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October 1995

Crop Circles without the hoax: A year after groundbreaking, the airport's "art object" is completed

AN overhead view of a new peice of art in Munich

Drawing a gigantic picture on the earth's surface has always been a natural desire of Man," explains sculptor Wilhelm Holderied. "Just think of the people of Nasca in Latin America from ancient times. Long before the airplane was ever invented, people had a longing for earth pictures. They are magical, enigmatic and spiritual." Holderied's faith in his art is about to take flight. On a plot of land next to the A92 Autobahn just west of the Munich airport, he has gouged a double-spiraled object incredible in size-205 meters in width and 260 meters in length. The larger spiral is more than 140 meters in diameter, the smaller one 78 meters. The top of each whirl is some four meters high. Since the groundbreaking in September 1994, dozens of workers were assigned to the project under the supervision of the artist. Construction proceeded for more than eight months, often suspended by episodes of harsh weather. Now, a year later, the Kunstobjekt is finally complete. The project was made possible through the financial support of some 450 people in and around Munich. Each meter of art was sold for DM 400 to those interested in taking part in the project. A public relations manager bought 10 meters, and even a pilot bought a meter. Holderied's earth picture postcards were also successful in raising funds. Piece by piece, the entire object was eventually sold, without financial aid from the state or any art institute. Why at the airport? "There is a philosophical concept behind this," says Karl Schlamminger, a sculptor associated with the project. "The airport is symbolic for its functionality. Terminal buildings and flight schedules play the most important role. Our desire was to present something without any function whatsoever. Modern life is so strongly oriented toward pragmatism that we simply wished to express an eternal concept of time." Of course, building the object near the airport does have a practical side: the entire picture can be seen only from the air. The initial round of negotiations with the airport authority was not easy. Holderied's first idea of creating a huge face was turned down due to a fear that it might cause accidents by catching the attention of pilots, thereby distracting their concentration in the cockpit. Instead, the current spiral shape with the shaggy slash on the side, which the artist playfully describes as a trace of pubic hair, was welcomed and eventually named "An Island for Time" ("Eine Insel für die Zeit"). Holderied now has a lease on nine hectares of land which permits the existence of his object for ten years, until 2004. Overall the Munich Airport's administration welcomes this daring creation. "I find the project innovative and unique," says Ingo Ansbach of the airport's press department. Born in the Allgäu region of southern Bavaria, Holderied was originally trained as a mechanic. Later he came to Munich to study at the Fine Arts Academy in the 1960s. Many of his previous works dealt with earth material. It is no wonder, therefore, that the new work of art is made of pebbles and sand. To add to the artistic concept, the surrounding land is to be filled with yellow rape blossoms in spring, followed by red flowers in summer, green fields in autumn and white snow in winter. Holderied was inspired with the idea while flying over Mexico nine years ago. "It was not easy to be pregnant with it for nine years," he said, "but, thank God, the baby has finally been born." Despite this, he plans to put up an even larger-sized art object in the next few years. To see "An Island for Time," take the S8 to Besucherpark and follow signs to parking lot P201, from where a path leads to a platform overlooking the artwork. Motorists should take the airport exit from the A92 and follow signs for lot P201.

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