Our work deals with mundane urban public space and its transitory nature as a reflection of more general social processes. In spatial and sculptural site-specific interventions we tackle issues around the public domain, grass root participation and self-organization, market economics, mobility, shelter, sustainability, and the scarcity of resources. The potential for social conflict is inherent in all of these. We get involved and present a range of possible, practical, low-level solutions that can be implemented with very few resources. We introduce temporary buildings, structures, and subtle changes into the public sphere as examples of empowerment and the temporary popular appropriation of urban space by means of “unofficial” strategies, against a backdrop of the commercialization and privatization of public space, transport planning favoring the automobile, and ubiquitous surveillance. The sparing use of resources is a central concern of our work. We use building refuse, reject and surplus material from industrial production, as well as donated goods that consumer society rejects. We hoard and sort these for subsequent sustainable reuse. Beyond creating art and design objects and architecture, we initiate action. Our work is almost always site-specific and evolves from forging local research and locally sourced material into spatial, object-like architectural constructions that are characterized by their apparently imperfect finish.
Many of our constructions are executed in a collective DIY effort with support from local helpers, as anyone is capable of tinkering about with his or her hands. Simply finding and assembling material relies on collective input and support. Therefore, all of our efforts are imbued with a participatory spirit and open-minded inspiration.
Aesthet ics of Resistance: Reality versus Fiction
Our projects seek to challenge conventional and tendentiously backward-looking approaches in planning and building, conditioned by social segregation, and formally executed in an architectural language that idealizes historical precedence. Using a build-your-own approach to set up constructions and buildings made from found surplus and reject materials, we are positing alternatives in experimental, open, and communicative urban planning strategies that transcend familiar Eurocentrist and historical concepts. We do not conceive the urban environment as an ideal whose implementation should be the reserve of a select few. Instead, it must be a process of regeneration and decay in which everyone is involved. The majority of people’s lives in western societies revolve around the obligation to consume. People exist in a quasi self-imposed slavery to consumerism, which affects not just their personal lives, but leads to the exploitation of resources, environmental degradation, and poverty elsewhere. This is reflected in urban planning and architecture that originates in elitist, hierarchical networks where power and money tend to accrue. Hardly ever is an effort made to involve the public – who are future users of urban space and buildings after all – in planning decisions and the completion of architecture. Without their active resistance, they are reduced to mere and easy-to-manipulate consumers of housing and retail space, and transport favoring the private automobile. These are the conditions that our work challenges and subverts, using whatever is available under the respective circumstances. We work on derelict sites, gap spaces, in the street, and in the few remaining public spaces with unrestricted access – and in the arts context. Setting up impromptu structures and built environments on a lower level rather than impassively submitting to a – mostly virtual – official world of conventional planning provides a much more effective opportunity to test the immediate impact of built space. Reflecting and concentrating is inherent to the “Hold It!” approach of low-level, precisely targeted urban interventions that are positively transparent and accessible. Applied to official planning procedures it would emanate from spreading grass roots initiatives into a democratic mass culture that would succeed on the basis of people’s readiness to communicate, to shoulder responsibility, and to engage in a continuous informal debate on aesthetics.
All of the above is easily learned. It needs space with which to experiment, cheap material resources, and volunteers. The built environment should be everyone’s concern. Architects and artists could help to convey how to do things yourself, how to experiment, and how to harness creative potential. This could be just the trigger.
(published in the book "hold it!" jovis 2009 köbberling kaltwasser)