Norbert Kricke, Raum-Zeit-Plastik, 1955/56, 51°57'52.4"N 7°37'45.7"E
When the Städtische Bühnen Münster celebrated their opening on 4 February 1956, the public not only encountered the first fully modern theatre building of the Federal Republic but also laid eyes on the first contemporary artwork in the public realm of Münster: the Raum-Zeit-Plastik (Space-Time Sculpture) by the Düsseldorf artist Norbert Kricke (1922–1984)—a non-representative sculpture made of bent steel wire, hovering several metres above the theatre entrance, describing a swinging light and dynamically curved line in space.
Kricke’s work, prize winner of the competition for designing the theatre façade in 1955, is not to be understood as a self-contained, solitary object. Its appeal instead results from an intensive dialogue with the extraordinary building, created by the four-member team of architects Harald Deilmann, Max von Hausen, Ortwin Rave and Werner Ruhnau. Their architectural concept was based on the idea of preserving the ruins of the former classicist building by Wilhelm Ferdinand Lipper (1733–1800) as a “living backdrop” in the inner courtyard of the new building and to thereby render war and destruction visible and tangible as a prerequisite for the new beginning.1 Norbert Kricke enters this field of tension with his Raum-Zeit-Plastik, which in its playful free-flowing form serves as a counter point to the ruins in the courtyard and the architecture of the new structure. The white linear formation consisting of two bent steel wires follows the architectural angle of the entrance situation; detaching from the façade surfaces, it forms an elegant loop in the air, while its ends open up toward the urban space. The almost incorporeal spatial sculpture thus directs one’s gaze likewise onto the theatre building, on the surrounding context of the inner city and toward the infinite sphere of the sky. Like a whirl stirring the air, it entices observers to follow the course of the lines with their eyes and to imagine this spatial trace as a temporal process of a movement. In the 1950s Norbert Kricke phrased his artistic guiding principle accordingly: “My problem is not mass, is not figure, but it is space and it is movement—space and time. I don’t want real space or real movement (mobiles), I want to represent movement. I try to endow the unity of space and time with form.”2
Just as the modern theatre buildings were meant to provide the Federal Republic with a new notion of public life, art in the public sphere or “art in architecture” were conceived to play a special role in the scope of democratization. Art was meant to inspire open dialogue and promote a sense of community. While the inhabitants of Münster had favourable opinions of the new theatre, and the building was celebrated by the press as a “thunderbolt of theatre architecture”3, Norbert Kricke’s Raum-Zeit-Plastik elicited mixed responses on behalf of the audience. It nonetheless was not ineffective, but in the long run can be considered as the initial impetus for an engagement with contemporary art in Münster. Even decades later, the “inventor” of the Skulptur Projekte and longstanding director of the Westfälische Landesmuseum, Klaus Bußmann (1941–2019), still describes it as his “first and felicitous encounter with ‘art in the public realm’”.4 It is even today regarded as exemplary of an artistically free answer to a given architectural situation.
Claudia Blümle/Jan Lazardzig, “Öffentlichkeit in Ruinen. Zum Verhältnis von Theater, Architektur und Kunst in den 1950er Jahren”, 9–37, in Claudia Blümle (ed.), Ruinierte Öffentlichkeit. Zur Politik von Theater, Architektur und Kunst in den 1950er Jahren, (Zurich, 2012), 9, quote translated here by Barbara Lang.
Norbert Kricke, quoted in: Carola Giedion-Welcker, Plastik des XX. Jahrhunderts. Volumen und Raumgestaltung (Contemporary Sculpture: An Evolution in Volume and Space, Stuttgart, 1955, 197.)
Johannes Jacobi, “Deutsche Städte bauen neue Theater. ‚Donnerschläge‘ der Architekten – Ratlosigkeit rechnender Bauherren und technische Experimente”, Die Zeit, 12 July 1956, quote translated here by Barbara Lang.
Klaus Bußmann, in Allen Ruppersberg. A Tour Guide to: The Best of all Possible Worlds, published in the frame of the Skulptur.Projekte in Münster in 1997, (Münster, 1997), 14.