At the documenta this time, the focus is on collectives and the processes of creating art. A Berlin project carries this idea on the way to Kassel via canals and rivers in numerous small towns.
An inverted gable roof is almost a ship. Even though cultural projects have been developed under the same roof for many years, the construction and spirit are ripe for the documenta in Kassel.
Such processes of development in collectives of artists form the focus of the leading international presentation of contemporary art from June 18 to September 25. The “citizenship” of the Berlin Center for Art and Urbanistics carries the idea during a 55-day trip across rivers and canals with cultural events from place to place to Kassel.
“The documenta is about topics that go beyond classic art forms,” says Matthias Einhoff of the dpa during a test drive of the “citizenship” in Berlin. The 50-year-old forms the artist collective KUNStrePUBLIK together with Philip Horst (49) and Harry Sachs (47). Together they founded the center for art and urbanism ten years ago. The Berlin artists have been working together for many years with the Indonesian artist collective Ruangrupa, which is curating the documenta as a team.
300 to 400 people took part
Ruangrupa asked the collectives invited to the documenta to ask themselves what they have too much. The answer from Berlin: “We have one roof too many!” The roof of the center in a former warehouse of the goods station had to give way to a planned extension. For a year and a half, first the concept, then the construction of the «citizenship» was developed. So far, 300 to 400 people have worked on the project. Of the approximately 220,000 euros for the project, 180,000 euros come from the documenta budget.
The “citizenship” is designed to be sustainable in the sense of the documenta. Solar collectors feed the electric motor, the technology was installed by Roland Gaber from the Fraunhofer Institute for Energy Economics and Energy System Technology in Kassel together with three electrical experts from VW.
The raft-like boat also relies on mechanics. Eight old bicycles are mounted on the wooden deck and drive a screw. The demand for the quite strenuous support is great. “We’re fully booked for the first three weeks,” reports Einhoff. His eyes are fixed on the speedometer of an app. The bikes managed a good 1.6 kilometers per hour during the test.
Rowing clubs along the route help out
There is also support from outside: Rowing clubs along the route want to tow the construction, which was built as a trimaran. During the test drive, the towing device is tried out together with a quad scull from the Berlin Rowing Club.
Even the combination of electric motors plus bicycles plus rowers might not be enough at the stretches of the route where there is a lot of current. “At ten kilometers per hour against the current, things get tight,” calculates Einhoff. The word “Weser” is pronounced with due respect on the “citizenship”. According to the route plan, 15 to 20 kilometers per day have to be covered.
The bow thruster is causing problems. During the test drive, the electric drive tears itself out of its anchorage. Such maneuvering aids can be particularly important at narrow river sections or narrow canals. The 18-ton “citizenship” is rather sluggish. With a length of 16 meters, the construction is still in the sports boat sector, the width of six and a half meters is “lock size”. Improvisation is not for federal waterways, the highways beneath inland waterways.
For the first ten days of the trip, Julia Blawert is at the helm as skipper. The 38-year-old brings relevant experience to the art project on water. In 2014, as artistic director, she spent seven months sailing the «Cogo» from Frankfurt via the Main and the Danube to the Black Sea. At stations such as Vienna, Budapest or Belgrade and at spontaneous stops, the steel boat became the stage and exhibition space for various cultural projects.
The up to 13 people on board the “citizenship” also rely on help from the shore along the way for supplies. The willingness for joint projects and support seems to be great at the stations of the journey. “The mayors of the places we wrote to reacted enthusiastically,” says Einhoff.
20 collectives of artists have prepared for the cultural encounters at the 55 stops. They join the «citizenship», meet interested people and local art groups. “Something new will emerge from the meetings between our bubble and local bubbles and will promote the commonality of the boat,” says Einhoff. It’s about music with self-made instruments, made from material that can be found on the trip.
The art project is streamed during its journey. The “citizenship” will reach Kassel about halfway through the documenta period. There, visitors can then view the results of the artistic debate during trips across the Fulda – and participate in new projects.