One of the greatest challenges we face no matter where we live is ensuring a sustainable way of life through global justice and social reform. How can or should we live to avoid destroying our livelihood? How can we learn to change our mindset? And how do we transfer knowledge into action? Is future viability a cultural technique which can be developed and practiced? What might the "art of living" (Lebenskunst) look like in the 21st century?
Über Lebenskunst, a project initiated by the Federal Cultural Foundation in cooperation with the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), gathered cultural, scientific, economic, educational, political and civic partners to search for alternative lifestyles for the 21st century. Über Lebenskunst organised a series of events, performances and installations in the city of Berlin and a large festival from 17-21 August 2011 at the HKW Berlin which combined art and daily praxis.
The Über Lebenskunst project concluded at the end of 2012.
In April 2010, the two-year project began with a “Call for Future”, requesting project proposals from and for Berlin in cooperation with international partners which combined culture and sustainability and dared to embrace new approaches. The Call for Future received an overwhelming response; over 850 applications were submitted by interest groups and individuals from around the world. In August 2010 the jury, comprised of international experts, selected fourteen Über Lebenskunst.Initiatives, which received funding for one year.
In July 2010 the artist collective myvillages.org began setting up a food pantry (Vorratskammer). The goal was to collect enough food produced in and around Berlin to feed all the guests who attended the festival in August 2011. Yet the concept of the pantry went far beyond feeding the masses. The project also focused on the collection and origin of the food, forms of trade and exchange and how they developed through history.
Young people are the architects of the future. To help them design a future worth living in, Über Lebenskunst launched an educational programme which aimed to strengthen their skills and creativity. The programme Über Lebenskunst.School, developed in cooperation with the Institut Futur at the Freie Universität Berlin, was the first to gather artistic strategies based on the concept of "Education for Sustainable Development" (ESD). Eighteen selected artists and cultural professionals from all over Germany completed a 10-module teacher qualification course that prepared them for their project work with school children. In cooperation with the partner schools, they developed cultural and sustainability projects which they had already introduced at the Über Lebenskunst festival in August 2011.
From March to May 2011 the Über Lebenskunst.Club invited German and international activists, scientists, musicians and performers to collaborate on a series of events which investigated and critically reflected on modern artistic and cultural methods for promoting sustainability. At the end of each Club day, the public was invited to an evening event featuring invited guests from the art and cultural scenes who discussed and musically addressed issues of sustainability.
Festival Über Lebenskunst
Artists, scientists and activists gathered at a major festival in August 2011 to present their visions of culture and sustainability. The extensive programme included installations in and around the HKW Berlin which addressed such themes as waste and rainwater recycling and the use of natural light. Various live performances focused on the idea of living consciously and concentrating on the essentials. A film programme and concerts, featuring Bonaparte, a DJ set by Peaches and the avant-garde ensemble zeitkratzer, supplemented the artistic projects on sustainability. The festival programme also included the presentation of the 14 Über Lebenskunst.Initiatives, workshops on mobility and nutrition, a presentation of the educational programme Über Lebenskunst.School and a conference, which brought together discourse and performances from six regions around the world.
The publications produced by the “Über Lebenskunst” programme examine the latest developments in the art of living for the 21st century. The anthology “Über Lebenskunst – Utopias after the Crisis”, edited by Susanne Stemmler and Katharina Narbutovic, features a collection of texts by acclaimed writers on the subject of future lifestyles under conditions of environmental crisis.
The Federal Cultural Foundation provided the Über Lebenskunst - Initiative for Culture and Sustainability with 3.57 million euros in funding from 2010 to 2012.