Public Culture 13.2 (2001) 325-328
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Plan B, Dortmund, Germany
art•works, n., pl.: brief reports on innovative critical cultural work within and outside established institutions. Includes new kinds of museums; alternative or oral history projects; the expansion of musical performance and recording into forgotten musical histories or the dissemination of a broader range of musics; alternative publishing ventures or exhibition practices in film, theater, and dance; innovative cultural work with children; public art and art in public such as murals and graffiti; innovative uses of television, radio, or other mass media; and reports on past cultural work--the modernist, socialist, and avant-garde counterinstitutions of the early twentieth century.
Merging an abandoned shopping district of Dortmund's city center with a group of media and sculptural works by French and German artists, Plan B questioned the limits of public artistic interventions while challenging the social dynamics of a city quarter that is undergoing architectural reform. On view from 26 May to 2 July 2000, the latest project by curators Iris Dressler and Hans D. Christ of hARTware Projekte was unique in that the curators did not intend to make this a public art manifestation. In fact they emphasized that they did not wish to forcefully [End Page 325] awaken the blurred senses of the common passerby. The curators purposefully used the rejected buildings of a shopping district as a museum space, inviting those interested to tour the area with maps and a guide. However, as an incidental by-product, the exhibition was integrated into the daily goings-on of the local residents, who adopted the sites of Plan B for their own pleasure or routine. Dressler and Christ offered up a "plan b"--an alternative "museum" space that respects visitor intuition and freedom while at the same time playing with notions of control and regulation within this space.
Plan B was not made up of incidental checkpoints of artistic interventions. Rather, it was a carefully mapped out and deliberate route on which visitors would encounter derelict shopping malls and abandoned buildings from the 1950s. Up until recently, the Brückstraße quarter was considered a social and architectural problem area for the city. However, in 2000, Dortmund city officials finialized their decision to revitalize the area by inserting a ridiculously expensive and overwhelming upper-class concert hall into the neighborhood. Aware of the absurdity of the endeavor, hARTware Projekte installed the Plan B "Info Lounge" directly opposite the concert hall construction site. Located in the remains of a former new wave boutique, the Info Lounge, designed by artist Niek van de Steeg, was the starting point, rest stop, or meeting place of the exhibition, and it served as a gift shop, self-serve bar, and library. Once out of the Info Lounge, installations in makeshift galleries by French artists Rebecca Bournigault, Natacha Nisic, and Herbert Schwarze invited the visitor to experiment with uncomfortable narcissism. Bournigault's Portraits, temps réel (1994) asked viewers [End Page 326] to sit uncomfortably in front of a lone camera while their own faces were projected back to them on a giant screen. Nisic and Schwarze's Karaoke--Ein Heimatabend in der Fremde (2000) offered 1960s German and French popular music with subtitles translated into absurdity.
Further along the route, visitors came across a shopping arcade, eerily abandoned and completely constructed of glass display windows and glass corridors. Artist Christl Lidl worked with the space and some simple slide projections to populate an otherwise desolate hall of mirrors in her Burgtor Passage (2000). By playing with the potential of the numerous possible reflections within the arcade, Lidl set up a series of projections of ethereal men and women who appear to be floating among the glass walls. The reflections seem to engender endless rows of people while simultaneously reminding the visitors of their solitude within the space and of the putrefying urban remains. The curators used many different exhibition sites along the route, from a library to a multiplex cinema to an underground passageway. In the underground corridor, several projects were installed, the most interesting of...