In the first year of the program, four exhibition projects focus on lines of questioning that set the site’s past in relation to its present in broader post-socialist, post-migrant and global contexts:
What does it mean when a municipal gallery reopens after more than ten years in one of the most gentrified areas of post-socialist Berlin? How might its programme find a way to carefully relate to its urban environment and take a critical stance on urban ‘upgrades’? City marketing or real estate industry narratives currently shaping the city tend to foreclose alternative understandings of the city. Collective ownership structures born from house occupations, self-organised places for art and culture, (post)migrant networks, and economies of mutual support point towards multi-layered, translocal and resilient urban networks. What counternarratives on the city exist among these structures, how do they relate to one another, and who takes care of them and passes them on? How are they taken up and supported by the aesthetic practices of artists and cultural workers working beyond logics of appropriation and commodification?
The most recent publication on Berlin’s Prater is a 1987 booklet issued with municipal funding. The publication’s cover depicts a hand-coloured postcard dating from 1912 in which Prater is represented as a summer garden. On the left side, a group of White people are arranged around a number of tables, while on the right, a Black person stands next to a public set of weighing scales. In the entire publication, this photograph, including its gesture of display, and positioning, of a Black person as Other – which is here performed from a White perspective – remains uncommented. Why was this postcard considered worthy of reproduction in the publication, while histories of Black people, both in Berlin’s Prater and in the city, were not once acknowledged? What does it mean when a photograph clearly dating back to Germany’s colonial period (1884-1919) is reproduced and disseminated on the cover of a publication in 1987? Which narratives of resistance, of ongoing anti-racist work, and of the self-organisation of diasporic and (post)migrant groups should occupy those spaces that are freed up when archival material is deconstructed?
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Since the late 19th century, the consequences of burning carbon – the basic element for the fossil fuels oil, coal, and gas – have been known. Irrespective of this fact, due to their energetic potential and their substance, fossil energy sources have been excessively extracted and integrated into almost all areas of life in industrialised societies – including in the form of petrochemical products – without taking into account grave consequences for human and more-than-human forms of life on this planet. How did this contingent dependence on fossil fuels arise? What insights might research-based artistic practices offer in relation to specific aspects of the extraction of oil, gas and coal, their consequences, and connected forms of political resistance? In 2019, Pankow’s Regional Administrative Committee declared a climate crisis; in answer to a popular initiative, the Berlin administration followed suit that same year. On a local and political level, this is a sign of recognition of the existing problem and need for action. The ‘energy transition’ and with it, the transformation of modes of industrial production, as well as of countless further societal sectors, is a matter of absolute urgency. How might concepts of environmental, climate and social justice be set into motion as central measures for this transition and contribute to a critical check of profit-oriented solutions?
In the fourth and final project of the reopening year, the thematic threads of the three previous exhibitions will be taken up and brought together. Acknowledging the role Prater once played as a cinema, Prater Galerie will equipped with a big screen and a small ‘Kinobox’ and transformed into a ‘Lichtspielhaus’. Artists, cultural workers and activists are invited to develop film screenings, discussion rounds or performances that thematically respond to the previous exhibitions. Understood as an epilogue of the first year and at the same time an opening for what is yet to come, this format moves towards a collectivisation regarding who can contribute towards, and decide on, the municipal gallery’s programmatic work.