Monday, 30 January 2012

Groetjes uit Zwolle:Terminator Mike


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He has been standing there for quite some time now - tall, slim, transparent and green...a bit in the way actually, right in the middle of the Grote Markt in Zwolle. 
The first time I saw him I was not particularly charmed by his presence. I hoped with all my heart that he had somehow chosen this particular spot to hang out just temporarily. Just in case, I decided I had to dissuade him, to chase him away. 
"Please go away from my beautiful historic square," I said as I walked past him. "Go hang out somewhere else, you do not belong here." He just stared back, his arms lax hanging at his sides, glassy look on his face, impervious to my verbal bullying.

But Michael was there to stay - for good.

Terminator Mike, as I now like to call him -quite afffectionally, actually- came to life by the hand of artist Herman Lamers, from Rotterdam. It is a 3.10m. high glass sculpture of St. Michael, the patron saint and guardian angel of my city, Zwolle. 

In the year 2005 a group of representatives of the community in Zwolle got together to formulate the outlines for the commission of a new sculpture which was to be erected in the very spot where the city was born - the Grote Markt or main square of the city. More than a hundred artists participated in the pre-selection round carried out by the committee and artist Herman Lamers was finally chosen for the task. In June 2010 the new sculpture depicting St.Michael came to stand in the very heart of the historic city centre of Zwolle. 

It cannot have been easy for poor Terminator Mike to stand there in the Grote Markt in those early days; the sculpture did not have  a very warm welcome at first. Many officials from City Hall were not quite happy with the end result and the citizens of the glamorous city of Zwollywood were not instantly charmed by their new  guardian -archangel or not- either. I was one of those un-charmed citizens myself. 


Most of the critics thought that a more classic image should have been used to depict our patron saint, the archangel Michael; you know, like in all those paintings and drawing we have seen of St. Michael brandishing a spear or sword and with a dead dragon at his feet. The warrior angel, guardian of Good against Evil. 

Instead, we got Terminator Mike, a modernistic glass figure in transparent green, emerging from a glass pool; rising "like a Terminator", -in the words of the artist himself- to watch over us every day.

Terminator Mike is dressed in a 21st century suit instead of the warrior robes we know from the classic iconography. To many people's surprise, this new version of St. Michael wields no sword or spear to fight evil, like his little brother sitting on the top of the Grote Kerk does. Terminator Mike is apparently a much more peaceful guy. He does have two wings, though, which seem to suffice to protect us, Zwollenaren (citizens of Zwolle), from all things bad. 

Terminator Michael's little brother on the tower of the Grote Kerk.
 When did I stop hoping that Terminator Mike would melt back into that glass pool and disappear from the Grote Markt? When did I start accepting the new look of our patron saint wearing what could perfectly be an Armani suit? I cannot really say, but I think that these two people may have had to do with my change of heart. 

 My mum and dad were in Zwollywood for a visit last year and they were both completely delighted with Terminator Mike. So much so, that they wanted their picture taken with Zwollenaar citizen número uno. I had been rather expecting a different reaction from them, something close to, "what, an angel wearing a suit?!" or, "This does not look like Michael the archangel AT ALL!" But no, they were absolutely enamoured by  Terminator Mike for being "so original, so modern, so regular-looking kind of guy". 

Now every time I visit the city centre I feel compelled to stop and look at Terminator Mike. I have discovered that, depending on the time of the day, the sculpture is more or less transparent and I have begun to wonder what light effects one might get when photographing it. I can see my collection of photographs of the cyborg/archangel growing and growing in the future: Terminator Mike during the Christmas season, Terminator Mike in the rain, Terminator Mike in the snow, Terminator Mike on market day, Terminator Mike surrounded by a sea of people enjoying a summer festival, Terminator Mike squeezed between stalls during Blue Finger Day in July....

All of a sudden, I don't mind at all that he has come to Zwolle to stay - for good!

Terminator Mike watching the Christmas tree being chopped down at the end of the season.
 

16 comments:

Invader_Stu said...

Archangel Terminator Michael. Now there is a movie pitch.

Ellie Foster said...

Hello Aledys
I really like the sculpture of Terminator Michael. It is so different and eye-catching and shows that modern sculpture can be just as impressive as ancient. I wish we had something like it here in Lincoln.

Aledys Ver said...

@Stu,
Ya think? :) I'm counting on you to be my art director!

@Ellie,
I think that's the actual charm of this St. Michael. It is so different from what you'd expect in a traditional Golden Age square like Zwolle's Grote Markt.

Katie said...

Aledys, I can completely identify with your initial reaction to "Terminator Mike." I, too, tend to gravitate toward more traditional works of art. I think your post shows, however, that when we're able to interact with a piece of art and form a connection to it, our ideas of what we find pleasing can change.

Aledys Ver said...

@Totally right, Katie. I'm absolutely determined to become friends with Terminator Mike haha

titabuds said...

My initial thoughts were, "That's so weird!" and admittedly, the statue stands out too much from its surroundings. But that I think is exactly how it was envisioned. In the midst of the 'heritage' buildings, St. Michael stands out and won't/can't be ignored. In that respect alone, it's actually a brilliant piece. :)

Aledys Ver said...

@Tita,
The idea of the artist was that, precisely. He wanted Mike mixing with the crowd, if you will, but watching over them as well. It is, to say the least, remarkable and sth to talk about when you first arrive at the centre of the square.

Ana O'Reilly said...

I think I would have felt like you did at first. I'm not struck by it either.
Maybe the reaction the artist was after was that of your parents.

Aledys Ver said...

@Ana,
Well, it has certainly be talked of - that means that people are looking at it, and ultimately that is the whole point, I guess. :D

BLOGitse said...

hm...looks like he's like a lost alien :)
We have real winter in Helsinki, like most of the Europe.
Luckily our houses are built for this kind of weather!
Next week I'll be sunbathing for two weeks...can't wait!

Sil - Simplemente cocinera said...

Muy original este Mike!!! Es un placer entrar en tu blog! Un besito. Sil

Aledys Ver said...

@BLOGitse,
Yes, it's spread this way now as well. But I do't know if it's going to last though. You're further up north so you should still have snow for a while, I guess!
Enjoy your holidays in the sun!!

@Sil,
Muchas gracias! Beso!!

AggieLap said...

It's one thing I've noticed that in the Netherlands Gemeente (or whoever else) decide to have artists dropping their sculpture in historic place. At least Terminator Mike does not look too bad compared to some ugly and odd sculptures I've seen around (such as the big weird spider-shape sculpture facing Hoofddorp train station). Then indeed one day we all get used to it :)

Aledys Ver said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aledys Ver said...

@Aggie,
I've never seen the spider sculpture near Hoofdorp station, now I'm curious! :D You're right, sometimes the result is not quite as pleasing as one would hope for...

Mary Witzl said...

I quite like his color -- it's like the bottom of an old-fashioned Coca-cola bottle.

It's interesting when you start looking at a sculpture or painting in a different light and begin to appreciate it. Sometimes it's time that makes the difference, or it can be a friend, who points out something interesting you've missed. Whatever the case, it's always good to take a second look -- and keep your mind open.