Contributed by Loren Britton / When Skulptur�M�nster�began in 1977, no one�expected it to continue beyond its first iteration. In the early 1970�s, artist George Rickey placed his kinetic sculpture�Drei�rotierende�Quadrate�in�the city, causing�a public outcry against the installation�of the piece. Attempting�to transform public understanding about contemporary art in public spaces,�the director of M�nster’s�Westfalisches�Landesmuseum�(LWL Museum)�organized�a series of lectures and presentations that set the groundwork for Skulptur�Projekte�M�nster, a lively art festival�that, since 1977, has taken place�in�M�nster every 10 years.��
Located in�the�North Rhine-Westphalia Germany,�M�nster�is�considered to be the cultural center of the Westphalia region. With a population of around 300,000, the city features a�mix of Romanesque and early Gothic architecture, including�St. Paul�s Cathedral,�where�an historically significant, hand-painted astronomical clock�has�traced�the movements of the planets around the charming city of M�nster since the mid-1500s.
The organizers�of this year�s�Skulptur�M�nster, perhaps inspired by�the workings of the ancient astronomical�clock, created SP17-Navi,�an app�that directs�its users towards the nearest�sculpture. Orbiting about the city, one�can spot other�Skulptur�M�nster�tourists by their comfortable�shoes and�iphone-directed gazes, as their phones send sculpture notifications.�The app includes sculpture from this year, as well as�nearly 40 sculptures that remain throughout�the city�from previous iterations of the�Skulptur�Projekte. A pop up window appears– �Skulptur�Near!��– and one must decide whether to��Look?”�or��Ignore?�
Press �Look?� and M�nster�transforms into a scavenger hunt of site-specifically installed artworks, a new one around each corner.�The�city becomes a�space for discovery.
Within the bowels of the�M�nster�Municipal Public Library, in the red curtained room, adjacent to the gamer space, Gerard Byrne has installed his work�Our Time. The Irish artist from Dublin uses his videos and photographs to scrutinize how media is constructed and manipulated through his highly produced and documentary-style video installation. With two large speakers impeding our view of the video, the video shows a radio show host in his studio from the Reagan-era recounting Reagan�s relation to the Soviets and his fumbles and successes in negotiations with them. In what feels like an�acute and uncomfortable reminder of the global tensions during that era and its�inextricable ties to the political reality of the current, Byrne’s work poses the�question:�How far have we come?�
Emerging from the library onto�Roggenmarkt�Strasse, I discover the Elephant Lounge Night Club where�the collaborative video of�German artist�Benjamin de�Burca�and�Brazilian artist�B�rbara�Wagner�entitled�Bye�Bye�Deutschland! is housed.�De�Burca�and Wagner are known�for their site-specific collaborative work that investigates socio-economic relationships, and�Bye�Bye�Deutschland!�continues�in this trajectory. Focusing on the�schlager, a stereotypical German style of pop music;�this musical-meets-love-opera-to-the-schlager�includes lyrics such as �you are my daily sunshine��and��all we wanted was eternity��and��All I want is the Illusion that you live only for me.��Working in high hyperbole, the video�s aesthetics point�to the incredible staging of�schlager�videos that�began�in the�80�s. In a�recent�interview de�Burca�comments that�Bye�Bye�Deutschland!,�which was created�with the local arts community�in�M�nster, is�perfectly suited�to this�city because it is a��secenographic�background in itself � a staged city reconstructed after World War II � literally a replica of its former self. The�schlager�was also a tool in a post-war rebuilding effort, only this time for recreating a sense of collective identity that looked beyond its recent dark past and returning to a nostalgia for�Heimweh�and�Fernweh�(homesickness and wanderlust).� The over-production of�Bye�Bye�Deutschland!�functions�like drag, poking fun and loving the�schlager in a way that only a local can.
Navigating out of the city center on some narrow and steep streets, over the river and through the woods to the�Westdeutsche�Landesbausparkasse�(LSB savings bank) we go. Hito�Steyerl�s�HellYeahWeFuckDie�is installed in the lobby and cashier�s hall of a�futuristic looking building commissioned and built from�1969�to�1975 by�well-known�German architect�Harald�Deilmann.�According to�Billboard,�the title of�Steyerl�s�work comes from the five�most frequently used words in the English language music charts of the past decade. Steyerl�s�installation comprises�four�video screens. Three of them�make up one area of the transformed lobby with video works including simulations of lab documentary footage of robots�that are being tested for�balance. One way to test the success of a robot is to see their balance behavior, if you push them�. Do they fall over?
Another monitor further inside�the installation plays�footage of the�Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in Southeastern Turkey, the center of which was destroyed in 2016 by the Turkish military in the civil conflict�with the Kurdish minority. The engineer�and artist Al-Jazari�worked in�Diyarbakir�in 1205 and he wrote a�book called�Boat of Automata. In the video, the artist uses images from Al-Jazari�s�book, both of his inventions and the boat. Drone�footage�of the destroyed city of Diyarbakir is included, too. On the�voice-over, a child�s voice asks Apple�s robot helper SIRI: SIRI, are robots today developed to save people in disaster zones? SIRI, what do you want to do? From the robot�lab to the disembodied space and�the destruction�in Diyarbakir,�Steyerl�s�installation explores�the aftermath of�violence, the production and utilization of�robotics, and the abuses of power that�sit uncomfortably together. The piece raises troubling questions�about the global structures of violence that permeate both embodied and disembodied experiences.
Skulpture�Projekt�M�nster�is a�project that centers its engagement around�educating and broadening the�art experiences of�the community�and supporting�artists in a meaningful�way.�Despite the active engagement with the locals, the reality of vandalism is still unfolding.�Koki Tanaka�s�Provisional Studies: Workshop #7 How to Live Together and Sharing the Unknown�had equipment stolen mid-exhibition�and�Nicole�Eisenman�s�Sketch for a Fountain�was damaged twice–first when�the head�of one of her plaster�sculptures was removed and�again,�on the eve of the German elections a week before the exhibition closed, when one of Eisenman’s�queer figures�was�spray painted with a swastika�and phallus. Post-election, as the�AfD�(the Germany�s far right Nationalist party) is poised to enter the German Parliament for the first time�since the end of World War II, we are reminded that the role of public art�is anything but�apolitical.
“Skulptur Projekte M�nster,� artistic director�Kasper K�nig, featuring work by�Ei Arakawa,�Aram Bartholl,�Nairy Baghramian,�Cosima von Bonin,�Andreas Bunte,�Gerard Byrne, CAMP (Shaina Anand�and�Ashok Sukumaran),�Michael Dean,�Jeremy Deller,�Nicole Eisenman,�Ay?e Erkmen,�Lara Favaretto,�Hreinn Fri�finnsson,�Monika Gintersdorfer�/�Kurt Kla�en,�Pierre Huyghe,�John Knight,�Xavier Le Roywith�Scarlet Yu,�Justin Matherly, Sany,�Christian Odzuck,�Emeka Ogboh,�Peles Empire,�Alexandra Pirici,�Mika Rottenberg,�Gregor Schneider,�Thomas Sch�tte,�Nora Schultz,�Michael Smith,�Hito Steyerl,�Koki Tanaka,�Oscar Tuazon,�Jo�lle Tuerlinckx,�Cerith Wyn Evans,�Herv� Youmbi,�B�rbara Wagner�/�Benjamin de B�rca. M�nster, Germany. June 10 � October 1, 2017.
About the author:�A recent grad of Yale�s�MFA program,�Loren Britton� is a co-founder of the curatorial projects �Improvised Showboat�(with Zachary Keeting),�lcqueryprojects�(with Christie DeNizio), and�Queering Space. Britton�also maintains a solo curatorial and art practice that shape shift in form from project to project.