Aaseeterrassen, Münster, Germany
Three balls, each 11 ft. 6 in. (3.5 m) diameter
Commissioned September 1976 by the Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Münster, for the exhibition Skulptur, sponsored by the province of Westphalia, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, and the city of Münster
Installed June 6, 1977
In 1977, Kaspar König and Klaus Bussman organized the first of what would become a series of exhibitions of contemporary outdoor sculpture in the university town of Münster, Germany. Coosje van Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg, who had been asked to participate, were at the time living in the small town of Deventer in the East of the Netherlands, not far away.
It was a period in sculpture of earthworks, specific objects and conceptual art. Michael Asher, for example, would show a trailer which each day was parked in a different location. After several visits, to the University, the zoo and other points of interest in Münster, we began thinking about a subject in separate parts which together would form a whole. Coosje, recalling that a former Bishop of Münster, known as "Bombing Berend", had laid siege to her birthplace, Groningen, in 1672, suggested cannonballs, scattered about the city. We had seen such a ball embedded in an ancient wall in Münster, and were also aware of the bombing attack on the city during World War II, which had obliterated the city’s center, now restored to its original appearance.
We began by sticking round labels on photographs of various city sites and shading them to look like balls. On a panoramic aerial view, giant "balls" were shown not only filling the city but the entire countryside beyond it. What the concept lacked was a connection to the ordinary life of the present. Coosje brought up an even more extreme proposal by Claes for Central Park, New York, in 1967, in which all the vegetation was removed and the park visualized as a pool table. Pool balls the size of skyscrapers moved at a barely visible pace around the leveled park area. This became the link we were looking for: the historical cannonball subject became the contemporary Pool Balls. We set off to study the possibilities in a local pool hall.
The site we eventually chose for the Pool Balls was a park along the Aasee, a lake at Münster’s center. We settled on three balls, each 3.5 meters in diameter, placed as if by chance at the center of the area. The rest had to be imaginary. As one moves around the park, the Balls appear in different relations to one another, while, in the background, criss-crossing sailboats glide by, suggestive of the Balls' potential movements.
The Pool Balls were cast in concrete, in halves that were joined at the site. Like our friend Donald Judd, who also had a concrete work in the show, we chose not to paint the sculpture. The Pool Balls had no colors, no numbers; there was only the green of the grass. Soon after the installation, citizens began covering the Balls with images and graffiti; the Balls became a kind of message center, a bulletin board, as well as a perch for watching Rock concerts.
As the Pool Balls are permanently sited, they have appeared in all the subsequent outdoor sculpture exhibitions, each time repainted a concrete hue to simulate the original effect and return them to the status of artworks. We have come to accept that, while the Pool Balls may be appreciated, it is not always for reasons that we intended. With our permission, the Balls have recently been made part of temporary exhibitions by other artists. For example, one built a house around one of the Balls as if having it over for dinner; another planned to knit woolen covers for the Balls in winter.
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