Urban spaces as a laboratory
Emscher Landscape Park is the largest regional park in Europe, embedded into a densely populated urban area, consisting of 20 municipalities. As the connecting element between the region’s cities, Emscher Landscape Park has taken on the function of creating a common identity for the entire region. It fills the void left by the disappearance of heavy industry – and has become an attractive space for relaxation and leisuretime activities. Art has played a significant role here right from the start. The landmarks created during the International Building Exhibition (IBA) Emscher Park remain as iconic symbols of structural change in the region, and have long since established their importance as orientation and identity markers.
Emscherkunst 2016 carries on the task of furthering the ongoing development of urban spaces with the medium art. As a central tool for the sustainability claim of the European Capital of Culture RUHR.2010, Urbane Künste Ruhr – under the artistic direction of Katja Aßmann – continues to carry the torch. However successful the landmark concept may have been as an initial step, the brief today entails rethinking and expanding on the idea of art in the public sphere: Art not as mere decoration, but rather as an urban design element. Artists therefore “evolve” into explorers of urban life, sociologists, and urban planners. The process or artistic creation is transposed from the artist’s studio to the public sphere, transforming the entire Emscher region into a laboratory for urbanity. Close collaboration with people and actual urban spaces generates acceptance right from the start and promotes sustainable development. The uninhibited view helps artists to see opportunities as well as deficiencies, which may have previously been overlooked with the more traditional set of tools used in urban planning.
The three organisers of Emscherkunst, Urbane Künste Ruhr, Emschergenossenschaft, and Regionalverband Ruhr, are not just creating an exhibition of international renown – most importantly, they sponsor art that takes its responsibility in its social and urban context very seriously. The close interlinking of landscape park and densely populated urban spaces make the Emscher region an excellent and also unique field for experimentation. All development is closely monitored in research projects initiated by Urban Arts Ruhr in order to make available the results of artistic processes for other disciplines as well. Entirely new tools for the design of urban spaces are created here, which may eventually be taken on board and may even provide impulses for further development in urban planning or architecture in general. The forward motion that began with the European Capital of Culture RUHR.2010 motto “Change through Culture – Culture through Change” is continued by Urban Arts Ruhr in the development of urban spaces with the means available to art within the scope of Emscherkunst 2016.