Editorial

Hortensia Völckers, Kirsten Haß – Executive Board of the German Federal Cultural Foundation

The 20th anniversary of the German Federal Cultural Foundation – a special birthday, or could we already call it a “jubilee”? One thing is certain: it’s an occasion to take a moment to reflect on how it all began in 2002. The establishment of the Federal Cultural Foundation was initiated by the Federal Minister of Culture Julian Nida-Rümelin, who was entrusted with enhancing the cultural profile of the federal government while preserving the individual states’ authority to manage their cultural sectors. The conditions were ideal – Germany’s cultural landscape was extraordinarily diverse, and the new eastern German states represented a remarkable – though largely unacknowledged – cultural contribution to a reunified Germany. Thus, the decision to establish the Federal Cultural Foundation in the eastern German city of Halle an der Saale clearly possessed a symbolic character.

It all began with the charter (opens in a new window). We ourselves had to determine how to identify “innovative” projects or what future-oriented issues would become socially-relevant years in advance. What themes or programmes were best suited for development at the national level? From the very start, openness was the order of the day and became our guiding principle in those early years. We deferred to the expertise and experience of artists in eastern and western Germany and abroad, tapped the potential of cultural institutions and independent scenes, and drew inspiration from their needs, wishes and utopias. In this way, new collaborations began forming across state boundaries. Ideas that exceeded the capacities of any one person were developed in a community-oriented manner. In short: we drafted a funding philosophy which would ultimately have to demonstrate its qualitative and quantitative impact on the cultural sector. The writer Robert Musil once described time as a train that laid down its tracks as it went along. The twenty-year history of the Federal Cultural Foundation had much in common with that train.

Operating in an eminently cultural city in an eastern German state proved to very advantageous. In fact, the decision to establish the Foundation in Halle an der Saale was a sheer stroke of luck. Back then, we had no choice but to engage in dialogue with many people of different backgrounds and expertise, to learn from them, listen to them, and ask questions instead of prescribing answers and reverting to conventional solutions. This encouraged us and ultimately informed our working process: to learn what is important to a diverse array of cultural participants nationwide, what they are committed to achieving, what they need support with, what they want to change, what obstacles stand in their way, and how they imagine their current and future development. We have been moved – in both senses of the word – by the invaluable trust we have received from colleagues at other institutions and countless artists. Over the course of 20 years, we have managed to collect a massive trove of knowledge about the German cultural landscape like no other. Not only does our expertise rest in the knowledge of institutions and cultural scenes, artistic productions and cultural-political structures, but also in thousands of conversations with those who aspire to enrich culture with fresh ideas at the national and international level.

We have been fortunate that our politicians and federal cultural ministers have given us time to conduct comprehensive research. They have refrained from imposing limits on us and allowed us to experiment (not always with crowning success) and take artistic risks. For otherwise it would have been hardly possible to develop and carry out multi-year programmes on top of the responsibility to support application-based projects through General Project Funding. These are programmes that have staked the future of our cultural landscape and set milestones for other cultural institutions thanks to their model character on issues like climate (opens in a new window), diversity, digitalisation, international partnerships and structures (Dance Plan, Doppelpass, TRAFO). Some programmes might have had a delayed impact on society or received (cultural) political recognition after their conclusion, but their pioneering role in certain thematic areas often became evident in hindsight. Other programmes have delivered surprisingly fast and uncomplicated solutions for the challenges facing us today. It is gratifying to see the Federal Cultural Foundation honoured as a “driver of innovation” in Germany’s current coalition agreement. It underscores the belief that our funding measures have served as a kind of “signal tower” guiding future cultural change, renewal and transformation, competently communicating the signals from the art scenes to our (federal) policymakers.

This issue commemorating our 20th anniversary is just as unusual as the magazine we produced in celebration of our tenth anniversary. That issue was entirely comprised of poems by contemporary writers; this issue exclusively features contemporary artists who have received past project funding from the Federal Cultural Foundation, namely Tobias Zielony, Kerstin Brätsch, Tschabalala Self and Nadja Buttendorf.

More than anything else, this edition is our way of saying THANK YOU to everyone who has accompanied us during the past 20 years. No further words (or texts) are necessary. Instead, we have used the reverse side of the posters to list a considerable selection of institutions representing the countless partners and artists, with whom we have collaborated in some 4,000 projects and programmes in two decades of funding activities. These include our international partners, colleagues and the many, many jury and committee members and political allies. And of course, the employees of the Foundation, a devoted team whose inexhaustible commitment has kept our train running smoothly on tracks we are busy laying toward the future. We extend our thanks to all of you, and perhaps most importantly, to you, esteemed readers of our magazine, for your interest, curiosity and constructive criticism since the beginning of the Foundation.

Hortensia Völckers, Kirsten Haß
Executive board of the German Federal Cultural Foundation

Executive Board

The Artistic Director, Hortensia Völckers, and the Administrative Director, Kirsten Haß, constitute the Executive Board of the German Federal Cultural Foundation.

About our Poster Edition

Kerstin Brätsch

The role of painting in the digital age is one of the central themes in Kerstin Brätsch’s work. Born in Hamburg in 1979 and now living in New York and Berlin, the artist juxtaposes digital works with often large-format works on paper, polyester foil, glass and stucco marmo which accentuate the supposed materiality of painting. Brätsch regularly collaborates with fellow artists and craftspeople to explore the physical, psychological and social materiality of painting.
She constantly abstracts and varies her brushstroke themes, as demonstrated in the poster featured in this edition from her series “Interchangeable Mylar (3 part) Glow Rod Tanning with …” (2015). She applies layers of paints across several sheets of polyester foil over and over, thereby creating innumerable combinations. In this way, the artist emphasises the stability of the media itself.
Brätsch’s works have been shown around the world, e.g. in an exhibition of contemporary painting at MoMA in New York in 2015, and in her first retrospective at the Museum Brandhorst in Munich in 2017. She has participated in several projects funded by the Federal Cultural Foundation, including the interdisciplinary projects "Thermostat (opens in a new window)" (2010/11) and "Alexander Kluge – The Power of Music (opens in a new window)" (2020). She has been actively involved in the New Patrons (opens in a new window) programme in the Wickrath district of Mönchengladbach since 2020.

 

Nadja Buttendorf

The works by Nadja Buttendorf, born in 1984, reflect the diversity of Internet culture in the form of interactive video projects, tutorial workshops and performative pieces of jewellery. With these works, she questions today’s norms and codes of gender constructions and value mechanisms of the human body in our digital society. Her Nail Art series (since 2015) and extracts of her piece “Soft Nails ~ ♥ [ASMR] Kleincomputer Robotron KC87 ♥” (2018) featured in this issue, reveal the communicative moments of participation on the Internet. She explores the role of patriarchal power structures in the digital world and offers a new narrative, in which women are visible once again as an elementary part of technological history.
Since completing an apprenticeship as a goldsmith and studying visual arts at Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design Halle (Saale), Buttendorf has presented her works at numerous venues including the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, Hartware MedienKunstVerein in Dortmund, MU Eindhoven and La Gaîté Lyrique in Paris. Her lecture performances have been featured at re:publica, the Chaos Communication Congress and nGbK Berlin. She has participated in various projects funded by the Federal Cultural Foundation, including "Computer Grrrls (opens in a new window)" (2018/19), "Link in Bio" (2019/20), "Gegenwarten (opens in a new window)" (2020) and "Diversify the Code!" (2021/22).

 

Tobias Zielony

Tobias Zielony is known for his richly atmospheric photos and videos which explore the impact of youth cultures and how they are staged. Born in Wuppertal in 1973 and now a resident of Berlin, the artist has travelled from Marseille to Naples to the industrial ruins of California to capture the lives of the marginalised of society in their familiar surroundings. Immersed entirely in natural light, he plays with the ambiguity separating documentation from fiction, and so doing, creates an almost uncanny proximity to the viewer, as shown in the photo “Nina and Fernando” (2020) in this issue. The photo depicts two members of the Japanese-Brazilian community whose ancestors immigrated to South America for socio-political reasons in the early 20th century.
Since completing his studies in photography in Wales and Leipzig, Zielony’s photography and films have become highly sought-after exhibition pieces. His most comprehensive solo exhibition so far took place in 2021 at the Museum Folkwang in Essen. In 2015 he and four other artists were featured at the German pavilion at the Venice Biennale. The Federal Cultural Foundation has supported Tobias Zielony in connection with the Chemnitz exhibition “Gegenwarten (opens in a new window)” (2020) and the Bitterfeld festival project "OSTEN (opens in a new window)" (2021/22).

 

Tschabalala Self

The Black body – in particular, the Black female body – is the centrepiece of Tschabalala Self’s art. Born in New York City in 1990 and now living in Hudson (NY), the artist infuses these bodies with space and brilliant colour, depicting them by themselves, making love, in contorted and sometimes acrobatic poses. Her figures exude an energy that extends to her eclectic choice of materials. Her work “Vanity” (2020), depicted here, is typical of her work, i.e. an oil-painted collage consisting of various fabrics and pieces of earlier works combined like a quilt onto canvas. In terms of subject and technique, Self seems set on sabotaging expectations, resisting stereotyping and, by extension, intersectional discrimination. Her strong, often self-confident figures create their own new narratives.
After earning a Master of Fine Art in painting and printing at the Yale School of Art and her first solo exhibition at the Galerie Schur-Narula in Berlin (2015), she has presented her works at numerous international venues, e.g. at the Tramway Glasgow (2017), the London gallery Pilar Corrias (2019) and in the group exhibition “Sweat” at the Haus der Kunst in Munich (2021/22). The Federal Cultural Foundation supported Self in connection with the exhibition “Beyond the Black Atlantic (opens in a new window)” at the Kunstverein Hannover in 2020.

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