Skulptur Projekte Münster: an unofficial user’s guide

How to take on the once-a-decade sculpture show

By Sam Korman

Oscar Tuazon, Burn the Formwork, © Skulptur Projekte 2017. Photo: Henning Rogge John Knight, John Knight, A Work in situ, © Skulptur Projekte 2017. Photo: Henning Rogge Ludger Gerdes, Angst, 1989, © Skulptur Projekte 2017. Photo: Hanna Neander Cosima von Bonin and Tom Burr, Benz Bonin Burr, © Skulptur Projekte 2017. Photo: Henning Rogge Aram Bartholl, 3V, © Skulptur Projekte 2017. Photo: Henning Rogge Nairy Baghramian, Beliebte Stellen / Privileged Points, © Skulptur Projekte 2017. Photo: Henning Rogge Bárbara Wagner und Benjamin de Burca, Bye Bye Deutschland! A Living Melody. © Skulptur Projekte 2017. Photo: Henning Rogge Ei Arakawa, Harsh Citation, Harsh Pastoral, Harsh Münster, © Skulptur Projekte 2017. Photo: Henning Rogge Jeremy Deller, Speak to the Earth and It Will Tell You (2007–2017), © Skulptur Projekte 2017. Photo: Henning Rogge Ayşe Erkmen, On Water, © Skulptur Projekte 2017. Photo: Henning Rogge Lara Favaretto, Momentary Monument — The Stone, © Skulptur Projekte 2017. Photo: Henning Rogge Pierre Huyghe, After ALife Ahead, Skulptur Projekte 2017. Photo: Ola Rindal Alexandra Pirici, Leaking Territories, © Skulptur Projekte 2017. Photo: Henning Rogge Mika Rottenberg, Cosmic Generator (working title), © Skulptur Projekte 2017. Photo: Henning Rogge Michael Smith, Not Quite Under_Ground, © Skulptur Projekte 2017. Photo: Henning Rogge Koki Tanaka, Provisional Studies: Workshop #7 How to Live Together and Sharing the Unknown, © Skulptur Projekte 2017. Photo: Henning Rogge

Skulptur Projekte Münster, Germany’s just-opened, decennial show of public sculpture, makes no pretence at a theme. ArtReview sent associate editor Sam Korman to review it, but as he visited, Korman noticed that, in many cases, visitors and locals alike merely took photos of the works, and moved on. Korman thought that a review wasn’t the most useful resource for people who want to attend Skulptur Projekte or reflect on their experience. So instead, he wrote this unofficial ‘user’s guide’...

Day 1

Stop I: Sculpture in Holy Land

Pierre Huyghe, After ALive Ahead (2017)

"In Münster he is making use of far-reaching deconstruction and alteration measures along with bio- and media-technological interventions to transform the former ice-skating rink into one of his environments."

Bring a friend, or find someone to enter the massive warehouse with together. After entering, slowly walk from one end of the concrete platform to the other, remaining at each other’s side. When you approach the earthen platform that leads into the subterranean basin, a wrestling match between you will decide which one of you enters. The winner will descend into the excavated pit by him/herself, and observe closely the fish tank, computerised pneumatic machinery, beehives and skylights arythmically opening and closing overhead. S/he will smell the musk emanating from the damp earth, and imagine such a desolate future in which tiny colonies of bees and algal plants populate post-industrial structures, the former organs of commerce. Yes, a magnanimous, if all-too-clever system is at foot, one which ultimately estranges the winner, who nonetheless remains dedicated with each purposeful step. The winner will ascend the ramp to the point where s/he left the loser. S/he will tell the loser nothing about the experience. In the end, the loser will be the one who experienced the sculpture, and the winner will have merely been the vessel for the experience – a human hive. After leaving, eat lunch at the only restaurant available in the surrounding gray office park – Burger King.


Stop II: Sculpture is JK, but Not JK

John Knight, John Knight, A Work in situJohn Knight, A Work in situ (2017)

"...he has installed a large water level at the northern tip of the new museum building."

Lean with all your weight against the wall, placing one foot comfortably against it. A passing grade is achieved when you are told to leave. The highest marks result from an accusation of menacing.

Stop III: The Three B’s of Sculpture

Cosima von Bonin and Tom Burr, Benz Bonin Burr. Online opinion 2017Cosima von Bonin / Tom Burr, Benz Bonin Burr (2017)

Steal the lorry, and its contents, in broad daylight. It’ll require steadiness and confidence. Be patient. It may be tough to sell what’s in the massive black crate, but the truck is worth well over a hundred thousand.

Stop IV: Sculpture Helps

Aram Bartholl, 3V. Online Opinion 2017Adam Bartholl, 12V, 5V, 3V (2017)

"The artist’s three sculptures in Münster are based on thermoelectric devices that transform fire...directly into electrical energy."

Charge your phone.

Stop V: Sculpture is Drippy

Nairy Baghramian, Beliebte Stellen / Privileged Points. Online Opinion 2017Nairy Baghramian, Beliebte Stellen / Privileged Points (2017)

"She has erected sculptures not yet fully assembled in the front and rear sections of the Erbdrostenhof…"

The navy-blue steel tubes are held in aloft by a series of chrome braces, which articulate the snaking form throughout the courtyard. Though the sectionals are obviously heavy, their appearance is almost liquid, a flow that appears to suspend the effects of gravity. It also looks like the sculpture is moving at such a fast rate that it is moving in slow motion, perceive it through our low frame-rate sense of time. It’s covered in drippy protuberances, but unlike one woman I saw, resist the urge to milk them.

Instead, walk through the ornate Erbdrostenhof and approach a pile of white tubular sections. It’s not clear how they fit together, or, in fact, what purpose they might serve, but they preserve a precious tension through brown foam blocks that protect each piece from the weight and friction of another. Walk to the slightly ruined altar behind the installation, and rub the stump of the saint’s missing hand for blessings.

Stop VI: Sculpture, or Fear Eats the Soul

Ludger Gerdes, Angst, 1989. Online opinion 2017Ludger Gerdes, Angst [Fear], (1989)

"...a message that can be read in many different directions."

Position yourself so you are facing the sculpture. Get so high you have to sit down.

Day 2

Stop I: Sculpture is Buoyed by People

Ayşe Erkmen, On Water. Online Opinion 2017Ayşe Erkmen, On Water (2017)

"In the inner harbour she has installed a footbridge connecting the two shores – and two separate urban spaces. Because it is slightly below the surface of the water, the visitors look as if they are walking on water."

Scatter across the submerged platform, avoid eye contact, and move slowly. You will encounter lots of dogs, and babies, but do not engage them. Instead, look at them while you think of a speech by your favourite, or most feared supervillain. We recommend the character Bane from The Dark Knight Rises (2012), who cements his hostile takeover of Gotham with the words: “We give it back to you, the people.” (Be sure not to get your shoes wet. Day 2 is walking-intensive.)

Stop II: Roses are Red, Violets are Blau, Sometimes Sculpture Means Asking, “How?”

Jeremy Deller, Speak to the Earth and It Will Tell You (2007–2017). Online Opinion 2017Jeremy Deller, Speak to the Earth and It Will Tell You (2007-2017)

"For Skulptur Projekte 2007, he asked some fifty garden associates to keep diaries on everyday life and activities in their garden communities over the following ten years. In 2017, approximately thirty-three of these books are on display in one of the allotment gardens."

Sit and read if you’d like, we’ll connect at the end of this activity. The rest of us will observe a different economy at work. A little metal post sticks up from the ground, mounted to it is a plastic duck’s head obviously broken off from a hunting decoy. In fact, observe many of the lawn and garden ornaments: they are also weather beaten and faded, culled together from disparate pieces into something pretty enough. Yes, we’ve learned that gardens, like time, are managed by the good enough gardener. Everywhere there is evidence that for ten years, the garden and its gardener managed.

Stop III: Sculpture or Die

Oscar Tuazon, Burn the Formwork (2017)

"On an abandoned industrial site on the canal he has set up a cylindrical concrete object that serves as a public fireplace, barbeque grill, outdoor heater and lookout tower."

Ask the skateboarders at the self-built skate-park across the field what they think of the sculpture.

Stop IV: Herds of Sculpture

Ei Arakawa, Harsh Citation, Harsh Pastoral, Harsh Münster. Online Opinion 2017Ei Arakawa, Harsh Citation, Harsh Pastoral, Harsh Münster (2017)

"Arakawa has chosen the meadow as a stage for a group of seven coarsely screened handmade LED panels referencing paintings by various artists."

Listen to the songs that each sculpture plays. Pick one which shares themes from a recent personal regret. Stand next to that sculpture until you can regurgitate the song from memory or get visibly sunburned, whichever comes first. Try to stay still, with some allowance for movements to bat the flies away.


Stop V: Slumber-party Sculptures

Alexandra Pirici, Leaking Territories (2017)

"With the aid of a group of performers she is staging medially transmitted events..."

During this performance, we observed an old lady in the audience, who had brought a folding stool to the performance. She watched the actors pile on top of one another, then begin to seep slowly and individually across the floor. Separating and rejoining is a theme that will repeat throughout the performance in this magnificent room, which appears to have remained unchanged since it hosted the treaty of the Peace of Münster in 1648, which established modern conceptions of sovereignty and an international balance of power. A performer moved ineluctably toward the old woman, who, physically unable to skirt impact, remained in place as the performer expertly adjusted her movements. Don’t imitate this woman, necessarily, but assume something of her manner. If you sit still long enough, the action will come to you.

The second half of the act involves a live Google function, in which the performers group themselves into a collective 'search engine'. Call out a search term, and they will analyse your appearance and reactions to their answers, re-calibrating their interpretations of your query. Smile, or don’t. Move, or be still. In a different way, let yourself be the object. We assume that the audience stars as the sculpture.

Activity VI: A Naked Display of Sculpture

Nicole Eisenman, Sketch for a Fountain (2017)

Sit on the stool amidst this cast of drunkards and vape until the sun goes down.

(Alternately: reenact your favourite Chris Farley sketch from Saturday Night Live)

Day 3

Stop I: Sculpture is Turning a Five into Five Singles

Mika Rottenburg, Cosmic Generator (2017)

"...her film installation in a former Asian import store…"

Don’t touch anything! Especially the dozens of empty ring boxes.

Stop II: Sculpture is WTF

Koki Tanaka, Provisional Studies: Workshop #7 How to Live Together and Sharing the Unknown (2017)

"As a basis for his multi-channel video installation, he invited eight Münster citizens of different origins to take part in workshops revolving around the question ‘how to live together’ over a ten-day period."

Dogs typically assume position as soon as they recognize another dog. It is one of the cutest moments to watch a puppy meet and greet, nearly impossible not to assume joy in their curious sniffing and excited tails’ stiff wagging. Of course, these encounters can quickly evolve into expressions of dominance, even if they appear like playful representations expressed by awkward, compulsive humping. My roommate’s dog, after weeks of walks, has only recently begun to poop in front of me. And some dogs take on a vicious, defensive snarl as soon as they observe a competitor, though urine trails likely sounded the battle preparations minutes earlier. It’s remarkable how little the dogs take notice of their pet owners or any other animal in any of these scenarios.

Sitting at the table or on the couch, admit that something is wrong and believe it. Then make eye contact with somebody.


Stop III: Sculpture Evolution Seminar

Hito Steyerl, HellYeahWeFuckDie. Online Opinion 2017Hito Seyerl, HellYeahWeFuckDie (2017)

"Her installation on the grounds of the former zoo..."

Fuck, then die. Or watch insects fuck, then die. Or run a computer simulation of fucking, then dying. Your choice.

Stop IV: Every Sculpture is Song We Sing at People

 Emeka Ogboh, Passage through Moondog. Online Opinion 2017Emeka Ogboh, Passage through Moondog / Quiet Storm (2017)

"Ogboh has designed an open sound installation for the tunnel in which the sounds of pedestrians and street musicians are ‘inscribed’. His project is further enhanced by ‘Quiet Storm’, a home-brewed beer fermented to the sounds of the city of Lagos."

Kids are too young to know what ‘everyday’ means, but since a child’s world is smaller, ‘everyday’ is a minor migration. It’s certainly difficult for adults to understand this fact of the everyday: for them it means the commute. And most people spend their lives trying to reduce it, shorten it, or simply ignore it. The Münster train station is undergoing some major renovations. Maybe that will improve it.

We will listen to the music that Ogboh composed, which plays on speakers throughout a pedestrian tunnel at the train station. Workers and students, tourists and the homeless – when a train comes in, the tunnel floods with people. People retrieve their bikes from the hundreds heaped around. Notice that you’ve been doing this all day when you sip from Quiet Storm, the beer Ogboh brewed ‘to the sounds of the city of Lagos’.


Stop Z: Sculpture is Ouch Until You Can’t Wait to Do It Again

Michael Smith, Not Quite Under_Ground (2017)

"...a tattoo offering discounts to senior citizens..."

For those aged 65+: Skip all of the other sculptures, spend 1,500, get the biggest tattoo in the book (or multiple). Fuck retirement. Your body’s already your tombstone.

For under 65s: Outlive everyone on the planet.

Published online 23 June 2017