Summer will be exciting in Chemnitz. From 20th June 2020, we will mark the opening of the city’s first international public art project. More than 20 renowned artists and collectives have been invited to engage with the city of Chemnitz and its history and society, and to develop artistic positions for the city space. The exhibition will be curated by Florian Matzner and Sarah Sigmund, and will be hosted by the Chemnitz Art Collections and its General Director, Frédéric Bußmann.

The title GEGENWARTEN | PRESENCES refers to the simultaneity of many different positions. “Everybody has their own temporality,” explains Sarah Sigmund. In Chemnitz in 2018, as well as all across Europe and the rest of the world, we can currently see that many vastly different opinions and perceptions of the present and many different lifestyles exist alongside each other. This, she explained, gives rise to many different presences – presences shaped by divisions in society, presences negotiated in private spaces, such as within families or among friends, but most importantly, those negotiated in public spaces. These are the ideas that the exhibition project will explore from now until September 2020.

Public spaces are fields of conflict in Frédéric Bußmann’s view. He explained that cities can always move forward when artists engage with places and prompt those around them to reflect on their past, present and future. This applies all the more so in Chemnitz, where the fault lines of the 20th century have been ingrained in the cityscape like no other city.

Art has the ability to uncover a city’s hidden qualities, to show the things that we have in common and to form connections and synergies between them. It has the ability to shed light on identities and stories, both new and forgotten. In particular, art can make these identities and stories visible and tangible, and can put forward alternative visions of the present to the people of a city.

This is how GEGENWARTEN | PRESENCES wants to look outward, from Chemnitz into the rest of Europe and the world. Starting from the present, the aim is to look back into the history of Chemnitz and forward into its future, with and through the project. Stories that have been paid little attention to date will be revealed. From the founding of the GDR to reunification as a social, political and economic turning point, the city centre and the surrounding neighbourhoods have undergone many profound changes to the structure of their buildings and their socio-economic fabric. The exhibition tour in summer 2020 will therefore include the city centre and the neighbouring districts.

Mayor for Culture Ralph Burghart explained: “With this project as part of our path to becoming European Capital of Culture 2025, art will come to the people. On the way to work, at school, while wandering around the city, in all aspects of their daily lives, the people of the city will be surprised and become embroiled in an artistic encounter.” He said that the question of how international artists will reflect the city is particularly exciting because it will introduce new aspects to the debate on the future of Chemnitz.

Artists and collectives were therefore invited to develop works for Chemnitz linked to specific places, in the form of interventions, sculpture, installations and performances. The themes will be generated directly from the city and its contexts, and will be articulated, debated and transformed. The economy and ecology, spaces and transformations, movements and migration, democracies and regressions, as well as the worlds of work and life will all play an important role in the project. The artists visited the city of Chemnitz in summer 2019 as part of a workshop held over several days to develop their project ideas.

The project, which will run until 20th September 2020, is funded by the Federal Cultural Foundation.

(Photo: The artists visited Chemnitz in Summer 2019)