On this trip, student are expected to write a number of reflections in a journal, complete some assignments that require some exploration of the city, sketching and writing, and they are visiting some museums on their own. One of our big days for doing this kind of activity was yesterday. It was a rainy and chilly day--a day that may have been a really good one for exploring museums!
I met up with a few students at the Glyptothek and we leisurely walked through that museum at our own pace. The Glyptothek has fragmented sculptures from antiquity and it is impressive to see how they are displayed. There is a soft natural light in the galleries and an excellent café. In the summer, they transform the café by removing all the tables and setting up smaller tables to stand at. The cafe opens up onto a court and I learned that there are theater performances in that courtyard at night, sometimes in Latin. As one might expect, they serve wine instead of the usual coffee, hot chocolate (excellent by the way) and tea for the outdoor performances. But today was not the kind of weather for that. In this museum I always contemplate how we have lost the ability to create such fine and detailed sculptures that for so many centuries captured and documented civilizations. The sarcophagi in this museum are incredible, as are some of the larger-than-life sculptures. I always feel small as I look at them. It is also eerie to see the larger-than-life warriors in various stages of killing or dying, each with slightly parted lips and a smile and his face. It is hard to fathom that these sculptures have survived all these years and even harder to figure out how anyone could know how to reconstruct fragmented pieces to recreate enough of the image for us to see now. I know that this is partly because the Germans removed them from their original locations and took good care of them. Whether this is the right thing to have done is something I wonder about in retrospect. Some of the most beautiful sculptures are the simplest ones. The view of entire rooms of these is incredible. Even though I have the least familiarity with antiquity and with sculptures, in general (my own education is more in modern art), I do always feel intrigued when visiting the Glyptothek.
After leaving the Glyptothek, we went to the Brandhorst museum which I had never visited before. There were many works by Cy Twombly here. Seeing entire rooms filled with his gigantic paintings was impressive. I also enjoyed seeing many mixed media works by a German artist, who paints with caviar. Two of the paintings were filled with tiny numbers, as well, since he counted the pieces of caviar on the paintings.
A highlight of the day for me was seeing E la Nave Va at the Kammerspiele. The Kammerspiele has become my favorite theater in Germany. It consistently has the most impressive shows and the acting is superb. I have yet to see something that I disliked there. The actors in this show wore masks that distorted their own features. Without going into the plot, I will say that the show was based off of a Fellini film, which I now want to watch. The stage was transformed into a large ship and the top deck (the stage for much of the time) was on a huge angle, which must have made crossing the stage very difficult. Actors slid and rolled down the stage at times, and climbed up it at others. This show was replete with singing, cross-dressing, and it even had a story line about a gorilla. (Yes, the gorilla plays an important role in the play.) Mainly, I loved how well the play showed earlier attitudes Europeans had about other cultures being "exotic" and dangerous. The play highlighted and poked fun at condescending attitudes of the wealthy. We were lucky to score seats in the 6th row and the two lucky students with us even moved up to the second or third row. My favorite actress, Brigitte Hobmeier, did not disappoint.
Today was a slow, but full day. In the end, I realized how fortunate I feel to be able to view Culture from ancient civilizations to contemporary times, thanks to Munich's excellent museums. And I am able to experience the role that contemporary theater here plays in creating today's culture. Leaving each play, we have a tendency to discuss what we just saw, what it meant, etc. I love that the theater offers something accessible, but at the same time forces one to think.