Holger Bunk (DE), Thomas Roppelt (DE), Carlo Aloe (CH), Ben Vautier (IT), François Morellet (FR), Alfonso Hüppi (DE), Corsin Fontana (CH), Renate Buser (CH), Peti Brunner (CH), Dominique Jehle (CH), Johannes Hüppi (DE), Peter Knapp (CH), Guillaume Bijl (BE), Christian Vogt (CH), Littmann Klaus (GE)
“Strassenbilder” – which may be translated literally as “Street Pictures” – is the fourth project in the Interventions series staged in public spaces in the city of Basel. And as in the other projects, “Strassenbilder” is concerned with creating new identities for familiar things. Unlike “Skultur”, “Engel” or “Frontside”, however, this intervention goes beyond a transformation of the cityscape in the widest sense. It is a conscious symbiosis between the past and the present. The result is “provocative surfaces”, as I prefer to call them, that draw on historic facts, on formal realities of town planning, or work with the myriad expressions of classical and modern languages of images.
The motives chosen by the 15 artists were locality-related around groups of topics such as urbanity and anonymity. For me, “Strassenbilder” is not unlike acupuncture. If you grasp the urban space as a body, then the 15 motives are like pinpricks or needles intended to stimulate a corresponding nervous system, in this case the observer. He, the observer, is inevitably confronted with the change in the accustomed image and the accustomed (non-)statement of the public space. The new element of the accustomed requires him to define a reference point for himself, a point in which the transformed element creates a new, changed perception. This process of transformation contains, I believe, great potential.
“Strassenbilder” is an action that literally sticks to the ground in the public space. Whereas each and every public space is unique, in their totality they have characteristics of urban anonymity that force individuals to deal with the complex problem of alienation. Although public spaces are also the public face of the tradition, the cultural properties and the wealth of a city, these conventional points of reference are blurred by the modern media present in today’s urban landscape (e.g. digitization and walls of posters), which create uniformity of appearance and a neglect of diversity.
I and the artists hope that we have succeeded in adding a dash of colour – well-placed pinpricks disrupting this uniformity and neglect of diversity. Klaus Littmann
Culture journalist, theater critic and longtime feature editor of the Basler Zeitung
“Un Autre Monde”, a droll send-up of people and the world by Grandville (1803–1847), was published in Paris in 1844. A German edition appeared in Leipzig in 1847, for which Plinius the Youngest (pseudonym of O. L. B. Wolff, a Hamburg professor whom Goethe brought to Weimar) penned a maliciously humorous satire of the German art business: O! This world, this world!, shouted the embittered, moneyless artist, when he suddenly heard a strange voice: Fool! If you do not like this world, why do you not make yourself another? Nature has given you the means to do so! Our astonished painter caught sight of a very pretty, charming lady. Who are you, standing there dressed in silks and satins? I am Imagination, she said, throw yourself into my arms and I will still your dreadful prosaic hunger! The painter threw himself with the greatest of pleasure and learnt: Does the world not suit you? Make yourself another!
One hundred and fifty years later we still find pleasure in the same imagination. After “Skultur”, “Frontside” and “Engel”, “Strassenbilder” is the fourth art action from Littmann’s Kulturwerkstatt. All of them promote a concept of art that has veered off the rails of business as usual. Instead, each is a new little world without rules, without commandments and without prohibitions. Or almost without: for the action would not have been possible without the blessing of 15 city departments – the municipal sanitation department, Basel transport authority and the administration of public spaces. But they “neither had the police to spy, nor the military to execute by firing squad, nor the courts to examine, nor the doctors to trepan, nor the censor to damn; only the newspapers could report” (to quote Granville once more). And Imagination again took the artists in her arms – there were 15 of them – and wandered through Basel with them. Houses, alleys, stairways, squares and bridges offered their services. Once on the trail, the artistic contingent found – in open spaces and narrow confines – joys and delights that tickled their creative fancies. And again and again the desire to dissolve boundaries enabled them to conquer new realms. That was not pavement painting. What was reproduced from postcards in coloured chalks for charity and the collection hat on the square that spread out in front of the doors to Cologne Cathedral on that beautiful summer’s day had nothing to do with classic pavement painting. What our Strassenbild artists came up with was a rich reward for creative pains. A few technical details needed to be dealt with in advance. Apparently there is no such thing as time-release degradable paint or dye that will decompose or dissolve after a certain period of time. At the end of the action everything had to have disappeared without trace. How can that be achieved? The solution is PVC film. It only had to be a non-skid and non-slip and non-wearing substance, not cause any ecological pollution and leave no trace after the event. The invited artists delivered their designs, watercolours, drawings, digital graphics, photographs or written drafts. The printers automatically enlarged the originals to the desired size. Then the printed film had to be laminated with a protective film. The only really difficult part was the installation, because, of course, the sheets had to be joined together seamlessly. That was the work. The total area covered came to more than 3000 sq. m. – not bad.
BaselSeptember 03, 2003 to October 12, 2003