The Wolfsburg Art Museum exhibits multiple installations by Hans Op De Beek, still on until September 3rd, and very worth visiting (even for me, who is not very much following such art installations normally). I liked the multiple levels of space and time, wondering through while walking along. You may enter through an installation called "The Collector's House" and then continue into the main exhibition hall, descending a staircase. It is rather monochrome and dark down there, and time stands still in a way. I really had no sense, of how long I was walking through the alleys, and there is also no obvious way out. You have to find the hole in the fence.
About 2 weeks ago, we had the chance to visit the former Horressen Ammunition Depot, which has been converted by Jan Nebgen and his wife Leisa in 10 years of hard work into an Art and Design Center. I was serving there in the mid 80s, at the end of the cold war, in the Rak. Art. Btl. 350 which was operating MGM-52 Lance Rockets and missile launchers for conventional and chemical warheads, as well as for the nuclear W70 warheads of our American allies. The W70-3 was a warhead which had enhanced nuclear radiation, and was often described as some kind of neutron bomb. But while the real neutron bomb was designed to discriminate between people and hardware, and only kill biology by radiation, the W70-3 actually destroyed everything and by radiation just "made sure" nobody was left behind alive. The conventional heads were designed for fire support and carried so-called "cluster bombs" which have the purpose of devastating indiscriminately large areas. As the Lance rockets only had a medium range, our potential targets were in the Communist German Democratic Republic, today the "Neue Bundeslaender", and for many of us aiming at our family members who remained East of the Cold War's Iron Curtain. As I was serving in encrypted communication, I knew what our Commanders were talking about during maneuvers. We sometimes called Dresden "Slaughterhouse Number 6". It was meant to be a kind of humor. And I think when you put 19 to 20 year olds in such an apocalyptic scenario, regularly at three in the morning, they tend to make bad jokes to cheer themselves up a bit. We were not there to maintain peace in the way it is tried today in some unfortunate countries. We were the threat of total destruction of all life on earth. And we hoped that we were scary enough, that nobody would every try it out. So far my little personal history with this place.
Since the depot is abandoned, Jan & Leisa found this a perfect site to be converted into an Art- and Design Center. And it is. The region is developing economically quite well, but when we are there, we always look for something cultural, and find there is a serious under-supply. This is where B-05 could play an outstanding role. There were excellent events there, for example the Apocalyptic Opera with Werner Herzog. But there are many problems the two are facing. First of all the former top secret site, is obviously not easy to find. But even more, the extremely tight budget, has been dropped by the main sponsor (Skoda) recently. It is a gloomy place, yes. And for a car brand, I understand that marketing departments are questioning whether this is doing their positioning good. The government budgets are small and not available. The public institutions spend their time on talking about the problem and are (again) pretty useless. And the local business people don't understand what's happening and are too busy building shopping malls. If this place would be close to Berlin, it would have a great future. But out here, it would need committed financial support to launch something which is not a missile.
Just 40 minutes walk North of the Beijing 798 Arts District, at about N 39 Deg. 59.808' / E 116 Deg. 29.917', you get to another gallery and workshop district which is called Cao Chang Di. As this is still in the middle of local suburban Chinese life, this is also where artists live, and the galleries get more square meters per Yuan. This is also a place where some more serious galleries moved.
"In 798 you have to protect your works from this zoo of people, who lean against it to take a photo", I was told. Cao Chang Di, is definitely more refined in terms of galleries than 798, but still I also like the "zoo" mainly because I think it is so much nicer seeing young people there than in a shopping mall. It is better to see 798 as a Cultural Entertainment Centre, and I think it is nice to have it. Also the reputation and commercial value are the only arguments protecting it from being torn down and "developed" into another block of high rise buildings. And in the end also still many artists have to make a living on selling postcards and handicraft, for which 798 has much of space.
Cao Chang Di is different. Also "iewieW iA" (I spelled the name reverse to avoid trouble) has his studio there and he designed quite a few buildings in which you find very interesting galleries. Beijing Fine Arts is one of them and Alexander Ochs another. But the best is to stroll around and see what exhibitions are on. Just this will take at least a day.
On the walk back through 798 I was lucky to drop into the opening of an exhibition called "The Boat Crossing the River", showing the sculptures of Zhang Yong at the Joy Art Gallery, curated by Wu Hong and Wang Haitao. I did not expect much more than a clean toilet when I went in, but then had a nice surprise.
I liked most his sculpture "Night Crossing" which is a casted copper cube on which top you see only a head of a boy and a horse swimming in the waves. It was unfortunately impossible to take a photo of it, given the dim light. But even boosting ISO to 6400 it is just an object very hard to capture, because what makes it amazing, is only very small detail on the surface on a rough block. I liked also a few other sculptures and "Orientation" (photo) is one of the other sculptures which caught my attention. Perhaps a year ago, it would have been "Listing in the Rain".