Andreas Broeckmann on Wed, 21 Jun 2000 12:32:10 +0200

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Syndicate: Ch. Meierhofer Notes from "Art in Public Space", Dortmund

Date: Tue, 20 Jun 2000 15:42:37 +0200
From: Christine Meierhofer <>

Personal notes from the podium "Art in Public Space", Dortmund, June 17, 2000

The podium consisted of 8 speakers talking about art in public space from
very different angles. (Stella Rollig, Olivier Reneau, Jochen Becker, Jesko
Fezer, Axel Wieder, Stefan Roemer, Paul Ardenne)

Stella Rollig, author and curator from Vienna, Austria, talked about the
street as a very traditional but, under the present circumstances in
Vienna, very active public space. She introduced 3 projects which use the
street as a platform. The weekly demonstrations against the current
government, the project "Bitte liebt Oesterreich" (Please Love Austria) by
Christoph Schlingensief and a project commissioned by Zuerich Kosmos (an
insurance company) by Robert Wilson.
She pointed towards the very different approaches of the three things.
The demonstrations as an activity that cannot be seen as an art project but
is predominantly organized and promoted by people from the art world. Here
structures that have been installed to carry out artproject are being used
very effectively and present are a real irritation to the politicians.
"Bitte liebt Oesterreich" is a project which quotes phenomenons like Big
Brother as well as racism and provocation. 3 containers are placed on the
most prominent square in the center of Vienna. Asylum seekers are kept in
there and each day people from outside can call in and vote for one person
who should be thrown out of the country. On the outside a poster was
mounted saying "Auslaender raus" (foreigners out). This project evoked
discussions on many levels, one of the most interesting ones (in my
opinion) is whether it is appropriate or even allowed to write "Auslaender
raus" in public space even if it is an artproject. The Viennese Cultural
Official responsible for the permissions said that you can't censor art.....
The Robert Wilson project is a laser/video piece for a large public display
in Vienna's second district (which used to be the Jewish district before
World War II). It has a branch in the city center. Also a container. You
can go in there and watch the video which deals with the Jewish past.
Stella Rollig was not very fond of that project since it copied artistic
structures and used them mainly for commercial promotion.

Following her talk was Olivier Reneau who first gave a lecture about land
art and then introduced such projects in France. This stirred up the
discussion whether the countryside and such projects could really be
called art in public space. They were actually more considered museum
pieces put into another environment. This led to a discussion about what
public space really is, if it has ever really existed and how it could be
defined. No real agreement was found.

The next three talks dealt with architecture and how urban planning deals
with the phrase public space.
Jochen Becker showed the movie "Truman" while giving his lecture.
Unfortunately it was so distracting from what he was saying that I didn't
listen very closely ;-) He was focusing on the construction of artificial
public spaces, meaning that there are spaces that aren't even public,
because they are owned by a company but are made available to the public
and therefore seem to be public space, but company rules apply. He was
giving examples like the biggest mall of Germany in Oberhausen. Oberhausen
being a rather small city, but the MacDonalds in the mall is the 4th most
frequented in Germany. Or the new Sony Center in Berlin, which you can pass
through via a street that doesn't allow bikes (company rules). As a
conclusion he showed a promotional video for the new train station of
Dortmund, which "wants to close the hole in the urban planning of the
city", a huge "new center" for all activities. Once again commercial space
taking over the tasks of public space.

Jesko Fezer introduced very early examples of companies occupying/creating
public space, like the Seagram Building in New York City built by Mies van
der Rohe. Here the company gave up one third of the available space (which
they bought for a lot of money) and declared it public, with water basin etc.
Alex Wieder showed utopian urban planning projects which tried to
reorganize public space in unconventional ways.

Again the discussion over what the words public space actually mean
occurred. Here I missed the focus on art a bit. In my opinion public art is
not only defined by the space/environment where it is located but also by
it's artistic content.

About the last two lectures I cannot say much, since I only heard Stefan
Roemer half way and  Paul Ardenne not at all since I had to catch the
train. Stefan Roemer started with showing a very interesting piece though.
On the walls of a recently torn down house, where you still could see the
former location of floors, walls etc., someone had put a graffiti saying: 0
m2 for rent, DM 580,- per month, German Blondine only. Above that on a
small remaining part of the former floor a table and a chair was placed.
Stefan Roemer said that this piece was placed so prominently in Cologne
that basically everyone in the city knows it. And even though the person
who did it is unknown it is a great example of a project (maybe even
artwork?) in public space. He continued showing his own work, which was a
bit too didactic for my taste ... and then I had to leave.

Christine Meierhofer
V2_001, Eendrachtsstraat 10, NL-3012 XL Rotterdam,
T.+31.10.2067272, F.+31.10.2067271

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