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This is a dual-city installation linking Dresden, Germany & Columbus, Ohio in a shared public art experience.
Published:
“Lebensatem/Dresden” • “Breath of Life/Dresden”                                Click on image to enlarge.
© Stuart Williams 2015. All rights reserved.
Dresden Kathedrale Ss. Trinitatis, Dresden, Germany
OPENING NIGHT: February 13, 2015 — the 70th Anniversary of the WWII Bombing of Dresden. 10,000 people form a human chain around the Baroque old city that was destroyed, with Williams’ light installation, “Breath of Life/Dresden” on the restored Dresden Cathedral looming overhead, making the Cathedral appear to “breathe,” as waves of light rise and fall at the pace of human breath. As all the church bells across Dresden ring out for a full and spectacular 10 minutes, thousands of crows take to the sky.
 
The opening ceremony includes speeches by Dresden Deputy Mayor Lehmann and Consul General Riedmann from the U.S. Consulate in Leipzig. In attendance are representatives from Dresden’s sister cities around the world, including Coventry, England and Columbus, Ohio. The installation will remain in operation for 6 weeks through March 26, 2015.
 
 
 
DOCUMENTARY FILM: More photo documentation will be available soon. A documentary film is being made on this project by New York filmmaker Christopher Burke and French cinematographer Martial Barrault. Under the fiscal sponsorship of the NEW YORK FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS (NYFA) we are raising funds for post-production of the film. All contributions are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. This important project that revolves around an iconic event in world history is significantly under-funded. Please DONATE NOW. All donors will be fully noted in the film credits.
 
All photos © Craig Collins 2015 unless otherwise noted.
View Video Simulation (1:37)                                                                                       
2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden. In the closing days of World War II, three days and nights of Allied bombing created a devastating firestorm which destroyed Dresden… a Baroque city of unparalleled architectural treasures. The loss of Dresden — Florence on the Elbe — was a profound loss to the cultural heritage of the whole world.
 
In homage to Dresden’s survival and renewal, and to honor the 70th anniversary observance of this iconic moment in world history, the City of Dresden welcomed American artist, Stuart Williams to install “Lebensatem / Dresden” (“Breath of Life / Dresden”) at the historic Dresden Cathedral (Kathedrale Ss. Trinitatis) in February 2015. Williams transformed the facade with light... making the Cathedral appear to “breathe.” Waves of light, rising and falling at the pace of human breath, create the visual impression of respiration. 
 
The Dresden Cathedral was completed in 1738, and is one of Dresden’s foremost landmarks. With its prominent setting on the River Elbe, it is a key component of Dresden's historic "silhouette,” and with its soaring Baroque tower rising high above the city center, a light installation here becomes an artwork on the scale of the cityscape. (All lighting is computer-controlled, energy-efficient, LED technology.)
 
Said the artist, “Given Dresden’s nearly total destruction in February 1945, I think the vision of one of its greatest historic landmarks appearing to breathe will be extremely moving.”

In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, author of Slaughterhouse Five
“I would have given my life to save Dresden for the world’s generations to come. That is how everyone should feel about every city on Earth.” 

 
ENDORSED BY: 
City of Dresden, Mayor’s Office • Free State of Saxony • City of Dresden, Department of Culture and Heritage • Dresden Kathedrale (Ss. Trinitatis) • U.S. Embassy, Berlin • U.S. Consulate, Leipzig • Allianz Kulturstiftung, Berlin • Volkswagen, Wolfsburg • Buckingham Palace, London • The White House, Washington, DC • Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, Indianapolis • Taubman College of Architecture, University of Michigan • Dresden Sister City Inc. • Columbus Sister Cities International • City of Columbus, Mayor’s Office • Columbus Art Commission International • Columbus Public Art 2012
 
SPONSORED BY: 
The New York Foundation for the Arts (fiscal sponsor) • City of Dresden, Mayor’s Office • Dresden Sister City Inc. • Columbus Sister Cities International • U.S. Consulate, Leipzig • U.S. Embassy, Berlin • Westin Bellevue Dresden • Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinski Dresden • Stagelight, Coesfeld, Germany • an Anonymous Foundation in New York • Dozens of individuals and friends (grants and in-kind contributions)
 
DOCUMENTARY FILM BEING MADE: 
New York filmmaker, Christopher Burke, and French cinematographer, Martial Barrault, were in Dresden to fully document “Breath of Life/Dresden.” A trailer will be released this spring. Post-production will begin soon. 
 
Click on image to enlarge.
 
Here is a public artwork linking two former adversaries from WWII — the single most deadly war in human history — offering a breathing beacon of hope, and a compelling message for world peace.
Said the artist, “As an American artist, and as the son of an American soldier who was fighting with the Allied forces in Germany when Dresden was bombed, I see this project as a humble gesture of peace and reconciliation. Now, 70 years later, this is my gift to the City of Dresden. If my father were still alive, I know he would be overwhelmed with pride.”
Detail photo.
Artist's Speech at the Opening Ceremony in Dresden on February 13, 2015:
 
“As an American artist, and as the son of an American soldier who fought with the Allied troops in WWII, I would like to thank the City of Dresden, the Free State of Saxony, and the Dresden Kathedrale for welcoming me to
install “Breath of Life/Dresden” to coincide with the 70th anniversary observance of the bombing of Dresden.
 
By using the most basic medium of light, the Kathedrale appears to “breathe,” as waves of light rise and fall at the pace of human breath. Given Dresden’s destruction in the closing days of World War II, I think the vision of one of this city’s foremost historic landmarks appearing to “breathe,” is extremely moving. As a Baroque city of unparalleled architectural treasures, I think Dresden’s destruction was a profound loss to the cultural heritage of the whole world.
 
Here is a public artwork linking two former adversaries from WWII — the single most deadly war in human history — offering a breathing beacon of hope, and a compelling message for world peace. For three long years I’ve been working on the planning and fund raising for this complex and very challenging art installation. Fund raising has fallen short, but by dipping into my own personal life savings, I am today, on this night, 70 years on from an event that has become an icon in the annals of the horrors of war, honored to be able to offer “Breath of Life/Dresden” as my gift to the City of Dresden, free and for all to see.”
Click on image to enlarge.
 
Dresden’s compelling story and its iconic standing in the annals of the horrors of war have been nearly forgotten
or are relatively unknown by many younger generations. “Breath of Life / Dresden” offers an opportunity to restore lost history and to begin a conversation about the tragic, needless destruction of one of the world’s
great cities.
“LEBENSATEM/DRESDEN”                                 (Deutsch)
© Stuart Williams 2011 – 2015
Kathedrale Ss. Trinitatis, Dresden
 
In den Worten Kurt Vonneguts, des Autors von „Schlachthof Nummer 5“:
„Ich hätte mein Leben gegeben, um Dresden für die nächsten Generationen zu retten. So sollten wir alle über jede Stadt dieser Erde denken.“

„Angesichts der fast vollständigen Zerstörung Dresdens im Februar 1945 denke ich, dass ein scheinbar atmendes historisches Gebäude dieser Stadt ein tief bewegender Anblick sein wird. Als Künstler sehe ich das Projekt auch als Möglichkeit, dem Überleben und Wiederaufbau einer wunderschönen Stadt Respekt zu zollen. Letztendlich ist das eine Lebensbejahung." — Stuart Williams

Sponsoren: Landeshauptstadt Dresden, Büro der Oberbürgermeisterin; Verein zur Förderung der Städtepartnerschaft Columbus-Dresden in Columbus; Verein zur Förderung der Städtepartnerschaften von Columbus; U.S. Consulate, Leipzig; U.S. Embassy, Berlin; Westin Bellevue Dresden; Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinski Dresden; Stagelight, Coesfeld, Deutschland.

Das Projekt wird von den folgenden Organisationen unterstützt:
Landeshauptstadt Dresden, Büro der Oberbürgermeisterin, sowie Amt für Kultur und Denkmalschutz; Freistaat Sachsen; Dresden Kathedrale Ss. Trinitatis; City of Columbus, Mayor's Office; Dresden Sister City, Inc.; Columbus Sister Cities International; Columbus Art Commission International, Columbus Public Art 2012.
Click on image to enlarge.
 
Known for centuries as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities — Florence on the Elbe — Dresden held litte significance as a military or industrial center. Tens of thousands died in the firebombing of Dresden in February 1945, and with them, the leveling of a Baroque city of unparalleled architectural treasures was a profound loss to the cultural heritage of the whole world. Said the artist, “The irony is not lost on me that I am a citizen of one of the two nations who destroyed Dresden.”
An installation crew of three "climbers” and two lighting technicians secure LED lamp fixtures at three levels of the 83 meter (275 foot) bell tower. The climbers are highly trained workers who have adapted the skills of Alpine mountain climbers to scaling historic towers and facades in Europe for maintenance and repair. 
600 meters (1968 feet) of electrical cable provide power to the energy efficient lighting system and are threaded through the interior of the tower to be visually unobtrusive. Working with the lighting technicians, the artist composed a visual score which was programmed into the lighting system to control the pace of the up lighting as waves of light rise and fall at the pace of human breath.  
Artist’s sketch (above) simulates the project as seen from the Marienbrücke (bridge over the Elbe).
Signed fine art print on archival water color paper, © Stuart Williams 2012
Artist’s sketch (above) simulates the project as seen from Augustusstraße.                  Click on image to enlarge.
Signed fine art print on archival water color paper, © Stuart Williams 2012
Above is a recent photo of Dresden's famous "silhouette" along the River Elbe. All of the buildings in this photo, along with most of the historic city center, were virtually demolished in the bombing of Dresden in 1945. The Kathedrale Ss. Trinitatis (1738) is the project site, and is the tower on the far right. In the mid 1980s — forty years after WWII — it was fully reconstructed. The Frauenkirche (the large dome on the far left) was built in 1726. The dome collapsed during the fire storm ignited by the bombing. Its reconstruction was completed in 2004, just 11 years ago, thus finally restoring Dresden's historic silhouette to what it had been for centuries. Photo © Stuart Williams 2013.
The Venetian painter Canaletto (1722–1780) painted this view of Dresden's “silhouette” in 1748. The Dresden Cathedral — the project site — is the tallest tower on the right.
Canaletto's View: Three historical views of Dresden by the painter Canaletto have been marked throughout the city by empty steel frames in the shape of an easel. Each easel frames one of Canaletto's view points of today's Dresden and is accompanied by an image of his corresponding painting (see the painting above).
Dresden is the capitol of Saxony.
It is 164 kilometers (102 miles) south of Berlin, and close to the Czech and Polish borders. 
Dresden before it was bombed.
Dresden after it was bombed in February 1945.                                                               Click on image to enlarge.
 
“I would have given my life to save Dresden for the world's generations to come. That is how everyone should feel about every city on Earth.”
 Kurt Vonnegut
Royal Air Force Target Map                                                                                            Click on image to enlarge.
Dresden Bombing Raid 1945                                
The Annual Observance of the Bombing of Dresden has become a “cause célèbre” for neo-Nazis across Germany. Each year thousands of them come to Dresden to march in protest to what they disturbingly call the “Allied Holocaust,” as even larger groups of peace demonstrators take to the streets to protest Nazism and Facsicm. This is, in part, why the City of Dresden has welcomed this project to be installed in tandem with the 70th anniversary of the bombing, as they see it as a silent but powerful message of peace.
Stuart Williams at the site of the former Slaugherhouse Five on February 13, 2015, the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden.
Stuart Williams at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, following his successful installation of “Breath of Life/Dresden” at the historic Dresden Kathedrale in February 2015.
What led to this project in Dresden?                                                                       Click on image to enlarge.
 
In 2011 Williams was commissioned to create a large scale outdoor installation in downtown Columbus, Ohio. “Breath of Life/Columbus” (above) was installed in 2012. During the planning of the Columbus project, Columbus Sister Cities International and Dresden Sister City Inc. commissioned Williams to go to Dresden, Germany (sister city to Columbus) to research potential sites for a “sister installation” in Dresden. Seed money was provided by both organizations, as well as by the City of Dresden, and planning and fund raising have been ongoing for the last three years. During 2014, planning for the Dresden installation took on even deeper symbolic meaning, as the City of Dresden welcomed the suggestion of Dresden Sister City Inc., to have “Breath of Life/Dresden” take place in February 2015 to coincide with the 70th anniversary observance of the bombing of Dresden. Photo © Craig Collins 2012.
Was führte zu diesem Projekt in Dresden?
 
Im Jahre 2011 erhielt Williams den Auftrag, eine großflächige Außeninstallation im Zentrum der Stadt Columbus (Ohio) zu kreieren. „Breath of Life/Columbus“ (oben) wurde 2012 installiert. In der Planungsphase des Columbuser Projektes baten Columbus Sister Cities International und Dresden Sister City, Inc. Williams, nach Dresden zu reisen und mögliche Standorte für eine „Parallelinstallation“ in Columbus‘ Partnerstadt zu erkunden. Beide Organisationen und die Stadt Dresden unterstützten den Künstler dabei finanziell, und seit zwei Jahren laufen nun die Vorbereitungen und Kapitalbeschaffung für das Projekt. Inzwischen hat die Dresden-Installation eine noch tiefere Bedeutung erhalten, und zwar durch die Idee der Städtepartnerschaftsorganisation Dresden Sister City, Inc., „Lebensatem/Dresden“ im Februar 2015, parallel zu den Gedenkveranstaltungen zum 70. Jahrestag der Bombenangriffe auf die Stadt, zu installieren, und die Stadt Dresden steht diesem Vorschlag offen gegenüber.
Untitled - The State of The Art (Berlin art magazine)                                                   Click on image to enlarge.
Berlin, September 2012 (Deutsch)
Untitled - The State of The Art (Berlin art magazine)                                                  Click on image to enlarge.
Berlin, September 2012 (English translation) 
ENDORSEMENTS:
 
“I attended this year’s commemoration of the bombing of Dresden, and I can confirm that this is a moving occasion. Thank you for your outstanding contribution (for the upcoming 2015 observance).
     U.S. Consulate General; LEIPZIG, Germany / Teta Moehs, Acting Principal Officer
 
“Undoubtedly, this project is of utmost importance for the anniversary of the destruction of Dresden.”
     Allianz Kulturstiftung; BERLIN
 
“The Prince of Wales was very interested to read of the (upcoming) installation at the Dresden Cathedral, and has asked me to send you his warmest thanks and best wishes for your endeavors.”
     – Buckingham Palace; LONDON
 
“We consider Breath of Life/Dresden to be a very worthwhile enterprise.”
     – Volkswagen Corporate Headquarters; WOLFSBURG, Germany
 
“Thank you for writing. I appreciate your passion for the arts and humanities.
I encourage you to keep speaking out and I wish you all the best.”
     – President Barack Obama; THE WHITE HOUSE
ALL SPONSORS TO DATE: (funding and/or in-kind support)
 
City of Dresden, Mayor’s Office
U.S. Embassy, Berlin
U.S. Consulate, Leipzig
WildKat PR, Berlin
Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinski Dresden
Westin Bellevue Dresden Hotel
Dresden Sister City Inc.
Columbus Sister Cities International
Stagelight, Coesfeld, Germany
The New York Foundation for the Arts
An Anonymous Foundation in New York
Rudy Barton
Rhonda Barton
Libby Bassett
Laurel Blossom
Stanley Boles
Cheryl Brantner
Susan Feldman
David Guthrie
Heather Guthrie
Pat Guthrie
Wendy Kahle
Dennis King
Marc Labadie
Diane Nance
Ted Olson
Jim Horn
Dennis King
Elizabeth Nogrady
Mariann Nogrady
Mike Nogrady
Norio Saito
Irene Schneider
Patricia Smith
Miriam Sontz
Leonard Todd
Dick Turner
Tom Urani
Joe Walsh
 
A SPECIAL THANK YOU TO:
 
Kat Alder
Martial Barrault
Antje Beutekamp
Cheryl Brantner
Christopher Burke
Malcolm Cochran
Craig Collins
Suzanne Davidson
Dorit Fratzscher
Hermann Herlitzius
Dixon Miller
Diane Nance
Barbara Pratzner
Annedore Rudolph
Kristina Schoger
David Whitaker
Shelly Willis
Mixed media study for BREATH OF LIFE/DRESDEN                                          Click on image to enlarge.
© Stuart Williams 2013. All Rights Reserved.
(Edition #2) 
Signed by the artist.
Mixed media study for BREATH OF LIFE/DRESDEN 
© Stuart Williams 2013. All Rights Reserved.
(Edition #4) 
​Signed by the artist.