The citizens of Athens called the plateau Acropolis, the Diadochians succeeding Alexander called it the Summit of Haimon; the early Humanists, following in the footsteps of Petrarch, climbed Mount Ventoux; in the absolutist age the plateau resembled a burial mound; for the founder heroes of our modern civilisation in the eighteenth century it took on the form of a small temple in every English park. Goethe established the [warder ("Türmer")] ("born to be seen, demanding attention") as the guardian of high points of view. In the nineteenth century the plateau assumed the form of a capital for monuments and works of art whereas in the twentieth century the plateau assumed the form of the leader's chancel or the display gondola of the Zeppelins.
The plateau has therefore always been a feature that permits an overall view by means of a general view, of observation as theory and supervision. Whoever wishes to lead, to make revelations or inspire has to prove himself or herself a visionary. But he cannot just stubbornly stare ahead; he has to comprehend the panorama of the world in its unity and a whole. He has to become a super visionary. It is the panoramic view that guarantees the continuity of the view, only the distinct model of a whole that directs it towards futuristic and utopian dimensions. Only those who are able to view things simply, achieve a synopsis by creating a theory, and can see beyond the horizon of visibility to include what is imaginable.
A thousand times and more the "Plateau of Mankind" has symbolised points of view, fixed points, references as its focus or centre. This polycentrality in the relationships of humans with each other does justice only to one type of socials bond: friendship. It is not without reason that sociologists and media-scientists, artists and social protagonists are currently discussing with such passion the meaning of the bonds of friendship for the extremely problematic cultural development beyond the twenty-first century. For example, the world-famous cultural scientist, Neil Postman, with his latest book "The second solution, a bridge into the twenty-first century". A further good example is that of the artist, Nan Goldin, with her strategy of identifying photographic work as the structure of a bond of friendship. The friendship between Kippenberger, Oehlen and Büttner was legendary as was that of the artists from the Michael Werner Gallery: Lüpertz, Immendorff, Baselitz, Penck. They and many others were naturally referring to Joseph Beuys' Social Sculpture through the bond of friendship and the Free University and its many predecessors in the history of the elective affinities.
In the field of design and the applied arts, campaigns such as those by Benetton (United Colours), for example the campaign "We are family" for department stores or the now accepted belief that research groups formed a "research family", are based on the historical motives of friendship bonds as romantic groups of common suffering or optimistic brotherhood groups. But unlike the conspiratorial combat groups of Fight Clubs, the SS units, the mafia or the groups of religious martyrs, friendship does not exactly demand agreement in the obligatory declaration and submission to the higher instance of divine revelation or dictatorial patronage.
Friendship becomes the dominant type of bond in social relationships because it only becomes effective when all the other common factors from religious and political membership, race and nation, gender roles and behavioural attitudes have been resolved. And that currently seems to be the case – no matter how hard one tries to awake the bloody impression that the parties are adamant in their beliefs – in religious wars (Northern Ireland), wars of nationality (Basque), cultural wars (Ex-Yugoslavia). Not even the characters of the art scene that have claimed to be enlightened spirits since the 18th century believe in the unshakeability of their convictions and opinions. They have experienced that one can only produce something New and Different if one is well aware of one's prejudices and is able to annul them. Only those who are willing to question their convictions and opinions and do not exclude themselves from radical doubts will be productive.
Anyway, considering the bloody consequences that inevitably follow excessive convictions, it should be clear that the surest way to avoid murder and manslaughter is to give up dogmatic convictions; in their place one develops a lasting awareness of the problem, its provisional character, the restrictedness of all opinions, even if they can be justified as "true".
If, therefore, in the future, people still want to have something in common that encourages and protects them, then it is not religious convictions, cultural identities or preferences of style or taste (always a reason for a fight). Rather, it is the common orientation towards problems, in particular malevolent problems, that is, mainly problems that cannot be solved, that creates the feeling of togetherness: precisely that of friendship. The difference to the love relationship, the parents-child relationship, the teacher-pupil relationship or the employer-employee relations is that friendship opens up acceptance and orientation, since one entrusts one's girlfriend or boyfriend blindly with the very mention of one's owns doubts, shortcomings, fears of failure and general deficits. The bond of friendship has proved to be one of the most stable in a world in which there is no longer any certainty and in which one must expect malevolent and uncontrollable problems.
The oldest strategy and the self-image of the artists who saw themselves as avant-gardes still remain in the 21st century. Their self-assurance came from their ability to turn all certainties into problems. They were masters in finding problems – even where scientists and businessmen saw none. Since the Renaissance, artists have shown that problems cannot be solved; one can only learn how to deal with them – which is why engineers and businessmen smile down upon [the artist as being] negative and someone who fouls his own nest. In the meantime they have all realised that problems can only be solved if new ones are created. Accordingly, as creators of problems, artists have always been of significance, whereas a pupil who claimed that practice and perfection would overcome the shortcomings of his teacher would only be laughed at. And the activists of the art scene have always been geniuses of friendship; their stimulators were called curators, or publishers or collectors or negotiators. It is significant that such a genius of friendship, which has been on the Plateau of Supervision for 35 years to great effect, and has thereby redefined the type of curator, producer, negotiator, has chosen to use the concept of Plateau for the 2001 Biennial. It is the only notion we can trust, going right back to the 18th century and the history of modernity, without wanting to force a following of inspiration through mere speculation or through reward and punishment. Whoever reproaches Harry Szeemann for [that he] only wanted to present [the community of his friends to the public in his] larger exhibitions has not yet understood that one gets involved with the arts and artists because one can always depend on their awareness of problems that links them to us all. Friends are people who can be depended on, precisely because they do accept the exemplary nature of our shortcomings, our failures and our embarrassing restrictedness. It is only with friends that I can be my true self and nowhere else where [it is] only power, fame and money that matter. It is friends who experience their effect and value over the impotence of power, of the inflation of the 15-minutes of fame, the loss of money won and the reduction of our creative potential through the realization as capital.
It is for this that the unforgettable Piero Manzoni has created this wonderful Plateau of a Socle du Monde: friendship carries the world rather than staging it with a crown.