So far, she has published seven books, all of which are based on research into the history of architecture. Four of the seven books are about the work of Danish artist Asger Jorn and the importance of art to architecture, but how come a German architect ends up devoting so much of her professional life to a Danish artist?
‘I initially focused on the Bauhaus Imaginista movement in Italy. However, when I discovered that Asger Jorn’s thoughts and ideas underpinned many things in that movement, I soon realised that he would be playing a huge role in my future life. It dawned on me that most of Jorn’s work in architecture had not yet been examined in depth. I think many architects – myself included – easily become fascinated with something and then pursue this something without considering the consequences. That was exactly what happened when I realised how important Jorn was’, says Ruth Baumeister, who also focused on Asger Jorn in her PhD dissertation. She continues:
‘Looking back on it today, I almost embarked on a kind of odyssey. Many of Jorn’s texts were only available in Danish or Swedish. So, I also had to learn new languages along the way. On top of this, his theories are extremely complex, which meant my work also took a tremendous amount of time’.
Fortunately, Ruth Baumeister is very interested in languages. And she now speaks five languages fluently – and reads texts in three other languages.
Asger Jorn lived from 1914 to 1973. And he was particularly recognised for his work in the group of artists known as COBRA. But what is it that makes Asger Jorn relevant to architects today?
‘The way Asger Jorn combined disciplines such as art, architecture, ethnology, literature and philosophy is fascinating’. To me, Jorn is an endless source of learning and inspiration. To read his material, you need to immerse yourself in many other issues to understand what he means. And then two pages later he turns it all upside down’, says Ruth Baumeister, and continues:
‘Jorn was very good at engaging with architecture physically. A good example of this is his ceramic relief at Aarhus Statsgymnasium – a very tactile work full of colour and human expression – but placed inside a technically very refined building of smooth surfaces. This is something I think you can learn from if you are an architect’.