Kloster Unser Lieben Frauen

Trip Start Aug 11, 2007
Trip End Aug 21, 2007

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Flag of Germany  ,
Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Magdeburg does have a few architectural gems. We started off at the city's oldest surviving building, an abbey built in the early 11th century. Today it houses a small art museum.

After strolling through the nearby sculpture gardens, we stopped in the Kloster's café for coffee before our art viewing. I ordered a slice of poppy-seed cake, and Terry asked me to ask our server for two forks. Now, for some reason, I always have a hard time remembering the German word for fork, despite trying to build associations with forks and the sounds turkeys make. (The word is Gabel, which is pronounced a bit like "gobble.")

Anyway, I remembered at least that it started with a "G" and so I hesitantly asked for "ein Stück Mohnkuchen und zwei Gurken." The waitress first gave me a confused look, then realized what I meant, and corrected me. I realized a second later that I had asked her for a slice of poppy-seed cake and two cucumbers.

Well, we laughed over that for days. This is definitely going on the list of "Jason's funniest mistakes in German." Also in the category of ordering mistakes was when I asked a waitress, "Kann ich bitte bestehen?" instead of "Kann ich bitte bestellen?" So instead of "Can I please order?" I asked, "Can I please exist?"

Now onto the art. After viewing the small permanent collection of contemporary art on the ground floor, we descended deep into a crypt to view the sculpture collection. Here, one really has the sense of being in a place that is almost 1000 years old. You can literally smell the history, and some of the sculptures date back to antiquity. It is an odd feeling to stand within touching distance of art that was created several hundred years before Christ.

We then moved upstairs to view the two temporary exhibits. One was a collection of four video projects called "Real-Fiktiv." We especially enjoyed "Once Upon a Time" by Corinna Schnitt (2005), who set up an automatically rotating camera at floor level in a living room. At first things appear orderly, and the camera captures the action of some common house pets: a dog, a few cats, some goldfish, and a canary. Over the next 22 minutes, an increasing number of barnyard animals are released into the room, as the camera continues to slowly pan around and document the ensuing chaos. We're not sure why this was so fascinating and amusing to us.

The other temporary exhibit was a retrospective of artist Franz Johannknecht (1903-1974), who, judging from the Google hits for his name, is completely unknown outside of Germany.  From reading his bio posted in the gallery, it seems the poor man knew only censorship in his lifetime. First, his work was banned by the Nazis as "degenerate", and then later by the East German communists as "decadent". Looking now at his abstract-minimalist watercolors and collages, which would look nice hanging in your living room, it is difficult to see what the fuss was about.
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