>Did I Ever Tell You About The Time I Jumped Out Of A Cake?


I had just sung closing night of “Le nozze di Figaro” (playing who else?), on Mozart’s 250th birthday. There was a special party in the theater’s foyer after the performance, with actors, singers and dancers taking part. My special assignment was to be rolled out into the center of the room in a special wooden cake-shaped box, jump out of the top and sing “Happy Birthday, Mister Mozart”, à la Marilyn Monroe. Which I did, before I was wheeled back into a corner and the real cake (a humongous chocolate-marzipan thing decorated to resemble a giant Mozartkugel) was brought out and cut.

That evening, I joked at the time, was both the high and low points of my career, one right after the other! But sometimes you just have to say “What the hell, sure” and do whatever will entertain.

>SOWI’s “Iron Cage”

>Behind my workplace is a complex of buildings referred to as SOWI (“so-vee”), a contraction for the University of Social Sciences. On one of its lawns stands a large, apartment-sized iron cage, containing a small, dense forest and doing double-duty as a bicycle stand, and bearing the unglamourous name “Garden for the New SOWI Building.”

As usual in Austria, in public buildings a certain amount of public money is spent on Kunst am Bau (art on public buildings). Selected artists are invited to present and incorporate their work into the context of the building…. The work is an impressive iron cuboid: 37m in length, 4m breadth, 3.7m high, made of steel (33mm) and a weight of 22 tons.
(Richard Weiskopf, Institute of Organization and Learning, University of Innsbruck.)

This “iron cuboid” was described by its artist in an interview as a “sign for deliberate renunciation of Gelassenheit (serenity) and non-intervention”:
“Within the boundaries I let things just occur: the planting, the becoming, the perishing, the permeability for the wind, the birds, the water.. . everyday rubbish does not have to be removed immediately.. .because out of the beautiful, pure, true, clean nothing emerges anyway…”

Events were organized which attempted to transform the “iron cage” into a “house of fantasy and desire” (some guy was actually living in it for a short while) the media commented on the event, others used the work as an occasion to protest against the “waste of public money” and the “death of social policy”, etc. (Which always happens when controversial art appears at taxpayers’ expense.)
At one point, some protesters took their cue from the artist’s own words and began stuffing trash into the cage, leading to fears of the thing attracting rats, leading to a clean-up effort. Nine years later, there are trees growing out of it, as you can see from the photo. To me it’s a reminder of what happens when man ceases to “manage” the land around him. Forest appears. Which is interesting since it’s across the way from the “Management Center Innsbruck”.

>Münchner Synagoge

>We were in the area of the new (2006) Munich Synagogue recently, on Jakobsplatz. There are three separate buildings, actually — the temple (the massive block seen below), the Jewish Museum (opened in 2007) and the Community Center. We did not go into the museum, having just emerged from one (I can only soak in so much cultural information in one afternoon) but we noted that its glass walls are covered in written conversations between Jews and non-Jews and their feelings toward each other, and about what happened right here in Munich. Most of it is in English, and it’s very interesting to read.

Lunch nearby; sometimes one finds English in unexpected places.


>Last week we took a little excursion through the Bavarian lake region. First stop was lunch, in the Biergarten of a very nice cloister, where the specialty is Schweinhaxe (pork knuckle) and Knödel. We had a great view of the countryside.

Next stop was Bernried, a village on Lake Starnberg and home to the museum housing the art collection of Lothar-Günter Buchheim, whom Americans may recognize as the author of “Das Boot.” Apparently he was a colorful figure, and quite the collector of German expressionist paintings, primitive folk art, and carousel horses, among other things.

This artwork was parked in front of the museum. The seaweed draped over it is made from bicycle chains. The creature on the roof has already got his tentacles into some of the windows.The artist is local.