The sculpture project raumsichten (spacespectives) is a literal extension of the cross-border German-Dutch kunstwegen (art paths) trail initiated in 2000, this time plotting a meandering route through the Vechte valley from Grafschaft Bentheim to North Rhine-Westphalia. Sixteen international artists were invited in 2009 to several intensive ‘work forums’, attended by various experts in the field of planning and contemporary art, as well as by community representatives. Eight of the proposals developed through these discussions were selected by a jury and opened to the public last May. One further project – Folke Köbberling and Martin Kaltwasser’s proposed bicycle junction in the shape of a classic clover-leaf freeway intersection – will be realized at a later date.
While the variety of the chosen projects – in form, concept and medium – was impressive, a common thread loosely binding them together was their diverse invocations of community, whether actual or metaphorical. Eva Grubinger’s neo-modernist, matte-black metal Smoking Shelter (2011) occupies an idyllic position in a woodland setting. Offering momentary protection from the elements to members of the increasingly ostracized smoking community, the construction mischievously ensures that its users’ privacy is at the expense of the sylvan views they might also wish to enjoy. elsewhere (2011) by Tamara Grcic provides a healthier oasis of calm in the form of the hilltop gathering of a dozen, knee-high, usefully flat-topped bronze sculptures whose elegantly primal forms evolved from the rich local archaeological evidence of the Neolithic Funnel-beaker Culture. Marko Lulic’s Untitled (Clearing) (2011), sited on an urban roadside and retrieving a more recently endangered set of cultural artefacts, is a luminously incongruous ‘stand’ of 34 sphere-topped streetlights with an early 1980s design, which were destined to be removed from the streets of Schüttorf and replaced by energy-saving equivalents. The point of departure for Christoph Schäfer’s tripartite project Topography of commonness (2012), located in a forest of publicly-held land, was the medieval idea of the ‘commons’. The recondite historical echoes evoked here include the 16th-century story of the Baptist Jan Kuiper, evading capture by hiding in the hollow trunk of the locally fabled ‘Raven Tree’, and an apocalyptic dream of Dürer’s. Yet a current sense of communality is also registered by video footage of a local choir’s performance of a Baptist anthem composed in 1536 by Anna Janz.
Schäfer’s historical sounding-board might be contrasted with the forward-planning of Antje Schiffers’s Vechte goods (2011–18), a seven-year co-operative initiative, beginning with the inhabitants of the village of Ohne, which will see the production and barter trade of various goods derived from the natural resources of the region. Hans Schabus’s orphaned railway bridge Laßnitz (2012), straddling the Vechte Bay, in the middle of nowhere, came from somewhere else entirely: Styria in south-east Austria, to be precise, from where it had been laboriously transported. The two final projects, by Willem de Rooij and Paul Etienne Lincoln, were sited in Bentheim Castle. With Residual (2012), de Rooij decided to present Jacob van Ruisdael’s 1653 painting View of Bentheim Castle in a specially produced, climate-controlled glass case, whose workings were visible to the viewer, in a newly dedicated exhibition space in the castle, while simultaneously proposing a Ruisdael-scholar‑ship for international artists to develop new works for the space – an astute attempt to suture the site’s artistic past to its future. Finally, Lincoln’s multi-part work Bad Bentheim pig (2012) – which included a newly built island folly on the castle’s lake and a sculptural reproduction of a ‘Bentheim Black Pied’ pig with a functioning hurdy-gurdy in its interior – married the social sculptural of his colleagues with the eccentricity of an offbeat inventor. Once a year, representatives of the savings clubs from three local towns will ceremoniously feed a fallen acorn to the mechanized pig, whereupon a gilded acorn will pop from its rear. Lincoln’s contribution amplified the note of anarchic humour sounded by Grubinger, Lulic and Schabus, adding to the rich mix of raumsichten.