For the fifth time since 1977 the Skulptur Projekte Muenster take place. The exhibition has evolved into the most important big event of contemporary art in Germany next to documenta and takes place every ten years only. Artists from all over the world are invited to the exhibition who realize works of art on site through the examination of public space.
While the first two events in 1977 and 1987 still were considered as an affront to the citizens and the city of Muenster, in the meantime the perception of contemporary art in public space has changed dramatically, with the result that the Skulptur Projekte have turned into a cultural magnet for the Muensterland. The success of the Skulptur Projekte also has wetted the appetite of the city government and city marketing who would like to shorten the cycle of the event to five years in order to lure the visitors to documenta, which takes place at the same time, to Muenster. For this reason Kasper Koenig, one of the founding fathers of the Skulptur Projekte, has taken over the artistic leadership again in 2017 in order to ensure the continuity of the decennial rhythm.
As the medium of sculpture stands for deceleration in a time that subdues anything to a cost-benefit calculation in order to keep a consumption-driven event oriented society happy. To preserve the independence from commercial interests, the long period of one decade seems to be appropriate, only that way longterm changes in urban space and its sociocultural developments can be documented and made experienced artistically. In view of the pace at which trends, technological and political developments sweep over society ten years appear like an eternity. Looking at the 36 works which have been purchased by the city of Muenster after the past editions of the Skulptur Projekte, and which have become part of the cityscape since then, awakening, aging and decline become visual impressively. Their patina turns them into contemporary witnesses of different eras who provide information on the reception by the population like subjects of a long-term study. Today Muenster cannot be imagined anymore without the three huge concrete balls which were placed on the shores of the Aasee by Claes Oldenburg in 1977, just like the works by well-known artists such as Donald Judd, Jenny Holzer, Bruce Naumann and Rebecca Horn.
Skulptur Projekte Muenster 2017, Sany, Marginal Frieze
Skulptur Projekte Muenster 2017, Aram Bartholl, 3V
Muenster is catholic and always has been ultraconservative, that’s why it isn’t a surprise that the first exhibition of the Skulptur Projekte in 1977 was seen as a provocation. Today the works of art are received with an easy-going mind and the citizens are proud that Muenster is mentioned in one breath together with documenta in Kassel and the Biennale of Venice in the super art year 2017. For this year’s Skulptur Projekte 35 international artists have realized site-specific works with a budget of 8 million euros at their disposal, which is still nothing more than pocket money compared to other big events of contemporary art. In order to fully reflect the consequences of globalization alongside Muenster also the urban space of the city of Marl, which is at a distance of 60 kilometers, is included in the exhibition in this year.
The Skulptur Projekte count on slowness and contemplation instead of megalomania.
Both cities couldn’t be more different, while Muenster was in favour of reconstruction and historical tradition after the Second World War, a radical fresh start was ventured in Marl and the urban utopias of a global modernism were put into practice. The Skulpturenmuseum Glaskasten Marl which had emerged from this entrepreneurial spirit, has turned out to be the ideal cooperation partner for the city of Muenster. Art represented the advent of the modern in Marl which, however, has turned out to be an erroneous belief after the first closures of coal-mines in the 1970s, today the formerly prospering city is struggling with structural problems such as high unemployment and social distress. Muenster on the contrary is growing and has developed a positive relationship with contemporary art in the meantime.
Also in 2017 the curator team of the Skulptur Projekte has succeeded to put together a show that can be considered as a counterdraft to the art circus of documenta and the international art fairs due to its comprehensibility and the principle of slowness. In Muenster an intense and contemplative reflection on the individual works of art is still possible, pathetic or monumental works that are vying for the attention of the viewer can’t be found here. Nevertheless the audience get their money’s work through art that can be experienced directly, and the elements of surprise that are evoked by it. The sculptures ask for being discovered, they fit subtly in their environment due to the examination of the local urban conditions by the artists, they shift perspectives without imposing on the locations. Characteristic of the spirit of the Skulptur Projekte is the handling of the subject of time which is reflected by the patina that the purchased works from past exhibitions are suffused with, as well as by the psychological process that makes them become a fixture of the cityscape, always being aware that most of the works will disappear in autumn again.
Skulptur Projekte Muenster 2017, John Knight, A Work in situ
The monoliths with their physical presence that dominated the Skulptur Projekte 1977 have become a minority in the meantime, as performance and digital formats that explore the relationship between public and private space are increasingly in the focus. The LWL-Museum fuer Kunst und Kultur serves as a central contact point for the Skulptur Projekte. Alongside some projects that have been realized in its rooms it makes the infrastructure available for the curatorial team and the artists. The museum was opened in 2014, the design of the Berlin Staab Architekten visualizes the subject of the court and focuses on the permeability between interior and exterior. Thus the architecture symbolizes the transparent public character of the institution which makes the museum a part of the cityscape.
Skulptur Projekte Muenster 2017, Koki Tanaka, Provisional Studies: Workshop #7 How to Live Together and Sharing the Unknown
Many artists of the Skulptur Projekte 2017 focus on the contrast between private and public space.
One of the most spectacular contributions to the Skulptur Projekte was created by Turkish artist Ayse Erkman, who has built an underwater bridge in the harbour of Muenster which asks the visitors for interaction and invites them to walk on water just like Jesus. Erkmen took part with a performance already in 1997, then she had sandstone sculptures flown above the cathedral square by a helicopter in response to the rejection of her artistic project by the catholic church. Also the air sovereignty over the dogma of a religious community is part of public space. With her this year’s project “On Water“ Aye Erkmen explores, how inaccessable public space can be taken possession of. Her installation focuses on the overcoming of barriers which emerged from mistakes in urban planning and impact social and cultural life. Frequently the element of water is the central theme in Erkmen’s work, rivers can both define national borders and promote the urban development as trade routes. In this sense she uses empty cargo containers which have been sunk in the port basin of Muenster in order to build a bridge underwater that connects urban spaces separated from each other.
Gregor Schneider’s central theme is the conflict between privat and public space, he has arranged a private flat in the area of the LWL-Museum, where temporary exhibitions take place. By incorporating a private flat into an institutional space, he questions the separation between private and public space. Through the evocation of everyday situations and their traces such as set tables, odours and sounds, he evokes the existence of potential residents. Their concurrent absence puts the focus on the isolation of the individual in the digital society of the 21st century and turns the visitors to the museum into voyeuristic intruders.
The fountain as prototype of public sculpture also works with the Skulptur Projekte 2017.
Nicole Eisenman’s fountain titled “Sketch for a Fountain“ at the park next to the Promenade is one of the most popular contributions to the Skulptur Projekte 2017. Five naked figures hang out at a water basin, partly lost in thought, partly to pose. They look like weird comic-strip characters that have escaped from a cartoon in order to chill, and on closer inspection the viewer detects puzzled that they are hermaphrodites. The relaxed scenery reminds of classical baroque fountains, however, the element of water isn’t used to create a rippling and flowing, but a fine splashing and spraying. Strangely is doesn’t splash from body parts, which one would suppose, but from knees, shins and shoulder blades, which gives the ensemble a surreal appearance.
Skulptur Projekte Muenster 2017, Nicole Eisenman, Sketch for a Fountain
The fountain design by Nicole Eisenman who actually is well-known for her cartoon-like drawings has a strong sensual appeal, tradition and present are merged in a smart way. The fountain is one of the oldest art forms in public space and served as meeting place for cultic acts in ancient times. What Nicole Eisenman’s genderless figures are doing, doesn’t become quite clear, but they exude a meditative calm which invites the visitor to mingle with them and become part of the staging. Time seems to stand still, interaction becomes contemplation. The figure group represents a tolerant Arcadia, where sexual orientation doesn’t play any role and can be lived in harmony with nature.
Two figures are cast in bronze, the others are modeled from plaster. For the outdoor area plaster couldn’t be more inappropriate, and in contact with water which permanently ripples down it becomes even worse. But the effect is deliberate, the plaster figures are exposed to the elements without protection und are subdued to a process of transformation in the course of the exhibition, with the potential result of disintegration. Temporary sculptures, as a metaphor for human life, this is the central message of Eisenman’s work. The plaster is just an intermediate step in the production process of the bronze cast which symbolizes the persistence of art and is represented by the two bronze figures. The ephemeral figures from plaster are unfinished, but come to life through the decline of their bodies in harmony with nature. When listening to the gentle rippling the viewer finds the peace of mind to think about his own life.
Cosima von Bonin has parked a truck directly in front of the LWL-Museum together with Tom Burr. A container-size black box is placed on the loading space, its back with the word “fragile“ written on is leaned against it, but doesn’t allow any look into the inside of the box. Next to the truck stands the sculpture by Henry Moore from the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin which has found a temporary location in Muenster until the refurbishment of the museum building by Mies van der Rohe will be finished. The truck with the black box and the sculpture by Henry Moore seem to be linked to each other. An association with temporary presence, as well as covering and unveiling is evoked. The box becomes a private space within public space which preserves cultural assets and at the same time points out at the risks art in public space is subject to.
Skulptur Projekte Muenster 2017, Cosima Von Bonin/Tom Burr, Benz Bonn Burr
The “Nuclear Temple“ by Thomas Schuette is the only work of the Skulptur Projekte 2017 that hasn’t been developed for the exhibition on site. Schuette’s sculptures refer to architecture and history, he spotlights forgotten places in his exhibitions by reinterpreting and alienating them with surprising themes. The “Nuclear Temple“ is an oxidized steel sculpture in the shape of a miniaturized pantheon which has been placed on the ground of the former zoo. There it is located on a visual axis together with two more rotundas, the fortified ruin of the owls tower, a remnant of the former zoo, and the site of a weir called “water bear“. The octagonal structure of the “Nuclear Temple“ is opened by an archway on each side, the inaccessible interior is divided into 8 chambers by 16 steel walls which results in the basic shape of a fissioned nucleus.
Skulptur Projekte Muenster 2017, Thomas Schuette, Nuclear Temple
The structure can be interpreted as a synthesis of claim to power through misuse of technology and religious sanctuary. The fissioned nucleus of the architectural model alludes to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki in 1945, but to the nuclear disaster of Fukushima as well. It’s no coincidence that the first prototypes of the “Nuclear Temple“ were developed in 2011, when the earthquake near the Japanese coast caused a nuclear meltdown. Associations with the American atomic bomb “Fat Man“, atomic bomb shelters and ancient temple architecture merge in one single structure and reveal, how small the step is from religious intolerance towards the ruthless enforcement of political claims to power which ends in a catastrophe when technological megalomania takes over.
Michael Dean’s works deal with the development of sculptural writing in space. For this purpose he uses building materials like cement, sand and earth which he composes to an abstract system of signs. The use of his own hands is very important to Michael Dean, which is why his work is committed to classical sculpting despite its trashy appearance. In the atrium of the LWL-Museum fuer Kunst und Kultur he has developed a large-area walkable installation in situ which is titled “Tender, Tender“. The atrium is veiled by transparent plastic foil from the balustrade to the floor which creates a stage-like space. Peepholes in the foil allow a voyeuristic view on the installation. Only the former main entrance of the old building of the museum is unveiled which restores the former direction of the stream of visitors around the portico.
Skulptur Projekte Muenster 2017, Michael Dean, Tender, Tender
The central element of the installation is a way laid from cast concrete pillows which describes the shape of the letter f and enables the visitors to walk on the installation. The way is seamed by sculptural objects which could stem from urban streets, they evoke associations with street lamps, signposts, rubbish bins and trash lying about. Some objects are covered by stickers or tied to each other by barrier tapes. At the adjacent cathedral square Dean fixes some of his concrete sausages to street lamps with bike locks. Thus the separation between the museum presentation and everyday objects is suspended and the passersby are pointed out to the nearby museum, which is a clever way of guerilla marketing. Michael Dean’s interest in condensing text images from letters and words into three-dimensional signs in space is inspired by street art, as well as the mounting of stickers. The bounderies between advertising message, information signs and destructive vandalism blur and question the meaning and legibility of everyday’s information overload.
The Skulptur Projekte then and now: digital formats and performance vs. classical sculpture.
Andreas Bunte’s work “Laboratory Life“ explores the subject of a temporary cinematic ready-made. In his movies he separates technical procedures from their original context and films specific processes with a camera in isolation. The viewer perceives the video sequences as abstract mechanisms the meaning of whose he can’t decipher despite their obvious familiarity, such as the rotary motion of a car wash on the windscreen or the insertion of a contact lens. The correctness of the documented procedures is questioned as well as the expertise of the doers.
Skulptur Projekte Muenster 2017, Andreas Bunte, Laboratory Life
By means of motion capture everyday motions are reduced to a cinetic mesh against a black background. Bunte’s own film documentations also explore the influence of the reality of laboratories on the film production and prove the subjectivity of the obtained findings in this environment. Like movie posters these choreographies of everyday life are pasted throughout the city at architecturally striking places, by scanning a QR-code the viewer can watch them on his smartphone.
Hito Steyerl explores the interaction between technological and artistic imagery through the lens of visual mass media and their operation principles with regard of technocracy, monetary policy, abuse of power and violence. The location of her installation, the building of the Westdeutsche Landesbank on the grounds of the former zoo, appears like a metaphor for the symbiosis of money and power. And also the architecture itself, a technocratic administration building from the 1970s, makes the visitors imagine that Hito Steyerl has a critical view on the technological progress in a globalized world. Due to the presentation of her installation “HellYeahWe FuckDie“ in the room of the former cash desk and foyer also the works of cinetic art from the LBS collection which are on display there become accessible to the public again, amongst them works by Heinz Mack, Guenther Uecker and Otto Piene.
Skulptur Projekte Muenster 2017, Hito Steyerl, HellYeahWeFuckDie
At the foyer Steyerl has installed barrier objects made from steel tube and profile iron sheet which divide the room. They form a presentation wall with three monitors, where videos are shown. The video clips are documentations from research laboratories whose focus is the calculation of actually physical or virtually simulated impacts of power on humanoid robots and their moving behaviour to keep their balance. The video sequences start with the insertion of the lapidary sentence “HellYeahWe FuckDie“, according to an online-magazine they have been the most frequently used words in the anglophone music charts in the last ten years. The composition of the music is based on them, in addition they recur as neon writing inserted in a concrete frame.
Another video wall is in the rear room, with the presentation of a documentation on the destruction of the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir after a Turkish military attack in 2016. Diyarbakir was the hometown of scientist and engineer al-Jazari who wrote a book on mechanical devices in 1205, known as “Automata“ in the Western hemisphere. To refer back to the medium of computer technology, Steyerl makes the Apple software Siri ask: which role are computer technologies playing at war?
For the Skulptur Projekte 2017 the exemplary App sp17-navi has been developed which guides the visitors through Muenster and provides all necessary information on artists, works and locations. Also the 39 sculptures from past exhibitions which belong to the public collection now can be found on the digital map.
10.06. – 01.10.17 Muenster