Saturday, September 01, 2007

Graz Update

Hi there,

Just to let you know, updates may be slightly scarce through September. Greg has two math conferences to prepare presentations for, and attend, and then we're going to Oktoberfest in Munich.
This week we finally got around to visiting Kunsthaus Graz, the ultra-modern weird nobbly building just across the river. (From the angle we've taken this picture of the model, it looks like a syphillitic hippopotamus in traction. Fortunately, the model is for the benefit of the blind. Everyone else has to touch the outside of the actual building, to get the effect.) The museum has been hosting an exhibit entitled "China Welcomes You" for some months and with the imminent threat of the exhibit closing next week we hustled over to check it out.

For the most part, the exhibits ranged between supremely odd and inscrutable. The first thing we were confronted with was a sculpture constructed from an inside-out-refrigerator with the word "Anti-Matter" spray painted on in stencil letters. There was a video of an old Chinese guy rocking out on a (Sanxian?--a 2 string guitar-esque instrument) and singing about groceries. One exhibit was a cube formed of movie screens which showed a silhouette puppet show from three different angles. There were a series of Chinese classical style paper-cuts (that are used as patterns for embroidering on silk) illustrating assorted extreme bodily misfortunes. There was video of a group of people hitting light bulbs together and in the same room a bunk bed where both mattresses had been replaced by artificial grass.

One of the more striking exhibits consisted of an enclosure filled with mannequins of 13 prominent world leaders, aged to 80+ and placed in electric wheel chairs and set to bump into each other and walls endlessly. Presumably this is to be interpreted as a commentary on how persons in positions of power may experience an extreme change in priorities in their last years. One of the museum attendants invited us to enter the enclosure, but we respectfully declined.

We watched part of a film depicting extremely broke Chinese farmers, probably in one of the northern provinces attempting to get by. We watched an entire short film entitled "Backyard - Hey, Sun is Rising!" which once could only describe as Chinese surrealist comedy involving four men who live together and their antics, which amounted to playing with swords, yawning, and crawling around on their sides. Someone got a TREMENDOUS back massage, too.

On the top floor there were a lot of extremely large vases spread around, and the needle, which is the odd capsule-like part of the building attached to the outside, had been filled with a stone patio, fake potted banana trees and an immense pile of papers covered in kanji, then crumpled up in an immense pile with some sort of mechanical agitation device below. There was a wooden bridge over the pile and a live video feed to two televisions in other parts of the room, so you could watch the paper twitching, even if you weren't standing right over it, watching it twitch.

There are some pictures from the exhibit here: in case you feel like reading about an art exhibit isn't... totally fulfilling. However, be aware that might only be a useful link through this coming Saturday (9/1/7)

Feeling as though we had sated our desire to encounter modern art for the day, we attempted to make further good on our museum day pass by visiting the Joanneum, another prominent museum of natural/local history, which turned out to be closed. Above is the main facade of it, which is as much of it as we got to see. We cut our losses by visiting the Landeszeughaus (, which is the historical armory for Graz. It's four stories of very old, very heavy weapons and armaments. Always mind-blowing to think about going anywhere in full armor and weapons that clearly weigh a lot. For no obvious reason, there was a modern police chest protector sitting on the floor, in a room stacked floor to ceiling, half a block long, with hammered iron chest plates.

The armory was a rather large four-story building packed with all armor, pistols, rifles, swords, mortars, and cannons. The outside was festooned with flowers, though. :) One thing that was interesting about it was, in contrast to the normal methods of display in a museum, only a few items were displayed prominently to attract attention, while the bulk of the display was just a store house. There must have been hundreds of muskets all essentially alike for example, it seems like the transition from functional armory to museum involved putting inventory tags on things, and putting lock-bars on some of the racks. There was a small curated info area on the ground floor, but the rest didn't even have labels or indicators of function or model.

This won't mean much to almost anyone who reads this post, but, for those who are interested, this is the guy who organized the criteria for determining the relative hardness of minerals and other materials, the Mohs Scale. Apparently he was on the home team here, when the Joanneum was doing important scientific works in the name of the Emperor... (which was Joann, by the way...)

And, aside from all that, purple carrots.

Nothing really to say about those, except I think we have had enough beta carotene for now. They're *really* good with pot roast, though.

-H & G

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