Fernweh – this term, akin to another German word that has come into common use in English, wanderlust, conveys a strong longing to leave one’s familiar surroundings and set off into the big wide world. But getting away has become complicated in these days of the coronavirus pandemic with all the travel restrictions, entry rules and quarantine regulations. Those who did travel over the past two years usually chose destinations closer to home. So the Fernweh we feel is undiminished!
Even before the term became common, people were well acquainted with the painful longing for far-off places. Goethe, for example, who was not yet familiar with the word, paraphrased it in 1822 as a “feeling of flight”, a “longing for far-off places” and “reverse homesickness”. With the concept of the “blue flower”, Romantic literature created a concrete symbol for this yearning, for the search for the unattainable and the infinite. The word Fernweh first appeared in literature around 1835, in a travel account by the famous writer and landscape architect Hermann Prince of Pückler-Muskau. He wrote that he “never suffers from homesickness (Heimweh) but rather from Fernweh”. The neologism quickly came into use in academic language as well as in poetry and art.
And then, in the twentieth century, the tourism industry seized upon the concept. Ever since then, Fernweh has been generated more or less artificially by means of targeted advertising featuring enticing images of tourist destinations around the world. It has thus become an important international economic factor. But Fernweh is not just about the urge to travel, as science has now discovered. It may simply reflect the desire for a change of scenery or some variety and colour in a more or less grey day-to-day life. Some of us may feel a diffuse restlessness, while others are unhappy and depressed. Travel promises an escape from this sense of unease, but when it is not possible, we can still immerse ourselves in fantasy worlds by way of books, the theatre or museum exhibitions. Scientists therefore also refer to Fernweh as an important “cultural technique for staying at home”.
This “cultural technique” of Fernweh has now inspired us to create a new exhibition. And the collection of the Ernsting Foundation has once again proven to be a treasure trove. We set out in search of appropriate works and ended up probing the entire spectrum of the collection. In the process, we discovered a wide range of different sculptures, objects, vessels and wall installations that each in their own way – sometimes whimsically, sometimes more thoughtfully – allude to other countries and cultures and evoke associations with the theme of Fernweh. A tour of the exhibition thus becomes an enjoyable journey to worlds both close-by and far afield.
In accordance with current regulations in the State of North-Rhine Westphalia, the 2G or 2G+ rule applies at the Glasmuseum and Glasdepot (2G: admission only with proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or recovery, 2G+: a negative PCR test is also required).
Photo above: Jens Gussek, Flugzeug, 1996 – Photo Ron Zijlstra
Photos (from left):
Gareth Noel Williams, Deep in my own world, 2001 – Photo Ron Zijlstra
Vittoria Parrinello, The perimeter of air, 2014 – Photo Vittoria Parrinello
Jens Gussek, Flugzeug, 1996 – Photo Ron Zijlstra
Gabriela Volna, Mensch und Wasser, 2003 – Photo Ron Zijlstra
Michael Behrens, Seaforms 2014-116, 2014 – Photo Paul Niessen
Dale Chihuly, Cerulean Blue Macchia, 1991 – Photo Glasmuseum Lette
Jens Gussek, Blue ship, 2004 – Photo Ron Zijlstra
Ned Cantrell, Tiger in a Tropical Storm, 2016, Detail – Photo Ned Cantrell
Winnie Teschmacher, Light of the soul, 2007 – Photo Louis Sonderegger
Irene Rezzonico, Armadillo cousin from Africa, 1998 – Photo Ron Zijlstra
Kati Kerstna, Drums 1+2, 2014 – Photo Glasmuseum Lette
Ivana Houserova, Butterfly, 2006 – Photo Tomas Hilger