If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood ... and divide up the work, but rather teach them to long for the infinity of the sea. - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

What is longed for is always elsewhere. The desire for fulfilment, overcoming, perfection, light, paradise or the miraculous is a joyful but also a fatalistic feeling, its poetry "hovering between memory and premonition" (August Wilhelm Schlegel). Through the ages, people have longed for not only the ideal partner or perfect community but also for better worlds and more just societies. But what lies hidden behind that "sickness of painful yearning" (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm) that often seems preferable to its fulfilment? What is hidden behind that exquisite, heartfelt, almost entirely woebegone, if not completely hopeless longing for a person or a thing?


In the political upheavals in East Germany, which mark their 20th anniversary in 2009, lay the desire of many of its protagonists - at first for an undefined and later for a very limited time - for a new political form of social community. This desire, however, was quickly overtaken by reality, as the actual process of unification of the two German states took place in an exceedingly rapid way. The longing for a political transformation was, for the most part, overshadowed by the desire for consumption and buying power; the desire altered, becoming a wish for the finite, "empty desire to eliminate the time between desire for something and the acquisition of it" (Immanuel Kant). An infinite desire, however, one that knows no bounds, that is unlimited, aims for something unreachable, nearly indeterminate. 


If we become conscious that our often boundless desirings can never totally be fulfilled, but rather always encounter limits, that there is something like a "final station of desire": What then lies beyond this desire? A lush and fertile hinterland or a graveyard for our unfulfilled longings? What does that unreachable place look like, that "eternal home" (Joseph von Eichendorff), to which humans as travellers are by infinite desire propelled through the world? Is it worth it at all to embark on a trip to these far-off lands to which no compass in the world can steer us? Or is it the striving for the unreachable that gives life its purpose, develops creative power, fosters resistance? Thomas Hobbes asserted that desire is the fundamental impulse for all human action. As the main content of life, longing is often underestimated as the driving force of every further development - for example those desires for organized resistance. 


One person who attempted to put his longing into practice, even though he knew of its futility, is the little-known lawyer Christian Gottlieb Priber (1697-1748). As an ethnologist, early representative of the Enlightenment and social utopian, he devised a plan for an ideal community in the eighteenth century. It is the only example we know of a secular utopia next to the multiplicity of religious communes during this time, though he called his republic (perhaps as a polemical thrust against the pious) the "Kingdom of Paradise." Because of his ideas and yearnings, Priber received much scrutiny and in the 1730s he left his family and home in a small German town and fled via London to America. It was here, adopted by the people of the Cherokee, that Priber found acceptance for his ideas and like-minded people who wanted to live by them. After a few years, he was imprisoned by the British colonialists, who brought his paradise to an end. He died in custody; the manuscript of his longed for republic - "Kingdom Paradise" - has been lost ever since.


Visual artists who want to discover, investigate and fathom what lies beyond desire, who feel an inner stirring upon reading this text and who feel inspired, rather than limited by this proposition, are encouraged to apply for our program. 


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International Studio Program

Burgplatz 1+2

D-99423 Weimar