Friday, August 17, 2007

I still don't get it

Waking up in San Sebastian to find the day outside a bit overcast, we quickly decided against going to the beach. Ryan and I filled in the morning doing the obligatory internet and email thing before quickly getting bored and deciding that we needed to get out of the house. By this stage, our host Morten had groggily entered the lounge room and after a very involved eye rubbing session, suggested we go for a drive. His football training didn't start until five after all. We had wanted to go and check out the Guggenheim museum in nearby Bilbao, and since we did not mind at all being chauffeured around in his brand new, football club provided Mercedes, we happily accepted. To Bilbao sir, and don't spare the mustard!

The Basque region of Spain really is jaw droppingly beautiful. Green rolling hills, pine trees everywhere, and those little tunnels that go through mountains like the ones you see in model train sets.

I tried to take about a million photos, but only too late did I realise that I had stupidly set the camera to 'incredibly blurry'. I should have had it set to 'Awesome pictures to make your friends back home jealous', but what can I say, it's an easy mistake to make.

Truth be told, I didn't really know a great deal about the Guggenheim. If i was asked during Trivial Pursuit two weeks ago in what country it was located, I would have answered 'Germany', quickly followed by a 'Well it sounds German!' remark to deflect any patronising guffaws. After taking in it's stainless steel kitchen-esk exterior, my first impression was that the architect was a bit of a prankster - reason being that the stairs leading to the entrance are the kind whose length is configured so perfectly that they result in being uncomfortably long. You even have to do a feet switcharoo halfway up to give each leg a turn at climbing. Strange thing to notice, hey? It's true, we are a culturally deficit mob of yokels.

But at least we are street wise enough to be visibly afraid when flower-cyclone death is imminent.

The museum was exhibiting an artist called Anselm Keifer that I'd seen before while working at the Art Gallery of NSW, so I immediately began gloating to my comrades at having an extensive taste in cultivated arts. Of course, as soon as I was asked for further information about him I had to reluctantly back down from my effrontery, due to knowing absolutely nothing about him. We were finding it difficult to understand his work too; large metal-bolstered concrete stair structures secured one by one up a high wall. An engineering marvel to be sure, but quite unintelligible to the likes of the yokel party.

Looking at one of his massive, 20ft high collage works, I started to imagine what his neighbours must think when he began putting one of these things together. "Oh Anselm," they'd chuckle, shaking their heads and having another sip of their morning coffee. "What in Gods name are you creating now? Hey Anselm! Quit fucking around and go and trim that hedge like we asked you last week!"

After reading one of the descriptions posted on the wall, I discovered that he lives as a hermit in an old converted factory in Barjac, France. The place has numerous interconnecting warehouses, living quarters and greenhouses that he uses to create these massive constructions. The place has got loads of secret tunnels and rooms connecting the different areas. He has spent the last decade fashioning the place into a living piece of art, piling up fragile concrete structures and letting the elements do the rest. Calls himself an alchemist. Cooool.

I'd probably go a little bit loopy in that environment. I'd start wearing a 24-7 monocle, developing a cackle, and answering the door saying things like "So doctor! We meet again, at last!"

Not ol' Anselm though. He's still keeping it real, driving his big construction cranes (I assume, otherwise he's just REALLY strong) and waxing lyrical about life.

The book, the idea of a book or the image of a book, is a symbol of learning, of transmitting knowledge.. I make my own books to find my way through the old stories.

-- Anselm Kiefer


Eleanor Bloom said...

The man must surely be single.

davey said...

I wonder where he'd align himself on your nerd/bad-boy scale?