A project by Lars Köllner
Sculpture 6c is an additional project to the official programme of skulptur projekte münster 2007 and in essence an adventure in communication. This journal documents Lars Köllner’s inner thoughts and responses to the official projects and the people he met whilst offering visitors to Münster personalised guided tours of Skulptur Projekte past and present. Lars Köllner outlines: “I became a scout collecting and exchanging information. I stayed on the streets for days talking to visitors, passers-by, the project guards, Skulptur Projekte staff and even at times to the sculptures themselves.” His diary is meant to be read backwards in time.
I am still tired today. I tried to write a diary about my guided tours of skulptur projekte münster 2007, but I was hardly able to concentrate. I slept half the day as if I was ill. By the evening I decided that I had to do something. With a big effort I got on my jogging clothes and started running. Like a marvel I managed to run around the lake Aa and as I passed the different sites, memories came back to me. This moment became a significant point in being able to start writing about my experiences.
When I woke up the sky was blue tinted with shades of autumn-grey, almost clear. . As if the sky signify something. Perhaps a periode is over, that was very dense and ends today with a headache.
Nobody is on the street today. Unusual silence, the streets are calm. Instead of walking the streets it seems that everybody walks through the twists of memories. Crawling like a spider in their web to see what is inside. I stay in bed with the computer on my lap and I walk backwards in time, staring into the blue… dreamingpowerlessly. The teeth of some ‘high’ Münster buildings pinch off huge bits of the sky. Then I remember: Today is Germany’s National Day.
Today is the last day of the sculpture projects. I found it difficult to get up in the morning, because I met a girl in the cinema yesterday, Virginie. She is French but has been living in Norwich as an art student for the past two years. I loved her accent or dialect, or both; or perhaps even more?
At 11am, a little later than usual, I arrived at the museum. Coincidentally I met Virginie there again and we talked about art, the work of Guy Ben-Ner, Mark Wallinger and others. I enjoyed our time together, a great start to the last day of Skulptur Projekte.
From out of nowhere a group of crazy French speaking Belgians appeared, dressed completely in red. They looked a bit like musketeers with their big hats and drums, directed by a small camera crew of four people who were shooting a film. The musketeers were drinking beer and smoking joints.
This group hired me as a guide and so I went on a walk with these noisy guys who could not handle their instruments at all. Together, the camera crew and a guide who tried to explain the Skulptur Projekte in French to a dozen red noisy musketeers became quite an attraction in the streets on Münster.
At the switch+ we met Filch in his blue jacket, the beggar by Dora Garcia; Sculpture number 6. He said: “Hey, you are in my diary”. He meant his diary on the internet, which was part of his project. We met some days ago and I told him something about my work. Today I presented my new friends to Filch. The Belgian musketeers pretended they did not know that Skulptur Projekte took place in Münster and that they had caught the last day by chance. Good story.
Together we passed the “Roman de Münster” by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and I tried to convince Jerome, the director, to shoot on this site. I imagined the twelve guys running over the grass in between the downsized artworks playing their drums. The grass-covered site is like a stage for itself and the green lawn and the trees around would have been a great contrast to the red clothes. But I was too shy to insist on a visit there and probably it wasn’t clear to me at that moment, what a beautiful picture my fellows would have made there on the lawn. So I took them to the lake and showed them the manure truck by Tue Greenfort first. Around the construction site of our enormous future yacht club we came to Ilya Kabakovs antenna, translated the so said Goethe poem in the sky and followed its suggestive message: All of us laid down in the grass, as the poem says, to look up to the sky, where the clouds were drifting. One Belgian climbed up the antenna, but not even with his joint he did reach the sky.
After some cigarettes it was time to go to the piece of Susan Philipsz, the site the group had wanted to see at first. What a surprise: I was just explaining the work as I saw Susan Philipsz herself under the bridge. So we approached her to congratulate her for her work. One Belgian even wanted to experience the enchanting bridge right with the artist and told her to close her eyes. But as he saw this beautiful woman beside of him, he could not resist and kissed her right on her mouth. Unfortunately Susan rejected his approaches. I supposed she did not want to disturb her work, which has the title “The lost reflection”. But her boyfriend Owen was close, who had told me, that she is still not willing to marry him. So go on Belgians!
I was asking myself whether I should do an interview with Susan while the camera was there, but too late, the camera was already gone. I learned from this: just do it and do not hesitate because you are shy. Then the chances will be over. Ok, too late. I promised myself to never be shy again, I’ll try to…
So we passed the two blocks by Rosemarie Trockel with the entire group and climbed up the slope to the work of Donald Judd, where I proposed to split into two groups, one on each circle, in inverse directions while drumming, singing and… I thought that would be a really nice picture.
Then the film came to an end and my musketeers were no longer listening to me, although I was willing to show them the mythical path by Pawel Althamer. They disappeared in a forest, where I lost all trace of them.
Back in town I found some new fellows for a trip in the town centre. But after one hour, my stomach was really aching. I had (as usual) forgotten to eat something while being high and euphoric from new impressions and interesting people. I survived the hour by speaking my lines mechanically, skillfully hiding my pain and the fact that I had lost my interest in guiding tours. It was really time to quit now, I thought. I bought a sausage with bread, at the piazza behind the town hall, where the last party of Skulptur Projekte had started.
As I had decided not to be shy anymore, I bought a glass of wine and went over to Andreas Siekmann to discuss his artwork and tell him the story of how I was led a marketing expert to the Erbdrostenhof (not a good idea) and how the guided tour ended in a very emotional discussion. It really was a challenge. This story made Andreas furious and he started a very powerful apology of his thinking and I had to play the advocatus diaboli. No chance!
After that I asked Susan Philipsz, if the shock of the sudden kiss has subsided and began ‘the interview’ I wanted (even though there was no camera). We spoke about Hoffmann’s tale “The Sandman”, the opera “Tales of Hoffmann” by Offenbach and the influence the romantic had on many artworks. Susan recommended that I watched the film “Peeping Tom” (1960) by Michael Powell.
By this time I was already drunk, because it’s hard to work all day without eating and then to drink in the evening. My first approach to the inner circle of curators was to Christine Litz. She is not exactly a curator; she is the project manager of SPM07. I read her thesis and I liked it very much. It’s about text and contemporary art (Roni Horn, Bruce Nauman, Marcel Duchamp). I told her that I’d liked to work for the Schaulager in Basel and as I was not shy anymore I asked her to recommend me. But even this arty approach did not work very well. She asked me why she should do this. Good question. I felt like a tightrope walker. I inquired whether she had read my work about text and image, I had sent to her a month ago as in my opinion that would be a very good reason to recommend me. “Well, no”, but she had met Mrs. Vischer and Mrs. Oeri a week ago. “Who”? But that was also the wrong question, because Mrs. Vischer is the director of the Schaulager and Mrs. Oeri a very wealthy person and I should have known better. She donates entire buildings to museums as she did for the Schaulager and the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel for which she bought the nearby building of the national bank. Suddenly the names came back to me, but Mrs. Litz had already lost her interest as I was not a famous curator or artist, and by this time was so slow and obviously drunk. So I bought another glass of wine and Owen from Ireland, the boyfriend of Susan Philipsz invited me to dinner.
Then I saw Clemens von Wedemeyer floating lonely through space, which was more precisely a vast yellow carpet. Our conversation was about films by Tarkowskij. Clemens told me that Tarkowskij has become conservative in his latest films. So for Clemens, as he explained, the aesthetic of Tarkowskij was only a step in his own development he has overcome. I did not know what I should think, but I agreed, that David Lynch’s last film “Inland Empire” was a review of the director’s aesthetic. Then I was surprised what Clemens told me after he brought me another wine. He was third assistant of Peter Greenaway in Spain (?) and worked with Isabella Rossellini. That was quite interesting, I thought. Anyway Clemens quit after one week, because – as he said – then he knew how Greenaway operates and he seemed not to be very impressed. We met Andreas again and after another cocktail for me, both wanted to figure out what was going on on the dance floor.
I saw Brigitte Franzen, one of the curators, and Heike Kropff, who leads the art mediation dancing to crazy German songs like “Hamma” by Culcha Candela. So, I joined in. I thought all aesthetical sense was gone anyway, everything was turning. I decided to get another sausage on bread from Andreas and alternately put my scarf and then my nose into the mustard. From time to time I also managed to put a piece of sausage into my mouth.
I met Marko Lehanka from Frankfurt who has a funny dialect and anyhow he is really crazy. But I was not able to follow the conversation of this queer flower creator anymore, so I said goodbye to Clemens and climbed on my bike to travel home.
In the middle of the night I had an impulse to go out onto my balcony. I watched the stars turning around, looked down to the earth from high and all the things of the day passed through my head. I thought: Yes, that’s the end of a fantastic story that I’ll never want to forget…but no more sausages please.
Since my trip to Norway I’ve never spent such a rainy day outside. The morning started with an appointment at 11am in front of the museum. I waited in the rain for a young couple for half an hour but nobody appeared. Shit. I hate that! I got shelter under the roof by the entrance of the museum and tried to find someone else that might need my services. Nobody spoke to me but an old woman in a raincoat who invited me to a religious lecture on Sunday, the Maria Pask stuff. Mmh. I have no real interest in these religious things, although Robert Butzelar, the forklift driver for the Gustav Metzger stones, was so enthusiastic about a shaman there. Still rain. Two fashionable women with an upper class attitude – if you know what I mean – took my flyer. Red leather gloves with cut fingertips and small holes on the back of the hands. I have to say, I liked the gloves, they remind me of De Chirico and somehow of Freud, something erotic.
I then found a couple who where up to date on contemporary art; a nurse, or to be more precise a coach for nurses, accompanied by her husband. We argued about the work of Andreas Siekmann. The way they argued was great, but the rain was still pouring down. At the end by the main train station I was wet to the skin and went home to get new clothes; my Norway boots and rainwear.
The couple that did not show up called to excuse their absence and to get a new date. “Ok, why not?” With the new warm clothes, the warm boots and the rain trousers it was wonderful. We drove through the landscape around the lake and we had the artworks just for us. I liked my new fellows because they were asking so many questions, were hanging on my every word and gave me new views of the artworks, although they were just after the beginning of the tour (at Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s work) already wet to the skin. Due to their enthusism, I quickly forgot about their absence in the morning, which I found out was because of their drinking bout in Münster through until five. Although they appeared to be a couple at the first glance they had made the tour each on their own. Alone Julia had seen a piece inspired by Shakespeare and Berlioz in the theatre, but was regretting her choice. It must have been very poor. In fact both seemed to have a strong affinity to the theatre as Jan saw the manure truck by Tue Greenfort as a behind the scenes theatrical machine which now has become visible. I think this a quite good description of what’s going on there, like in the baroque era of theatre when the scene machines became visible. As he went on to explain that was exactly the theme of Jan’s thesis. I told him about how I planned to do my doctorate with someone like Professor Ralph Ubl in Basel (at least he worked there until 2007) and he told me that he was someone he knew from his studies in Berlin. Somehow the world is small.
The Suchan Kinoshita installation did not work today. It’s queer. Sometimes the texts are boring and meaningless even though you stay for a longer time. All of a sudden the people inside are boring too, nothing to new to discover, nobody who tells a story of his appearance, no funny noises by the visitors. Even the intervention of whispering your own stories as I usually did if nothing happened seemed not to work. Perhaps it was the rain. Only my wonderful warm Norway boots told stories to my mindabout walks over deserted mountain chains. The room remained lifeless.
In the evening I went to the cinema to watch “Wholetrain” (2006) by Florian Gaag, a film about a circle of young ambitious graffiti painters doing everything and living only for their illegal artworks in tunnels, on walls and on trains. I got a seat by the wall. On every other seat in that cinema you could not bear a longer film, because there are only backless soft stools, cubes, which are quite uncomfortable. They look nice but that’s the main idea behind them.
In order to see whether Anna-Lena Töpel, a friend of mine who is working for Skulptur Projekte, was in the cinema I got up. Without finding her there I received a flyer about the Filmfestival Münster. When I came back to my seat, a girl was sitting there beside me. I was looking at her from aside, wondering, how she had appeared so suddenly. I was thinking of a conversation, but then the short film had already begun. It was about the Kunsthaus Kannen, a place where mentally ill people can make art as part of their therapy. The film was mediocre, a mixture of documentation and the essay on being arty itself, a concept that almost every time ends in something that appears forced.
But the film gave me a reason to ask the girl “Wo isn das Kunsthaus Kannen?” But this attempt to start a conversation did not work, she just shrugged her shoulders. Mmh. Then I became aware why. The guy next to her spoke English to her. What a terrible German accent! Uuuh. (Ok, perhaps I did not know any better). So, she was a foreigner.
I always hated the intervals between the films at the Metropolis, which I’m sure were invented to sell more beer at the cost of carelessly disturbing the atmosphere and the tension the film had created. This time I loved the pause. What a great opportunity to translate the German film into French and respectively explain the main sequences to Virginie, that was her name, as she did not understand German and the film was not subtitled. After the film I heard about her art studies in Rouen and in Norwich. Her artworks connect mechanic, machines, electricity and human interaction. For example, she created a giant hamster wheel for humans as well as a bust of herself with a lightbulb in her mouth. The bust was situated in a water basin and contact between the water and the bust at the same time would light up the bulb. Great.
She told me that she is interested in art that has social aspects. She liked the Jeremy Deller and the Maria Pask works, if I remember well. When I had spoken to Trevor Pitt from Birmingham, whom I had met some days before (see 23.09.), he had also chosen these works as his favourites because they are about connecting people. Besides the fact that both like these artworks, their choice seems to reflect something that I would call an English preference for socially engaged works. Virginie studies in Norwich, Trevor is from Birmingham, Maria from Cardiff and Jeremy from London.
Perhaps one day I’ll get used to these artworks, that I don’t find particularat the moment. Or perhaps my problem is that I have not been to the ‘Maria Pask’ religious lectures and I dislike the dilettante coloured relics on the grass reminding me of scout youth camps: everything very important, building together, living together, doing art together. My problem is surely that everyone can take part, no matter of his skills. Obviously that’s exactly what these works try to establish. Mmh. Perhaps the results (oven, tents and mythical places) and the relics are less important than the gathering.
Regarding the work of Deller I like the idea of bringing people into allotment gardens, however, what I dislike are the up to now empty books and the fact that nobody has taken the seed everybody should plant.
Anna from the Skulptur Projekte information point told me 25.000 visitors were expected for the final weekend. Almost nobody was on the street today, but Filch. You can identify Filch by his sign, a sheet of paper with a six surrounded by a black circle, as he is sculpture number 6. I started a conversation: “Hey, we are in a similar situation, living on the street the whole day, collecting and giving information.” I shared some stories with Filch about what I had to tell about my tours through the city and about the people I have met. In exchange Filch told me how he had met himself one day. He was sitting in the Spiekerhof as usual and suddenly a person appeared next to him. The person held a sign in his hands and showed it to Filch. It was a black circle indicating 6b.
Then I got the iPod from Anna with the mp3 files of the Cardiff walk and Filch led the way to the starting point. I wandered on Cardiff’s traces for half an hour.
Suddenly Mr. Müller from the Graphikmuseum Picasso was crossing my way, saying, “I got your application yesterday, you can give guided tours in my museum. So change directly after the Skulptur Projekte tours to us.” That was great news because I really need some money to finance my doctorate.
In the evening I went to the lecture of 51N4E in the Metropolis. 51N4E is an architectural group from Brussels. It’s great how the Skulptur Projekte brings together different people from all over the world in the old cinema. I will never understand how my friends could stay absent to all these intercultural events. Even if the architecture the group presented was mediocre from my point of view – but I’m not an architect – the atmosphere in the cinema was absolutely great.
A friend of mine, Imme Diedrichsen from Bonn, came around today. We went on a trip to the Pawel Althamer path I had never taken before. With our bikes we discovered this muddy, rough path which begins unspectacularly, but then in the fields it’s marvellous. You are watching the empty fields, the growing plants, you cross a narrow bridge and ask yourself when and where will the path end? But as was written in the guide, there was no end to the wheat field; the path simply had developed and went on and on.
What a fantastic idea of leaving the city in this manner. We crossed a street and came to a maize field in which the path disappeared. The entrance was blocked by five pales surrounded by barbed wire. At last we were led to the sudden end announced in the guides and we had to find our way home. Somehow we came to the zoo and as a door was open we slipped in with our bikes. On our way we met a coati, in German it is called nose-bear. We baptized him Kasper. But before we could start a discussion about art the doors behind us were closed and only by luck could we escape the zoo to continue our trip which ended in the archive exposition in the Landesmuseum. There we got a guided tour. Nice to be on the other side for once; to just shut up and listen (although there was not too much news).
Got a couple from Cincinnati today. Linda and Jim Miller were real art fans although they were not working with art – they told me, they clean industrial buildings. We made almost a three hour tour around the city.
Later I met Mr. Müller, the director of the Graphikmuseum Picasso in front of the museum. And as I had once spoken about Francis Bacon and Joan Miró in the museum, I asked him if I could do guided tours for him. He said I should just send an application. So the rest of the day I was writing my curriculum vitae and collected my documents.
I was hanging around in front of the museum. There a guy I had seen the day before was sitting again watching the people. And because I knew he was an artist-curator and I thought, well an artist-curator, that’s an interesting person, I got his phone number. Trevor Pitt was his name and I invited him to join me for some beers that evening after work. On my balcony that overlooks an allotment garden he told me, how he had observed me the day before wondering what I was doing. “Does he sell something? Is he from a religious group? Is he offering journeys (of what kind ever)?” Guided tours were the last thing he thought about, until I asked him.
On my balcony we discussed some artworks. “The best?” – “Deller”, he said, “Wallinger”, I said. “The worst?” – “The brain”, he answered. “Ok, but that’s not an artwork” – “Oh well, that’s why it’s a bad one…” – “I think Manfred Pernice and Gillaume Bijl are really weak at the Skulptur Projekte. About Deller I have some doubts.” Watching from my balcony at the allotment gardens I tried to understand Trevors point of view why a description of social life could be an artwork.
But I also have to thank Trevor for the idea to write a documentary about my tours. He liked, that I did something unofficial, that I had a view from outside. And obviously, he said, there was a need there for something that the sculpture projects could not deliver, apart from this beggar Filch on the street.
What a sunny Friday morning. I was turning circles in front of the switch+ offering my services. A guy was sitting at a table of the Projektbar, with his sunglasses and his hair style he looked British. As he was alone and he didn’t care about conventional dresscodes as the other visitors usually do, he was not the person I was used to addressing. You know, by the clothes you can see if people like to take a guided tour or not, and he seemed to belong to the independent ones who prefere to discover things by themselves. They do not know yet, what they are missing. Generally it is also better to speak to couples or groups as together they can afford a guided tour. But as I had time in between my tours I also spoke to the British looking guy. “Can I offer you a guided tour? Can I help you with some information?” He warned me: “You’ll better be good; I’m an artist-curator.” We separated by laughing.
In the evening, I thought it was already too late for tours, I met André Fournelle from Montréal in front of the Café Arte by the museum. And surprise, he wanted a guided tour. Even better, he wanted it in French, so I was able to give my first French tour. The light was dim, but anyway we had lots of things to discover. As André was particularly interested in Beuys I showed him the site Beuys had chosen for his “Unschlitt/Tallow (Wärmeskulptur auf Zeit hin angelegt)” on top of the subway, where Valerie Jouve showed her film. We also saw the stones by Gustav Metzger at the Hindenburgplatz. Immediately André connected them with Beuys’ 1000 oaks project in Kassel and so the whole place was loaded with memories. People from the Skatenight Münster were raising their speakers and it reminded me of Pari Roller and the time in Paris I spent on the streets on my skates passing by the Tour Eifel and the shops and restaurants on the Champs d’Elysée. In between there was the story by Metzger, memories of the Second World War, the Jews, the destruction of Münster. The fading light was announcing an end, but also eternal recur. The stones which reappear at every single tree were telling a story that we already know, something that belongs to us. Memories like the stones of Beuys I had seen years ago in the Hamburger Bahnhof, present in the moment.
In fact, it must have been the autumn light that enchanted our way passing the castle seeing my favourite artwork, the thread of Martin Boyce near the piazza already covered by leaves, as if it has been there for years, André said. Later we passed the avenue of trees in the Schlossgarten and came to Dan Graham’s pavilion. Reflections everywhere. Being inside the pavilion and looking outside you have a view like a picture taken out of Antonioni’s films. What would we find if we blew up the picture? Could we perhaps see the benches by Jenny Holzer or the dead people floating on the river that the benches tell about?
Returning to the city we peeped into the Kunstverein, where Gustav Metzger himself gave an interview to Carina Plath. But as we were too tired already we went out to have our beer somewhere else. In the Marktcafe André told me about his art projects. He loves to work with fire. In 1999 he realised a magnificent bridge of fire over the Seine. In 2000 he created a kind of garden in Taiwan with (if I remember well) roundabout three meter high trees with brass columns at their side; a paraphrase of Beuys “1000 oaks”. André gave some postcards of his works to me, but I believe pictures are a bad substitute for the works. It would be better to walk through them by yourself, to see the whole surrounding with your own eyes, not through the narrow perspective of a camera. Perhaps I can visit Montréal one day, where André invited me to.
I met Michela and Barnaby again. I guided them through the city yesterday and I decided to come along with them once again. We went around the lake and later to Bruce Nauman’s inverted pyramid, where we tried to experience the artwork by artistic actions. It’s great how the artwork speaks to you encouraging you to do something with it. I would have liked like to go there with my bike in, but it was forbidden by a guard. Was that the meaning of the sign saying “Please respect the dignity of this artwork”?
Anyway, this time I paid especially attention to the surface of the concrete pieces. Its great how the strokes of kind like a brush form different patterns which mesh into each other. The strokes cast in ‘stone’ narrate the story of the artworks construction . From Bruce it’s not far to Ludger Gerdes “Schiff für Münster”. I like this place double, because there are few visitors due to the fact, that it is a 1987 piece. So you can discover this little secret site almost on your own. It’s one of the most beautiful artworks you can find in Münster.
Barnaby could transform even small things wonderfully into words, like the dead rabbits in the trench around the “Schiff für Münster”. “Look, that’s a rabbit trap. A rabbit trap. The rabbits come here, they peep into the water. They bend over the edge, but the wooden margin is too high to reach the water. They bend forward and fall. A bridge, a rabbit bridge is missing. But probably they would drown anyway.” I mean, that’s a simple story, but the way Barnaby explained it, how he ‘imitated’ the rabbit peeping over the edge, was wonderful.
I’d like to go on with this story, telling you that the rabbits were pilgrims to a mystical place called “Schiff für Münster”. Their belief in this mystical place was so strong, so strong that they sacrificed their bodies to let their souls fly up upon the poplars. Now their souls still whisper out of the leaves about the beauty, the mystic and the grace of this site. And be aware of the murmuring and whispering of the dead rabbits by the sea of green hills around Ludger Gerdes ship. Don’t let yourself be enchanted by their tales. Otherwise you risk to drown in this well of tales – a rabbit hole –, which was founded by a shaman.
And it’s true, what I say, because Barnaby was really a shaman. The Maria Pask place was a good place to speak about that. He told me that he does shaman rituals using a drum to get in a state of trance, if I understood well what he meant. To do this, you need a hole, a real hole to crawl mentally inside; a rabbit hole, an oven, the hole of the cap of your pin, whatever.
But at Maria Pask’s place I was more fascinated by the way Barnaby’s arty behaviour than the fact I had a shaman at my side. When I say arty, I mean simply “free”, not to restrict your curiosity by any common means. At Maria Pask place, there was a table with “holy cow shit”, small balls made out of shit. Of course Barnaby had to find out, what that was. He grabbed a ball and had a scent of it. Perhaps at first he smelled nothing, because he got the ball even closer and dipped his nose into it. Some time later he was running around, examining the site, with his nose covered by holy cow shit. I adored this. In the tent we found a book by a shaman Barnaby was an adept of.
I was reading a bit in the Talmud, because I wanted to find the rule, which allows Eruvs, to get closer to the Mark Wallinger artwork, but I did not find it. Perhaps there is no rule therefore.
Outside the main tent, Robert was building a pizza oven. We talked about groups who came to the camp and about the religious people who presented their beliefs. After a while Robert recounted the visit of a shaman he was very fascinated by. Full of enthusiasm he described that they had a four hour long ritual in the small forest nearby. Ok, as I had a shaman from New York with me with his adept from Venice he met on a mountain top in California, I presented him to Robert, who nearly became euphoric. Anyway he went on to build his pizza oven out of holy cow shit balls and mud. When we had to say goodbye with handshakes I was surprised that Barnaby boldly took the muddy hand of his new friend. Seeing Robert hesitating he said: “It’s ok, every day I have to deal with shit”.
After our way to “The beautiful city” I wanted to show Michela and Barnaby the “Zwinger”. Inside we saw the red flickering lamps by Rebecca Horn, the dead souls, as I said, explaining that these walls contained a prison in the 18th, 19th and even 20th century. As the state of living in these small cells was very bad, many prisoners died not only by the guillotine in the courtyard but by the conditions of the cells.
Suddenly Barnaby sat down and explained that he will go on a journey to see if there are still some souls in here. He asked if Michela wanted to come with him and I feared that he would ask me too, but he didn’t. So he took off the cord he carried around his neck and blindfolded himself sitting there in a position to meditate. Then he uttered “I will send my crows in here”. I was standing there in the dark between the living and the dead. The hammers all around us were hitting the stones, no other noise then that. Time passed by. Suddenly I was in a ritual, I entered the hole in the wall and I was on a journey, too. I saw all the people I had guided through the city, all ways I had taken, the experiences I made, the way which led me in here. At some point, I left the cell to go to more lighter places, the Rebecca Horn “paradise” if you want. Michela was with me and a little time later Barnaby reappeared out of the dark: “There are still some souls in here. Not of the prisoners, most of them have left. The guards remain but I couldn’t help them. I did not know how. They have accepted their destiny and they will stay.” On my way back passing the cells I tried to make no noise to avoid to disturb the guards, and they let me pass.
Next we went to the Mauritzhof to see the film by Eva Meyer and Eran Scherf where Barnaby was also able to clean his hands and his nose.
The film: you usually know within five minutes whether a film is good or not and this one is fantastic. The pictures with the colours in the theatre, red seats behind yellow-orange Chinese lanterns, the patchwork cloths of the protagonist and the 360° pan shot on top of the theatre. How Meyer and Scherf involve the old Romberger Hof is marvellous. No story is told, but there is a story in our heads, collective memories passing by.
A day full of work, tired and at the end of the day almost no more art fans on the street willing to follow me. Waiting for hours on the street. Alone. The most frequent sentence I heard was: “Wir sind schon beinahe durch” (“We have almost finished”). But then somebody appeared who looked different: wide patterned trousers, heavy hiking boots that no one wore but him. I saw drops of paint on them. “He must be a painter”. But most special was his way he looked around, the way he moved. At the bike station in front of the museum – always a good place to get in contact with people – I asked him whether he needed my services. I think, immediately he said “yes”, but we had to ask a woman who evoked the impression to be his manager. In any case, we had to talk to her. She seemed to be the one to make the deals. Her name was Michela Bondardo from Venice; Barnaby Ruhe was from New York.
But no long talk was needed, Barnaby wanted definitely to start the tour to see as much art as possible and off we went, first to Isa Genzken, then through the Spiekerhof to Martha Rosler’s cages.
I needed some time to get used to Barnaby’s way of speaking. It was fast and sounded eruptive to me. It seemed you could really hear how ideas raised in his mind, immediately transformed into words. And what I heard was fantastic, a new world of associations, stories Barnaby developed or knew about things we found all around. He was a brilliant story teller but also a very curious man. At first, at the bike station, I had the impression he barely recognised me, full of enthusiasm to start the tour, looking curiously around. Later I got used to his habit to listen and to discover new things by himself at the same time. Up to now I never had visitors who wanted to see the description of Martha Rosler at the wall of the library on their own after I had explained the whole story. Barnaby did.
I will never forget how we came to Silke Wagner’s work and how he ran his eyes over the English description to find out in a second the most important information. “Ah, there it is, squatting in Münster, censorship of the press”. And I will not forget how he explained e.g. Andreas Siekmann’s artwork (and also the world sometimes) to his girlfriend: “Michela, look, that’s the horse shit theory”. I never met a person that was that fast in recognising things, I thought, it’s only possible to be trained like this, if you live in New York.
The sun sat down and so we went to the Frauenstraße 24, one of the places where squattings took place in the 70s in Münster. Since I had not been there for a long time I was a little bit disappointed, the atmosphere was quite normal, not in any manner interesting. But what did I expect? We found an old poster on the wall from earlier times and Barnaby invited us for dinner and ordered in a way I liked very much. He went to the Turkish chef to order the best Turkish meal he could make. Sure, this would be too much to eat. But he challenged the cook and he was sure, that the result would be fantastic. And that’s it: Barnaby was so sure about what he did. I think that’s the most important thing I learned today.
We spoke about art, New York, Münster and about women. By the way, we had a beautiful waitress speaking English with a lovely British accent and that was worth talking about.
Kasper König was very present on the streets the last few days. I saw him giving a guided tour for some American guest yesterday. Today I met him at the bridge with the sound installation by Susan Philipsz. As I had a group from Cologne with me (and as König is not only a curator of sculpture projects but also the director of the Museum Ludwig in Cologne) we spoke about the statements of cardinal Meisner in Cologne concerning the new dome window by Gerhard Richter. Meisner said the window would fit better in a mosque than in a house of God. Such a silly remark was accompanied later by the assertion, where art is no longer a reference to God like the abstract Richter window, it would be only a ritual and the culture would be degenerated. He was using the Nazi expression “entartete Kultur”. König explained that this was the helpless attempt of Meisner to oppose the Domkapitel who has decided that the abstract dome window would be built-in. But it underlines only the fact that Meisner has nothing to decide anymore in the dome.
After a while getting excited about the silly cardinal with his unreflected love to mimetic pictures of saints I was more fascinated by the soft pack of Roth Händle without filter König had in his hands. Those cigarettes have style. I liked the red box with the ornamental strokes on it and I haven’t seen them for a long time. But I remember that the cigarettes kicked me out of my shoes when I tried them last time. Seeing König smoking the heavy cigarettes I remember him how he sat in the lecture of Annette Wehrmann about her projects in the Skulptur Projekte Vorspann drinking beer. When I told this to my friend Willi, he was asking, “And what would they say, if I would do this? What’s the difference?” Of course it’s the position. In a certain position it would even be cool to receive your guest in a dressing gown like the late Rudolf Augstein (the head of the magazine “Spiegel” in Germany) did on the summit of his power. Perhaps he had taken Peter Sellers in Kubrick’s “Lolita” (1962) as an example.
Yesterday in the afternoon I met some guys from California. They wanted an English tour. We had decided to meet today at 10am at the switch+. As I had never given English tours, I was sitting at my desk the whole night learning how to explain sculptures in English. In the morning I knew what fertilisers are, what you can do with a manure truck. I could describe yew bushes and talk about threads in the air quoting the Talmud tradition, and other things.
My fellows today were looking just normal in their shirts and sneakers. First they wanted to do the tour by car. Ok, perhaps that’s not the best way to discover the city of Münster, so I convinced them to walk around. At 1pm they invited me for lunch in the Lazzaretti (near Isa Genzken’s work) and we talked about Germany and Münster – they were well informed and clever. We spoke about Monaco, too, that was the place they wanted to go afterwards. One of them was a lawyer and he told me that a lawyer in America could earn up to 1000 dollars per hour. He asked me if I could imagine this. No, I couldn’t.
It asked him to correct my English. Huh. He was a strict teacher as you can imagine. At least at the end I got the word “idea” right in its pronunciation, like “ikea”, I was taught. Although we had spoken about Monaco I still had some doubts whether my new sneaker friends could pay me in the end. But they reassured: “Don’t worry, we are big boys.” Ok, I saw it, when we got the car, a 7 series BMW. Of course we had to do at least some sculptures by car – as I had American guests from California. After eight hours we finished the tour in front of the castle. Bizarre to walk alone again, bizarre to stay quiet, to speak German again.
But no time to calm down because as I had another topic on my program. A friend of mine, Sebastian Freytag, I met once on a trip from Paris to Düsseldorf was in Münster. The Initialraum, a project by art students making expositions behind the town hall, had invited him with his colleges to talk about their “offspace” (in English offsite?) called Konsortium in Düsseldorf. The idea of an offspace is to realise expositions on a low budged but high quality level. As long as it’s not possible to work as curators in museums or in a Kunstverein that’s a good possibility to learn how to do it. So for artists they offer the opportunity to realize expositions in Düsseldorf in an experimental space, where they are free to use the rooms as they want while the rest (promotion etc.) is done by the curators. Konsortium rents three rooms in Düsseldorf and the concept is to show abstract art. If you’d like to see some examples go to www.konsortium-d.com.www.konsortium-d.com We also discussed the possibility of an offspace in Münster (there is none yet, but who knows, perhaps I will run one in the next year). Especially Asim Chughtai and DAG from the offspace GLUE in Berlin gave impulses into this direction. After Konsortium they were the next ones presenting their project. I made some notes and contacts and then it was really time to go home.
Today a friend of mine from Bielefeld visited Münster. Willi Kemper, also an artist, one of the ‘68-revolutionists. He taught Jörg Immendorff once as the students took over the lecture halls. But now the ’68-revolution is over; Willi is married and he came with his wife to Münster.
This time we went to Suchan Kinoshita’s “Chinese Whispers”. This piece is a little bit out of balance. Sometimes it’s a strong artwork, sometimes it’s weak and you leave the room being disappointed. Not only is the different quality of stories is the reason for it (but that is the biggest part), it also depends on the people being in the room. This time we were inside the room with a school class and nothing happened. It was Willi’s idea to start whispering himself and it was funny that not everyone recognized that it was him instead of the speakers. Once Willi got a story started, I continued to whisper: “There is a room with 1000 holes in the wall – Behind every hole there is a secret – Visitors have left them there – Since I know this, I hear voices – Every hole has its story – There are thousand holes – Everyday I fear to lose myself”.
Willi described how he felt that the noise activates our eyes, first we hear things, and then we are more sensible to look. First we listen to the speakers and then we look at the street seeing the everyday life passing by being very attentive to details. We listen and suddenly we see the two puppets on the balcony on the other side of the road. Like animals we listen first and then we look around. We watch the people who are with us in the room; the child talking loudly to its mother, the coughing man taking of his shirt. School girls whispering their overexcited news, laughing ashamed but in a manner, that everyone should get aware of them, making noise, to attract someone’s attention; like Willi and I did by whispering.
We also came to Maria Pask place. This coloured and pseudo romantic site with the illusion of unity was a souvenir to Willi of the movement of the 70s, where everybody wore coloured clothes, but almost nobody knew what this mess was good for. The idea was dispersed so that you could have projects in communities and everybody could join the groups. The result was a big dilettantism by most of its members and Willi felt this spirit in “The beautiful city”. For example he showed me the bike, which was like a rickshaw, but with two seats under the handlebars and said: “Surely you can’t drive with this bike. Look how it’s made, without any knowledge how to treat the materials, without any effort to have an aesthetical or functional execution.” And Willi was right. I tried the bike some days ago and did not manage to drive one meter. “It’s the same with the slide. Have you seen the slide? You will get holes in your trousers or even worse if you dare to use it.”
I think that’s the dilemma of public art. You want everybody to participate but often you will loose the last bit of quality as a result. I don’t know if that means art should be elitist, but I think I prefer this to dilettantism.
August 13 we had an assembly at the Kunstverein in Münster and Maria Pask was present. What she presented was a “Throatsong Singalong” with Sybren Renema. Carina Plath, the director (she was also the co curator of Skulptur Projekte) introduced him as a semi-professional, although he disliked hearing this, I could see. But his performance was exactly as announced. In front of the public in suits and ties (the Münsteranian upper class Kunstverein members) Sybren growled into the microphone to find his overtone and he tried to find among the audience someone to follow his example. Off course there was nobody who wanted to burb into the microphone in front of his wealthy friends. Only Maria Pask dared to try. With a red head she got some noise out “urrrg” that sounded like bad retching. The Kunstverein convention was blown up. That was funny first. But after a while it was just boring. Is it that great to see some “teenagers” breathe noisily into the mic? (Robert, the forklift driver got also a try) Then Carina Plath led by Maria approached the microphone and opened her mouth, but she did not dare to try. I think that was the right decision. The whole event was a joke, but not art.
Ok, that’s my view of the Maria Pask stuff; convince me of the contrary, England! (See 29.09.07)
At the ship of Ludger Gerdes I wanted to know what the quality of this work is. It’s always good to ask, because from my point of view, there is no good artwork, when you can’t describe its strength, and there is no bad artwork when you can’t say why. There is no artwork at all, when you can’t put it into words. I know that’s a very special point of view, if you want the perspective of an art historian.
But let me say that this ship attracts me, it is very artificial and at the same time part of the nature and the landscape. This ship tells a story of the past. Take the poplars for example, these high and slim trees. Their leaves seem to whisper from a past, when the wind blows through the leaves. It’s as if the wind waft through the rigging of a ship before it fills the sails again. On this ship, a metaphor for travelling, the poplars tell you a story of the last twenty years, for they already stay there this long. And have you seen the stones shaping the hull of the ship reaching into the clear water, which serve us as a mirror? Over the years some of the stones fell down, but they were replaced be new ones; old and new, a contrast. I prefer the old ones with the moss and grey surface. Sticking into the water, they give the aura of a ruin to this site. The image is corroborated by the emptiness of the abandoned deck.
A ruin is a mystical site par excellence. It does not only contain the process of decay but also a vivid imagination of what could have been here, what could have happened. The view on the ruin involves the tragic insight in the temporalisation of nature, life and humanity. The death of the rabbits for example, how did that happen? What about me, what did I do when the stones were laid down on this place, when the poplars were planted? Do I see my age in the mirror of this ship? (Under the influence of Hannah Arendt the German philosopher Georg Simmel has written a great text about this subject: “Die Ruine” (1919). Even more striking than in these theories is the use of ruins in the films of Andrej Tarkowskij, e.g. in Stalker (1979))
Here in connection with the picture of a ruin the body at the stern reminds me of an ancient Greek temple building. The deck of the ship is transformed into a holy site that the spectator yearns to set foot onto. But there is no bridge to reach the holy land on the other side. That’s challenging our imagination. Something that’s very typical for art, said Willi, to play with a no go area, with a taboo zone, that men want to discover. It’s like the skirts of the girls we always wanted to lift in schooldays (and still today); something that involves our desire to know and imaginations (fantasies).
But the body does not only play with Greek temple buildings. Its material (wood), the simple forms and the fact we find it on a ship also connotes the Celtic tradition of funeral monuments. This is why, Willi completed, he would not wonder if we found a coffin under the roof there, perhaps in 2017.
English text edited by Trevor Pitt