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Playing the City

Different venues, Frankfurt

The exhibition project reveals public space to be a collective, free, and designable space. Twenty-three international artists, such as Ulf Aminde, Dara Friedman, Dora Garcia, Cezary Bodzianowski, and Sharon Hayes, will turn central Frankfurt into the site of countless activities and situations, ranging from performances by way of installations to guerrilla actions that involve the audience in a wide variety of ways. Curated by Matthias Ulrich.

comunicato stampa

curated by Matthias Ulrich

How does the public participate in political dialogue? What constitutes public opinion? What do people understand “public space” to mean? The significance of the social plays a central role in the discourse on art. Concepts such as participation, collaboration, the social turn, and community-based art have clearly influenced both the production and the reception of art. The exhibition project Playing the City reveals public space to be a collective, free, and designable space. From 20 April to 6 May 2009, twenty-three international artists, such as Ulf Aminde, Dara Friedman, Dora García, Cezary Bodzianowski, and Sharon Hayes, will turn central Frankfurt into the site of countless activities and situations, ranging from performances by way of installations to “guerrilla actions” that involve the audience in a wide variety of ways. Playing the City can also be followed on the Internet, as a digital extension of public space: the Web page—created especially for the show—brings together all the video, text, and visual materials, an exhibition calendar, and a blog. It is thus a catalog and exhibition forum in one. An office and exhibition headquarters has been set up in one of the Schirn’s gallery space where the exhibition team can do its work in public: fine-tuning the Web site, answering questions about the exhibition, and organizing, commenting on, and documenting all the actions. In addition, works by Rirkrit Tiravanija and Nasan Tur, among others, and videos of the actions that have already taken place will be shown in the gallery as a film loop.

The idea that Playing the City realizes on various levels is a continuation of the ideas of important avant-garde movements of the twentieth century. Already at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Dada movement rejected “conventional” art and art forms as well as bourgeois ideals, taking instead to the street. Movements such as the radical leftist intellectuals and artists from the circle around Guy Debord’s Internationale situationniste operated on the line of intersection between art and politics, architecture and reality from the late 1950s onward. The Situationists developed, among other things, a concept of the “theoretical and practical production of situation” in which life itself was supposed to become a work of art. In the 1960s the Fluxus movement proposed the maxim of art and life as a unity and thus considered the diverse processes of everyday life to be as relevant as the banal. In parallel with that movement, action art, happenings, and performance art strove to bring art and the reality of life closer together. Especially when art was combined with politics—which along with the employment of the body represented an important strand of action art—collaboration and the incorporation of the public played important roles.

Since the 1990s, under new social conditions, a practice of art based on participation has become increasing important, in parallel with an increase in the interactive and collaborative media forms on the Internet and the realities of the nomadism of contemporary globalism. The viewers are integrated into the production of art works in many ways, and the division between traditional roles of the artist as producer and the audience as recipients are being broken down as much as possible. This has produced diverse forms of interactive, cooperative, and interdisciplinary approaches, though they resist clear categorization. In L’esthétique relationnelle from 1998 (translated as Relational Aesthetics), the French theorist Nicolas Bourriaud developed a fundamental theory of these art forms, which he subsumed under the concept of “relational art.” He sees utopian potential in their developing of alternative spaces in which other forms of social relationships, critique, and sociability can be tried out. By opening up a new possibility for communication through common activities, relational art can counter social alienation.

The exhibition project Playing the City offers a current look into the wide-ranging varieties of participatory and collaborative art and is itself an experiment. As a clandestine “guerrilla tactic,” spectacular surprise, or temporary place of encounter, it makes central Frankfurt its own. For example, the Vienna-based artist Leopold Kessler has invented a “beer garden” especially for Frankfurt. Parasols, tables, and chairs invite visitors to linger. Those who sit down hoping to order something, however, wait in vain. This Ghost Terrace, as he calls the work, is merely the formal repetition of a traditional urban inventory. Changing the perception of reality by means of unexpected musical interventions is the objective of the artist Dara Friedman. In her “Ballad of See Ya,” also created especially for Frankfurt, she presents the Rolling Stones song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” in public spaces at various times—performed by soloists and street musicians, the carillon of the Alte Nikolaikirche, the organ of the Kaiserdom, the public intercom system of the Kaufhof department store. In addition, the artist will place an advertisement seeking singers and musicians for a ”heartfelt performance”. The artist Nasan Tur will also operate in public spaces. His Backpacks project is realized not by him but by the public: Tur has packed socalled active backpacks with equipment for various actions in public spaces and make them available for loan. One backpack has material for a demonstration; another makes it possible to cook on the street; a third is packed items for a soapbox orator.

First realized in 1967 and performed again as part of Playing the City, Fluids by the American artist and theorist Allan Kaprow should be understood as a historical reference. Fluids exemplifies the terms “happening” and “activity” that Kaprow coined as well as a radical extension of the traditional concept of art. A group of volunteers constructs a minimalist outdoor sculpture that slowly melts once finished. The collaborative work on the piece plays a role that is just as important as its finished and ultimately melting form.
In several of the works Playing the City, production and reception are closely connected or even identical. Nearly all the works of this exhibition project will be realized within a limited time frame. When the project is over, the Web site will also be taken off the Internet and hence the trace of the event erased—at least to the extent new paths through the Internet have not be established.

Ulf Aminde (b. 1969 in Stuttgart, lives in Berlin)
Title TBA, 2009
28 April 2009, public viewing begins at 9:48 PM, probably in the Taunusanlage Ulf Aminde’s works combine elements from film, fine art, and performance to create an unusual research approach that approaches real social relationships with a mixture of empathy and distance. The themes of Ulf Aminde’s are usually marginalized social groups such as addicts, punks, the homeless, or the unemployed. For Frankfurt, Aminde has created a street theater trilogy about drug addiction, prostitution, and the money economy. Aminde researches each theme among representatives of the milieu in question—a prostitute, a former drug addict, and a former banker—and uses authentic locations near the train station and in the banking district. The results are presented in a public viewing on a big screen, probably be in the Taunusanlage.

Artists Anonymous (AA) (artists’ collective, founded 11 September 2001, Berlin and London) Title TBA, 2009
30 April 2009, begins 5:00 PM, Alte Oper (Opernplatz)
The artists’ collective Artists Anonymous—whose name is its program—knows no names and does not sign any of its work, as a way of avoiding the cult of the genius and competition. The group’s paintings, photographs, installations, and actions concern the conditions under which art is produced and the intellectual debates that accompany it. For its Frankfurt action, the collective is interested in the extent to which art and life can merge or to what extent the autonomy of art has to be preserved. It explores this question with a tableau vivant, a living picture: a work art is protected by fifty bodyguards during a demonstration march at the Alte Oper.

A Wall Is a Screen (artists’ collective: Kerstin Budde, Peter Stein, Sabine Horn, Sarah Adam, Sven Schwarz, and Tom Schlösser, founded 2003, Hamburg) 2003 to 2009

1 and 2 May 2009, 21.30 PM each day, “My Zeil” (Zeil)
The Hamburg artists’ collective A Wall Is a Screen is presenting a special kind of sightseeing tour. Combining a tour of the city with a night of films, people move through central Frankfurt and stop at the walls of buildings, where short films of various genres are shown. When a film ends, the group continues to the next suitable wall. On the one hand, as a sightseeing tour, this project not infrequently shows people places that they have never seen before. On the other hand, it shows films documenting the history of the city in the locations where they were filmed. This unusual cinematic tour takes place on two successive evenings.

Cezary Bodzianowski (b. 1968 in Łódź, Poland, lives in Berlin)
Title TBA, 2009
24 and 25 April 2009, all day, Mainufer, near Schöne Aussicht
Cezary Bodzianowski’s installations and performances address themes that influence or change the ordinary course of things. Often these interventions go unnoticed; sometimes passersby are surprised or begin to take part. Examples of his poetic, subversive interventions of his skepticism toward the usual practices of exhibition may be found in his contributions to exhibitions to which he has been invited. For example, his contribution to a show in a gallery in Lublin in 1997 consisted of persuading its employees to lock themselves into the gallery during business hours, to unplug their computers and telephones, and to cease work. Meanwhile the artist went on a long walk through the sunny streets of Lublin. The artist will present new actions in Frankfurt.

Tony Hunt and Christian Pantzer (b. 1964 in Dormansland, England / b. 1962 in Hamburg, live in Frankfurt)
The Consume Bar, 1991–2009 21 April 2009 to 6 May 2009, daily except Mondays, 6:00 to 10:00 PM, Schirn (exterior) The Consume Bar was founded by the architects Tony Hunt and Christian Pantzer while students at the Städelschule in Frankfurt in 1991. With only minimal equipment—a surfboard resting on stacked cases of beer as well as a ghetto blaster—the Consume Bar has appeared in many places inside and outside of Germany as a criticism of overly designed architecture, as a meeting place for your artists, and as a hint of the creative tactics for a society of conspiratorial consumption. After a long intermission, the Consume Bar is being revived as part of Playing the City and will be open throughout the exhibition.

Robert Ladislas Derr (b. 1970 in Cincinnati, Ohio, lives in Columbus, Ohio)
Chance: Frankfurt, 2009
23 April 2009, begins at 6:00 PM at the Schirn
The works of the American artist Robert Ladislas Derr employ photography, performance, installation, and film to explore the question of the extent to which geographical surroundings subtly influence human habits and feelings. He takes the “psychogeographical walks” he calls Chance wearing a mirrored suit and four cameras, pointed forward, backward, to the left, and to the right. The direction of the walks and additional actions—such as turning once 360 degrees around his own body—are chosen by the audience by throwing dice before the action begins. The films taken by the four different cameras are later projected onto the four walls of a room.

Dara Friedman (b. 1968 in Bad Kreuznach, lives in Miami, Florida)
Ohrwurm (Catchy tune; literally, “Earwig”), 2009
22 April to 3 May 2009, carillon of the Alte Nikolaikirche, (22 April: 11:00 AM, 12:15, and 1:00 PM), organ of the Kaiserdom (23 April: 2:00, 4:30, and 9:00 PM), Kaufhof Frankfurt (24 April: noon, 3:00, and 6:00 PM), et al.
In the work she has created especially for Frankfurt, Dara Friedman presents a piece of music unexpected in public spaces. Titled Ohrwurm, her project consists of many different voices: soloists and street musicians coached by Friedman, the carillon of the Alte Nikolaikirche, the organ of the Kaiserdom, and the public intercom of the Kaufhof department store. All of them play the Rolling Stones song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” The artist’s work explores the emotional power of music and its potential to change feelings and the perception of reality for a moment. Friedman’s project for Frankfurt takes up an idea the artist first realized in Musical in New York in 2007.

Dora García (b. 1965 in Valladolid, Spain, lives in Brussels)
William Holden in Frankfurt, 2009
27 April to 6 May 2009
Final performance: 6 May 2009, 8.00 PM, Schirn (headquarters) The work Dora García developed for Playing the City is titled William Holden in Frankfurt. The artist thus follows the trail of Martin Kippenberger, who thought he bore a physical resemblance to the famous Hollywood actor William Holden and founded the William Holden Company. Kippenberger sent one of his students on a five-hundred-kilometer journey through Africa by river—Holden spent most of his final years in Kenya—and revised the student’s travel reports. Dora García in turn has the actor Jan Mech play William Holden. For under two weeks, Jan Mech alias William Holden alias Martin Kippenberger—who lived in Frankfurt when he was a professor at the Städelschule—will remain in the city and explore it. Everyday he will present a radio column on hr2. He was also set up a Frankfurt blog on the Web site and, at the end of his stay, reflect on his experiences in a live performance at the Playing the City center.

Wiebke Grösch & Frank Metzger (b. 1970 in Darmstadt / b. 1969 in Groß-Gerau, live in Frankfurt)
News from Home, 2009
27 to 29 April 2009, 12.00 AM to 18.00 AM each day
The Frankfurt-based artist duo Wiebke Grösch & Frank Metzger has often grappled with the sociopolitical functions and readings of public spaces in its works. In their work for Playing the City titled News from Home, Grösch and Metzger call attention to a phenomenon that frequently goes unnoticed: street sellers of daily newspapers in Frankfurt, primarily by immigrants, from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, or Ethiopia, for example. The action News from Home plans to give these newspaper sellers current daily newspapers from their respective country to sell instead of the German-language newspapers that they ordinarily sell daily.

Yolande Harris (b. 1975 in Devon, England, lives in Amsterdam)
Sun Run Sun: Satellite Sounders, 2008/2009
2 and 3 May 2009, tour by the artist at 11:00 AM and 5:00 PM each day, begins at the Schirn The composer and media artist Yolande Harris uses modern sound technologies as a means to explore the habitats of today’s technologically equipped environment. In Sun Run Sun: Satellite Sounders, Yolande Harris makes something audible that is otherwise broadcast unnoticed in public space: the data streams sent by GPS satellite systems. Harris works with a portable mini computer that transforms GSP data into sound waves. Walking around outdoors wearing the associated headphones, one moves through ever changing soundscapes and come into contact with an invisible yet omnipresent technology of localization and surveillance. On 2 and 3 May, visitors to the Schirn have an opportunity to take a “satellite sounders” excursion through Frankfurt together with the artist.

Sharon Hayes (b. 1970 in Baltimore, Maryland, lives in New York)
Title TBA, 2009
30 April 2009
Sharon Hayes is interested in exploring in art the complex relationships between history, politics, and the process of both individual and collective perception. The artist uses approaches taken from the fields of theater, film, anthropology, linguistics, and journalism. In this work, which continues her earlier In the Near Future project, she will send protagonists into public spaces carrying placards with statements such as “We are innocent,” “Actions speak louder than words,” or “I am a man.” In another action, Hayes will recite an anonymous love letter at noon in front of the offices of the Swiss bank UBS.

Allan Kaprow (b. 1927 in Atlantic City, d. 2006 in Encinitas, California)
Fluids, 1967/2009
25 April 2009, begins a 6:00 PM, Schirn (outside)
First realized in 1967 and performed again as part of Playing the City, Fluids by the American artist and theorist Allan Kaprow should be understood as a historical reference. Fluids exemplifies the terms “happening” and “activity” that Kaprow coined as well as a radical extension of the traditional concept of art. A group of volunteers constructs a minimalist outdoor sculpture that slowly melts once finished. The collaborative work on the piece plays a role that is just as important as its finished and ultimately melting form. The audience becomes part of an action conceived by the artist that blurs the boundaries between art and life.

Leopold Kessler (b. 1976 in Munich, lives in Vienna)
Ghost Terrace, 2009
29 April to 6 May 2009, Rossmarkt
Leopold Kessler’s works are concerned with public space, exploring the topography of the city: of traffic flows that structure urban life and the behaviors that are determined by them. Squares, roads, street signs, and roadblocks are the objectives of Kessler’s interventions and serve as material for his sculptures and serve as material for his sculptures. In Ghost Terrace, specially created for Frankfurt, Kessler recreates a “beer garden” or terrace of the sort frequently found in the city: parasols, tables, and chairs invite visitors to linger. Those who sit down hoping to order something, however, wait in vain. This terrace is merely the formal repetition of a traditional urban inventory.

Mads Lynnerup (b. 1976 in Copenhagen, lives in New York)
If You See Anything Interesting ... , 2007–9
25 April 2009
Many of Mads Lynnerup’s works reflect his interest in everyday life and our quotidian surroundings, such as posters and advertising slogans, for example. During the great exhibition summer of 2007 (Venice Biennale, documenta 12, Skulptur Projekte Münster), Lynnerup presented a poster action at all three venues that questioned the spectacle using the simplest means possible. The posters read: “If you see anything interesting please let someone know immediately!” The text, employed here ironically, was based on antiterrorism posters in the New York City subway. In Frankfurt, Lynnerup will present a new, clandestine action.

MOMUS (b. 1960 in Paisley, Scotland, lives in Berlin)
The Unreliable Tour Guide, 2005–9
26 April 2009, begins at 3:00 PM, Schirn
Nick Currie alias MOMUS is a musician, blogger, and journalist and has released albums in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Japan since the mid-1980s. Now he has switched to the state and is active as a teller of lies in the tradition of the Baron von Münchhausen in galleries and museums. As “the unreliable tour guide,” he led the public astray at the Whitney Biennial in 2006. A sightseeing tour in London that he organized together with an Asian woman described the city as if it were Tokyo. For Frankfurt, MOMUS will organize another unbelievable tour through the exhibition Darwin. Art and the Search for Origins, which is being shown at the Schirn concurrently with Playing the City.

Roman Ondák (b. 1966 in Žilina, Slovakia, lives in Bratislava)
Guided Tour (Follow Me), 2002–9
3 and 4 May 2009, begins at 6:00 PM, Schirn
Roman Ondák transposes everyday situations to the exhibition context in order to capture in subtle ways forms of social behavior, desires, ideas, and fantasies; in the process he also builds in a temporal aspect in which he interweaves past, present, and future. For Frankfurt, Roman Ondák is restaging his Guided Tour (Follow Me), first presented in 2002. In it, a boy around the age of twelve plays tour guide, telling about a Frankfurt that does not exist as such. Instead, he offers a futuristic, utopian image of the city. The subject matter of the story are developed in a workshop for young people at the Schirn and then offered to the public as an alternative to the usual city tours.

Raumlabor (group for architecture and urban planning in Berlin: Markus Bader, Benjamin Foerster-Baldenius, Andrea Hofmann, Jan Liesegang, Matthias Rick, Francesco Apuzzo, Axel Timm, Christof Mayer, and Martin Heberle, founded 1999)
Küchenmonument (Kitchen monument), 2006
20 April 2009, 7:00 PM, Schirn (outside)
Raumlabor is a group for architecture and urban planning founded in 1999 that works in an interdisciplinary way. In addition to architectural projects, Raumlabor works on urban planning, actions, landscape architecture, designing public spaces, and artistic installations. The Küchenmonument, created for the opening of Playing the City, is one of Raumlabor’s most spectacular projects. A semitransparent spatial shell of plastic unfolds from a metal sculpture by means of excess pressure and grows into the city like a bubble of chewing gum and rests softly on trees and fixed structures. More than 150 people can eat, drink, and be entertained in the resulting space.

Bernhard Schreiner (b. 1971 in Mödling, Austria, lives in Frankfurt)
Public Sound Feedback (The Invisible Generation), 2009
2 to 5 May 2009, at Technisches Rathaus
The sound and video artist Bernhard Schreiner is the founder of feld, a Frankfurt-based electronic music label for experimental productions. Last summer his sound installation Ohne Titel (Presque Rien n° 2, blau) (Untitled [Next to nothing, n° 2, blue]), dedicated to Olivier Messiaen, could be heard in the Schirn’s rotunda. In his works Schreiner concentrates on sound material he records himself. He is interested in the meanings stored in them and the shifts in meaning that can be obtained by deliberate interventions, such as modulating the sounds. His goal is always to construct sound spaces. Schreiner’s current project is dedicated to two novellas by an American writer and artist of the Beat generation, William S. Burroughs, who played an important role in the evolution of pop culture and postmodern literature.

Tino Sehgal (b. 1976 in London, lives in Berlin)
Diese Beschäftigung (This occupation), 2005–9
Duration of the exhibition, Schirn
Tino Sehgal, who initially studied economics and choreography, constructs situations. His works are sets of instructions to be carried out by one or more people. They aim to address social processes, conventions, and the allocation of roles, and question the coordinates of the system “art”: idea, illustration, originality, producer, viewer, owner, market value. The human voice, language, movements, and interactions are the artistic material with which Sehgal marks his radical position within conceptual art. In Frankfurt, the artist will relocate Diese Beschäftigung; this work, developed in 2005 for the Hamburger Kunsthalle, articulates the contradictions of socially codified ideas of “work” and “occupation.”

Rirkrit Tiravanija (b. 1961 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, lives in Bangkok, Berlin, and New York)
Demonstration Drawings, 2007–9
20 April to 6 May 2009, Schirn (headquarters)
Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Demonstration Drawings examine the pictorial language of the culture of protest. While collective actions, protests, and demonstrations are often associated with the politics of the 1960s, Tiravanija debates their relevance in today’s political climate. He derives all his pictorial subjects from photographs taken from the International Herald Tribune. The archive of drawings, which the artist has been working on since 2001 and has now grown to more than two hundred works, permits a glimpse of the visual homogeneity of the culture of protest in the globalized world—be it demonstrations against economic summits, the China-Tibet conflict, or the United States’ war in Iraq. A selection of fifty-five drawings will be shown at the Schirn.

Nasan Tur (b. 1974 in Offenbach, lives in Berlin)
Backpacks (Speaker Backpack, Cooking Backpack, Demonstration Backpack, Sabotage Backpack, Fan Backpack), 2006
20 April to 6 May 2006, Schirn (headquarters) and in the city
Nasan Tur is interested in human behavioral patterns and the critical, at the same time often humorous, examination of cultural and social identity. For his work Backpacks, which Tur will recreate in Frankfurt as part of Playing the City, the artist designed active backpacks, each of which contains a complete set for actions in public spaces. One backpack is filled with material for a demonstration, another enables the user to cook on the street, a third is loaded with equipment for a soapbox orator. What is to be demonstrated against, what is to be cooked, and what is to be spoken about, is determined by each individual user. The backpacks will be exhibited at the Playing the City headquarters and can be borrowed and used in return for a deposit.

Silke Wagner (b. 1968 in Göppingen, lives in Frankfurt)
Title TBA, 2009
4 and 5 May 2009, 2.00–5.00 PM, 4 May at the Hauptwache and 5 May at the Alte Oper
Silke Wagner’s works explicitly reference social, political, or ecological injustices. In cooperation with minority groups, Wagner initiates actions that underline these injustices, promoting public discussion and active change—for instance, through the use of a minibus labeled “Lufthansa Deportation Class,” which sparked nationwide public debate about the provision of Lufthansa planes for deportation purposes, or through the artist’s call for bogus marriages. As part of Playing the City, a prostitute and a representative from the nonprofit Frankfurt organization, Doña Carmen e.V., which fights for the social and political rights of prostitutes, will use a camper as information platform. Passersby will have the opportunity at different city locations to ask the women about their day-to-day lives.

Elizabeth Wurst (b. 1985 in Lima, Peru, lives in Brunswick)
Sperrmüll-Performance (Bulky waste performance), 2008–9
5 and 6 May 2009
Elizabeth Wurst has worked for three years in performance and consistently calls for direct participation in her artistic actions. Not infrequently this is disconcerting for her audience, which often unintentionally, or even reluctantly, becomes protagonist. The artist sounds out how far the participating viewer will go, what boundaries he is prepared to overstep. Against the background of her Peruvian roots, Wurst finds the German practice of placing old pieces of furniture on the street as bulky waste to be a strange one. She joins these things, objectlike, inserting her body into the image, adjusting herself to the objects, crawling into wardrobes or lying on discarded and stained mattresses. She composes a still life and asks passersby to film her as she does so. The artist will undertake a similar action in Frankfurt.

Press contact:
Dorothea Apovnik (head of press and PR), phone: +49 069 299882-118, fax: +49 069 299882-240, e-mail:
Tanja Wentzlaff-Eggebert (press officer), Gesa Pölert phone: +49 069 299882-148, e-mail:

Press Conference: Monday, 20 April 2009, Schirn Kunsthalle, 11:00 AM

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