Open-Air Contemporary Art in Medieval City

House originally built in 1555, updated mid-nineteenth century.

House originally built in 1555, updated mid-nineteenth century.

We scheduled a weekend visit to Görlitz, the easternmost town in Germany located on the Lusatian Neisse River along the border of Germany and Poland, to see its architectural heritage. With a rich history of being conquered and held by various kingdoms, emperors, and states, the village was first founded in 1002, becoming a town in the thirteenth century, along an ancient and medieval trade route.

Over the next almost one thousand years, the government of Görlitz changed many times; the town prospered with its rich farm lands; the Protestant Reformation was responsible for most of the population becoming Lutheran; later and in succession, the Thirty Years' War, the Napoleonic Wars, and World War I impacted the town's government. Görlitz, the city, survived relatively intact during World War II, although manufacturing was converted to munitions factories. The eastern boundary of the city, along the Oder-Neisse Line, divided the town after the end of the war. Görlitz, on the left bank, became part of East German. Zgorzelec, on the right bank, became part of Poland.

Pedestrian bridge to Poland from Görlitz, Germany.

Pedestrian bridge to Poland from Görlitz, Germany.

Our interest was in the historical buildings, undamaged physically by the various wars but often decayed and in disrepair until a campaign to restore many to their colorful magnificence started in the 1960s. The site of numerous films (think of the inside of the hotel in "The Grand Budapest Hotel"), the city takes one back in time to what many other towns and cities in Europe would have been like without several wars and hundreds of years of weather and other environmental issues.

Görlitz train station.

Görlitz train station.

Immediately upon disembarking from the train from Berlin, we became enmeshed in the historical feel of this town. The various town squares (or markets), the narrow streets, the pastel-colored houses, the medieval wall still partially surrounding the city, the numerous churches and monastery, the winding river dividing the city, commanded our attention and awe.

Typical city street.

Typical city street.

But then, we unexpected saw a huge metal sculpture, looking to us like a woman with horse legs. Upon closer examination, we'd stumbled upon "Görlitzer Art," a ten-piece, year-long, contemporary art installation around and about the city. The pieces, conceived, created, and installed as a project by the Capital of Culture 2016/Wroclaw and Breslau, were unique, evocative, and distinct. While we saw all ten installations, I was only able to capture eight of them on my camera. My comments or impressions of each named installation are my own, perhaps not exactly what the artist(s) intended.

"Maske," depicting the effects on humans and animals alike of the changes in environment.

"Maske," depicting the effects on humans and animals alike of the changes in environment.

"Pulse of the City," showing the connection between nature and manmade elements of the city.

"Pulse of the City," showing the connection between nature and manmade elements of the city.

"Border," asymmetrical blocks of flat black and white paint on several sides and reflecting mirrors on others. Borders can signify limits or permit infinite possibilities. 

"Border," asymmetrical blocks of flat black and white paint on several sides and reflecting mirrors on others. Borders can signify limits or permit infinite possibilities. 

"Clock," electronic time-keeper attached to abandoned factory building, technology continues to change the world around us.

"Clock," electronic time-keeper attached to abandoned factory building, technology continues to change the world around us.

"Cloud Swing," a playful image that permits children and adult to interact physically with the art, exploring their imagination.

"Cloud Swing," a playful image that permits children and adult to interact physically with the art, exploring their imagination.

"Herd," conceptual images of horses, perhaps, once a primary mode of transportation, sport, and work, now conceived as old-time remembrances.

"Herd," conceptual images of horses, perhaps, once a primary mode of transportation, sport, and work, now conceived as old-time remembrances.

"&" the world continues apace.

"&" the world continues apace.

"Tower," a contemporary expression juxtaposed against numerous towers used for defense, storage of grains, and hiding throughout Europe.

"Tower," a contemporary expression juxtaposed against numerous towers used for defense, storage of grains, and hiding throughout Europe.

The two remaining installations comprised several life-sized crystal boxes and a yellow-blue-grey colored cobbled street. I found messages of the present and future tied to the past; the evolution of the city due to profound changes in our environment; and hope as we move forward toward the unknown. I am so glad one of my searches for "places to visit outside Berlin" highlighted this area.