Thursday, July 12, 2001

Ian is writing a day-by-day account of our trip to Hamburg. [Very handy, as I am battling to remember everything we did.] I figured I'd group the things we did thematically.

On our last day in Hamburg, I managed to drag Ian and a green-around-the-gills Andy to the Hamburger Kunsthalle. The gallery spans two buildings: a rococo terracotta building housing all the pre-1900 stuff, and a gorgeous ultra-modern white cube for contemporary art. Both collections are very well curated and imaginatively hung. The exhibits in the modern section - the Galerie der Gegenwart - seem to have been designed to disorient the viewer. Andy fled the building, claiming he was tripping.

My favourite exhibits:
  • Jenny Holzer's Ceiling Snake - a 47.5-metre-long illuminated LED tickertape, displaying 1,000 sayings, and drawing the viewer along the corridor connecting the two buildings.
  • The Way Things Go by David Weiss Peter Fischli - an ingenious 30-minute video showing the systematic destruction of an entire warehouse full of everyday objects through fire, water, gravity and chemical reactions, in a chain reaction, domino-principle, MacGyver-stylee.
  • Dead Swiss by Christian Boltanski. What appears at first to be a blank wall made of tin bricks, turns out to be an oppressive tunnel made of small containers [safety-deposit boxes?] each bearing the photo of a dead person. I couldn't bring myself to walk down the rows, disturbing the sanctity of the dead. Ian had no such compunctions!

    Even the displays in the traditional gallery were very witty - one room was filled with hundreds of huge white mock-lightbulbs. And I mean huge. No apparent reason for them, but they were a lot more interesting than the dull 19th century paintings on the walls. I would have liked to have spent more time in the galleries, but with Andy feeling ill, and a plane to catch, we only spent a couple of hours there. And that was all the culture we got in Hamburg. Next up: sleaze.
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