Monday, September 10, 2007


every year adam's department has a field trip that they all go on together, as a way to bond and hang out and just enjoy each others' company outside of the office setting. you may remember from a blog adam wrote last year, titled twente biking tour, in which everyone from his philosophy department rented bikes in nearby oldenzaal and rode through the countryside for a day. i wasn't able to make it to that excursion last year so i was really looking forward to this year's adventure.

this year we all took the train to muenster, germany, to spend a day looking at their modern art sculptures. apparently once every 10 years muenster will invite a few curators to facilitate a sculpture project in the city. these curators then invite a selection of artists from around the world to come and create sculptures somewhere in the city -- in a park, outside a building, in a public square, etc. the artists create their art on-site (rather than creating it in a studio and then shipping it in), and once the art festival is officially ended, the art all stays right where it was so that everyone can enjoy it for years to come. it's technically a free exhibit, but we hired a tour guide to show us around to give us a bit more background information on these pieces.

we met in enschede and took the train together (it's maybe less than 90 minutes to muenster -- not really that far, but the train stops in every single little town along the way so it takes a little while). once there, we all went out to lunch, compliments of the department (thanks!). and after lunch we walked around the corner to the art museum to hire our tour guide, a very sweet but extremely soft-spoken german girl who i think was named anita. (but she talked so quietly i couldn't really hear if that was it or not.)

anita showed us several structures, including a very practical project which involved the use of the public toilets. the restrooms were understandably in very bad shape after years of use, so one of the artists (bless his heart) redid the bathrooms using some really fancyschmancy porcelain and colorful chandeliers and pretty music and some large prints of beautiful wildflowers. they've even hired someone to work down there (common in europe to have a hired bathroom attendant, but not necessarily for free toilets) to answer questions by visitors and keep the "exhibit" tidy. after the toilets, we walked through the old city center, surrounded by 16th-century buildings (all rebuilt/restored after WWII), looking at several other structures/sculptures.

this sculpture is outside the treasury building. it is a commentary on "art for the masses." you know those fiberglass cows that you see all up and down the 16th street mall in denver? you know the ones -- they're all the same cows, but they're all painted differently. so you don't really see the art, you see the homogenaity of art. or, at least, that's what this artist thinks. he doesn't like those all-the-same art projects. so he got himself a trash compactor and bought up a few of these structures from several cities around the world, crushed them all together, and put them outside for all to contemplate...

this sculpture is in honor of paul wulf, a man who spoke out loudly against the nazi movement before and during the second world war. he was also a big anti-nuclear activist. he lived in muenster for a long time apparently, and was a local hero of sorts. so this sculpture is to honor him. and pasted on this sculpture are announcements about different activist groups in the area, or the history of the anti-nuclear movement, or other such things. i think it changes weekly or monthly or something. but i wonder if people will continue to use this public work of art to post public events/protests/announcements. it seemed like a good use of space to me.

and this sculpture was just something weird, that would talk to us. just nonsensical stuff, like "my dog is a banana." or "the temperature is 19 degrees and the baby needs a window. more spaghetti thank you." stuff like that.

after a while we just ended up walking and walking and walking, i think our end point was going to be a park or something. but i just couldn't make it. though the group wasn't walking extremely fast, i just can't even walk at a normal human speed these days. i really tend to mosey. anything faster is just impossible. or painful. and we just kept walking and walking and walking, without stopping for me to rest, and after a while i just couldn't do it anymore. it quite literally hurt my abdomen to keep going. so adam made me sit and rest on a bus stop bench, and we watched the rest of the group just keep going in the same direction. i felt so bad to have to leave the group, since it was after all a group event we were on that day, but i couldn't do it. and fortunately everyone completely understood when we explained to them why we stopped, so hopefully i didn't offend anyone by ducking out early.

adam and i had about an hour and a half to ourselves, before we were meant to meet up with the rest of the group at the train station. so we walked slowly along a beautiful greenway back to the center of the old city. we went back to the area near the public bathroom exhibit, because i was curious about the little farmers' market that was going on that day. as it turns out, it was an organic farmers' market! fun! so we made our way over to the bratwurst stand (i was hungry again -- imagine that!) and ate an organic bratwurst with some really tasty potatoes, served to us on a real plate with real silverware, all for only 5 euros! what a treat!

after our second lunch (i'm getting to be like a hobbit with my second breakfasts and elevensies and afternoon teas and such) we decided it would be best to start back towards the train station so as not to be late (since, as i said, i don't move very fast anymore). along the way we saw a starbucks (aaah!!!) so we OF COURSE had to stop. now, in the US, i don't often go to starbucks -- there are too many great, independent coffee shops back home that i'd rather give my money to instead. however, in holland we don't have many coffee drinks. i mean, we have great coffee out here, but no coffee drinks. like lattes, mochas, etc. can't find them very easily. lots of coffee, a few cappucinos (good luck getting it decaf or with soymilk though), but no coffee drinks. so we HAD to go to the starbucks so i could get a treat. "haben sie soymilk?" i asked them excitedly. "oh, JA!" they smiled back at me. rejoice! i ordered myself a giant decaf soy vanilla latte and licked the foam out of the glass when i was done. it was perfect.

adam would want me to tell you all this, so i will: this building is where the treaty of westphalia was signed. it in essence created the modern nation state and ended several wars going on in europe at the time, including the 80 years' war between the dutch and the spanish. he thought that was pretty significant, so i mention it here.

something else i want to mention too is these three cages you see hanging from the tower of this church. there was an exhibit we saw on our tour that used replicas of these cages. back in the day there were three anabaptists who rebelled against the catholic church. so the church, not surprisingly, captured these three "heretics," tortured them to death, and then hung their dead bodies in these cages for all to see. i'm not sure if they ever used the cages for anything else besides that one instance, but i wouldn't be surprised if several people met their deaths by being imprisoned in these cages. it makes me shudder to think about...

but after all of that, we made the train ride home to enschede. we finished off the evening with johnnie and linn, our really fun norwegian friends, at our favorite beer pub in enschede, de geus. a fun end to a fun day!


bob and rae said...

That was a bad day for anabaptists! Thanks for the neat pictures and story. Wish we could have joined you. We would have dropped from the peleton much sooner I'm sure. B & R

Queen E said...

Wow! What a cool day!

I'm totally interested, of course, in the scary cages on the church that displayed the Anabaptist heretics. My goodness. Unitarian Universalists have some of our roots with the Anabaptists, and I'm particularly interested in those UU roots in Christianity and in Christian heresy. It's all very fascinating stuff to me.

Also, I really like the mashed up sculpture of all those animal sculptures from around the world. If I were a professional artist, I would have wanted to think of that! It looks like the orange and blue stencils represented where all the sculptures came from...? There sure were a lot from towns in Wisconsin.