Vertrautes Terrain (Opening)
Contemporary Art in and about Germany. Collectors' Choice
Wed, May 21, 2008 7 pm CEST, Opening
"German Art" or "Art from Germany", a label that has exhibition tradition, is a fiction – something which is owing to the fact that, in most cases, national political determinations have little or anything to do with artistic practice. In spite of this, country-specific questions relating to the search for history, genealogies or tendencies represent a constant factor in art history and the art business: the general exhibition is its most common format. In this connection, places of living and of work are assessed, accordingly, as coordinates in the biography of particular artists. They serve as initial indices of positions assumed within cultural industry as a system, and are frequently linked to alleged national or local qualities seen as being reflected in artistic production. Through cultural-political or curatorial rhetoric – often endorsed by the art market – the attempt is thus made to deduce national representations as being based on determinations of origin. This becomes especially apparent in the example of the prominent "Young British Art", in which an art movement has been successfully fabricated and marketed. Similar approaches, and successes, of "Art from Russia" (SOZART) or "Art from China" (1990s) indicate this as a recurring phenomenon.

Numerous presentations, from the legendary exhibition from here on – two months of new German art in Dusseldorf, in 1984, to Made in Germany in Hanover, in 2007, have endeavored to treat the question relating to Germany as a place of origin and as a place of production. However, to date, a thematic-cultural analysis has been undertaken only indirectly. This is circumstance is because, for reasons of history, an analysis of one's own country in terms of content is seen as problematic. And yet it is precisely the analysis of Germany as ostensibly familiar, as well as of foreign terrain within a context of trans-national communication and tendencies of dissolution among those threatened, decision-making powers of nation states within Europe, which is so interesting and important. While it would appear that national differences are leveling out, local backgrounds and national events are infused with a new significance as essential, identity-defining moments.

It is against this background that the project Vertrautes Terrain – Contemporary Art in/about Germany conceives itself, namely, as a resonance space within which the differentiated examination of works by international artists, who reflect on Germany in distinctly different ways as a historical-, art-, and social sphere can be carried out. The focus placed on the German context refers to an "imaginary cartography", which seeks to trace those concerns dealing with the form and content, the symptoms and the virulent features in art as set against the backdrop of their socio-political presence.

Questions as to history, memory, cultural location, identity, biographic references, structures, symbols, references of forms, clichés and the politics of representation form the basis of the project: what interests artists among the various nationalities today? In which connection do references to Germany appear? Does there emerge from an "identity of doubt" (Hans Belting) an arbitrarily disposed thematic volatility in works of art? What aesthetic and artistic qualities do those works possess, which make reference to German culture, history, persons or places? Which roles do historically established quality seals and current hypes (from Romanticism to the "Leipziger Schule") play in international perception?

Vertrautes Terrain – Contemporary Art in/about Germany thus conceives itself as a process, as well as a contemporary snapshot, of around 50 German and international artists. Hence, last but not least, the exhibition is characterized by shared and changing images of what the concept "Germany" signifies.

So as not to delimit these questions to the sphere of fine art, but also to show possible parallel developments and references in other cultural fields, such as literature, music, theater, dance, design, fashion or film, the focal point of the exhibition is characterized by the concept "resonating space" as elaborated by the artist Heiner Blum. The spatial realization of the metaphor "resonating space" is at once a trans-disciplinary workplace, temporary exhibition surface and events location. The complexity of the theme should be accounted for, and an approximation from different approaches welcomed, in the form of lectures, discussions, actions, presentations, performances, guided tours and stagings with different cooperation partners.

An additional perspective on the theme is facilitated by the exhibition Vertrautes Terrain – Collectors' Choice, shown simultaneously on the 2nd floor of the museum, and which includes inventories drawn from those private collections that cooperate with the ZKM | Museum for Contemporary Art, namely, those of Boros, Grässlin and the LBBW.

An exhibition and program brochure will be issued for the exhibition as well as a documentary volume with DVD at the end. For further information, lists of artists and general program see:
Organization / Institution
Kulturstiftung des Bundes

Accompanying program