Cures in Cultural Activities

bury my brain on the bend of the river: In the DAADgallery the Englishman Stephen Wilks gathers together more than 30 artists for his therapeutical "City Pity" project.

The day his sister died the Mexican Fernando Palma Rodriguez worked in his father´s workshop. He made butterflies. From the coloured tin of softdrink cans he cut out wings and feelers, which were patterned by logos and characters, and joined them together to fragile creatures. As company for his sister he left one of them in her grave. Years later his father was buried on the same place. When digging the pit nothing was found except for a metallic lepidopteron. Today Rodriguez is an artist, a "nomadic engineer" as he calls himself. The tin-butterflies of his childhood turned into totemistic protective spirits, which - moved by miniature robots - vibrate over the parquet floor of the DAADgallery.

Rodriguez´ installation is part of the international project "City Pity 2". After the Brussels variant "City Pity 1" the English DAAD scholar Stephen Wilks now realized it together with 30 artist friends in Berlin. Wilks own photographic works show mosquito-swarms which lay themselves like scattered needles above the skyscraper-faces of Marzahn; or the lucid outlines of a thrown away refridgerator which are wiped out in the snow. He describes the penetration of urban structures through the forces of nature.

The term "City Pity" which was coined by Stephen Wilks implies that cities have their own characters and personalities which can evoke similar feelings as human beings. This has nothing to do with "City-empathy" (Stadtmitleid). There are not supposed to be "cured" cities. On the contrary. It rather deals with the regret ("pity") of a nomad for a generally wrong and destructive way of life of the urbanized "white man".

The soulful and enduring nature which hardly perceptibly reconquers its place in Wilks´ works finds its analogy in the liberation movement of the native Americans between 1860 and 1890." We are also the forgotten ones" Rodriguez writes about his robots. For him they are "spirits". Ancestral ghosts, Dragging Canoe or Raging Bull. And like them he calls to "his land".

Stephen Wilks renounced the usual One-Man show which is due to every DAAD scholar at the end of his Berlin residency. Opposed to that he marked out a tribe-claim in the rooms of the DAADgallery - which is his true final work. "City Pity" is more than a label of an exhibition serial. It is the name of an artist tribe which gathers around a core of initiated persons. Wilks thus replaced the rites of cultural activities with own initiation rites. Based upon native American Shamanism and the given of post-conceptual art the tribe moves nomadically through the net of galleries and institutes. It constantly grows in him gradually involving other artists and co-workers and binding them to himself.

Wilks calls it "seduction". Not everybody who joined "City Pity 2" (nor the DAAD) is informed or aware of it. A curator doesn´t exist. In this context it isn´t astonishing that there is no press-release as well as the website of the exhibition ( - though opening numerous links to other sites - doesn´t provide any additional information. Also in the exhibition one only sees sporadic information about the artists and works written with a pencil on the wall.

"City Pity" doesn´t want to communicate, the project can do without any company. The unpleasant thing about that is nevertheless the arrogance with which the initiators rely on their rites. The exhibition is a reclycling-yard for ideas of our ancestors. Between compost-heap, garbagebag-sculpture and poems written on the wall appear the orders of the alternative culture like the ghost of the Lenorwoman. You should recycle! You should find yourself! You should grow your own herbal bed! Who is deeply sick of that kneads the flabby figures on Yvonne Dröge Wendel´s game board or looks at the crunchy butt newly branded by Adam Nankervis.

"City Pity" is a New-Age Reservation packed as art, a therapeutic workshop for artists that - following Wilks - "first of all need time for themselves". The battle at Wounded Knee is lost. The white man succeeded. "Be free" mumbles the H.I.S. Jeans - native American Indian. "Fuck you" is heard out of the mosquito swarm.


die tageszeitung (taz)
by Oliver Koerner von Gustorf