlotte dresses, linked to her sacred dances, interact in the exhibition with original shots and videos of Laban’s lessons.

Film screenings, conferences and book presentations are scheduled during the exhibition.