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Tolerance in mind – About an artistic symbol for tolerance

What is tolerance?

Tolerance denotes the act of tolerating beliefs and actions that are considered as being wrong. The imposition that is behind this attitude becomes clear if we emphasize two attributes of tolerance:

1. We do not have an indifferent attitude towards the object of our tolerance. We are disgusted by what we must tolerate, because it contradicts our personal convictions. Tolerance is different from indifference.

2. To be able to speak of tolerance, we must theoretically have methods at our disposal to fight against that, which we consider to be wrong. Tolerance is neither helplessness nor subservience. Thus, we arrive at an understanding of tolerance as the voluntary renunciation of our option to fight against a position that disgusts us.

What should move us towards tolerance?

What are the possible reasons to practice tolerance? At least a philosophical and a practical motive are mentioned here:

  • Even when we are deeply convinced of the correctness of our views, there rests – often deeply hidden – a skeptical insight within us. It says: “The other person could (also) be right!” This slight doubt urges us not to fight inconsiderately against the unfamiliar things that are also wrong in our view.
  • Taking on the risk of being tolerant rewards our life with diversity. Oftentimes, that, which, at first, was only reluctantly tolerated, grows into another enriching aspect of our lives. Certainly, there are also intolerable things. Until we reach this definitive decision, though, caution is advised. Skepticism and willingness to learn prompt us to become more tolerant.

Why an artistic symbol for tolerance?

Tolerance is neither a matter of course nor a stable state. We have to practice it repeatedly as an attitude. This is where art comes into play! Art is always an exercise in tolerance, because it confronts us with the view of another person. With his work, the artist presents us his perception of the world and his engagement with it. Thus, art attracts and encourages us to expose ourselves those things alien to us. It awakens our desire to get to know and understand the other.

With this in mind, Karl-Martin Hartmann, a Wiesbaden-based artist, has created an artistic symbol with his “stela for tolerance”. It is expected to open us to dialog with the other using esthetic means.

Vibrant in form and colorfulness and with a perennial novelty, it wakes us up from thought patterns. In the public space and especially in the educational sector, it appears as an object alien to the actual function of the space. It brings another’s statement to this place – and thus invites us to a dialog. Like an exclamation mark, it reminds us about the challenge of tolerance

Why a network of stelae for tolerance?

The stela works on yet another level; it is designed as a symbol. It stands for the network of those, who know that they are united in the struggle for tolerance. It transports an idea and creates a sense of community. Locally, it strengthens the commitment to tolerance as a visible point of reference. It symbolically stretches out a network between the stela locations that combines the strides of the individual stelae into a large common movement.

The association “Netzwerk Stelen der Toleranz” has taken up the artistic impetus of Karl-Martin Hartmann and is promoting its practical implementation through the establishment of new stelae and networked maintenance of the stela locations in the form of events and projects.