Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Türmer von Freiburg

Imagine Red Baron standing inside the shelter (©Theater Freiburg)
The project "Die Türmer von Freiburg" (The Freiburg Vigil) by choreographer Joanne Leighton is designed to invite Freiburg's citizens to leave their everyday life behind and gain a new perspective: From the 20th of June 2015 onwards a shelter made out of wood and glass will be placed atop Theater Freiburg's roof for 365 days. Every day at sunrise and sunset this shelter turns into a safekeep and lookout for a single visitor for exactly one hour. This hour is called "the vigil". Hovering above the city one's perspective broadens either towards east over downtown Freiburg and the Black Forest or towards west over Freiburg's rooftops and the Upper Rhine Plain towards the Vosges. "Die Tümer von Freiburg" (literally translated "The watchers of Freiburg") are leaving everyday occurrences behind while watching over the city and asking themselves: Who am I in this city and what room do I claim to be mine?

This is how Joanne Leighton's art project is introduced on the website Die Türmer von Freiburg. Originally a tower watchman or tower warder guarded a town from high above day and night. In case he (in those days it was a man's job) detected a fire or saw enemy troops approaching he rang the church bells when on a church tower or blew horn signals to alarm his fellow citizens.

When Red Baron learned about Joanne Leighton's art project he was looking for a vigil during the morning hours in summer but all days were already booked until November 2015. Getting up in the dark on a cold November morning is not at all my taste so I switched from sunrise to sunset.

Generally there are more female than male tower warders but during "my" week the ratio was extreme counting 10 to 4. The day before yesterday, November 23, was my day. I became a Freiburg Türmer from 15h45 to 16h45.

Approaching the site. The shelter for the tower warder on the roof of the theater is clearly visible.
Left the new university library. In front the construction site for Freiburg's new boulevard.
I arrived at the theater half an hour earlier and was received by an escort. She reminded me to leave my watch and my iPhone behind. A tower warder must not be distracted. When my time had arrived the lady guided me up to the shelter with its two-sided view and locked me in.

During the vigil my intention had been to trace Freiburg's Vauban fortifications. Freiburg's theater actually is built on the former Bastion Dauphin. My first impression: Disappointment, for it was impossible to see the Colombischlösschen to my left constructed on the mount of the Bastion Saint Louis. In addition, in front the massive Kollegiengebäude II barred my view unto the old city and to my right I barely made out the University Mensa (cafeteria) on the site of the former Bastion de la Reyne. My position on the roof was just too low!

Thus looking east I concentrated on Freiburg's towers and steeples along the line of Mayor Otto Winterer's maxim: A village has roofs, a town sports steeples: the two-spired Johannis Church, University tower, St. Martin's Gate, Schlossberg tower, the scaffolded steeple of the Münster Church, Jesuite Church, St. Martin's steeple. However, with the sunset approaching I moved to the west window of the shelter. Before the sun disappeared behind the horizon a bank of clouds moved in front but looking more closely I discovered a gap between the cloud bank and the earth's surface. As the sun descended further, its lower edge appeared in the gap painting the rim of the clouds in a vibrant orange. I was lucky. After a few minutes the glowing circle was filling exactly the space between the cloud and the horizon. The ball of fire continued to descend first slowly then faster and suddenly disappeared.

In the meantime the moon had risen in the east above the Schlossberg. What a spectacle and no photos allowed!

My escort arrived but it was not over yet. Tower warders are asked to write down their sensations. I sat down and noted my impression on two pages. Are those lost? In a preparatory meeting of the art project I had asked the pertinent question. Joanne Leighton and co-workers had not made up their mind yet.

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