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21 June 2007

Sculpture Project 07 Münster

I have just spent a few days at the new Sculpture Project 07 in Münster. This is the fourth installment of a city sculpture project that happens every ten years. If it's not too soon to judge, past years have been much, much stronger. Still there was much to see.

(You may find the official Skulptur Projekte Münster 07 website at http://www.skulptur-projekte.de/. If you don’t wish to read the site in the original Deutsche, note the “English” link at page bottom.)

On the first evening, we bravely struck out on our own without a guide. What followed was a farcical Roland Barthes treasure hunt. We had a map with the general location of the work, a list of artists, and a few titles. Armed with that, we were quickly reduced to pointing at random objects asking, "Is that a sculpture?” “Is that a sculpture?” is THAT a sculpture?" To be sure, we found a few of the obvious works: Martha Rosler, Isa Genzken, and Hans-Peter Feldman for example. But something like Mark Wallinger's circle of fishing line mounted six yards above our heads and extending most of the way around the inner city completely escaped notice.

The next day our group was given a docent/guide. If you go to Münster, this is the way to go. There is just no way to find all the work on display without help. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable, helpful, and articulate.

The highlights for me were few. Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster explored memory and nostalgia by creating a mini-theme park of 1/4 sized reproductions of many of the sculptures from previous years. Her idea is that, since this is the fourth installment of the Project, and our memory stores only about one-quarter of what we see, her miniatures recreate a semblance of what we really remember. When I was there, the park was filled with squealing children and families having the best time crawling on and around all the mini-sculptures. To see a Richard Serra in 1/4 size is to really understand what scale does for his work. I loved everything about this—its accessibility, its multi-layered meaning, and its combination of child-like pleasure mixed with real intellectual rigor. Great.

Bruce Nauman submitted plans for an inverted pyramid for a previous fair that was never built. The result, which was built this year, is remarkable; defined negative space that rewards the eye from many vantage points.

Susan Philipsz had a sound installation under a bridge that was quite haunting. Singing the “Barcarolle” from Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann, her voice was projected by speakers from each side of the river. The score is based on The Story of the Lost Reflection by the German Romantic writer E.T.A. Hoffmann. It is the story of the seductive yet unfortunately vicious charm of the courtesan Giulietta, whose spell men cannot resist, thereby losing their own reflection, so that neither their wives nor their children are able to recognize them. It was creepy fun.

Coming up in a few weeks: Rencontre de la Photographie from Arles, France.

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