Iconic Or Ironic?
Nordenham was generally cold, wet and windy all week though we had one encouraging dawn as I came off shift.
It didn't last. However, as a bonus, there was time at the end of the job to kick our heels in Bremen for a couple of hours until we flew home. My fellow Magneteer elected to go in search of a touching and exotic gift for his wife's birthday and I scuttled off to the Kunsthalle in the town centre.
On the way, I passed the 15thC town hall....
... and popped my head round the door of the 11thC cathedral which also dominates the town square. Surrounded by magnificent ancient buildings and with Bremen's rich and fascinating local history, the Kunsthalle's 'Ikonen Was Wir Menschen Anbeten' (Icons we Worship) show sounded promising.
Despite coughing up €15 for a ticket, being told to remove my jacket and put it in a locker (€2 for the key - I just left it open) and handed a lacklustre exhibition guide with no pictures, my expectations were still high as I entered the first room where there was just the one exhibit.
In the next room, 'Collection of Twenty Plaster Surrogates', by Allan Mcollum took up a bit more space. Maybe I should have first viewed Bruce Nauman's neon lighting exhibit which read, 'The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths', to get with the programme.
Grand Piano with no Legs, a Hat and Music Stand With Bockwurst'. (Kochwurst, surely).
Visitors to the gallery were invited to 'own' the space in front of this well-known work, don the jackets and pose accordingly in a nod to a popular music video made by Beyoncé and Jay-Z that discussed white supremacy and imperialism in iconography. I'll look out for that.
'Self-portrait', Van Gogh. It was like someone had gone off with the rest of the room under their jacket (ha!) - though your average felon would have fingered the Van Gogh first.
'Sunrise with a Boat between Headlands', Turner. The grey wall did nothing for this example of Turner's ground-breaking work. Icons these artists may be, but seen in bland and supposedly modish isolation, their works appeared emasculated and apologetic, embarrassed even.
This true early 13thC artist helped the world by creating a pair of exquisite shrines, revealing that the only truth of mysticism is that it exists and inspires. Amongst other early and thoughtful iconography, these were the highlight for me, contrasting deeply with the vacuous posturing of the contemporary content of the show.
Somewhat unexpectedly, the Kunsthalle in Bremen houses one of the largest and most important collections of prints and drawings in Europe. Numbering nearly ¼ million sheets and including work by Degas and Dürer, my couple of hours before the flight home didn't allow me more than a sprint through the several rooms of print chests - I should have started there.
A few kilometres from a cable factory in Sweden, this scrap yard contains scores of iconic cars of the post-war period. The sign, with no hint of irony, translates as, 'End Of Public Road'. That's a show that won't disappoint.