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Public art for various groups and places

In 2000, the first year of its existence, kunstprojekte_riem initiated the Stadtmarken ('City Markers'), works of art that drew attention to prominent features of the Messestadt topography. The following year the works created under its auspices centred on Wohnwelten ('Residential Worlds'), predominantly domestic spaces, both real and imaginary. Now, in 2002, artists are addressing issues associated with a classic area of artistic activity: art in public places. Such spaces are used by groups of people with a wide range of interests and needs. This tends to be forgotten when we talk of 'the' public, a notion that postulates a spurious unity. By contrast, a term like 'social community' suggests that people with common interests have come together to form a group that exists side-by-side with other groups. For such groups, whether united by interests, age, profession or cultural background, meeting-places, green areas, educational institutions, workplaces, homes and so forth need to be created that in each case satisfy specific demands. That is why we have chosen the title Gesellschaftsräume ('Social Spaces') as our theme or motto this year.
Messestadt naturally contains public spaces that are accessible to everyone who lives in, works in or is visiting the suburb - streets and squares, for example. Like any other urban environment, however, it also has spaces that are of interest only to certain sections of the public or are reserved exclusively for them. Schools and, in particular, crèches, for instance, are public institutions that are not open to the general public. Along with their degree of accessibility, social spaces - their character, form and use - are defined by the interests and requirements of individual social groups. Art can play a part in this, by taking up certain forms or themes and thereby achieving a special status with the group concerned.
This year two projects have been realised after a long gestation period. Each occupies three sites in Messestadt. The first, re:site projects, a media project devised by Felix S. Huber and Florian Wüst in collaboration with Daniel Burkhardt, came to fruition in April 2002. It combines live video images from Messestadt with movie sequences and interactive text contributions. The artists accompany the constantly changing video streams associatively, interspersing them with movie excerpts, and give everybody an opportunity of commenting on what they see by entering text on the internet. The second project, realised in May, consists of three large neon signs by Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock, Herz, Hand, Mund ('Heart, Hand, Mouth'). With their contrasting images and texts, these works form characteristic landmarks in the residential, public and commercial areas of Messestadt respectively.

These two projects share a desire to present Messestadt to the outside world in a way with which its residents can identify. Hence, both pairs of artists, Huber and Wüst and Stih and Schnock, chose more than one site for their installation, in an attempt to reach a variety of users and viewers. A new project by Sissel Tolaas will also occupy three locations, although the visual dimension will be secondary because the artist works with sounds and smells in order to investigate quite different aspects of Messestadt. She has chosen her sites as a means of addressing three different groups of people: visitors on their way to the trade fair grounds, people strolling along the Promenade and residents collecting their cars from an underground car park.
The function and the users of their work are now generally of greater importance to artists working in the public realm than aesthetic concerns. This order of priorities affects traditional forms of art in public places. By engaging the landscape architects of Lützow 7 and the acclaimed artist Karin Sander, kunstprojekte_riem has ensured that art in Messestadt's largest public space, Willy-Brandt-Platz, will not play a primarily decorative role, but instead form an integral part of daily life. The goal has been to produce a space so flexible in function that it can satisfy the needs of the largest possible number of users.
Although these projects occasionally attempt to reach different people in different locations, they all address the public at large, whether in the streets and squares of Messestadt or in the virtual spaces of electronic media. By contrast, two further projects target individual groups. Gearing their work to specific needs, the artists have involved both architects and the groups themselves in the genesis of the projects. Mauricio Dias and Walter Riedweg organised several workshops in which they worked with pupils and staff on a project for the future Förderzentrum München Ost, a special school at present occupying provisional quarters in Messestadt. Unlike Sander, the artists have not been involved directly in the planning of the building, but they have been in consultation with the architects. In the second of these projects Kathrin Böhm, Andreas Lang and Stefan Saffer are working at the express invitation of those who will use their art. Last year, in connection with the Wohnwelten theme, the artists talked to firemen about possible changes to the new fire station. Subsequently, they succeeded in including the building's architect, Reinhard Bauer, in the discussions, and together all parties have devised Anprobe Feuerwache 10 ('Trying on Feuerwache 10'), a project involving three proposals for alterations to the fire station that are now to be implemented.
All the projects described here share a concern for the specifics of newly created urban spaces in relation to the needs of various sections of the population, regardless of whether the works have been developed in association with users or simply with certain social groups in mind, and of whether they have been realised in consultation with or with the full cooperation of architects. The artists all have wide-ranging experience of producing art for public places and have long realised that there is no such thing as 'the' public. Like other urban environments, Messestadt comprises many different 'social spaces'.