Friday, January 11, 2013

Salzburg: Modern Art in and Old City

Seeing this figure for the first time wouldn't necessarily make you think of embracing life or making the most of what you have. If you thought this ghoulish figure is something somewhat disturbing, you wouldn't be alone.

Today I had the pleasure of visiting the Salzburg Cathedral. Originally built in 774, this cathedral has been home to many bishops over the years. Many of those bishops are still there today in a crypt underneath the sanctuary floor.

The crypt was originally built by Archbishop Konrad III (1181-1200), but filled in after a fire in 1598. The crypt was not discovered for centuries later when excavators unearthed it in 1956.

 In 2009, the Salzburg Art Project asked Christian Boltanski to come and create a sculpture piece that would invite visitors to visit the historical site. Boltanski came up with the beautiful, but very unique piece, "Vanitas."

"Vanitas," or Vanity, includes several small, delicate metal sculptures that depict the angel of death. Boltanski chose to do this because death is in every future, and is a reminder of things to come. The eerie metal figures are come to life by candle light. If you wave your hands above the flame, the shadows will slowly dance; making your nerves even more uneasy.

While you're looking at the tiny sculptures you'll see a projection of ghost circling the room. It starts out small but gets bigger and bigger as it comes closer to you. You'll also hear a recording of a woman's monotonous voice saying the current time approximately every five seconds. This recording is used to illustrate that every minute we loose, we are closer to death. A charming thought, I know. The artist wanted "time to be heard and sensed. People are capable of many things, but they cannot turn back the flow of time. God is the Lord of time."

Even though Boltanski's message was delivered in an unusual way, I was fascinated with is work and the meaning behind it. Its a good reminder to think of life as a gift, not a chore. Yes, there is work, bills, families and several other responsibilities to think of, but that shouldn't get in the way of enjoying and investing in the life you have. PLU has taught me to think about what I'm going to do with my one wild and precious life and honestly, I don't know the answer. I have plans, but plans usually change. What I do know is this: I have a teaching certificate, I am supported and loved by friends and family, and I'm in Austria. I plan to make the most of it.

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