ways to look

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This post is about a 20km walk from Strasbourg to Gambsheim. The weirdo and I run into the artwork “Les Arbrorigènes” in the forest.

After two days in Strasbourg, the weirdo and I packed up the Caboose and started walking in a northeasterly direction, towards the Rhône–Rhine Canal.

cycling cities

The way out of Strasbourg was a bit chaotic. There were bike lanes, yes. But more often than not they were blocked by parked cars. After reading about those “cycling city” plans that were apparently happening in Paris, this had a distinctly more German feel to it. The fetish of the motorized vehicle. Bah.

It didn’t take long for us to forget about all of this, though. The city had disappeared behind us as we were walking down a forest path. It was one of those late summer days were there is foliage on the ground but the trees are still green. Also, there were birds in the trees.

the sign

Then we arrived at the sign. LES ARBRORIGÈNES it said, introducing an artwork left here by the artist Ernest Pignon-Ernest. But where was it? Where was the artwork?

We looked around for a while, but with no success. It took an online search for us to even understand what it was we were supposed to be looking for. And there it was, high up in one of the trees, a golden sculpture resembling a human being that was climbing, hugging the tree.

“That’s awesome,” said the weirdo. And it really was.

Duane Hanson

It reminded me of an art exhibition I had seen in Frankfurt some twenty years earlier, one that had changed my perception of art forever.

The artist, an American sculptor called Duane Hanson, had populated the exhibition hall with hyper-realistic sculptures of ordinary people doing ordinary things. A man mowing his lawn. Some children playing with each other. A janitor. A cop. It took a while for me to understand that even some of the visitors and one of the guards were actually not real people. They, too, were sculptures. The boundaries between life and art were being eroded.

what art does

Duane Hanson’s art and that of Ernest Pignon-Ernest had one thing in common, at least for me: they changed the ways I looked at things. Coming out of the Hanson exhibition, I found myself staring at random strangers in the metro, half expecting them to be sculptures.

And it was the same with Pignon-Ernest’s art. Later, as the weirdo and I were continuing our way through the forest, I found myself glancing up here and there, looking for golden sculptures in the treetops.


the walk from Strasbourg to Gambsheim:

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