To Have and To Need – An open letter in response to the planned “Achievement Show of Young Berlin Art”

In an open letter the artiist, curators, cultural scientists, architects and planners have piped up in the cultural and political debate of the city of berlin and have made its complex of problems accessible to the general public.

Berlin, January 25, 2011

Dear Klaus Wowereit,

After the realization of a permanent Berlin Kunsthalle with assistance from private investors did not succeed in 2008/2009, you are now planning a temporary “Leistungsschau junger Kunst aus Berlin” (Achievement Show of Young Berlin Art) for the summer of 2011. The exhibition aims to reinvigorate the debate surrounding such a Kunsthalle and should form the basis for a decision for its public financing. The project intends to demonstrate, “what treasures the city has to offer and that they need a place, where they can present themselves better than it they have in the current institutions.“1

In the form of an open call, published at the end of October last year, Berlin based artists were requested to submit portfolios documenting their artistic work. From these submissions, and on the basis of independent research and studio visits, five young curators2 will choose a selection of 50–80 works for the planned exhibition. An advisory group of three internationally renowned curators3 is supposed to guarantee their quality and objectivity. For the temporary architecture of the exhibition, to be built on unused land at the Humboldthafen, an unadvertised competition was carried out.4

To finance the “Leistungsschau”, and the realisation of its architecture, 600,000 Euro to date has been allocated from the state budget, which was already approved in November 2009 by the Berlin House of Representatives. Recently an additional 1 million Euro has been awarded by the Lottery Foundation Board, whose chairperson is the Reigning Mayor.

WE NOTE:

– A commitment from the Reigning Mayor Klaus Wowereit (who is also in the position of Senator for Culture) for contemporary art in Berlin is generally welcomed.

– The terminology of the open call is highly problematic: With the word “Leistungsschau” a neoliberal rhetoric of efficiency and performance is applied to the arts and suggests an objectifiability and measurability of the quality of artistic production. And why is the “survey of the production of contemporary art in Berlin” restricted only to “young” artists?

– There is not yet a convincing argument demonstrating how the “Leistungsschau” will advance the concept of a Kunsthalle, whose mid-term affordability is questionable. Rather, the project ignores the debate that has taken place for many years over the sense and necessity of a permanent Berlin Kunsthalle.

– The organisational and financial structure of the project is completely obscure. How were the curators chosen? How far does the power of the curatorial advisory board reach? What funds are allocated for production costs and honorariums for the participating artists? Why weren’t the names of the parties involved in the architectural competition made public?

– The international appeal of contemporary art contributes significantly to the attractiveness of Berlin. Yet little of the connected financial and reputational profit for the city reaches the contributors. To the contrary: the real work- and life-conditions of Berlin’s cultural producers are steadily declining due to increasing rent levels and the loss of self-organized free-spaces. The “Leistungsschau” exploits artistic work for the purposes of city marketing and the economisation of culture.

– The budget of the “Leistungsschau” is out of proportion considering the chronic under-financing of existing Berlin institutions for contemporary art: it costs 1.6 million Euro for a one-off exhibition compared to approximately 4 Million Euro which is annually allocated within Berlin’s culture budget for fine art to artists, projects and institutions collectively.5

– Berlin distinguishes itself through its diverse and decentralised cultural infrastructure. Project spaces and independent initiatives, art galleries and communal galleries, Kunstvereine and museums: each of these models contribute to the vibrancy of local contemporary art. This must be acknowledged more positively as a value, not just as rhetoric, and must be financially guaranteed long-term.

– A one-off exhibition spectacle doesn’t represent a sustainable investment in better production and presentation conditions. Rather, due to its short-term nature it primarily serves the election campaign interests of its initiator.

– For the reasons mentioned here many Berlin artists did not submit portfolios to the open call and/or will boycott any and all forms of a “Leistungsschau”.

WE DEMAND:

– A fundamental revision of the concept and curatorial model of the planned exhibition.

– A public discussion about the politics of urban development of a temporary exhibition project at Humboldthafen within the context of the current transformation process of privatisation and commercialisation of public space.

– A public dialogue about how the production and presentation conditions of contemporary art in Berlin can be sustainably supported and developed away from media beacons.

1 Quoted in the Berliner Morgenpost on 9.1.2011.
2 Angelique Campens, Fredi Fischli, Magdalena Magiera, Jakob Schillinger, Scott Weaver.
3 Klaus Biesenbach (MoMA, New York), Christine Macel (Centre Pompidou, Paris), Hans Ulrich Obrist (Serpentine Gallery, London).
4 The competition winner is raumlabor which isn’t officially announced yet.
5 Additionally, there is state funding for the Stiftung Berlinische Galerie and Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz amounting to approximately 20 Million Euro annually.

_________________________________________________

WE ARE:

Artists and cultural producers, freelance curators and exhibition makers, art historians and critics, gallery-owners and organisers of project spaces, representatives of Berlin art, culture and educational institutions, culture politicians and city politicians and others, who speak out against the “Leistungsschau junger Kunst aus Berlin”:

Dorothee Albrecht, Ulf Aminde, Inke Arns, Diana Artus, Çiçek Bacık, Lith Bahlmann, Sandra Bartoli, Stéphane Bauer, Leonie Baumann, Oliver Baurhenn, Anke Becker, Jochen Becker, Eike Becker, Wibke Behrens, Sofia Bempeza, Sabine Beuter, Ina Bierstedt, Birgit Binder, Caroline Bittermann, Ellen Blumenstein, Laurence Bonvin, Daniela Brahm, Myriam Brüger, Sabeth Buchmann, Jan Bünnig, Sandra Bürgel, Claudia Burbaum, Diego Castro, Libia Castro, Martin Conrads, Ania Corcilius, Eli Cortiñas, Edith Dakovic, Thibaut de Ruyter, Anne Deschka, Helmut Draxler, Matthias Einhoff, Konrad Florian Emeis, Felix Ensslin, Lou Favorite, Paul Feigelfeld, Francesca Ferguson, Ulrike Feser, Jesko Fezer, Katharina Fichtner, Thomas Florschuetz, Jörg Franzbecker, Elisabeth Frassl, Mira Frye, Roland Fuhrmann, Else Gabriel, Stephan Geene, Emanuel Geisser, Fiona Geuss, Marc Glöde, Adrienne Goehler, Annette Gödde, Erik Göngrich, Thorsten Goldberg, Undine Goldberg, Cristina Gomez Barrio, Rolf Graf, Milena Gregor, Eiko Grimberg, Raphaël Grisey, Carla Guagliardi, Alexander Hahn, Sophie Hamacher, Bärbel Hartje, Sandra Haselsteiner, Michael Hauffen, Arne Hector, Christine Heidemann, Nanna Heidenreich, Stefanie Heidhues, Birgit Hein, Martina Heinz, Hans Hemmert, Naomi Hennig, Tobias Hering, Carina Herring, Farida Heuck, Mathias Heyden, Veronike Hinsberg, Tom Holert, Gabriele Horn, Sabine Hornig, Philip Horst, Claudia Hummel, Dominique Hurth, Susanne Husse, Martin Kaltwasser, Karin Kasböck, Anne Kersten, Friederike Kersten, Eva Kietzmann, Andreas Koch, Doris Koch, Folke Köbberling, Birgit Kohler, Tanja Krone, Clemens Krümmel, Agnes Krumwiede, Philipp Lachenmann, Pia Lanzinger, Heimo Lattner, Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga, Julia Lazarus, Susanne Leeb, Daniela Lehmann Carrasco, Christoph Leitner, Michelle-Marie Letelier, Thomas Locher, Catherine Lorent, Anne Luther, Charlene Lynch, Annette Maechtel, Volker März, Anne Maier, Jan Mancuska, Philip Marcel, Elke Marhöfer, Simon Marschke, Eva May, Bjørn Melhus, Angela Melitopoulos, Arwed Messmer, Klaus Mettig, Felix Meyer, Wolfgang Meyer, Herbert Mondry, Agnes Müller, Michael Müller, Hans Narva, Lise Nellemann, Sophia New, Anh-Linh Ngo, Ralph Niebuhr, Irina Novarese, Ólafur Ólafsson, Marie-José Ourtilane, Isabel Pauer, Stefan Pente, Kathrin Peters, Andrea Pichl, Olivia Plender, Lucy Powell, Johannes Paul Raether, Katia Reich, Matthias Reichelt, Inken Reinert, Angelika Richter, Stefan Römer, Julian Rosefeldt, Elske Rosenfeld, Constanze Ruhm, Wanja Saatkamp, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Katya Sander, Jan Sauerwald, Ines Schaber, Sandra Schäfer, Karin Scheel, Wolfgang Schlegel, Katharina Schlieben, Birgit Schlieps, Florian Schmidt, Dierk Schmidt, Isabel Schmiga, Meggie Schneider, Frieder Schnock, Tanja Schomaker, Sarah Schönfeld, Lucia Schreyer, Stefanie Schulte Strathaus, Michael Schultze, Christine Schulz, Michaela Schweiger, Maya Schweizer, Marcel Schwierin, Markus Shimizu, Judith Siegmund, Katharina Sieverding, Pola Sieverding, Heidi Sill, Florian Slotawa, Marina Sorbello, Beatrice Ellen Stammer, Bettina Steinbrügge, Renata Stih, Kerstin Stoll, Alice Ströver, Signe Theill, Theresa Theune, Thomas Thiel, Minze Tummescheit, Keike Twisselmann, Vlado Velkov, Gitte Villesen, Felix Vogel, Katja von der Bey, Julian von Klier, Aribert von Ostrowski, Arnold von Wedemeyer, Clemens von Wedemeyer, Albert Weis, Regina Weiss, Ute Weiss Leder, Susanne Weiß, Antje Weitzel, Sinta Werner, Philip Wiegard, Gernot Wieland, Jole Wilcke, Mathias Wild, Eva Wilson, Klaus Winichner, Karen Winzer, Hergen Wöbken, Sandra Wrampelmeyer, Thomas Wulffen, Christine Würmell, Florian Wüst, Miya Yoshida, Konrad Zander, Florian Zeyfang, Uli Ziemons, Lena Ziese, Inga Zimprich, Pablo Zuleta Zahr.