Walking on water through Turkish artist's work in Münster

Münster, Germany
Published 27.08.2017 20:52
Updated 27.08.2017 20:56
Walking on water through Turkish artist's work in Münster

Outstanding Turkish artist Ayşe Erkmen is participating in Skulptur Projekte Münster, which takes place every decade in the German city of Münster

After postponing my visit to Skulptur Projekte Münster two times, last week I finally had the chance to see the current edition of the venue, which is being held in the German city of Münster. The story of the Skulpture Projekte goes back to the 1970s when American artist George Rickey placed his kinetic sculpture, "Drei rotierende Quadrate," in Münster. At the time, there was a significant protest taking place in response to the placement of the artwork, as I learned from its history. To address this dissatisfaction and in an attempt to forge a bridge of understanding about art across public spaces, Klaus Bussmann, then- director of the Westfalisches Landesmuseum in Münster, provided a series of lectures and presentations at the museum in 1977, in what was the initial step for Skulptur Projekte Münster with the project's founders Bussmann and Kasper König, the curator at Museum Ludwig in Cologne. Although protests to the project followed in later years, the citizens of Münster eventually came to embrace the project and Skulpture Projekte Munster has been held every ten years since 1977, coordinated to occur in tandem with the Documenta exhibition, which is held in Kassel, Germany, located 200 kilometers away.

The event's history is closely linked to the concept of creating a public not just with but also for art. The catalogue describes this in the following manner: "We are fully conscious of the difficulties of defining the public in connection with the term 'art in the public realm.' For the 2017 Skulptur Projekte, we are more convinced than ever that art, in the urban realm, is capable of activating historical, architectural, social, political and aesthetic contexts. We see its great potential not in occupation but rather in the creation of spaces. The exploration of contemporary sculptures and the myriad of possibilities for depicting art in the public space is virtually inherent to the context of this exhibition every decade, and also raises issues of its own."

This edition's subjects primarily focus on experiences of body, time and space during an era of increasing digitalization. Skulptur Projekte Münster features 37 international artists including Hito Steyerl, Ayşe Erkmen, Oscar Tuazon, Alexandra Prici, Andreas Bunte, Jeremy Deller, Michael Dean, Herv Youmbi, Ei Arakawa, Aram Barthol and Andreas Bunte, and the event can be viewed until Oct. 1.

Pierre Huyghe's mind blowing, breathing site-specific installation, "After Alive Ahead," 2017 was my first stop.

There was a long queue for the installation, and I had to wait one hour to get in the former ice rink. While I was waiting, it was quite interesting to see the warning signs about bees. If you are allergic to bees, you are advised not to enter the installation. This was the first clue of what was to come: Be aware that you will not be the only species inside. The installation welcomes you with a breathtaking atmosphere.

My first impression was that I was entering a post-apocalyptic film stage. "After Alive Ahead" was built inside the ice rink that had been partially cut out, and the artist created artificial terrains, beehives, paddles and an aquarium. Everything in the space is alive; you see the beehive and bees flying around. It offers us an ultra-realistic sample of a post-human habitat, the world of non-humans, where the human species is extinct.

In fact, I felt like I was observing an archaeological excavation where I could study the layers of the field. There is an aquarium made of black glass that turns transparent when it catches the light coming from caps in the ceiling, which open according to the space's humidity levels and the room temperature. You see small paddles that have an oily surface, displaying the pollution that was left behind by humans. However, the dominant ultra-real effect of the installation breaks down at a certain point by alienating itself and reminds you that it is a work of art. However, there is also a possibility that this could be the near future of our world. Pierre Huyghe considers the ice rink to be a sculpture in which all species can exist. In short, Huyghe's impressive site-specific installation offers us different levels of reality that visitors can experience physically and virtually.

I still felt the remaining effects of the Pierre Huyghe installation on my way to view Ayşe Erkmen's work. I parked my car and was expecting another long line because the weather was good and streets were crowded with people. However, I didn't wait long. The site-specific installation "On Water," 2017, is the work of distinguished Turkish artist Ayşe Erkmen. Erkmen's installation was made in Münster's inland municipal harbor between the northern and southern parts, just below the surface of the water where you can walk on steel beams and interact with the artwork. The lingering effects of Huyghe's installation were replaced by relaxation in the installation "On Water." While walking on an invisible bridge and seeing fish in the water and ducks that wait for people to cross to the other side of the bridge, you truly get a sense of Erkmen's work.

Her main concepts and depictions of transportation, relocation and displacement revolve inside this interactive installation where there is no border between audience and the artwork. While water has always been a crucial component of Erkmen's artistic practices, this is the first time that we do not see a mediator or a border between water and the visitor. The audience can directly relate with the water itself. On the other hand, her project "Shipped Ships" 2001, featured three passenger ferries from Istanbul, Venice and Japan, shipped complete with their original crews to the Main River in Frankfurt. The city council decided to generate a ferry route that mimicked Erkmen's work after extensive public demand. The other water-related example is the "Plan B" project that she created for the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011. Erkmen's sculptural installation "Plan B" draws on the complex relationship Venice has with water. Her project transforms a room inside the venue into a complex water purification unit where machines perform as sculptures, providing drinkable water by channeling it back into the canal. "On Water" draws an invisible bridge to discuss the borders between humans and nature, humanity and urbanization, the human and the non-human, asking the question: "What happens to geographical borders when land itself moves?"

Skulptur Projekte Münster offers an unforgettable flow of medium of sculpture at a comprehensive level for the audience who visit. In addition to the main exhibition, there are also public (collection) sculptures from previous editions featuring well-known artists, such as Bruce Nauman, Herman de Vries, Richard Serra, Ilya Kabakov and Dan Graham. It is one of the essential events of the year together with Documenta 14. If you happen to be close to the city of Münster, don't miss this free event.

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