The role of contemporary art in the intermingling of cultures in times of the Great Migration
We are living in contemporary times, as ever. In these times of reconstruction we experience a movement of people in Europe and abroad. Some people are on their way from the North to the South, from the West to the East. They give political reasons. Some people are on the way from Southeast to Northwest. They give political reasons. And politics means hunger, fear or danger to life.
In 2011 – 10th anniversary – i started the project artsurprise.eu. My first series was about masterpieces of a pilgrim, a collage based on papers on the way of my life. These papers describe my path in life, have accompanied me to a certain extent, and when processed into a collage they become a contemporary document that goes beyond me and my little life as an artist in Europe. They specifically describe stations on my inner and outer pilgrimage, but they also describe the time as such, and thus provide information about the then in a future.
After two and a half generations, people in central Europe are experiencing existential fear, hard- and censorship again. It seems like the mountain is without magic, like the party is over. The fragmentation of society and all its echo chambers, the veil requirement and the prescribed social distance, all of this is eroding societies. Those who want to win fight on both sides. The neoliberals’ creed is gaining momentum: privatize profits, socialize losses. Every force requires a counterforce. Those who socialize their fears encourage the privatization of confidence.
(1) The stamp on the top left is from a passbook, these were physical notebooks made of paper in which a loud dot matrix printer had documented money movements. Thirty years ago, when I was self-employed, I realized that it can also make sense to park daily income in the meantime. I was also able to set aside funds for setting up the CASADELDRAGON artist residence. The section on the top right belongs to a receipt that a drugstore in Gelsenkirchen had issued after the Second World War. He also earned his living with self-made medicines and alcohol, which he sold to the miners. These were the same miners who supplied him with plants from their gardens, from which he extracted medicines. As part of a donation in kind, the daughter of the Klapdor drugstore gave us glass vessels from his laboratory. They are now used in workshops at the Art Camp, a finca run by CASAdelDRAGON. The lower headline lived through the times of a moderately regulated press and has survived in the archive to this day, and reminds us that one thing has always been at stake: finances.
Those who are raised to let go, to set off, to migrate, painfully chop off their roots, undertake an uncertain journey, walk with unknown companions, and remain a stranger in a foreign country. The solution from one’s own comfort zone shows everyone how difficult it is, and the further the path leads, the easier it becomes. Whoever is willing to give up freedom for security will lose both, whoever gives up security will experience freedom.
(2) On my travels in Spain I have visited some places of art. Among other things, I had the pleasure of meeting the director of the CCC Octubre. As always, I took flyers and brochures with me in order to better understand the local art scene. The future will show whether there will be a collaboration, the potential of this place is great.
(3) Newspaper headlines, especially when taken out of context, often open up free associations and who in a few years will still think of the suffering of a radio presenter who had turned his back on the mainstream and whose children were bashed by the mob.
(4) Time and again, mothers with children ask questions in our community. I met one of these mothers in Salou, on the way to the CASAdelDRAGON. Again and again it is about resources, about solutions, about security. And again and again it is about the small and big complications along the way. This mother was an artist. She showed interest in the ARTSURPRISE.EU project. The news from you has already made it, I am confident.
Those who arrive in the new experience their strength, in the beginning, in the foundation. He feels strong, strengthened by the experience of the journey, and he has courage. His confidence is also fed by ignorance. He has no idea, say those who have been there for generations. This is how cultures meet, opening and closing, mixing in love.
Questions arise: What helps when cultures meet? What use is right when they interact peacefully. What creates a basis of trust, mindfulness, the will to act together?
(5) (8) In March 2019 we had a visit from a group of students from Halle / Saale. The biologists learned something about complex systems from the example of aquaponics, and they learned something about life. On the penultimate day, they wanted to build something and so it was a good idea to build a rocket stove. I made a promise that we would build it on the first day and use it to prepare a meal on the second day. That was a great motivation. There was a big stew. The design came from your workshop with a friend from Tortosa, calculated by Ana, a physics student from Bucharest who had previously attended Art Camp. A Rocket stove burns inferior wood at high temperatures with almost no soot. It’s easy to build, very efficient.
I live in a village in the mountains of the Maestrazgo, an ancient cultural landscape that was even well populated in the Stone Age. Over the centuries, the abundant gift of nature in the backyard and access to the sea has favored trade and change, and thus exchange and migration. I live in a village with fewer than 700 registered inhabitants, in a cultural landscape characterized by carob trees, olives, wine and almonds. More than 20% foreigners live in this village, they come from more than 20 different nations, speak many different languages, and yet they are all united by one important factor: a common local future.
(6) A soldier in the trench in Corbera del Ebre, in the Battle of the Ebro, not so well known because not painted by Picasso, thinks of comrades and civilians with whom he survived the nights of bombing in the cellars. He draws on newsprint, and is discovered years later, and drawn on newsprint. The newspaper tells of another time, and yet it’s the same, and again the children are attacked.
There are many minorities here and this is an opportunity. What unites everyone here is the will here, right here in Europe, to want to live in a real and true model of Europe. Children are always born with confidence, and more families with children are settling there. A “we” emerges in doing.
(7) In 2014 the artists from CASAdelDRAGON were invited to take part in a cherry festival in a neighboring town. We prepared many works on the theme of cherries, but due to a political dispute between the progressive new young mayor and his municipal administration, the festival was canceled at very short notice. The works are now scattered around the world, but some sketches have found their way into this collage, a message from a time when green politics was still green.
When cultures meet in neoliberal capitalist systems, they are driven into competition. In fascist environments they are conformed. In social associations, more attention is paid to the opportunities than to the risks, because one does not feel constantly threatened. Then something can have an effect that unites without excluding, what creates without destroying, what plants without clearing. When the different cultures meet in the creative process, a common experience arises. This gives rise to common values. Revolutions can be put down, evolution cannot.
(9) (12) In 2014 I was a co-founder of our family community Familiafeliz. With the formal foundation, which gave our growing community only a haptic form, the acquisition of land was connected. Friends from France were one of the first to help. They had little money to travel to and so we accepted two series for the art project ARTSURPRISE. The cover letter reminds of this cooperation.
In chemistry you learn the difference between a solution and a mixture. A solution reorganizes the molecules and thus changes the substances. A mixture distributes the individual in the room without questioning its individuality.
(10) The RAVAL district in Barcelona has always been wicked and problematic, located close to the port, with small streets, narrow alleys, old dilapidated buildings. Many artists settled there because the rents were cheap. With a massive hand, the city brought art into the middle of the quarter and thus initiated gentrification. The city has taken a deep breath and is now exhaling it again in the suburbs. The children of the educated citizens have filled the remaining stock, opened alternative pubs and jazz clubs. They are still tolerated, but will also disappear, and with them the inexpensive gazettes and flyers of the politically active.
(11) There was a time when computerized computing had a large part of my life. The emergence of networking, both individual workstations with one another and the locations with one another, required a lot of configuration studies at the beginning. Not every US Robotics modem spoke to the other. What a momentum in my own history, my journey into the world of electronic data processing began with programming simulations of the movement of people in clusters and is now drawing to a close in an increasingly simulated science.
One of the tools used to mix cultures is contemporary art. And that could be our mission, in these times, and always.