At the beginning of Autumn Luisa Garau, an LIS parent, offered the community the chance to join a tour of “Her Leipzig”, cycling from the school to the Cospudener Lake, taking a break at a favourite cafe and ending with a dedicated tour, sponsored by the Leipzig International School, of an atelier in the Spinnerei Gallery. One of the participating parents wrote the following article about this unique experience.
This autumn, I took part in a bicycle tour complimentary of Anton’s school and organized by one of the parents. It was a beautiful morning, although I was a bit apprehensive — I was apparently the only man attending, so I arrived as late as possible. I expected the group to have left without me, but fortunately they were still waiting near the Mexican restaurant as expected. The organizer, a young lady from Mallorca, greeted me and we engaged in conversation before taking off at estimated time of departure. We were unaware that one other parent, a French American called Dominic, had just arrived and was locking his car as we set off. When he looked again, we had disappeared into the forest. Oblivious of this, we moved slowly along the wooded pathway with the sun streaming through as the morning mist lifted. It was the start of what I would call a spiritual journey.
There was only one road to cross, the Schleußiger Weg, before we immersed ourselves in nature. Flanked on both sides by rows of trees adjacent to the canal, the day gradually unfolded. For some reason I imagined myself falling in the water and so I resolved to cycle apart from the group, whilst the others formed into pairs.
I resolved to chat to one of the ladies as she was cycling on her own in front of me. She turned out to be South African and we engaged in pleasantries. She had a set of twins and so I talked about how my own father had an identical twin brother, and when he visited us, people in town who knew of my father being a teacher, became confused when they saw his twin dressed in a habit. They asked if perhaps Mr. McAteer had become a priest? Next, we had to climb an embankment. I felt the urge to take a photo. We then followed a mound with a path nestled behind it and here I felt relatively safe and so I also took some snaps. We descended another slope at high speed, from where we were finally able to see the lake. We had arrived at our first destination. Luisa, our hostess, stopped at a sandy area on the edge of the lake and the conversation turned to the theme of nude bathing in Leipzig, which was said to be widely accepted at this particular spot. A Belgian lady said that this type of thing could never take place in her country because of how uncomfortable parents would feel. So whilst the lake´s pristine surface created the illusion that we were far from civilization, the distant growling of a motorway, made one aware that we were in our own little bubble.
As we resumed our journey, I noticed one of the group members was concerned about the noise her bike was making. I have two left hands, but resolved to do my best to help. As it took longer than expected, the rest of the group had already gone ahead, except for Luisa, who had just come back to see what was wrong. We resolved to leave the front breaks off — the scraping continued, but we had to press on. Within a few minutes, we reached our next destination. A lovely Café with folk chatting idly in the sun. Our guide went ahead to inquire about our outdoor reservation in the sun, but returned with a perplexed look on her face. Apparently, a German couple had abruptly plonked themselves down at one of the tables she was holding. She politely informed them that she was waiting for her group. That met with an air of indifference as the lady said that there was no one sitting there and she refused to budge. One of our crew members apologized for the occasional German bluntness, being herself of German nationality. She had recently returned from living in England and proposed a simple solution: placing several tables together in the shade, which despite Luisa´s reservations, it worked out beautifully.
Suddenly I noticed the man who had walked past me holding his bicycle helmet — he was the one we had left behind. Of French nationality, Dominic said he was unsure of which way we had gone as the path criss-crossed at certain points. So he must have had a real challenge finding us. I went inside and chose three bread rolls with cheese and a selection of cold meats and had a big cup of coffee as we were told this would be the last opportunity to grab something to eat before the end of our tour. Luisa was still uneasy about what it happened with the couple´s intrusion, but the conversation slowly turned to the pandemic and travel restrictions. Then, as if a coin had somehow fallen on a ceramic floor, we heard how her uncle, a surrogate father, who had played a major role in her nine year old son´s life and the last of the hermits left in Mallorca, had recently contracted the virus and had sadly lost the battle in a hospital over a period of forty eight hours. Alone. Her intimate account drew us closer together. The journey continued to our final destination, an old converted cotton factory. I had visited the place before and it left a deep impression on me. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the Management. I marveled at how well the whole thing had been organized. I had always thought of art as something spontaneous that grows on you when you least expect it. We were escorted inside the Archive (a little Museum with early photographs and memorabilia of the workplace, which featured child labor, apparently allowed at the time) and asked to leave our bags in the reception area, where someone offered to keep an eye on them. I was tired of carrying my heavy camera, so I left it on a seat. The American guide assigned to us at Spinnerei climbed upon a stool. It reminded me of school back in Ireland where the vice principal would stand on a seat observing the mass of students heading into the dining area. She spoke about the history of the place and Wilhelm Liebknecht who was founder of the labour rights movement. So the penny finally dropped. Now I knew why that street continues to attract so many followers from the left wing. She spoke eloquently and clearly but there was an occasion where she could not find the English word for ‘Verschworungstheorie’. I came up with “conspiracy theory”, but someone else got the credit for it. Luisa had asked me to take some photographs, so I went to get camera. I was relieved to find it still sitting there as there was nobody supervising our stuff. I took a few shots, but the flash was not functioning, so I suspected they would turn out dark (as you can see). Sarah, our American guide, had announced that she was an artist as well and took us to her studio. The room was cramped with paintings scattered across the floor, which made little sense to me. One particular abstract drawing on the table caught my eye, but before I could get lost in its intricacies, we were on the move again.
This time it was Steve Lewis’ turn, a NJ born artist (Head of the Art Department at the International School) and AnaMaria Avram …, a Romanian painter from Constanţa, whom he shares the studio with. Her paintings are reminiscent of the Dutch Masters, Vermeer´s portraits. I had seen Mr. Lewis´ work on a postcard at the school. It portrayed a boy looking at himself in a pool of water. The image stayed with me and I now had the opportunity to talk to the artist. His art was very different from that of his female counterpart and one could almost feel an invisible line going down the middle of the room, each one working on adjacent walls, echoing an image of Narcissus reflected in the water.
Our next appointment was Galerie Kleindienst. A young man sporting a beard smiled as we entered. His name is Christian Seyde and he had been expecting us. When he arose I noticed his shirt was sticking out. How fitting for a gallerist, I thought. He stood in the middle of the room with us all forming a circle around him. He started out by saying he did not want to discuss the paintings, but rather the price. I did not know that people could be so ruthless when it comes to art. One of the big works cost 20,000 Euro. I imagined we could come up with the cash together so that each person could keep the painting for a certain length of time.
However, being too large for any our walls, I thought it would be more suitable for a hotel or restaurant. It was typically German in style — a car surrounded by a mob, with the license plate reading ‘Staub’(dust). There was an obvious message to the makers of Mercedes. He pointed out a side room with smaller works. We were allowed to take photos, but unfortunately, yet again, mine were out of focus … ! As for the prints hanging in the small room, no-one seemed to have paid any attention to them. The gallery owner escorted us outside and into a rather dark and shabby looking building. There was some graffiti on the walls, one of which it read heartless. It brought back to mind a piece of graffiti I once saw at the University of Stuttgart many years ago. The buildings were big blocks of concrete with little aesthetic. Someone had sprayed ‘Schade dass Beton nicht brennt’ on them, ‘it´s a pity that concrete does not burn’. I thought to myself, how apt! We continued up a poorly lit stairway and then entered another studio.
A young woman with long wavy red hair stood next to the wall on the opposite side of the room. Her name, Corinne von Lebusa. She seemed uncomfortable surrounded by so many strangers. Christian introduced her and pointed out that she was very representative of the second generation Neuen Leipzig Schule. She was invited to speak about her work, but to our surprise, took a step backwards and held up her hands in defense, saying she did not speak any English. There followed a moment of silence as we began to scrutinize her work. But as the artist withdrew more and more into her shell, we thought it was time to leave. I wanted to say something to her, but seeing how shy she was I decided not to. We followed Christian Seyde out through a dark corridor torn in several places. The whole place spoke of desolation and even when we got outside I was unable to shake it off. I spoke to Dominic about how a place can absorb so much from its human environment.
As we gathered outside, we expressed our appreciation to Luisa for sharing with us a glimpse of an underground art world and an idyllic path to the lake that we wouldn’t necessarily have found ourselves … “her Leipzig”. But this delightful day together begged for an “Encore”: And in fact, given the group’s enthusiasm, Luisa is currently working on Leipzig´s classical music tradition and home of Johann Sebastian Bach, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Richard Wagner, and Clara & Robert Schumann. Next, Covid-19 permitting, she will take us on a whirl wind tour of our city´s rich cultural heritage.
Stay tuned for more information or contact Luisa Garau Costa directly at email@example.com for reservations. Patrick McAteer Parent at LIS
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