There’s much to like and appreciate about the Gunter Grass Gallery in the famed writer’s hometown of Gdansk, Poland, but what will remain most memorable to me is the brief soundtrack, intentional or not, that looped continuously, this 30-second jingle-slash-clip that magically lifted the heaviness of the Grass aura to leave whimsy in its wake.
Press play. Please.
The dog reference is to his 1963 novel Dog Years (Hundejahre), the last work on his Danzig Trilogy, after The Tin Drum and Cat and Mouse, works that collectively elevated Grass to the top rung of great novelists of the post-war 20th century.
I haven’t read any of the three. But prompted by finally processing these photos from my July visit, I sought them out and found a Kindle version of The Tin Drum on sale for $2.99. I’ll credit that $14 savings to the same synchronicity that led me to cross paths with this video which, obviously unintentionally, will remain my soundtrack for Gdansk.
And these pieces some of my visual aids to his novels when I make the time to read them.
My visit coincided with the exhibit Günter Grass – the Collection Plus*, an imaginative selection of works by Grass juxtaposed with those of other artists who also called, or call, Gdansk home.
Grass, who won the 1999 Nobel Prize for Literature, was also an accomplished graphic artist and sculptor; discounting the few shorter pieces I read many years ago, it was that aspect, through his visual creations, not his written word, that formed my primary introduction to the writer credited with breaking what the Guardian called “the silences of the past for a generation of Germans”.
The exhibit was a lively and thoughtful conversation, at least the parts I imagined to eavesdrop upon, a dialogue between past and present, between motifs historical and contemporary. And made all the more pleasant with that 25-second loop by Maciek Salamon. (I did mention that already, didn’t I?)
From the intro:
Images live in us. They are cultivated as important elements constituting the history of art. At the same time, passed from one generation to another, they also exist in the subconscious of the audience. Quite often, they emerge unexpectedly in completely new, different circumstances of time and space, when particular emotions, associations, intellectual or intuitive stimuli are awaken.
Selected symbols and motifs, known from popular culture or history of art, arranged in new, often surprising constellations, are supposed to animate the viewers’ memory and imagination, contributing to better understanding of the life after life of images.
Inspired by Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas in which the scholar confronted historical images with contemporary illustrations in an astonishingly daring way, at the same time emphasizing the continuity of certain types of motifs and the changing functions of images, we create the Gdańsk map of memory.
The artists featured:
Alicja Buławka-Fankidejska, Magda Hueckel, Władysław Jackiewicz, Katarzyna Jóźwiak –Moskal, Jacek Kornacki, Stanisław Nowodworski, Mariusz Otta, Maciej Rauch, Maciek Salamon, Krzysztof Wróblewski, Wojciech Zamiara, Marcin Zawicki, and Małgorzata Żerwe.
I’m looking forward to my next visit.
The Gunter Grass Gallery in Gdansk
(Gdańska Galeria Güntera Grassa)
ul. Szeroka 34/35-37, Gdańsk
(+48) 58 304 98 54
Admission is free