It might be art!
If you choose to interrupt your evening stroll on the big Kettwiger Straße, the main shopping street in Essen, and you decide to take a left turn (coming from central station) you will probably get the impression of being in the wrong place.
In comparison to the broad shopping promenade with its illuminated shop windows, the small streets there might bear a rather eerie impression. Don’t be afraid. You won’t be alone or in danger. There is a popular discotheque, a small cinema and several shops, but the dull facades, the narrow streets and the lack of illumination somehow add up to the impression of a shady backyard. At the end of the Schwarze Meer you might notice some sparkling neon lights that don’t seem to really make sense in that place. Congratulations! You just discovered a piece of art. The work is called “MeerLicht” and was created by the architect and light artist Peter Brdenk and his companion Jürgen LIT Fischer in 2002 as a contribution to the jubilee of the city. Being the lighting coordinator for the city and expert in the field of light art, Peter Brdenk chose to react to the surrounding area with a little play on words when he created the installation. The street is called “Schwarze Meer” (translates to black sea), which seems like a pretty unreasonable name for that place. The title of the installation translates as “SeaLight”, but it plays with the fact that in German the phonetic meaning of that term could also be “more light”. Fortunately the foundation of a big energy group decided to provide a restauration for the object in the fall of 2016. So by now “MeerLicht” is able to perform what it once was created for: to radiate a little bit of light in a rather dark space. In an area that has struggled with structural change, unemployment and empty municipal treasuries it isn’t always easy to impart the necessity of art in public space to people. In recent years cultural initiatives like the Ruhr Kunst Museen, a network of 20 museums from 15 different cities, the Ruhr Bühnen, a network of 11 theaters from 9 different cities, international art festivals like the “Ruhrtriennale” or the “Emscherkunst” and publications like “Public Art Ruhr” certainly contributed to communicating the importance of art – especially during rough times. But while those artworks that were introduced with big events and promotional efforts quite easily attract public attention, others sometimes tend to be overlooked. In the high density of sculptures, light/sound installations and street art in the Ruhr district the smaller and perhaps less aggressive or obvious ones are as well capable of serving as constant reminders, to create awareness, to utter critique, to evoke aesthetical experiences or to simply distract one from his daily routine. Meanwhile there are numerous online services that provide information about the cultural landscape of the area, but even if you are not that interested in the fine arts, we would like to take this chance to ask you to keep your eyes open and trust your senses. And yes, the strange object you probably stumbled over while reading this could be there for a reason …
Peter Brdenk Photo: Frank Vinken | dwb