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13 November 2003

Prof. Micha Ullman's "Echo" on the Neuenheimer Feld Campus Presented to the Public

Invitation to the media to attend the presentation on 18 November 2003 in the presence of the artist—Art historian Prof. Riedl: "One of the most renowned contemporary artists"


"Echo". Photos : Ullman

"We hope and trust that 'Echo' on the Neuenheimer Feld campus will have the effect that Micha Ullman aims at in all his work: to provide people with a location they can relate to and feel connected by." These are the words with which art historian Prof. Dr. Anselm Riedl concludes his appreciation of the new work by the Israeli artist that will be presented to the public in the presence of Prof. Ullman on Tuesday of next week. The University Construction Department cordially invites the media to attend the event (Tuesday, 18 November 2003, 9.30 a.m., outside the north-west entrance of the Kirchhoff Institute of Physics, Im Neuenheimer Feld 227, 69120 Heidelberg).

Here are some extracts from Prof. Riedl's detailed appreciation of Prof. Ullman's work. "The question of how art can be related to life in as resonant a way as possible has become increasingly urgent in an age in which art has forfeited the kind of relation formerly assured by familiar forms and symbols. Where an artist like Micha Ullman succeeds in revitalising old symbols by the use of contemporary idioms and also in creating new symbols, the works in which he does are certain to achieve a broad resonance because of the supremacy of the aesthetic component."


Riedl: "When in 1995 Ullman created a bare space with empty bookshelves of concrete beneath the August Bebel Square in Berlin, where the barbaric Nazi book-burning campaign took place in 1933, and partly covered the underground location with a pane of glass, the monument that took shape could hardly have been more telling in its artistic simplicity. The empty library illuminated at night allows us to look in but not to enter. Its bareness is a witness to the mindless brutality of the Nazi regime, while the glass window symbolises the fragility of the ground that divides the observer from the historical event. Clarity of form and the cogency of the message unite to make an irrefutable statement.

But it is not only works like this that have made Ullman one of the most renowned of contemporary artists. He has increasingly turned to cosmological themes in his work. For the recently competed work 'Echo' outside the Institute of Physics on the Neuenheimer Feld campus, Micha Ullman has provided a commentary worth quoting extensively. Around the centre of the work nine circles made of different kinds of stone are arranged. The largest circle has a diameter of no less than 280 metres. All the forms and dimensions are related to the human body. The length of the stone elements corresponds to the length of a stride and hence to walking speed. The height and thickness of the central pillar rammed into the earth correspond to the stature and the shoulder-breadth of the artist himself. A small hollow in the surface of the central element stands for the sun, while curved spheres only a few inches across and let into the ground symbolise the planets. Micha Ullman provides a whole catalogue of possible associations and meanings. One obvious feature is the allusion to the concentric waves produced by dropping a stone into water, another is the allusion to the orbits of the nine planets that circle the sun. One might also think of electrons spinning around the nucleus of an atom, or more generally of wave phenomena in the physiologically accessible spectrum.

The artist goes on to suggest that the changing play of light and shade in the small hollows is the way in which the artwork responds to the constant changes caused by the passage of time. Differences in the weather will be reflected by the colour changes in the stones caused by wetness and dryness. The sculpture thus becomes a field of tension in which the movements of pedestrians and cyclists become part of the composition. The open character and the transparency of the sculpture are not only part of the location but also create a focal point that repeats itself ('Echo') across the entire campus—a meeting point for students and teachers, a meeting point for science, everyday life and imagination, closeness and distance, planets and the strides of walkers.

The rhythm of the circles that can be experienced as expansion and concentration, the justness of the proportions, the quality of the stone material, and not least the cohesive decorative effect on the immediate surroundings and the volume of the buildings—all these factors assure the Heidelberg sculpture a formal and coloristic effect that might tempt us to resort to the term Gesamtkunstwerk, if this increasingly obsolescent term were able to do justice to a work of such sensual power and meditative suggestiveness."

Brief biography of Mischa Ullman

1939: born in Tel Aviv; 1960-1964: studies at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem; 1965: studies at the Central School for Arts and Crafts, London; 1970-1978: teacher at the Bezalel Academy; 1976: visiting professor at the Academy of Fine Arts, Düsseldorf; 1979-1985: teacher at the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, Technion, Haifa; 1979-1989: teacher of sculpture and drawing at the Fine Arts Department, Haifa University; 1985: sabbatical in New York; 1989: German Academic Exchange grant, Berlin; since 1991: professor of sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts, Stuttgart; since 1996: member of the Academy of Arts, Berlin. Micha Ullman lives and works in Ramat Hasharon and Stuttgart.

A photo of "Echo" can be provided on request.

Please address any inquiries to
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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