The ZKM Orchard as UNESCO Cultural Heritage
Since 1 January 2020, ZKM has been leasing and managing its own orchard meadow as part of the exhibition »Critical Zones. Observatories for Earthly Politics«. Now it is also official »intangible cultural heritage«.
Orchard cultivation is now part of the Nationwide Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the German UNESCO Commission – this was decided by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs on 19 March 2021 at the suggestion of the state of Baden-Württemberg.
Orchard meadows are culturally and ecologically valuable
»Intangible cultural heritage« is understood to mean lived traditions and living everyday culture, which are to be continued and further developed by preserving this heritage. Orchard cultivation is a transnational cultural form that contains a broad repertoire of traditional practices and knowledge. For the German southwest, orchard meadows play a substantial role in shaping the »self-image as a cultural state« and are also important for tourism as »attractive cultural landscapes«, according to State Secretary for the Arts Petra Olschowski. With more than 100,000 hectares, Baden-Württemberg has the most important orchard resources in Europe.
Orchard meadows are not only culturally but also ecologically valuable. They are among the most species-rich habitats and cultivation areas in Central Europe, promoting and preserving biodiversity. They are cultivated in an environmentally friendly way without the use of pesticides, fertilisers or the like.
The orchard meadow as a practical part of the »Critical Zones« thought exhibition
With these ecological and cultural aspects in mind, ZKM has been leasing the Katzenwedelwiese in Bulach (Karlsruhe) since 1 January 2020 as part of the exhibition »Critical Zones. Observatories for Earthly Politics«, with the aim of renovating it. Until 2025, ZKM is responsible for maintaining the meadow communaly.
»Critical Zones. Observatories for Earthly Politics« is not only an exhibition, but also a »thought experiment«: the project focuses on the glaring climatic ecological mutations as well as their indissoluble connection to current geopolitical crises. The exhibition and the accompanying programme invite visitors to engage with the critical state of the Earth in a variety of ways. Along these lines, it also raises questions about the responsibility of cultural institutions in times of climate crisis and to what extent the practice of exhibiting can be rethought with a view to climate neutrality.
The orchard meadow becomes part of this thought experiment: ZKM employees visit the meadow and, under the guidance of biologists and colleagues from the Real Estate Office of the City of Karlsruhe, conduct various workshops there, such as a tree pruning course, an introduction to mowing machines or harvesting apples and pears. This interaction with the meadow invites a change of perspective: it sensitizes us to the fact that we are not at a controllable distance from our natural living environment. We are in the midst of the interaction of dynamic processes, in a diversity of relationships with other forms of life.