Saturday, June 30, 2012

Colour of the month








(I confess: this month's "colour of the month"
strongly influenced the choice of colour when
buying this needle threader...)


This completes the first round of "Colour of the month", a tour through the colour wheel of primary and secondary colours as they came in front of my camera. Purple almost killed the second round that I had mentioned as an option in the beginning, because it would reappear in December, and there definitely won't be any purple flowers around to fall back on when nothing else should be available... But I have decided to give it a try nevertheless, building a stock of purple before the summer is over. Then I'll probably be able to do purple as colour of the year 2013? No, won't happen.
But a second round is feasible - colour of the month for July will be red, again.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Little escap(ad)e: Searching for Marg Moll, continued

While I was sitting in the Museum Kunst der Westküste’s café in Föhr two weeks ago, waiting for Ms Heims to return and show me around I idly leafed through some of the free art newspapers that were lying around. On the first round I did not really notice it, but on my second thoughtless turning of the pages this brief article struck my eye, stopped my breath and – apart from all that was going on while I was still trying to get to see the Föhr Reef – made my mind churn.

The sculptures which had been located in a dig in Berlin were on display in the HamburgMuseum für Kunst und Gewerbe” (Museum for Arts and Crafts) ! My search for Marg Moll, creator of the sculpture „Dancer“, which had caught my eye upon its first appearance on the front page of our newspaper one and a half years ago, had been slightly less intensive recently, but it had not left me entirely. For one thing I was planning to go to Berlin next year to meet a friend there, hoping that I would also be able to hit the museum where the sculptures were first presented after their restoration. Only as I am writing this post have I found out that a symposium was held on these sculptures in Berlin in March of this year.
  . And now this – the discovery that these sculptures were basically waiting for me right beside the path we were supposed to be following on our way home the next day. Now I felt as if I had already stretched my husband’s patience with my interest for the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef – could I bring up another exhibition now? On the other hand – could I really ride past this museum and not see this particular exhibit? Certainly I would not find a chance to return to Hamburg before October, if I wanted to see it, I had to see it now. In the end I figured I would have to live without having seen this exhibit.

But that’s not how it all came to be.
Even before I had discovered that this exhibit was waiting for me, my husband and I had begun to talk about how we would spend our last day on the island/travel day. We were booked on the overnight train from Hamburg in the evening and had to vacate our apartment in the morning – should we procede to Hamburg early on and take a tour of the harbour, or visit the zoo? Add to this that the weather forecast was not exactly calling for lots of sunshine. On the day of our departure, at the breakfast table, my husband suggested that we take the opportunity and pay a brief visit to the Stiftung Ada und Emil Nolde   in Seebüll. Which turned out not easily feasible, as we soon found out. But now that my husband had made the mistake of introducing the option of another museum visit, I gathered all my courage and told him about this fantastic discovery I had made the day before. In the end, we decided that we would proceed to Hamburg directly, my husband and son would then search for an appropriate bar where they could watch the European Soccer Championship game of the day, while I would be going to the Museum.
The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe is located directly across the street from the Hamburg main station, and they kindly do take small pieces of luggage which did not fit into lockers at the station...

It turned out to be one of the most moving art exhibits I have ever seen.
Five of the eleven sculptures that were retrieved from the excavation site in Berlin had belonged to the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, before the Nazis declared them “entarted” (degenerate) and removed? them from the museum and subsequently showed them in the huge propagandistic exhibition „Entartete Kunst“ (Degenerate Art) before World War II.  Several other artists who were represented in the museum fell victim to this infamous policy of the Nazis as well, and the Hamburg exhibit is built around this topic, in addition to showing the sculptures from Berlin. The names and fates of these artists are presented in addition to several of their works. A documentation shows how the sculptures were found in Berlin.

The eleven artists whose works have been unquestionable identified are presented individually.

And then, finally, the core element of the exhibition: the sculptures. All of them are indeed impressive, and their current condition, more or less badly damaged or even fragmented transforms them into monuments of a special kind.
My personal concentration on the „Dancer“ by Marg Moll is a rather subjective preference and perhaps not understandable for someone else. But when I stood in front of thise sculpture which I had first seen on the newspaper front page more than one and a half years ago, I was close to tears.

Photo documentation of the original condition of the sculpture made it possible to compare the current condition with the original. A small part is missing – the dancer’s band – and for me the current condition seemed much more impressive. Partly, of course, because of the visible damages and scars that the bronze has acquired in sixty years in soil. But also because the missing part forces the viewer to concentrate on the dancer’s position and movement, thus entering into a more intensive communication with the sculpture than had the band still been there, I thought.

A small catalogue is available which documents the Berlin section of the exhibition, Hamburg’s historic addition is unfortunately missing.

When I left the museum I was completely shaken. It hurts to think about the cultural losses that were caused by the Nazis’ infamous policy, e.g. the severy disruption of the Bauhaus style in Germany, or the restrictions of artistic development by prohibiting artists to continue working. Not to mention the lives and fates of all the people who were afflicted.
These are the names of the artists whose works were retrieved in the Berlin construction site - not all of them have an entry in Wikipedia in English, and if they do these tend to be on the brief side, therefore I give all the German links, and an English link where possible:

Otto Baum (1900-1977) 
Karl Ehlers (1904-1973) - no separate entry, only mentioned in another entry 
Richard Haizmann (1895-1963) 
Karl Knappe (1884-1970) 
KarelNiestrath (1896-1971) 
MillySteger (1881-1948), mentioned in English entry on Karl E. Osthaus 
Gustav Heinrich Wolff (1886-1934) 
Fritz Wrampe (1893-1934)  no separate entry, only mentioned in another entry 

According to a museum guide the five sculptures which had been removed from the Hamburg museum will be reconstituted after this exhibit. I assume that means that this exhibition will not travel any further, or at least not in its complete form. The guide was not certain whether this applied to all the other pieces as well. For the “Dancer”, that would mean restitution to Breslau. Who knows when I will ever get a chance to go and visit the museum there – what a lucky coincidence that I caught notice of this exhibit on our way home!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Inspirational Pictures

While we were waiting for the ferry on the island of Föhr to take us back to the mainland I took a look at the art scene in the harbor there, and found a lot of art splattered about.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef - The Föhr Reef, contd.

Last week I have written about my experiences when starting to search for the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef: The Föhr Reef  in the Föhr Museum of Art of the Western Coast during our holidays on the island. 
What I described in that first post was the status quo of Tuesday last week, when I had been to the museum and sort of acquiesced to the fact that our timing had been bad, that I was not able to participate actively in the project, and that I would not even get to see it finished. Though my husband did jokingly suggest that he and my son take the train home as planned, and I could stay a day longer to go to the opening of the show – but I knew that was a teaser, not a real or serious offer.
But on Thursday morning I met one of the women who had been at the ticket desk when I visited the museum, and we started chatting. I told her about my fascination with what fragments I had seen, and my woes of not getting to see the finished reef ‘for real’. She started praising how wonderful it looked now, just a couple of days later, when the parts had been completely assembled and the American segments had also been installed, how the excitement amongst the museum employees was rising, and that one of the initiators, Margaret Wertheim had already flown in. 
Then she told me that there would be a press conference on Friday afternoon. Perhaps I would want to try to sneak in on that? But she could not play an active part in getting me in as she would be helping out in the kitchen that day.
That’s when my heart started racing. Every once in a while I do free-lance work for our local newspaper – so in a way I am legible to be present at a press conference like that. The only problem is that I don’t hold a press identification card. Would they accept my word?
I tried to call the newsroom at home - it  was a holiday in Bavaria, nobody was working or would answer the phone. I sent an e-mail, explaining the whole situation, and asking whether they could call the museum and sign me up for the press conference. They called me back Friday morning, while my son and I were on a boat trip to the seal resting places on sandbanks off the island, saying it had all been arranged, I was being expected.

Seals resting on sandbanks during low tide in the Wadden Sea

Right after we returned from the trip to the seals, my husband took over my son, I jumped on our rental bike and headed for the museum, inbetween heavy duty rain showers. 

A wonderful ride that was and I remember thinking to myself when I got off the bike “That was sooo nice, riding here with that gorgeous light, and in anticipation of getting to see the reef!”
The museum's outside wall was now covered with the new poster announcing the exhibition.

I went into the museum, approached the font desk in a surprisingly empty room and was greeted with “how may I help you?” I introduced myself and said that I had come for the press conference and that I had been signed up by telephone only this morning. He looked at me sternly and said: “The press conference was at twelve and everything is closed off now because they are interviewing and filming. The official opening is tomorrow, you can come back then.”
Do I need to describe my feeling of disappointment? I pleaded – no, absolutely no chance to go in, the TV people did not want anybody disturbing them. I insisted – and again, and finally he conceded that he would talk to the project director when she reappeared from being interviewed. But he did not promise me anything, nor could he tell me how long I might have to wait, it might be up to two hours.
I sat down in the museum café and ordered a cup of tea. After forty minutes Ms. Heims appeared, and after more disguised pleading on my side finally agreed to give me a quick short tour of the exhibition half an hour later.
More tea, and then an interesting looking and English speaking woman appeared in the restaurant, I heard her talking to the waitress and could help out with a few translations. And then I realized who this must be and approached Margared Wertheim. 

Margaret Wertheim,
photo taken from the internet

She was very open and kindly talked to me for quite a while, telling me a lot about the whole project.
Margaret Wertheim is a physicist in training but decided to go into science journalism after finishing her first degree, instead of continuing a career in academic science. Her journalistic life has been dedicated to making the frequently difficult topics of science understandable and accessible for non-scientifically oriented people. Which was the driving force behind her foundation of the Institute for Figuring, and which was also how she came across Daina Taimina's hyperbolic crochet patterns. This was at the same time when a lot of concern was being voiced about the threats to the environment due to pollution, and about the impending mass destruction of coral reefs due to global warming. Together with her sister and a few friends “in our living room” they started making a hyperbolic crochet coral reef to raise the public’s awareness about the dangers to coral reefs, and put a note about it on their internet site. “Within a few weeks of publication of this notice, when not a whole lot had been finished yet, we received a call from the Andy Wharhol museum that they were putting together a show on artists’ responses to global warming, and would we be able to make a contribution to this show. That’s when it took off,” Margaret recalled. “We had to finish something then, and this Föhr Reef now is about the twelfth exhibition in a museum we have had.”
She is rather disappointed that the scientific world has not responded to the project at all, neither in recognition nor in funding. Instead, she has received comments such as “It’s just a bunch of women knitting.” However, the response of the art world has been overwhelming, and she hopes that a publisher will be found in the near future so that a book can be published that covers all the various aspects that are combined in the project.
And then I did get to see the complete Föhr Reef, guided by the project director of the museum, Ms. Heims. She explained the history of the project in detail, and told me about the new feelings of community that the participating women had developed, who now want to continue their regular meetings even though the reef as such is finished. And I was allowed to take “official photos” – although my little camera was far from up to this occasion, and these photos do not nearly communicate the overall effect when one stands in the room and gets to look at the various pieces of the exhibition.
There are a few segments of the American reef, including a segment that shows “dead corals”, with crochet lace at the top which was made in China, by unnamed women who do not even know that their products have been included in this piece of art.

Another is made from beads, but also using the hyperbolic principles involved in the crochet pieces.

One segment takes up the problem of plastic refuse that pollutes the oceans in that it is made entirely from plastic rejects and junk.

The fantasy of the participating women was impressively visible in the details:

It was an overwhelming experience.
Thank you, Margaret Westheim, for talking to me about the project in such detail, and to Ms. Heims, for giving me this personal tour.