"German Art" or "Art from Germany" is a construction with a fictive exhibition tradition. After all, national classifications usually have little to do with the reality of artistic practice. Nonetheless, issues specific to a certain country in the search for history, genealogies and movements, have been a constant factor throughout art history and in the art scene. In terms of exhibitions, the overview show is the most common format. In connection with this, coordinates in artists’ biographies indicating where they live and work are granted commensurate weight, since these serve as an initial determination of their position within the art-system. Often they are accordingly linked with supposed national or local traits, which are meant to be reflected in artistic production. Through rhetoric from cultural politics and curatorial rhetoric – quite often supported by the art market – the attempt is made to derive national representation via the findings on origins. This is particularly visible in the prominent English case of "Young British Art" whereby a movement was successfully construed and marketed. Similar approaches and successes show that this is a recurring phenomenon, for example: "Art from Russia" (SOZART) and "Art from China" (1990s).

There have been numerous presentations that have dealt with the question of Germany as a place of origin and site of production, ranging, for example, from the legendary exhibition "Von hier aus – Zwei Monate neue deutsche Kunst in Düsseldorf" in 1984 to "Made in Germany" in Hannover, 2007. Nonetheless, a thematic confrontation in terms of culture has occurred only indirectly. History, to begin with, makes a dialogue regarding the content of one’s own nation awkward and problematic.
Yet analysis and involvement with the apparently familiar and also foreign terrain of Germany remains particularly interesting and important in today’s situation of self-evident, trans-national communication, where, in Europe, decision-making power at a national level is in danger of dissolving. On the one hand, we can observe the apparent leveling-off of national differences, whereas on the other hand, local settings and particularities are being ascribed with new meaning.

The project "Vertrautes Terrain – Contemporary Art in/about Germany" thus positions itself against this backdrop as a resonating space for the complex confrontation with works by artists who reflect on Germany in a variety of extremely different ways as a space of history, art and the social. This concentration on the situation in Germany is devoted to exploring an "imaginary cartography" tracking down issues related to content and form, symptoms and virulence in art against the backdrop of its socio-political and socio-cultural present. A subordinate role, only, is given to the geographic mapping of Germany based on current art zones and centers, such as the so-called marketing-tool label "Leipziger Schule" or the incessant pull towards Berlin.

The project is based on inquiries into history, memory, cultural situation, identity, biographical references, structures, symbols, relations to form, clichés and representational politics: What do artists from various nationalities find interesting about Germany today? Where do references to Germany emerge? Does an "identity in doubt" (Hans Belting) lead to (various kinds of) explosiveness in artistic works? What aesthetic and artistic qualities can be found in works that refer to German culture, history, people or places? What roles do the historically established seal of quality and the contemporary hype (from the Romantic through to the "Leipziger Schule") play in the international perception of Germany from outside?

"Vertrautes Terrain – Contemporary Art in/about Germany" with approximately 70 German and international artists, is intended as a process as well as a current snapshot. In this way, the exhibition is, last but not least, shaped by shared and clearly shifting ideas of what the term "Germany" means.

In order to expand this line of questioning beyond the fine arts and point out possible parallel developments and references in other cultural fields, such as literature, music, theater, dance, design, fashion and film, at the heart of the exhibition is a "resonating space" conceived together with the artist Heiner Blum. The three-dimensional realization of the metaphoric "resonating space" is a transdisciplinary work space, temporary exhibition space and venue. The complexity of the theme should thus be taken into account in lectures, discussions, actions, presentations, performances, guided tours and stagings with various cooperation partners, allowing visitors to approach the content from various sides.

Curated by Gregor Jansen and Thomas Thiel


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