16 / 11 / 02 – 15 / 12 / 02
Exhibition / Films / Talks / Performance

Stadtluft (2002)
Wendelien van Oldenborgh (NL)

Artist's text: Stadtluft (Version 2)


Fragmentation and isolation of singular entities, of 'reality frames', the line of separation between society and its laws are the topics of van Oldenborgh's work. She allows us to glimpse a moment of the symbolic violence pertaining to contemporary rites and rituals. Over time, through repetition and isolation, the small events the artist records become larger than life: one could call them "ritual molecules" unveiling the structure of our minds as well as collective subconscious. " It is a research on the secret ties and connections that are dictated by shame and seduction - the rules that reason does not know of - between body and language, between the physical and the mental. It is precisely through such gaps, actual "holes" within our conception and knowledge of the world, that the artist traces the mechanisms of unconscious projections that our habitual fears bring into play."

“Beyond material abundance, the forces of the economy promised two distinct freedoms to those who lived behind the city’s walls. Today the visitor can see above the city gates, in cities which belonged to a medieval trade network, the Hanseatic League or Hanse, the motto: Stadtluft macht frei. In Paris, as in the hanseatic cities, the economy promised people to set them free from the inherited dependence embodied in the feudal labor contract. More, the city promised people new individual rights of property.
Medieval economic and religious developments pushed the sense of place in opposite directions, a dissonance, which echoes down in our times. The economy of the city gave people a freedom of individual action they could not have in other places; the religion of the city made places where people cared for each other.”

Richard Sennett, Flesh and Stone

Stadtluft concentrates on a group of people who live and wander around in the city. The location is a public toilet building, situated on the edge of a lake in an urban park. This little villa is used as a meeting place for members of a group who hang loosely together as a separate community, in which public life and private life are more visibly mixed. Visibly, since they spend their days outside, and it is there that they express their personal relationships and what happens within them. These aspects are what most people experience in the home. Expression also becomes more intimate and more physical under the influence of the alcohol that is so much a part of most of their lives.

The building itself perfectly expresses certain issues, which are brought to the foreground in the work: the outside space of the veranda is used as an inside space, since it has a roof and is slightly raised from the surrounding area. It also reminds us of a stage, and thereby accentuates the public nature of the expression that takes place here. Even the barred windows, which evoke associations with imprisonment, and the railing which appears at some points in the filming and comes between us and the scene, are given elements which start to play a role in the reading of the work itself.

After filming from the position of an outsider, contact was established with the people who temporarily inhabit this space. Three of them agreed to collaborate and another part of the project took form, which plays with notions of authenticity and staging and addresses, amongst other things, the problematic position of the observer. Public and private expression are mixed up not only in their lives, but also in the act of representation. With the help of a theatre actor/ director and a second camera, a situation was created in which play-acting, the act of filming and the ‘natural’ situation all converged in the moment of filming.

All material was shot in March / April 2001 on location in Stuttgart.