Welcome to the 13th edition of the e-journal
MAP - Media | Archive | Performance


MAP #13
Urban Praxis and Cultural Infrastructures


Urban praxis has become a buzz word marking a varyingly connotated interface, somewhere between art and interventions in urban space, urban planning work methods and design practices, and spatial exploration methods, or experimental spatial practices.

In June last year, we held a conference under the above title as part of our joint research project Architektur und Raum für die Aufführungskünste (“Architecture and space for the performing arts”). In lectures and discussions with experts in various fields, we examined the relationship between artistic praxis, research praxis, and planning praxis. We see this province as being closely linked to, and forming a conceptual frame for, our current research interest: Extending our focus beyond mono-artistic locations, we are looking at sites and venues that engage with interdisciplinary artistic-cultural usage, and inquiring into their accessibility and approaches to programming and experimentalizing settings.

In various respects, the questions we asked at the conference also informed the contributions to this edition:

  • How can artistic and cultural initiatives provide impetus for city-changing developments?
  • How does appropriation by self-organized actors interact and interrelate with participative approaches to urban development and planning?
  • What characterizes processes of transforming and converting disused or repurposed property? What role do future cultural or artistic uses play in them?
  • How are the different historical layers of urban spaces made visible and remembrance activated?

The articles in this edition explicitly address some of these questions, describe developments and activities that seek/have sought to find exemplary answers, or diversify the questions through detailed observations.

The edition is arranged into four sections.


The first section Infrastructures: examining, moving, transscribing opens with an article by Barbara Büscher examining the current relevance of the term “infrastructure” in the discourse of various contexts, as well as for exhibitions and artistic works. Having outlined these, Büscher elucidates aspects of the understanding of infrastructures that have changed due to digitalization and/or the influence of initiatives based on self-organization and administration. Infrastructures, understood here as constellations that are constantly moving and in flux, also form the background to an artistic research project devised and initiated by Wolf Gutjahr. ZEIT-Fugen/inbetweens examines and demonstrates by examples how the position of theatre in urban space has changed over the centuries. To what extent this spatial shifting is indicative of the position of theatre in society – that is one of the questions the project raises.

Kathrin Wildner approaches (necessary) shifts in cultural infrastructures in urban space from a completely different perspective in her article. Wildner reports on metroZones Schule für städtisches Handeln, a pilot project she initiated that links forms of activist intervention with methods of urban research for the purpose of discussing and trying out ways of actively shaping urban society.

The two subsequent contributions deal in different forms with the robotron canteen in Dresden, its preservation, appropriation, use, and future prospects. Marco Dziallas, active on the platform ostmodern.org, describes both the canteen’s architecture and its checkered history – from its intended demolition as a result of top-down urban planning to the change of owner and political debates within the city – down to the concepts for its cultural use, exemplified by exhibition projects such as the Ostrale - Biennial for Contemporary Art.

Photographer Louis Volkmann explored the robotron canteen with his camera in early 2023, producing a series of images of the space, architecture, park and city that tell of their development, showing the abandoned grounds, the demolition of neighbouring buildings, recent repurposing and imminent transformations. We present a selection of his photographs.


The second section Urban Praxis: Changing urban planning, appropriating spaces, structuring anew begins with three differently accentuated articles on urban praxis in Berlin and, specifically, the Haus der Statistik in Mitte. Turning to Chemnitz, we publish the transcriptions of two talks on formats of processual urban development relating to key ideas for the city’s term as European Capital of Culture 2025. 

The talk Die Spirale muss nach oben gehen (“The spiral must go upwards”), reprinted here, was held by Anna Schäffler, Jochen Becker and Simon Sheikh, initiators of the Berlin project Urbane Praxis. They discuss the concept and praxis forms of city laboratories and campus projects and related theories on, and political options for, underpinning necessary, structural changes in the future.  

Urban praxis in the context of the pilot project Haus der Statistik in Berlin is the subject of two other articles: In one, Leona Lynen delineates the co-production, pioneer usages, and public-civic partnership constituting the methodological approach by which the building and grounds are being developed after a ten-year vacancy. Urban praxis is seen here as the joint effort of civil society and the public sector, as a re-thinking of responsibilities and delimitations.

The documentary film ALLESANDERSPLATZ by Isis Rampf observes these collective activities in urban development and follows the process of transformation from 2019 to 2020, showing examples of the “pioneer usages” that were tried out in Haus der Statistik. For her contribution to this edition, Rampf has assembled images and voices from the film with conceptual reflections into a collage.

With regard to the Sonnenberg district of Chemnitz and the city’s designation as European Capital of Culture 2025, the interaction between arts locations and processual, participative urban development is examined in two correlating texts: Here, Annette Menting supplements interviews she held with the respective thematic contexts. In the first part, an interview with Mandy Knospe, an actor on the independent arts scene, the emphasis is placed on the initiation of new art spaces in the district and art programmes in public places, such as Dialogfelder, which promote the site’s development and help generate new perceptions of it.

The second part, an interview with Grit Stillger, head of the urban renewal department in the city’s planning authority, focuses on the conceptual-spatial development of the Sonnenberg district and specifically the processes of transformation affecting Kreativhof Stadtwirtschaft, a site of intervention for the 2025 Capital of Culture that marks the first example of changed urban practice in the city.


The third part introduces Urban Interventions: artistic projects and experiments. They are projects that in various respects extend perspectives and praxes – from the urban centres and major cities to the periphery, from examples and case studies in Germany to others in Europe and even Brazil, from current initiatives and projects to historical events of the 1960s in Tokyo.

Adam Page profiles the work of station urbaner kulturen, an ongoing, growing project started in 2014 by the art society nGbK (neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst) in Berlin-Hellersdorf. A district on Berlin’s periphery, questions of social urban development, cultural infrastructure, and developments in the city as a whole have been highly relevant here since 1989. These issues are negotiated in the site’s exhibitions and events, characterized by artistic praxis in participatory formats, which radiate into the district and generate new public spaces.

Barbara Holub and Paul Rajakovics aka transparadiso have worked for many years from their base in Vienna on and with artistic and urban practices, which they term “direct urbanism”. For Chemnitz 2025, European Capital of Culture, Barbara Holub has devised the project WE PARAPOM! combining the principles of direct urbanism with the interventions she defines as “quiet activism”. In an interview with Barbara Büscher, she explains the key aspects of the two principles linking curated artistic interventions and processes involving ecologically oriented, resident-inclusive, collective actions.

Martina Baum and Markus Vogl have contributed an article throwing light on the term Polyvalenz (“polyvalence”) in the context of architecture and town planning, and outlining the repertoire of polyvalent elements that form the basis for identification and interaction between people and spaces. The authors report on a design debate referring to this repertoire, which they hosted as part of the 12th Bienal Internacional de Arquitetura in São Paulo, and which formed the framework for the design and realization of spatial interventions on the Praça da República.

Ulrike Krautheim profiles the activities of the performance group Zero Jigen (Zero Dimension), one of the most radical formations on the Japanese happening and performance scene of the 1960s, whose works have hitherto been largely overlooked by western research. Krautheim shows that their urban interventions in the first half of the 1960s were concerned with the clash between the rapidly transforming urban space and the (often naked) bodies of the performers. This tendency changed in the run-up to the Osaka Expo of 1970, when their activities increasingly assumed an explicitly political character.


The fourth section Remembering as Urban Praxis: appropriating history, shaping the public sphere was curated and introduced both for the conference and this edition by Verena Elisabet Eitel and Nadine Kesting Jiménez. The cultural activity of remembering is crucially important for the construction of cities, their identities and that of their residents. Taking this premise as its point of departure, this section focuses on processes that narrate and question history and aim to raise its presence in urban space. The four contributing authors, Marie-Charlott Schube, Pablo Santacana López, Julia Kurz and Marianna Liosi, describe different artistic and academic points of view and discuss related projects.

Marie-Charlotte Schube considers theatre reconstruction after 1945 as a historical process of appropriating ruined urban spaces, focusing on the example of the Munich Nationaltheater. Practices of negotiating the theatre’s function as a social site and as part of urban society are central themes of her article.     

Pablo Santacana López addresses the topic of remembering as a critical urban practice in the context of formats that reenact historical events in their original settings or at memorial sites. Taking Jeremy Deller’s The Battle of Orgreave (2001) as an example, he considers the potential of embodied practices of remembering to “negotiate” the past anew, via and beyond personal experience (“doing history”).

Julia Kurz considers the topic of exhibiting (urban) history by the example of artistic-curatorial cooperations with the Stadtgeschichtliche Museum Leipzig. She stresses the responsibility of the museal institution which, as the site of archives, collections and access to knowledge, contributes to how the public sphere is structured, designed and read.

Lastly, Marianna Liosi focuses on the Initiative 19. Februar Hanau, which was set up after the fatal racist attacks of February 2020 in Hanau, to examine forms of commemoration in both urban and digital space and how they interrelate in the online and offline spheres. Liosi then analyses the forms of commemoration that take place in the digital sphere and the urban and potentially activist praxis they represent.

Translation: Charlotte Kreutzmüller

Barbara Büscher & Annette Menting;
Section 4: Verena Elisabet Eitel & Nadine Kesting Jiménez

Editorial staff:
Barbara Büscher, Annette Menting, Verena Elisabet Eitel, René Damm

October 2023
ISSN 2191-0901

We thank the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG) for support in the publication of this issue.


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