Every now and then art gets the urge to resume its never-ending dialogue with science, sociology and the philosophy of life. This usually happens when art finds itself in crisis, which is when its power of expansion - through a particular movement, a particular wave, or a particular style - is endangered. Normally, art is quite content in its solitude, especially when it is economically well provided for by a sound, capitalistic expansion. The well-known brothel owner Xaviera Hollander used to say "when stocks are up the cocks are up", indicating in her homespun, philosophical manner that when everything is running smoothly, people do other thing than think.
At his happiest, man is an animal of pure action, ceaselessly expanding his external realm through exploitation of all imaginable kinds. It is only after this exploitation has led him up to a blind alley of impending catastrophe that he sinks into a reflecting is most often identified with what is negative and stagnated. This has probably always been so, but never has thought been more on the defensive than as in the era which began with Michelangelos David, and now culminates in the international advertising figure, Marlboro Man. Every attempt in modern history to develop in mankind a more solid, inner strength has immediately been countered by a glorification of exaggerated models of pure, extrinsic physicality.
The Strata exhibition is a timely reminder of art's possibilities as an instigator of broad reflection on life and society. As Heidegger replied to Sartre, when the latter expressed doubts about the utility of reflection, and demanded immediate action instead: "To think is to take action." Strata engages the spectator in active reflection on the Earth and its prospects, without inculcating any naive ideology, or high hopes of a happy solution. Lothar Baumgarten, Guillaume Bijl, Agnes Denes, Felix Droese, Nancy Holt, Jan Håfström, Pieter Laurens mol and Alan Sonfist are undogmatic in their appeal, but they are firm in their conviction that time is ripe for more reflection and less exploitation.