by Birgit Anna Schumacher and Uwe Jonas
A survey by Birgit Anna Schumacher and Uwe Jonas
The statements made by the participants and guests of the symposium in March 2004 - selected and moderated by Uwe Jonas and Birgit Anna Schumacher I 1 IThe statements of the participants are edited by the editorial staff: We have corrected them grammatically and linguistically and also shortened them.
This is an anecdote on reception, resistance and artistic intervention in artwork. Told by Leonie Baumann
By Christian Hasucha
A survey by Martina Reuter (WochenKlausur)
By Matthias Schamp
An attempt at describing the situation, by Andrea Knobloch
By Peter Arlt
by Birgit Anna Schumacher and Uwe Jonas
'Art in the public space' - or, to clarify, artistic interventions in public issues - is an important matter to us both: in terms of our own art production and also in terms of the projects which we organise I 1 IFor example 'Areale Neukölln' 2001 (www.areale-neukoelln.de), 'Pilotproject Gropiusstadt' 2002-2005 (www.pilotprojekt-gropiusstadt.de).. When Dorothea Kolland I 2 IDr. Dorothea Kolland is head of the Kulturamt Neukölln/Berlin encouraged us to 'put something together again' in Neukölln, we decided this time to examine the basis of the genre: The phenomena of the public space. The complex scientific discourse, such as sociology, and the cautious and informal (rather than offensive) discussion among artists who agitate the public space, motivated us to commence a new project on artistic interventions. This began with a four-day symposium, thereby initiating a theoretical discussion among its participants. Furthermore we asked participating artists to commit their work (in the second part of the project) to an overall issue, i.e. more than a local (social, historical or architectural) context, meaning rather the global phenomenon of 'public space' and its actual characteristics in our cities.
We have named the project 'Okkupation', which gives a provocative, maybe even aggressive presumption, but on the other hand also refers to a more subtle or hidden 'occupation'. This ambivalence is not only characteristic of the public space, but also of the art which is staged in it. Positively, a forming option could be understood: "The public space, as it is crammed full of advertising billboards is to be recaptured - which means: designed." I 3 IRoger M. Buergel in the conversation with Ursula Maria Probst in: Kunstforum vol. 170 (2004), p. 375. Hereby temporal intervention, which the project is about, deals with the process of recapturing, initiating a design - which means the transmission of artistic practice to political, social or city-planning practices. Many of the interventions proposed to 'Okkupation' inherit this potential, but we finally declined them in favour of the artistic intervention which instead manifests participative and 'social-work-like' features, I 4 IPlease compare Hal Foster: Mit Verlaub. In: Texte zur Kunst, Issue 54, 14th volume (2004) because "art is no repair business, but sees beyond what is political to us." I 5 I(ibidem). And this is the point where art proves its qualities.
Is 'art in public space' antiquated or 'old-hat' - as we have been told in previous projects? This assumption reminds us of such recurring expressions as: 'The death of painting!' or 'Long live painting!' - and so on. Stephan Schmidt-Wulffen has opened a discussion along a new line of argument, in which the main message inherits the present debate on economy and canniness: "...It seems to be a problem to organise an exhibition project giving each artist €5000", hereby referring to an Austrian project in the public space, in which an awarded project sum of €5000 was fixed, [explanation by the authors] "and to hope that the artist can make a visible statement in the public space. But this is not possible with €5000, because it is actually more expensive than making something for the white cube." I 6 IStephan Schmidt-Wulffen in conversation with Ursula Maria Probst, in: Kunstforum volume 170/2004, p. 381-382, 382. Without glorifying the miserable situation of the under-financed projects of fine art - whether in the public sphere or in the white cube, as inventive motor or the like - the monetary argument must be questioned considering that there is art which achieves great attention and costs little or nothing, and vice versa. Similarly, the category of visibility lead nowhere: It cannot be of any concern for the production of art how many people notice the artwork after its completion - art is not mirrored by economical categories like money or time. On the other hand, of course there is an increasing economic pressure on institutions of cultural procurement, and a reference to visitor numbers becomes a valid argument (the recent MoMA exhibition in Berlin gives a perfect example). This development makes it necessary to point out the ideas of the early 1970s: "Culture must be articulated, must be offered and presented in a way that the recipient is not put in 'a state of mental consecration', but instead he finally understands culture as an everyday issue on the basis of syntax, semantics and the pragmatics of 'culture publicity'. Art is no Valhalla, which is approached by the devout mind; culture is something that 'boldly' gets to social and political problems - and is meant to do so." I 7 IHermann Glaser: Vom Umgang mit der Kulturpolitik. In: Politik und Zeitgeschichte. Insert of the weekly paper 'Das Parlament'. Bonn, No. 52 from 23rd Dec 1972, page 3-12, page 8.
The question arises as to whether art in the public space is still a well-respected genre. Nowadays, it is mostly based on a grave misunderstanding: The preconception of art in public space is of 'museum art' transported onto the street. This false understanding of the genre leads logically to the question of whether the difference between the public space and the museum space is not, in actual fact, an artificial one? I 8 ICompare Stephan Schmidt-Wulffen in the place quoted. Art in the public space is not, however, transported from the museum to the outside, but is instead explicitly designed for the public space or the public by the artists who have decided to work within that site. Some of the same artists can be found in museums and in galleries, but they are represented there with works which are designed for presentation within the art museum context. Finally, in sites such as museum spaces fine art is reduced to the function of art procurement. I 9 IPlease also see Elisabeth Dühr (1991), Kunst am Bau - Kunst im Öffentlichen Raum. Frankfurt a.M. p.155 f. On the contrary, art in the public space refers rather to a knowledge of art. The question about the relevance or redundancy of art in the public space can only be answered with regards to its basis.
'Okkupation' in Neukölln
Because of the projects we have previously realised in Neukölln, we have got good knowledge on the location and are familiar with its administrative structures, which is most beneficial for the preparation and realisation of art in the public space. Crucial for the project is the complexity of the area: Neukölln has a high population residing in old building structures, but also one family housing settlement at its periphery; housing ensembles from the 1920s; industrial areas; and Gropiusstadt - a satellite town in which the largest shopping mall in Berlin is situated. Similarly complex is the spatial structure of its residents: People from 160 nations live in this, the largest (and also socially weakest) area of Berlin, before the fusion of the areas. Our collective experiences concerning rapport with the population during 'Areale Neukölln' I 10 I'Areale Neukölln' took place in June and November 2001. During this period 17 interventions in the public space were realised (www.areale-neukoelln.de) clearly point in the area’s favour: This is a place where art interfering with living space and everyday habits is met openly and communicatively. The 'friction', which sometimes is (intentionally) caused by such art, has never led to any reaction of utter disapproval - such as damage or destruction of artwork. The projects were rather met with critical interest: Not only were the artists intervening in living and housing areas, but were also confronted with unusual and sometimes provocative questions themselves. Such a frictional process with the residents would hardly occur in fashionable areas of the cities, because the 'new hedonists' generally do not show any interest in what is going on outside of their flat, their work spaces, and their sites of self-production.
'Okkupation' on the Internet
Next to the sketches of the ideas proposed by the artists during the realisation phase, you can also find texts under the link 'theory', which were written during the preparation and evaluation of the symposium 'Okkupation' (March 2004). It begins with a theoretical discussion from the first meeting - in Summer 2003 - under the title 'Okkupation - Opposing the Loss of Public Space', which gave the artists a basis for discussion and for the symposium itself. The link 'statements of the participants and guests of the symposium' gives a selected view on the lectures and discussions of the symposium and an insight into the variety of attitudes, points of view and starting points for the participants in reference to the localisation of the public space, and also on the resulting artistic practice. The guests who were invited to the exclusive symposium I 11 ITo make the symposium as effective as possible, we opted for a closed symposium, making an intensive discourse possible among the participants of the project (meaning the participating artists of 'Okkupation' and the selected guests) were Dorothea Kollan, Harald Ramm (delegate for dezentrale Kulturarbeit), Leonie Baumann (manager of the Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst) and Monica Schümer-Strucksberg, who was in charge of the programme 'Soziale Stadt' for the Berliner Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung until May 2004. In the following you can find contributions from the artists of the symposium, who have looked into the subject both practically - with artistic projects - and theoretically - with their own publications or theoretically based projects.
The link 'ideas' presents the elaborated project ideas of the artists following the symposium and the four-day stay in Neukölln. These ideas we understand as the most influential results of 'Okkupation - Phase 1'. Not all ideas conceived by the artists could be realised: Some had to be modified. Ingo Gerken and Tazro Niscino had to develop completely new ideas due to major resistance 'in the field'. However, this is part of the 'natural' process of realising a project idea in the real context of the public space. Unfortunately another factor also partially contributed to contextual modification of the ideas - money: 'Okkupation' is realised with a financial budget, and had to reduce its costs to a third of what was initially forecast. The artists were confronted with the difficult situation of having to produce a reasonable-costing version of their original ideas. In one case no other solution was found but the entire cancelling of the project: In the production of 'discussion by order' by the artist group 'WochenKlausur' from Vienna there was no possibility to cut their project budget, due to their specific way of working. If this project had been realised, the other project budgets would have been further curtailed. And since this might have meant that not only the expressiveness of every single artwork would have suffered under this circumstance, but also the expressiveness of the entire concept of 'Okkupation', WochenKlausur offered to pull out. We deeply regret that there was no other solution than to except their offer.