A Performance Series

30 DAYS – A PARTICIPATORY PROJECT BY MEANS OF ‘IMPERSONAL’ OBSERVATION

Urban Space, 4 June 2008, KiM – Brunnen Strasse 10/ Mitte (c) Andreas Bastiansen. Courtesy Wooloo Productions

They are two anonymous North American cartographers whose intention is to map the artistic and cultural landscape of Berlin. For 30 days, these artists are collecting personal opinions from gallerists, directors of art institutions or just art goers like those who pass by the Wooloo-organized open-art-event. They plan to display the hot-spots of Berlin’s art scene, according to public opinion, by (photo)graphic means.

Cartographer 1 and 2 started their research at the „Museumsinsel“ in the middle of May, digging for some art, finding CFA: Contemporary Fine Arts – a gallery whose name could be programmatic for the whole enterprise. The two nameless persons who’ve never been in Berlin before are dressed up like tourists, rather than middle-class gallery goers and – uniformed as they are – pretend to be unsophisticated passers-by. They are inquisitive about Berlin’s artspaces, it’s hot venues, the different types of exhibiting-models, and how Berlin’s art world professionals behave in relation to apparently external visitors. Their aim is to figure out how accessible the art community could be for those who are not a constitutive part of it.

For this purpose Berlin works as a pilot-project for the two Americans. On one hand, they collect information from their contact with experts, but they also assemble their material by meeting the art audience personally – both locals as well as visitors to Berlin. During the official meeting at the New Life Shop on 4th June, the two artists showed up in their everyday uniform to ask spectators for their personal recommendations. As well as filling in a form with contact details, they invited people to leave a mark on a city map of Berlin, suggesting sites for further exploration. The cartographers will visit these sites over the next few days, until the project ends on 15th May, at the same time as the festival closes.

By using the experience they gained from people – based in Berlin or visiting the city – and the artistic landscape, which they have illustrated in a Google-Map, the cartographers intend to create a social network which connects the places they’ve been to with the people they’ve met. They want to minimize the competition felt between galleries in favour of a more easy-going, community-based approach to the ways that art and spaces intresect in Berlin. You could understand the projects’ aim as the creation of an open space and fair play for art(ists) in the city.

But if the map appears objective, it has still been shaped by subjective recommendations, and filtered by the personal perception of the artists. Can this investigation still be an „impersonal“ observation?

The project does not only record what these two external people have found out by grasping thoughts about Berlin’s art scene. The artists also adopt the role of a transmitter: they collect information and point it outwards via a system which draws a symbolic line into physical space. The result is an immaterial „landscape“, in fact a recording of a 30-day-sequence, which is created by those who produce art as well as those who consume it, and transferred by these two artists, according to their individual preferences.

They create a model which sums up the status quo of Berlin’s art world, although in a very subjective way. To gain information from a system at the same time as observing it might not be as democratic as it is supposed to be – just like the self-referential art scene in Berlin.

The results of 30 Days’ research are listed in an online database and marked as a check-mark in an „all over the world“, well known display-format, namely Google-Maps. The venues that the artists have found are also documented through digital photgraphs and exhibited on Wooloo.org, which is an online platform for ongoing participatory art projects.

But in the end, the project constitutes an abstract corpus that the two anonymous Americans bear out from a fluctuating system. Conscious as they are of their public anonymity, their disembodied expertise is only present as a conglomerate of pictures shown at Wooloo.org – as traces of a happening that exists for the duration of the New Life Berlin festival. Apart from the live event on June 4th where people had to label venues on a physical map, the “30-days” project will only truly exist digitally.

This kind of display as well as this (con)temporary art and it’s short term validity seems to be like Berlin’s fashionable art world – moving and changing in any concern. Nevertheless – it is fortunate that the cartographers harvest this empirically captured information about the current state of Berlin’s artistic landscape: it might not be beneficial for Berlin’s art scene, which exists as a self-preserving system, but it will be an essential archive for future academic study.

Christina Irrgang

Christina Irrgang is the Open Dialogues: New Life Berlin Associate and studies Theory of Art and Aesthetics at the State University of Media, Arts and Design in Karlsruhe/G and works as a freelance art critic. Contact: irrgang@iwprojekte.de www.iwprojekte.de

Please only reproduce this text with permission from the author and opendialogues@gmail.com

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