Great Art in Small Places – bye:myself at the Skulptur Projekte in Marl and Münster

Last Sunday I woke up in Marl. Come on, you can’t say I’m not taking you to the most exotic destinations. Marl – hardly any German person knows where it is, let alone has been there.

bye:myself @ Skulptur Projekte 2017 in Münster
Hito Steyerl: “HellYeahWeFuckDie”
Somehow these art shows are like an alumni reunion: Everybody has been already seen at the Biennal here and the Biennal there or at the documenta…and Munich born super star Hito Steyerl is definitely no exception. After i. a. the 12. documenta ten years ago and the 56. Biennal in Venice last year, she mounted her multimedia installation at the entrance hall of the LBS savings bank.
© Skulptur Projekte 2017, Photo: Henning Rogge

Since 1977, the Skulptur Projekte takes place only every ten years – and coincides this year with the documenta, the Biennale and many more. This year, there’s an art burst going on!

In 2017 the Skulptur Projekte teams up for the first time with Marl, a town with about 80,000 inhabitants, located in North Rhine Westphalia. A town that was thrown together from a handful of villages without something like a city center; Marl is practically Germany’s Los Angeles  (according to malicious tongue Dorothy Parker “Los Angeles is 72 suburbs in search of a city”).
No, kidding aside, actually Marl takes the cake for being the most charmless city on planet blue.

Marl Trainstation
Train station Marl – escape route in both directions.

But – there are the sculptures! Marl possesses an unusually vast amount of high class sculptures, many stemming from the much-noticed exhibitions “Stadt und Skulptur” (City and Sculpture) in 1970 and 1972. There are the big names such as Jean Arp, Richard Serra, August Rodin, and the inevitable Henry Moore, but there are also objects by less known artists that are by no means less ingenious.

The sculptures are found around the – artificially excavated – lake and the horrible concrete town hall. However, the major part is to be found on the terrain of the old
graveyard. Sometimes a close look is needed to distinguish the sculptures from the remaining grave stones; you know how good art is: full of surprises.

They offer an excellent interactive map so you don’t miss any of the goodies.

So since this year Münster is collaborating with Marl, under the title “The Hot Wire” six Sculptures are added to their permanent treasure.

Right in front of the horribly concrete town hall, there is the hollow marble block called “Momentary Monument 2017” by Lara Favaretto which should be used as a piggy bank (at the end of the exhibition the block will be shattered and the money will of course be donated).

There is the…well, it doesn’t qualify as an inert ‘sculpture’ since it’s two riders on living horses, a white one and a black one, going in opposite directions. The…whatever you might call it…is by the late Reiner Ruthenbeck and called “Begegnung schwarz/weiß. Re-enactment” (Encounter black/white. Re-enactment).
It was raining on Sunday, so no horsies for me.

bye:myself - Reiner Ruthenbeck, Begegnung Schwarz/Weiß, Aktion, 1997, Münster
The clue of the performance: The entcounter of black and white.
© Photo: Thorsten Arendt

The parking lot is decorated with Thomas Schütte‘s “Melonensäule” (Melon Column) and a “Fahrradständermonument” (Cycle Rack Monument) by Richard Artschwager. Both objects are made (partly) from concrete and hence match the horrible concrete town hall.

bye:myself - Thomas Schütte, Melonensäule, 2017, Marl
Thomas Schütte is very much into fruits and vegetables.
The first of the columns was with made for Münster and it had cherries. Some say it’s because of the cherry red cars that were in fashion at that time, others claim it was for the cherry tree that used to stand in that spot.
© Photo: Thorsten Arendt
 bye:myself - Joëlle Tuerlinckx, Le Tag /200m, Marl, 2017 (Testlauf)
Joëlle Tuerlinckx: “Le Tag /200m”
The white chalk line is connecting the Sculpture Museum Glaskasten and the building of the former primary school.
On this picture you see the test run. Then, every day the janitor has to walk the line and refresh the chalk.
I wonder if the man assumed one day he’d become part of an art project when he decided to become a janitor. Probably he only intended to fix broken sinks, change light bulbs, and carry a huge set of keys around.
 © Photo: Christa Appel

The caricatures burned in wood by Sany (Samuel Nyholm) from Denmark are found on many walls in Marl as well as in Münster.

bye:myself - Sany (Samuel Nyholm), Marginal Frieze / Fallande ting
Sany (Samuel Nyholm): Marginal Frieze / Fallande ting
© Skulptur Projekte 2017, Photo: Henning Rogge

In the middle of all these nice things, on the ground floor of the horrible concrete town hall, there is the Sculpture Museum “Glaskasten” that actually is – like its name suggests – a glass box. They have a very interesting permanent collection and amazing temporary exhibits. Complementing the brouhaha about the Skulptur Projekte 2017, they show some witty objects on loan from the LWL Kunsthalle in Münster.

bye:myself: Skulpturmuseum Glaskasten
Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster: “11 Fragments from “Roman de Münster””
Skulptur Projekte 2007 / 2017
Alighiero Boetti and Michael Asher

And in the basement there is a collection of many, many prototypes of sculptures that were submitted for the Skulptur Projekte in the past and present. A superb overview.

Prototypes at the Skulptur Museum Glaskasten
Enthralling overview of sculpture prototypes in the basement of the Skulptur Museum Glaskasten.

During the event, that started on June 10 and goes on till October 1, there is a special shuttle bus between the two
cities, but it’s a very limited service: exclusively on Sundays,
starting at Münster at 10 a.m. and going back from Marl at 2 p.m., which
gives you three hours in Marl; that’s a lot. I took the train.

 bye:myself - Cosima von Bonin + Tom Burr, Benz Bonin Burr
Cosima von Bonin and Tom Burr: “Benz Bonin Burr”
Watch out, Henry Moore! The young generation of wild and free artists might pack your sculpture in the big black wooden crate and move it away in no time.

The low loader is standing at the backside of the LWL Kunstmuseum, the central point of the Skulptur Projekte. Here you get all the information you might need, next door you can rent a bike or catch the shuttle bus to Marl.
© Skulptur Projekte 2017, Photo: Henning Rogge

I guess in Münster they had to place some of the sculpture just where there was space – there is no real golden thread guiding you, and even with the map they sell for 3 € finding certain pieces is not granted: they just sprinkled the map with red dots. You have to read the address and description on the map’s back to get a good hint where to search. In general larger groups of people indicate the position of an art object. But beware, I also accidentally joined a group buying a ticket for a car park…

Here is just a random overview of the art works I liked the best – and I spare you this wretched ‘The 5 best blablabla not to be missed’ I hate on blogs. It’s five randomly picked pieces I liked, listed in no particular order. Period.

 Hervé Youmbi, Les masques célèstes
 Hervé Youmbi: “Les masques célèstes”
Although I have a thing for queer – especially when it comes to art, sometimes it’s nice and comforting just to enjoy pretty. And what a treat it was to stumble over these African masks in a park. It’s like they left their usual spot in a Baobab in Cameroon to pay the Westphalian trees a visit.
© Skulptur Projekte 2017, Photo: Henning Rogge
bye:myself -  Koki Tanaka, Provisional Studies: Workshop #7 How to Live Together and Sharing the Unknown
Koki Tanaka: “Provisional Studies: Workshop #7. How to Live Together and Sharing the Unknown”
Everybody is talking – and writing – about Ayşe Erkmen’s installation “On Water” or everybody’s art darling Jeremy Deller or Oscar Tuazan’s “Burn the Formwork”, and yes, these installations are ingenious and eye-catching, but there are also the modest jewels to be found, and Koki Tanaka‘s Video Workshop is certainly one of them. It’s almost symbolic that it’s hidden in a basement and only accessible from a backyard.
© Skulptur Projekte 2017, Photo: Henning Rogge
bye:myself Aram Bartholl 3V
 Aram Bartholl: “3V”
Bartholl’s three chandeliers are not only pretty, they are also very clever and sustainable: a thermoelectric device transforms fire from tee candles in electricity, making the LEDs shine.
Go to his Website, just because it’s so cool.
Nicole Eisenman, Sketch for a Fountain
Nicole Eisenman: “Sketch for a Fountain”
Eisenman sketched an extremely unusual fountain, indeed. Instead of the customary elegant nymphs, big, clumsy bodies are hanging around without seeming to be very comfortable. It’s a cute idea, and especially the kids were absolutely delighted.
 © Skulptur Projekte 2017, Photo: Henning Rogge
Bárbara Wagner und Benjamin de Burca, Bye Bye Deutschland! Eine Lebensmelodie
Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca: “Bye Bye Deutschland! Eine Lebensmelodie” (Bye Bye Germany! A Melody for Life)
I know this phenomenon from the Venice Biennal – sometimes the venue is almost more original, interesting, or even beautiful than the art works exhibited. And if the art work is as original, interesting, and beautiful as the venue, it gets close to perfect. The screening of the video about a couple imitating the cheesy German pop song culture in a ‘real’ discotheque – being far from a hip club, though – is a perfect combination.
Here is a short excerpt that gives you an idea of the true camp video.
© Skulptur Projekte 2017, Photo: Henning Rogge

Another crucial sisterly advice: Rent a bike! Besides being the ‘city of
bikes’, anyway – Münster has about 300,000 inhabitants and 500,000 bicycles – on the occasion of the Skulptur Projekte there are
additional bike rentals – one is just next to the main venue, the LWL Kunstmuseum. I did everything walking and it was a drag and I missed all the cool stuff outside of the town center. So when in
Münster, do as the Münsterians do – get a bike.

bye:myself - Führung durch Münster
They did it walking, too. Guided tours can be booked over the project’s website. Since they are free, people seem to be booking like there’s no tomorrow, and then the tours start half empty (what doesn’t gall only the visitors who didn’t get a ticket, but also the organizers).

Cheap and comfortable day tripping

a special tip for you Germany-travellers: For about 25 Euro you can
travel an entire day by train within every federal country; but you are
only allowed to take the regional trains, not IC or ICE. The best part
is: each further person pays only 4 Euro, up to 5 persons can travel on
one regional day ticket. Münster and Marl are both in North Rhine Westphalia.

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