Travel Essays in Art: Braunschweig

March 27, 2019




I like to go around in Germany so I'm always excited when I'm invited somewhere new. I also feel it's part of my job to get to know the habitat of the art students I'm working with. So that's how I was wandering through Braunschweig's city center at the end of January when visiting the Open Studios of the Hochschule für Bildende Künste. Enthusiastically, I took photographs of the historical houses I saw and sent one to Asta Gröting, Professor of Sculpture at HBK. She wrote back that it's difficult. Braunschweig is difficult,  as a city itself, associated so much with Nazi Germany. But a difficult surrounding might not be a disadvantage for art students. When things are easy, like eternal sunshine, not much art tends to come about. 

I'm not such an adventurer - I like the comforting smell of coffee and the welcoming warmth of city libraries and that's what I do when I visit new places. I picked a coffee place in one of the medieval houses at the market square where there was just the right amount of coffee buzz going on to write (If you want coffee shop sound to write, I just found out about this great sound app Noisli that improves focus and boosts productivity!). At the library I ran through the different levels and liked the open platforms. Outside it was the first sunny day of the year. A kid was licking at a lollipop and one of the punks sitting around near the fountain generously called out to his friends: "Wer braucht noch ein Bier?" It put me in a good mood. 

At Asta's class I peeped into the hole of what looked like a cat box. Inside there was a QR code. My iPhone is from the year 2010 so I can’t scan it. But the artist Stefan Schramm showed me the photo that would have been taken if I could: a picture of me peeking inside the thing. “Sich ertappen bei Neugier”, Stefan said. "To catch yourself in a moment of curiosity." I very much like that idea. I like that moment. 

My memory has gotten a bit blurry about who said what at Asta's class but I remember fragments of conversation and images. Like a sleeping tooth brush on a fragile shelf by Lucila Pacheco Dehne, or "sich an die Zukunft erinnern" ("To remember the future"), and a "Kurzschreiberin." To take the outside and made it look as if it was an inside (Camilla Schiegnitz). Or to make something real that looks unreal, like Gregor Kieseritzky's puddle of peppermint liquor that seemed to come out of a comic strip. There was a work by Jan-Louis Gens called French Coffee, a composition messing around with the scales of romantic cinema music. Jiyoung Hong told me she paid her performers 50 cents, the usual toilet visit fee, to be photographed while using the bathroom. And Johannes Möller had observed an interesting axis going on in the studio space from the entrance door all the way to the back in a straight line. His installation looked like a kind of gutter following that axis.

Meanwhile in the main building, Candice Breitz' class was doing performances. I dropped in and out, picnicking along, going underwater and other spaces they led me into. At the photography class of Anna Pöhlmann, a student told me about his work with IKEA photos that  had blown out candle smoke in them. He found three of those in the IKEA sales catalogue. A morbid interior design idea, indeed. 

When I reached the studios at the Blumenstraße I couldn't resists the waffles sold by Manuel, who studies art philosophy. His waffles were baked with heavy dough, combined with chocolate and mango, so that I spaced out for the next hour and walked around in a daze. I got back to my senses visiting Raimund Kummer's sculpture class the next morning, where I became a fan of Sara Wiekenberg's Kotzgeschichten (puke stories): "Ich kotz dir / vor die Füße / da hast du den / Salat."  (I puke / in front of your feet / there you have the / salad)




When you leave Braunschweig, you have to make sure you don't have to wait at the train station. As it is, contemporary train stations are the saddest places in Germany: grey, cold and uninviting. I had the choice between McDonalds and Burger King. I picked McDonalds because that's where the sun was shining in. I had a small portion of pommes and chatted with A., who told me that Burger King has better burgers. A kid ran into a salesperson carrying drinks and its mother started screaming at the salesperson for not paying attention to her running kid. I squeezed my eyes shut for the sun entering through the window panes and let the time go by.






I like to go around in Germany so I'm always excited when I'm invited somewhere new. I also feel it's part of my job to get to know the habitat of the art students I'm working with. So that's how I was wandering through Braunschweig's city center at the end of January when visiting the Open Studios of the Hochschule für Bildende Künste. Enthusiastically, I took photographs of the historical houses I saw and sent one to As…



I like to go around in Germany so I'm always excited when I'm invited somewhere new. I also feel it's part of my job to get to know the habitat of the art students I'm working with. So that's how I was wandering through Braunschweig's city center at the end of January when visiting the Open Studios of the Hochschule für Bildende Künste. Enthusiastically, I took photographs of the historical houses I saw and sent one to Asta Gröting, Professor of Sculpture at HBK. She wrote back that it's difficult. Braunschweig is difficult,  as a city itself, associated so much with Nazi Germany. But a difficult surrounding might not be a disadvantage for art students. When things are easy, like eternal sunshine, not much art tends to come about. 

I'm not such an adventurer - I like the comforting smell of coffee and the welcoming warmth of city libraries and that's what I do when I visit new places. I picked a coffee place in one of the medieval houses at the market square where there was just the right amount of coffee buzz going on to write (If you want coffee shop sound to write, I just found out about this great sound app Noisli that improves focus and boosts productivity!). At the library I ran through the different levels and liked the open platforms. Outside it was the first sunny day of the year. A kid was licking at a lollipop and one of the punks sitting around near the fountain generously called out to his friends: "Wer braucht noch ein Bier?" It put me in a good mood. 

At Asta's class I peeped into the hole of what looked like a cat box. Inside there was a QR code. My iPhone is from the year 2010 so I can’t scan it. But the artist Stefan Schramm showed me the photo that would have been taken if I could: a picture of me peeking inside the thing. “Sich ertappen bei Neugier”, Stefan said. "To catch yourself in a moment of curiosity." I very much like that idea. I like that moment. 

My memory has gotten a bit blurry about who said what at Asta's class but I remember fragments of conversation and images. Like a sleeping tooth brush on a fragile shelf by Lucila Pacheco Dehne, or "sich an die Zukunft erinnern" ("To remember the future"), and a "Kurzschreiberin." To take the outside and made it look as if it was an inside (Camilla Schiegnitz). Or to make something real that looks unreal, like Gregor Kieseritzky's puddle of peppermint liquor that seemed to come out of a comic strip. There was a work by Jan-Louis Gens called French Coffee, a composition messing around with the scales of romantic cinema music. Jiyoung Hong told me she paid her performers 50 cents, the usual toilet visit fee, to be photographed while using the bathroom. And Johannes Möller had observed an interesting axis going on in the studio space from the entrance door all the way to the back in a straight line. His installation looked like a kind of gutter following that axis.

Meanwhile in the main building, Candice Breitz' class was doing performances. I dropped in and out, picnicking along, going underwater and other spaces they led me into. At the photography class of Anna Pöhlmann, a student told me about his work with IKEA photos that  had blown out candle smoke in them. He found three of those in the IKEA sales catalogue. A morbid interior design idea, indeed. 

When I reached the studios at the Blumenstraße I couldn't resists the waffles sold by Manuel, who studies art philosophy. His waffles were baked with heavy dough, combined with chocolate and mango, so that I spaced out for the next hour and walked around in a daze. I got back to my senses visiting Raimund Kummer's sculpture class the next morning, where I became a fan of Sara Wiekenberg's Kotzgeschichten (puke stories): "Ich kotz dir / vor die Füße / da hast du den / Salat."  (I puke / in front of your feet / there you have the / salad)




When you leave Braunschweig, you have to make sure you don't have to wait at the train station. As it is, contemporary train stations are the saddest places in Germany: grey, cold and uninviting. I had the choice between McDonalds and Burger King. I picked McDonalds because that's where the sun was shining in. I had a small portion of pommes and chatted with A., who told me that Burger King has better burgers. A kid ran into a salesperson carrying drinks and its mother started screaming at the salesperson for not paying attention to her running kid. I squeezed my eyes shut for the sun entering through the window panes and let the time go by.






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