No room for ‘Playback’

For 20-some years the giant kinetic sculpture “Playback” stood in the New Ulm Public Library. Designed by New Ulm native Helene Fesenmaier, who had moved to London to start a notable artistic career, Playback consisted of three tall, angled wooden and metal beams, topped with colorful geometric shapes, reached toward the high ceiling. Their broad circular bases rotated slowly, bringing the beams into an ever varying combination of angles and designs. The bases were low enough and slow enough so that children could sit on them and grab a ride while reading a book.

Eventually, however, the motors inside the bases started to wear and grind and make noises. The city decided the cost of repairing them was too high. The sculptured was disassembled and moved to storage, where it remains today. The city, now, is selling the building where the parts are stored, and has no place to keep the long beams. It is offering the sculpture for sale.

We hope someone, somewhere will see the potential and vision in this sculpture. It needs a lot of work, and someplace tall where it can be displayed. Fesenmaier designed it for the two-story tall space in the library, and we’re not aware of anyplace else in town that can handle it.

It is sad that this piece of art, created by a New Ulm native who became a distinguised artist and enjoyed international recognition before her death in 2013, is now considered surplus. We hope someone can be found to take it and resurrect it.


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