Miracles Come True
Skulptur Projekte Münster 2017

Every ten years the international art scene heads to rural Westphalia: Since 1977, the Skulptur Projekte Münster have shown how art in public space can be continually redefined. Achim Drucks had a look around at the fifth installment of the show.
There is a throng of interested people, but N. Schmidt always receives just one person in his apartment. Which means that visitors have to stand in line in front of the LWL Museum in Münster because he—or she?—has found a temporary domicile during the Skulptur Projekte. Like H. Reuen, N. Schmidt is an alter ego of Gregor Schneider, as someone in the know tells the more or less patient people waiting. Gregor Schneider specializes in unsettling installations. And with his contribution in Münster the creator of the legendary Haus u r has again managed to adeptly disconcert viewers or even make them panic a little. Schneider, who is represented in the Deutsche Bank Collection with photographic works of his Haus u r, achieves this with a simple trick. We’ll only reveal this much: You can only have this experience alone and it is definitely worth waiting outside the museum’s emergency exit.  
“You want to confront yourself,” the artist once said, succinctly summing up his spatial works. Koki Tanaka’s project is also about this confrontation. Yet while Schneider focuses on the individual, the “Artist of the Year” 2015 investigates the role of the individual in communities. How to Live Together and Sharing the Unknown is a video installation spread out over several rooms that documents a kind of social experiment. Eight people with very different cultural and social backgrounds try to find ways of living together in harmony. The participants in the project supported by Deutsche Bank cooked together, interviewed one another, did breathing exercises, were given specific tasks—to reveal a secret, to brush someone else’s teeth, or to pray to all the gods of the world. Or they talked about the ongoing “refugee crisis,” which led to heated debate. It is exciting and touching to follow how the participants in this workshop slowly open up to each other and share their lives and experiences. Naturally, How to Live Together does not present a patent recipe for creating accord in society. Yet Tanaka’s work is impressive due to its humanity and holds out hope thanks to its silent power.
Kasper König, the artistic director the Skulptur Projekte, characterized the fifth installment of the show as “An exhibition that you apprehend physically, haptically, and emotionally.” He and two curators, Britta Peters and Marianne Wagner, explore topics such as time and space, but above all the body, because, says König, it is the “archetype of sculpture.” In addition, in times of increasing digitization corporeal experiences are a focus of art.

The Skulptur Projekte leave conventional conceptions of the medium far behind. For example, the Nigerian artist Emeka Ogboh not only designed a sound installation for a pedestrian tunnel. His second project can be drunk. Quiet Storm is a beer blended with lime-blossom honey. During the brewing process, Ogboh provides sounds from the streets of Lagos. As a result, the "good vibes" of Africa’s most populous city are transferred to Westphalia.

Sculpture in Münster can also be a tattoo studio where visitors. As the catalog states, “ tattoos can provide permanent souvernirs of an an art experience, leaving physical marks in the the storage medium of the skin, long past the closing date of the show.” The American artist Michael Smith titled his project Not Quite Under_Ground, for tattoos have not been signs of social ostracism for a long time. And the artist does not want them to be reserved for youth any more. People over sixty-five pay less for their artist tattoo. Kasper König set a good example and had a motif of Cathy Fairbanks stitched on him—five lines depicting the rear end of the Russian ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Smith’s studio also stands for the Skulptur Projekte’s tendency to fill interiors this year. And after all, relics of past Skuptur Projekte can be found at some 40 places in the Münster urban area. Gerard Byrne went to the public library, where the Irish artist represented in the Deutsche Bank Collection is showing his video In Our Time, which critically engages with the role of mass media. A former Asian store provides the framework for Mika Rottenberg’s video Cosmic Generator. With her typical absurd humor, the New Yorker creates a brightly colored cosmos in which the USA and Mexico are interlinked by a secret tunnel system. Donald Trump’s nightmare comes true. Rottenberg demonstrates that political art does not necessarily have to be didactic and demure as is the case at the current documenta.

Pierre Huyghe’s project is one of the most spectacular works at the Skulptur Projekte. He had the concrete floor removed from a ice rink and transformed the ground into a moon landscape on which the first plants are already sprouting. As in his surreal biotope for the 2012 documenta, he again added a few bees, but instead of the two dogs a peacock pair are used. With After ALife Ahead, Huyghe created a complex system in which everything interacts: art, technology, nature, and biological processes. He even has human cancer cells proliferate. As a result, the ice rink, whose skylights continually open and close as if by magic, seems to have mutated into an organism.
But impressive works can also be encountered in city space. The overweight bodies from Mika Rottenberg’s video find counterparts in the cartoon-like bronze and plaster figures that surround a fountain installed by Nicole Eisenman on a grassy area—a grotesque  déjeuner sur l'herbe. Lara Favaretto’s Momentary Monument is reminiscent of Ulrich Rückriem’s minimalist stone sculptures. In fact, however, her contribution reacts to a neighboring monument honoring German soldiers who fell in the colonial wars. Favaretto, who realized a commissioned work for the Deutsche Bank head office Milan, counters the monument from the 1920s with a hollowed-out granite block. It also functions as an oversized collecting box. People can put money through a slot that benefits the initiative “Hilfe für Menschen in Abschiebehaft“ (Help for People in Detention) in nearby Büren. After the end of the Skulptur Projekte, the stone will be destroyed and reused as gravel.
The contributions of Ayşe Erkmen and Thomas Schütte, who placed three-meter-high architectural creation in a park, seem magical. Schütte’s cupola-crowned octagon made of oxidized sheet steel is presented as a mixture between a nuclear power plant and a sacred building. His Nuclear Temple stands hermetically between the trees—a puzzling object like something from Game of Thrones, whereby it is not clear whether it comes from the past or the future.

Ayşe Erkmen enables visitors to walk over water, as Jesus once did on the Sea of Galilee. But Erkmen answers the question of whether On Water has religious meaning with a decisive “No!” Of course, it is not a miracle that enables people to walk across the surface of the water. Right under the surface of the water there is a footbridge made of metal bars that crosses a canal of the Münster city harbor.

“When I discover water at an exhibition venue, I always feel that I should work with water,” the artist remarked in an interview with ArtMag. In Shipped Ships, her contribution to the Moment series with which Deutsche Bank initiated art projects in the public arena, she had passenger ferries shipped to Frankfurt from Turkey, Italy, and Japan. On the Main River, they resumed service. Regarding On Water, Erkmen explains that walking over water is “beautiful and dangerous. The sensation comes from that. Beauty and danger!” This is another quality of the Skulptur Projekte Münster—it relies on art that is not solely intellectual or aesthetically appealing, but also a physical and emotional experience. In any case, the people on Erkmen’s footbridge all looked very happy.

Skulptur Projekte Münster
Until 10/1/2017