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Art ist round and coloured

‘The thing on the steps’ and ‘the lightning on the tower’ are two works of art, created respectively by Olaf Metzel and Chema Alvargonzález for kunstprojekte_riem in 2000. Metzel’s sculpture and Alvargonzález’s light installation represent only part of the artistic activities initiated by kunstprojekte_riem, but they have received the greatest amount of public attention. They mark the entrance to Messestadt and its future centre and thus announce the arrival of a new suburb, as intended when they were commissed. The local and national press reported in detail on both these works, as well as on the wind, media and photography projects initiated by kunstprojekte_riem and on the public discussions organised by it under the name ‘Riemer Runden’ (Riem forum).

The strongest response to the new art in Messestadt, however, has come from residents. Even before Alvargonzález’s piece on the former airport control tower had been officially ‘opened’ along with other ‘city markers’, local inhabitants reported in conversation with the artist how striking the installation was when dusk begins to fall. They were impressed by the almost supernatural effect produced by the interplay of artificial and natural light and welcomed the fact that the installation could be seen from a long way off, giving the tower and its old walls a special place among the new buildings shooting up everywhere. The combination of warm yellow light and the red brick of the tower was felt to offer an additional contrast to the bright white of the surrounding neon lighting.

We have repeatedly been asked to produce documentation of the wide-ranging reactions of residents to works initiated by kunstprojekte_riem. These requests have included proposals for exhibitions of poems, paintings and photographs produced by local inhabitants.

Reactions to Metzel’s steel piece on the steps of the U-Bahn station, entitled ‘Nicht mit uns’ (We won’t stand for it), have been quite different, not least among Messestadt residents. Oscillating indeterminately between lightness and heaviness, transparency and solidity, precariousness and stability, the sculpture got people thinking about what art is or should be. Members of a Messestadt women’s group, for example, not only drew up a document of several pages in which they listed what they thought should be the essential requirements demanded of works of art; they also created a work of their own. Using materials found in Messestadt, they made a round table and decorated it with a mosaic of tile fragments, pieces of wood and stones. Metzel’s sculpture thus generated a determined ‘We WILL stand for it!’ response. That is the title the women gave their work, which they will later present to the Protestant church in Messestadt as a baptismal table. Before artists who have been asked to contribute to kunstprojekte_riem begin investigating the Messestadt surroundings, they are given a copy of the women’s list of features they wish to see in works of art.