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Agenda 2010 | Café Moskau, Berlin

February 05 – March 13, 2005

FLEISCH | Showroom

Michael Dreher + Thomas Kilpper

Café Moscow | Karl-Marx-Allee 34 | 10178 Berlin-Mitte
OPENING: Friday, 04.02.05 – 20.00 o’clock
Duration of exhibition: 05.02.05 – 13.03.05 [24h/7d]

The two artists Michael Dreher (Frankfurt/Main) and Thomas Kilpper (Berlin) have developed their installation Agenda 2010 for the Berlin exhibition space “Fleisch” on Karl-Marx-Allee, in which the urgency of a fundamental innovation of the various models of society is the theme and starting point.
On one side is Karl Marx, one of the historical founders of the communist idea.
On the other side is money – the engine of profit and the centre of capitalist society, here in the form of the three most powerful Western currencies, the yen, the euro and the dollar. Both sides are exposed to specific natural attacks and ‘basic needs of the base’.
It remains to be seen whether and in what condition the opponents will survive this game.
Agenda 2010 is a six-week ‘work in progress’ that will be seen and observed around the clock until 13 March.

Tel. 0160 2956151 – CHUGHTAI

Bicycle shop @ wildwechsel Frankfurt/M

November 5 – 25, 2005


Thomas Kilpper in the gallery Wildwechsel
Rotlintstr. 98, 60389 Frankfurt, Germany
Phone 069-738416
bicycle shop

Vernissage: 4 November 2005 7pm
Exhibition: 5 November – 25 November 2005
Opening hours: Wed. Thu. Fr. 4 – 7 pm

Thomas Kilpper, who lives in Berlin, chooses the most difficult of all paths an artist can take. In his work he does not shy away from large to monumental formats and complex contents. On the other hand, he develops an astonishing variety and love of detail, going into depth.

Kilpper became known to a wider public through his large-format woodcut projects from 1998 to 2000 in empty buildings near Frankfurt and in London.
Here he really worked his way through: the resistance of the parquet floor and its partly comical, partly loaded history. Near Frankfurt it was a former Nazi military camp, which after the war became the site of numerous interrogations and training missions of the US army and where barely two years after the end of the war, with the help of the CIA, the forerunner of the German foreign secret service, the BND, the so-called “Organisation Gehlen”, was launched. Surprisingly, this happened under the same leadership as the Nazi secret service “Fremde Heere Ost”: Reinhard Gehlen.
In London it was a place where an octagonal church was erected in the 18th century, which was radically reused almost a hundred years later: the pulpit was replaced by a boxing ring, in which 30 years of important and popular boxing fights took place – until during the 2nd World War Hitler’s air force reduced the building to rubble and ashes. Orbit House, which was built on the same site after the war, initially served the British Army as a secret location for their printing workshop until the Oriental Department of the British Library moved here and, among other things, kept the oldest known woodcut in the world, the “Diamond Sutra” from China, here.
Kilpper goes to archives, asks local residents or former employees… then he approaches: “With heavy equipment, the ghosts of their own past are carved into the smooth wooden floor, -sawn, -milled, -cut, -chopped, -choped, -choped. Later, the scratched landscape is treated with miraculous artistry. The prints are removed with paint, paper and fabrics.” (Else Gabriel on Thomas Kilpper)

At the invitation of the Goethe-Institut, Kilpper travelled to the occupied territories of Palestine in 2003 and, together with Palestinian youths, built a larger-than-life horse sculpture out of metal from destroyed houses and cars. In the Arab world, the horse is a symbol of freedom and enjoys enormous popularity.
Against constantly recurring curfews, controls, tank and air force deployments, this project was an attempt to reopen play and movement spaces in public space. After its completion, the horse was successfully pulled from checkpoint to checkpoint through the entire West Bank to Ramallah, Arafat’s destroyed seat of government, together with some workshop participants – despite all warnings. As if by a miracle, the horse opened almost all the otherwise locked gates for a brief moment. “You have to see the film Thomas Kilpper made about it.
…made with… The described details of everyday life are full of absurd obstacles, they also deal with great hospitality, and with being settled in temporary as well as hostilities…” (Else Gabriel)

Thomas Kilpper has planned a new installation – bicycle shop – for the Wildwechsel Gallery in Frankfurt.
Bicycles will be offered for sale and defective bikes will be accepted for repair. The gallery owner and art dealer becomes a bicycle seller and bicycle mechanic – the gallery visitor possibly a bicycle buyer or customer of a bicycle repair.
Kilpper wants to question the function and identity of the location as well as the social position of its protagonists – and at the same time encourage a form of ecologically meaningful mobility. The bikes sold during the exhibition are signed by the artist.

Ulrike Meinhof @ Meerrettich Berlin

March 31- May 05, 2004

Press release: thomas kilpper in the gallery meerrettich in the pavilion at the volksbühne rosa-luxemburg-platz, berlin
contact: 030 28879710 – email: info AT

ulrike meinhof – exhibition from 31.03. to 09.05.04
at the pavillon am rosa-luxemburg-platz, thomas kilpper opens his exhibition with the sculpture of a larger-than-life head: ulrike meinhof on march 31, 20:00.

for almost 100 years, the pink luxury square has played a wide variety of roles under various names as a stage for political disputes and monuments. numerous demonstrations by the left, such as after the murder of pink luxembourg and karl liebknecht, but also threateningly staged marches by the Nazis began here.
in 1928 the kpd tried to erect a monument to lenin on the site of today’s pavilion.
however, the then berlin senate rejected the plan. only a few years later, the national socialists erected the horst-wessel monument there instead. for some time now, an attempt has been made to erect a monument to pink luxembourg with a work of art.

with ulrike meinhof, thomas kilpper wants to extend the specific politicization of this place into the present, but not without creating new breaks and critically questioning the stylisations and clichés that accompany it. with his sculpture, he also refers to the johann-kresnik production of the same name on the people’s stage in 1993.

ulrike meinhof stands like hardly any other personality of the west german post-war left for a long road of political confrontation with the powerful of this state, on which she radicalized herself from a critical journalist to a revolutionary underground fighter. in the 1950s, she was active as a student against the rearmament and nuclear armament of the brd, before publishing political essays for more than ten years, especially in the magazine konkret, and finally, at the height of the us war against vietnam, in 1970 she herself took up arms and co-founded the red army faction.

1972, after 2 years of large-scale search and postering on every advertising pillar, she was arrested. at times she had to spend her time in completely deserted tracts, isolated from the outside world. during the great tribal home trial, she sat in the dock with andreas baader, gudrun ensslin and jan carl raspe. shortly after she delivered an extensive speech and indictment in court against the us-American “engagement” in indochina, she was found dead in her cell on may 9, 1976. the state did not succeed in clearing up the contradictions and justified doubts about his suicide thesis and completely clarifying the circumstances of his death.

ulrike meinhof would have been 70 years old this year. after her death, her brain was removed without the consent of her relatives and kept for over a quarter of a century in laboratories of german universities for “scientific purposes”. as early as 1973, the public prosecutor’s office wanted to intervene in her brain against ulrike meinhof’s will, an intervention that could only be prevented by international publicity and criticism.
the media treatment of the “brain rape” shows the return of this old attempt to pathologize ulrike meinhof and thus the pathologization of revolutionary politics in general. in contrast, the artist sets the reality of the works, which ulrike meinhof created herself, against her texts and letters from 1960-76.


ulrike meinhof

Castors to Halfpipes | Projekt für Ahaus | 2004/05

castoren zu halfpipes | 2004/05
Projekt zur Skulptur-Biennale Münsterland 2005

project outline
to the Sculpture Biennale Münsterland 2005

In cooperation with interested local initiatives (skater, youth centre, citizens’ initiative for environmental protection, vocational orientation centre…) I would like to present a usable sculpture with young people from Ahaus and the surrounding area in a two- to three-week workshop as part of the Skulptur-Biennale Münsterland 2005.

  • 1/2 castor x 2xL x 2xH x 2xB = half-pipe –


The finished sculpture (halfpipe) will then be moved through the district in a joint parade – a Castor transport on “Day X”, as it were – before it is permanently installed in the castle garden and handed over to the public for use.

Castors to Halfpipes!

The recent history of Ahaus and the district is decisively determined by the debate about the use of nuclear energy, especially the nuclear waste storage facility – the so-called central fuel element interim storage facility (BEZ).
Since 1992, radioactive waste from various German nuclear power plants has been stored in a huge hall on the outskirts of Ahaus. How topical this topic is is illustrated by the fact that a few days ago a new storage and transport permit for 18 Castor containers from a former research reactor near Dresden was issued by the Lüneburg Higher Administrative Court. Hardly any other conflict has so much danger potential for humans and environment, as well as social explosive material, which the society threatens to tear apart sometimes.
Numerous yellow crosses of the protest (day X) testify to this conflict and have become an integral part of the cityscape of Ahaus.

In a certain contrast to this is the fact that, according to those affected, youth and leisure activities leave much to be desired. There has been a halfpipe on the outskirts of the city on the Oark leisure area for some time. Due to resident complaints this is to be torn down however – contrary to the atomic waste camp -. The construction of a half pipe for skaters and inliners in the castle park would be conceivable (central location, no direct residents) and desirable.

fuck your landlord | london | 2003

Fuck your Landlord
Field Work in the Streets of London, 2003

knowing that the lease expires and my landlord is going to rise the rent (from £700 to £900) I move with a minimal house on wheels through the streets: the drastic rising rents force to unorthodox measures.
a (failed) field-test to survive in the public space: one wheel brakes and the police comes and arranges for the hut to leave the streets. later on it was on display in the ‘Independance’-show in the South London Gallery.

al hissan – the jenin horse | 2003

Al Hissan – The Jenin Horse
Art in Public Space Under Conditions of Occupation

By invitation of the Goethe Institute Ramallah, I led a several week long workshop with Palestinian youths in Jenin in the summer 2003.

Together we built a 5 meter tall horse out of scrounged metal taken from destroyed houses and cars. The horse was subsequently towed through the streets of Jenin and, at a later point, almost 200 km away through the occupied territories of the West Bank.


Subject: reclaim public space for social and cultural initiatives!
Date: Thu, 22 May 2003 00:25:45 +0200

dear all, dear friends,

I would like to inform you about my forthcoming art projects in the occupied territories of palestine:
the goethe-institute and the a.m. qattan foundation in ramallah invited me to realize art workshops in june and july:

with the help of a group of 10-15 palestinians I will be building over 4 weeks a horse made out of scrap metal from destroyed houses and cars. I intend to do this in the public space of khan younis, a small town in the very south of the gaza-strip – next to the egyptian border. we’ll try to get it made on a donkey-cart or lorry-trailer so that we can move the horse through the area.

the arab horse is a popular symbol of the freedom to move which seems to be much needed in this particular area of endless violent conflicts.
my starting point for this initiative is the idea to reclaim public spaces for cultural and civil projects. permanent curfews, tank incursions and restrictions to move are the reality for the people in the occupied territories. without civil developments and social activities, without a vivid culture in public spaces a society is going to crumble.
the occupation must stop and make place for a decent development of self-determination and cooperation. there will be no military solution whatsoever – neither through military predominance nor through terrorism.

I am doing this art project mindful that the israeli-palestinian conflict has a lot to do with german history: without NS-fascism, without the holocaust, this conflict might escalate less and it might be easier to find a just solution.
both peoples have a right to live – both peoples deserve our empathy – no one has the right to oppress or rule or dominate the other. equal rights and equal opportunities for all!

thomas kilpper

Subject: my project
Date: Tue, 03 Jun 2003 21:13:01 +0200

dear all

on friday morning at 4am, i arrived safely in tel aviv. entered without any problem. the questioning through the boarder police wasn’t that bad. i took a shuttle-bus to jerusalem and met the director of the goethe institute, ramallah, farid chris majari. after a lovely breakfast in the american colonie hotel (east jerusalem) we took the street to ramallah, passing the checkpoint in the land-rover of the goethe institute was no problem at all. i was two days in ramallah. the mood of the people was relatively relaxed, almost null military presence.meeting with farid (goethe) and our project-partner from the a.m.qattan foundation, ziad khalaf in the beautiful house of the qattan foundation in ramallah.

walking through ramallah on my own. everybody gives a warm welcome to me, no hostility at all – but in my head is the sense people would think i would be an israeli undercover agent… roaming through the streets, watching intensively (thinking about my sculpture-project in the public space and where could it be realized…).

live on the streets is very busy – even after it got dark.

since some ten days the gaza-strip is completely sealed off (closed) for foreigners. therefore we had to decide to alter our plan. instead of doing the horse in gaza (khan younis) it is planned to do it in jenin, an area which is heavily attacked and put under permanent curfews for a long time. last week they had a two day curfew again. and tanks and armoured patrouls, arrests if not killings and shootings are almost a daily reality.

today farid and i made the way from ramallah to jenin, through the jordan valley, passing the dead sea… and about four checkpoints. privelleged we, on a proper land-rover with the goethe-logo on its doors and a german flag on the back (so we are clearly not from the army…) and with german passports: we could pass without any bigger problems… the palestinians can’t go this way, they are not allowed to travel their own country. only very restricted or via the fields which often is very dangerous.

we started at 8am and arrived at 11.30 at hussein’s house, our jenin-partner and local scout who can speak german very well. he already spoke to the head of the jenin youth-centre and to the local authorities to promote our project and to ask for support.
we met at 12 with sharek, and a member of the jenin council. they both gave us a warm welcome and are happy to collaborate on this project. together we then went to the major and where cordially welcomed by his deputy. he gave his okay to support the project though the technical workshop of the municipality, so we can use the welding or angle grinder machine and prepare the project in their workshop. and we’ll get a lorry for any transport etc. that’s wonderful!

then we checked a flat for me – and were lucky again through hussein’s help. it’s quite expensive though – rents are not cheap here. and then we got a wondeful dinner at husein’s house. palestinian cooking is really great. i enjoied nice lamb, chicken, vegetables, salads, etc… whow…, and the arab coffee was offered a floor below at hussein’s parents flat in the presence of some 12 well established, wealthy men… we were told they are the local judges and advocates etc. who had a gathering there. quite patriarchal… but again we were warmly welcomed from everybody. in the evening we met the representative from the UNWRA for the jenin refugee-camp to ask him if he would like to join the project with some 5 or 6 participants from the camp. it seems to work out and we will meet together tomorrow morning with all 12 participants, coming from the town (youth-center) and the refugee camp (through the UN).

and now i tried to set up my e-mail in an internetcafe. hope it works so that you get my message.
and we just learned: today ramallah and some other towns are under curfew – some friends in ramallah were taken by surprise when the army entered the town and got stuck in cafe’s or shops or or or…
so they keep on putting pressure on the daily live of the people – but talk publicly about easing the restrictions. it is redicoulous. it’s not true. it’s just propaganda for the bush trip to the middle-east this week.

so far – all the best


Subject: hello from jenin
Date: Tue, 03 Jun 2003 22:02:39 +0200

a roadmap to nowhere

dear all

today it took chris farid and me a long time to leave jenin, even with a german flag on the landrover, the soldiers didn’t take notice of us, but when chris tried to go towards the check-area they shouted “stop” and pin-pointed the gun on him. we where the only people trying to pass the checkpoint until a white ambulance from the medicines sans frontieres came. they were more pressing and may be a bit less frightened than we (at least me) and managed to talk to the soldiers in the end…
so we could pass, and one mile later the next checkpoint came – now the border of the westbank to israel and a long cue with some 100 palestinians where waiting, – with a feeling of beeing completely privileged we passed the cue which seemed to be stuck for a long time (all the motors/engines were shut off)…

today ramallah is under curfew the second day in a row. “precaution”… making people angry and feeling frustrated. if we have no freedom to move – we are not in the mood to be particularly peaceful! so we got the feeling they provoke attacks and outbrakes of aggression.

tomorrow my talk in ramallah might to have been cancelled. fingers crossed, the curfew is not anymore in place. we’ll see. you can’t really plan your live under such conditions.


Subject: palestine – israel
Date: Fri, 06 Jun 2003 22:23:21 +0200

jenin, 6 june

dear all

on the motorway from jenin to tel aviv, after waiting at the checkpoint in jenin for about 60 minutes, we got stuck at least in three traffic jams. i was about to meet ella cafri in tel aviv. ella is the mother of ifat cafri who was co-organising and co-curating my exhibition “drowning hercules” (my tree-project at st. thomas’ hospital in london) in september 2001 and who was a graduate from goldsmith college. at the age of 24 she got run over and killed by a car-driver in london just five days before the opening. so, my tree-project was the last exhibition ifat worked on in her short life, which was extinguished far too early and so incredibly brutal.
in our short time of working together i got deeply impressed by ifat’s courageous attitude towards not only the israeli-palestinian conflict but also towards the authorities at st. thomas’ hospital. without her fantastic help the exhibition might haven’t happened. therefore i was keen on meeting her familly – even the cause was very sad and the visit not just easy.

stuck in the checkpoint and on the motorway… we arrived almost two hours late. but finally we were happy to meet each other. ella picked me up and brought me to her house, south of tel aviv. compared to the palestinian towns and houses it was unbelievably comfortable and luxurious. almost another world. during a delicious meal we were talking intensively: about ifat…, about nazi-fascism, the holocaust, germany today, israel and of course the palestinian-israeli conflict…
“i used to say, i hate the arabs… but if i want peace i have to change that attitude… you don’t need to make peace with your friends… but with your enemy…”(ella), but there was little hope that peace could be reached with bush and sharon, that the “offer” of sharon is completely inacceptable for the palestinians. a really intense discussion and to be continued.

the next morning ella showed me the tel aviv tower, with a public plattform on its 49th floor, beautifull view, hyper-clean, air conditioned… and with security checks, soldiers in uniforms all along. impressive architecture – residential houses may be from the bauhaus-period. after a trip to the old town next to the sea side i had to head to the main bus station to take the shuttle taxi to jerusalem.

i arrive in west jerusalem – the driver doesn’t want to go to east jerusalem, so i have to walk. on my way to damascus-gate i am passing the preparation for a demonstration with the slogan… “no palestinian state!”.
before i arrive the old city i catch a taxi which brings me close to chalandia-checkpoint – but drops me some 3 km away from the actual checkpoint and i have to take another shuttle taxi to the checkpoint.

there it was easy walking through the checkpoint. i think because a tv-team was filming at the same time an israeli peace-demonstration “stopp occupation – for a palestinian state within the 67 borders”… nevertheless the tensions were running extremely high. behind the checkpoint i got a lift to ramallah from a nice guy, trader of office supplies.

so i arrive in ramallah just in time to prepare my talk at the qattan foundation at 6pm. some 15 people turned up and i had the impression the talk (about my previous projects) was well received, especially from some local artists and we had an adjoining discussion about my forthcoming project in ramallah and what we still need to get it realized.

next morning: meeting with mohamad from the “young artists foundation” (ramallah), he is now the local “scout” to prepare the ramallah-project (the shade-giver/umbrella)… together we go to the ministry of culture (to liana badr) – asking for permission that we may cut out steel from the destroyed mukata (the head quaters of the palestinian authorities), and to get her general support and backing of the project. than we walk through the center of ramallah – to find a suitable site for the project… and we meet a local authority at the town hall – to informe him and ask for permission to realize the project in the public space of the town. everybody welcomes the project and promises support… fantastic and exciting.

at about 2.30 I leave for jenin – accompanied by chance by german film-maker, frieder schleich.
taxi to chalandia checkpoint, where about 200 people were waiting/queing. it took us some 45 minutes to get through the checkpoint, I was fed up, queuing/ standing in the sun… waiting so long to get through… so arriving at the soldiers I asked them if they are not ashamed to do this job and had my first experience how nice they can be…, silly me. thomas, just keep your mouth closed!

behind the checkpoint we took the shuttle taxi to jenin. 5 km into this 120 km journey we arrived at taiba checkpoint. some twenty taxis and trucks (with cement or so…) were waiting in a queue. nothing moved. after 20 minutes I asked the taxi driver if it might be a good idea to go to the soldiers and show my german ID card.
“Yes… might be good, to pass quicker…” – but the soldiers angrily rejected me and shouted – not only at me – but at all passengers who had left their cars and walked to the checkpoint. one soldier completely freeked out taking his uzi-gun and pinpointing to the head of one ot the palestinians, shouting very aggressively. the palestinian guy stayed relatively calm – without any expression of fear! respect, respect!
after some more 20 minutes – nothing moved forward, appart from israeli cars some of which passed even without stopping – arguments with the soldiers began again. one soldier took out his army-knife slicing some tyres of the waiting taxis. at least one taxi had a puncture, we were very lucky although he tried three times at our taxi to cut the tyre, he didn’t come through…

tensions came to a peak, when the taxi with the flat tyre drove and it’s passengers walked up to the soldiers very angrily… shouting loud, exchanging arguments etc… –
we were waiting a further 30 minutes, than after about 90 minutes (!!) at a sudden all taxis made a u-turn, leaving the checkpoint towards chalandia. after 2 km we left the road and took a little track for tractors… off we were in the fields of the westbank.
at some point we had to leave the taxi, as the rocks were too rough and the car touched too heavily the the ground…

after some twenty minutes we came to a small tared road. obviously the hidden path worked out. but there were still more checkpoints to come: after 45 minutes: adam’s bridge, which took us just 15 minutes to pass – and a further 20 minutes later came ‘al hamra’-checkpoint, which took us again about half an hour to get through.
the shuttle taxi got emptier and emptier, passengers were dropped and some 20 km before jenin we were the last passengers. in the meanwhile it was dark and the driver refused to take us to jenin. he dropped us in a small village and suggested to stay here and sleep in the local church. on the way to the church we passed a pharmacy and i asked the chemist if he knows a taxi-driver and if it was reasonable to try to go. he phoned an acquainted taxi-driver who came 15 minutes later and offered us a lift through the fields sharing it with a colleague who would take over half way for 70 shekels. i happily agreed after consulting the chemist, who encouraged us “it’s safe” and whom i trusted… so off we went through the pitch black night, on small paths and hidden tracks. the driver called his colleague on his mobile and explained him our position and where to meat and after a ride of thirty minutes we met him and changed the cars in the middle of a huge field with olive trees. i was deeply impressed, how precisely it fitted together. fifteen minutes later we arrived safely in jenin in front of my house.

if you haven’t experienced the way you have to move – it is hardly to understand. and i think it’s a big difference to be with the palestinians in a shuttle-taxi or beeing in a land-rover with id-card-holder of the german embassy and a german flag…

during the night (in jenin) shootings were to be heard, tanks roared through the streets – but on the level of ‘every-day-life’, nothing extraordinary.

today is friday – (muslims sunday), in the eveneing we went for a waterpipe with a former prisoner, talking about the actual political situation. people on the street seem not to belief in the bush-sharon-abu mazen sumit. the facts on the ground are completely different.

tomorrow we start working with the group of 12 youngsters. it’s exciting.
will keep you posted.

all the best

Subject: the jenin-horse
Date: Mon, 09 Jun 2003 16:43:27 +0200

info-no. 4
dear all,

after a noisy night with shootings and tanks roaring for some 2 hours through the streets in jenin, amazingly my art-workshop with youngsters from jenin started yesterday.
as planned we met at the municipalities metall-workshop. everybody was present, the kidz, hassan our local scout, samir, to whom I got introduced to and who will be my technician and welder for the next weeks… we just had to get our tools, an angle grinder, extension lead and a generator and drive with a lorry to the destroyed “mukatta” to start with our work.

as you will know most of the buildings of the palestinian authorities and security (“mukatta”) got smashed and litterally pulled down by israeli forces during last years incursion. my plan is: to take steel rods from the rubble of the mukatta and use them in the art-project. the message is simple: they might be able to destroy the buildings and signs of a palestinian state but the people will rebuild their society, their life and culture.

hassan managed (after long sessions of conversations over the last days) to get the okay from the palestinian side to take out some of the metal rods.
beeing on the site, a huge pile of rubble… the concrete walls and ceilings flattened like a house of cards, bent and broken steel wires show in all directions, silence but the chirping of the locusts over the whole place until we start our generator and angle-grinder to cut the rods and wire and bring it to the lorry…

sun burned like crazzy – no shadow, but we were happy to get the workshop running and to make first experiences with each other. 4 kidz where from the town, three from the refugee camp. the difference is obvious, those from the camp were much more cheeky, tough, direct, no formal well behaviour… the others better dressed, more disciplined, partly cautious. good to have them both and together at any one time.

after two hours at the mukatta, we went to a scrap yard near-by collecting metal scrap from old cars (to be the surface of the horse). at the end sandwiches and drinks could be enjoyed and one of the guys from the camp (sorry forgot his name) provoked a friendly scrap / row with me. trying out the limits.

the collected scrap was brought to the municipality workshop (where the horse will be built over the next weeks) and unloaded. everybody was quite exhausted – at least me.
a great day.

in the evening in my local grocery ‘abu amar’ (arafat) was live – an interview – on tv, everybody was listening, – he criticized the akaba declaration as too vague and insisted (as far as i got it with help of a by-stander who translated) on the 67 borders, the right to return for the palestinian refugees and east jerusalem… the new prime minister, abu mazen is not very much trusted here from people on the streets. everybody seems to be very critical / sceptical if not rejective towards bush’s (and abu mazen’s acting on the) “roadmap” for a palestinian state. watching at sharon’s “offers” (of a cantonized and partitioned westbank of three seperated districts… far away from the 67 borders) this is more than understandable.

so far.
best wishes

ps: in the “” i found this:

“Jeder kennt heute die Gruende fuer das Scheitern von Oslo. Die ‘Road Map’ wiederholt die Fehler. … das Verschieben der wirklichen Probleme auf ‘spaeter’ ist die exakte Wiederholung des Oslo-Konzeptes. Jerusalem, die Rueckkehr der palaestinensischen Fluechtlinge, die Siedlungsfrage – all diese heiklen Punkte werden nicht sofort in Angriff genommen, weil man wieder erst einmal ‘vertrauensbildende Massnahmen’ schaffen will. Dabei koennte nur die Loesung der Kernfragen Vertrauen schaffen.”
Richard Chaim Schneider, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 06.06.2003

“everybody knows the reasons why ‘oslo” failed. the ‘road map’ repeats the mistakes. … the delaying of the real problems is the exact repetition of the oslo-concept. jerusalem, the return of the refugees, the settlements…
all these sensitive issues are not addressed because they first want to establish confidencial measures. but only the solution of the main issues can develop confidence.” (my rough translation)
Richard Chaim Schneider, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 06.06.2003

Subject: back to normal
Date: Thu, 12 Jun 2003 21:08:25 +0200

wednesday, june 11

dear all

after the illusion/fata morgana of akaba it’s back to normal – means to the conflict; that is the real thing people go through here.

after yesterdays rocket attacks on rantisi, the political leader of hamas, everybody knew it is a matter of hours that revenge in form of a suicidal terror attack in israel will take place. that israel carried out a murderous attempt on a politician in the middle of bush’s advocated ‘peace-process’ is proof that the us-administration does not put real pressure on sharon and the israeli government to come to an end of oppression, occupation. their policy of liquidation of the leaders of the palestinian national movement – if we like them or not – is clearly a roadmap to killings – not peace but deathly silence.
as israel’s government is so much dependent on support from the US sharon is obviously certain to have still bush’s backing even he carries on with such bloody rocket attacks. it seems to be a bad game.

for two days I had as a guest – german writer norman ohler – in my flat.
traveling the region he came from jordan with an israeli car – the yellow number plates, clearly indicating it as such – which puts him a bit at risc in this area, at least that his car gets smashed or stolen…, especially at night. so we were happy that we were allowed to put it in the back-yard of my landlord.

after film-maker frieder schlaich it was already my second guest in jenin. that is nice, having guests here. in the morning norman joined me to my workshop. four tough kids from the refugee camp came. discovering his mobile phone and digital camera they grasped and played with it, undoing the battery, pressing all the buttons etc. it took norman completely by surprise (normally nobody here touchs your stuff) and he had a short argument with the boys. again they were testing their limits with us…

than: an hour into our workshop at a sudden everybody was listening to the small radio in the office next door: “attack on rantisi…” people here (in jenin) received the message of the assassination attempt quite calm – I was astonished. nobody took to the streets. after some 15 minutes we continued work. but discussions and news-reporters were to be heard everywhere.

in the evening norman and I visited a familly – subhi’s familly. they keep two horses and I wanted to take photos of them to study/learn the horse’s anatomy for my project. we were presented a male and a female horse – they adored eachother and the male started neighing and got an errected, dripping penis, – everybody was laughing (we were only men!) but not without respect for its massive dick. but it didn’t come to the intercourse because she is three months pregnant and was not keen on him…

after showing us a short ride on the back of the horses we were asked to take a seat in the garden and we were brought lovely arab coffee (and later on tea) and it began a lively debatte about the actual political situation. the father, subhi is in his late sixties or even seventies. he was born in haifa (now israel). during the nakbah (the paelstinian catastrophy in 1948) his familly was forced to leave their home. they came to jenin and he became a teacher (english for beginners).

subhi has got five children, his eldest son was a freelance photographer and journalist. in july last year when on duty, taking photos of an israeli tank during the military incursion he got shot in his leg from the machine gun on that tank. as the ambulance was forced to stay away and the doctors not allowed to rescue him he bled to death. when the father briefly went into his house his youngest son showed us photos of these moements: someone from jenin took photos of him with his own camera shortly after receiving the bullet, bleeding like crazy, but obiously he was still fully conscious and keeping his fist onto the wound. the photos were shocking, as you can see him alive but suffering from his wound.
…firstly shooting (from a tank!) at a civilian, secondly stopping the ambulance to rescue this wounded civilian… – clear methods to clamp down terrorism…!

asked what solution of the conflict might be acceptable from their point of view subhi made clear, “we have to give away half of the apple in order to get the other half…”, that means: the 67 borders without any settlements within the palestinian state, a compensation for the famillies who got evicted from israel after 1948 (like he himself), the full citizenship of the refugees (lebanon, jordan, egypt…) or if they prefer to come to palestine (not israel) the right to do so… and of course east jerusalem as part of palestine.
clearly a reasonable compromise from the palestinian point of view. and this meets with all my experienced conversation so far, they know they have to arrange themselves with israel. so far I didn’t hear any statement like: “as long as any jew will live on palestinan soil we’ll fight them” – which I was told would be hamas’ language/position. I doubt. strongly sympathetic to hamas subhi’s soul – and I would say the palestinian soul in general – is split: they have a anti-jewish and a anti-racist one.
“in haifa till 1948 we lived side by side with jewish neighbours… we haven’t had any serious troubles…, any jew can stay with us in our house and feel save, he can sleep side by side to my daughter in the same room and nothing will happen to him…” – but on the other side, I heard such comments like:”hitler wanted to protect his country from dominant jewish influence… if you see how the jewish settlers dress themselves, they look like apes and wild tribes…”
I made very clear that I do not share his view and that the problem is racism, the thinking any race would be superior to another one. hitler followed this propaganda and the jewish settlers / orthodox’ and the islamists pray it…

but even they are not free of racism it is a matter of fact: the palestinians are extremely hospitable and do not lock themselves up (like the settlers) – they are very much welcoming strangers and seem to respect our differences.

thursday, june 12

at work during our lunch I asked about yesterdays suicide attack in a public bus in jerusalem. not easy this one, but quite important to let them know, that someone like me, coming from europe in clear solidarity with their issue rejects such an attack as terrorism. one man got furious about my statement – he lost one son and a second one was severly injured by the israeli army and could just leave the hospital some days ago… hearts filled with hatred – fully understandable…, – and I wished I could ease and share their sorrow and pain…, but I insisted that all the suffering does not mean that methods like this are politically acceptable. I said I believe they are not leading to any positive result for their aims.

even it got a controvers debatte I had the feeling they very much respect me.

the workshop goes well, hard work – the shape / sceleton of the horse is to be seen.
we collected more metal rods – yesterday at the palestinian ground zero, the centre of the refugee camp, where the israeli army destroyed about 300 houses! samir, my assistant lost his house here, too!
today we got the okay from the palestinian red halfmoon (similar to the red cross) to integrate in the horse parts of the destroyed ambulance car in which a well-known local doctor got killed on emergency duty!

I hope we can carry on working in the next days, but I expect more difficulties (i.e. curfew, israeli army…) to come. the shooting (guess it is training) tonight was the most extended one I heard so far…

Subject: death squad in jenin
Date: Fri, 13 Jun 2003 19:26:24 +0200

info no. 6
jenin june, 13
dear all

today is friday – that means the muslim holiday. no traffic on the streets – I sleep quite long, feel the need of it and that the work is more strenuous than I have felt in the last days.

hassan, my local scout just told me on the phone: yesterday evening here in the eastern part of jenin, not far from my flat, two palestinians were shot dead by israeli under-cover agents / secret service.
one of them has been an activist of the jihad islami group. the murder reminds me to the methods of latin american death squads. it must have happened at the same time when I was sitting in the internet cafe sending you my reports. we heard shootings and the guys who run the place closed the metal front doors and shutters…
I left the internet cafe through the backdoor at about 11.30 local time and heard shootings not far away. the streets were completely empty, gostly – obviously people knew that israeli military is in town.

lucky me, my house is next to the internet cafe, but the front door of my house was closed and I had to wait on the streets to get let in! the landlord does not want to give us (from the goethe institute ramallah) the key for the front door. may be because he does not know us. we were told he might be afraid that fighters could get access and use his house for an attack and that in return it would be destroyed by the israeli army… on the one side his wariness is understandable on the other it means I have to stand and wait allone in front of a house, bypassing cars can see me, I feel like in the limelight – quite naked and unsecure… imagine an army patrool would turn up! easy target!
I hear some twenty shots and can even see the fine bullet-lines of yellow sparks coming from the city going to the north (where a checkpoint is located?) through the dark sky. must have been somthing bigger than just a gun. I rung the bell, to get emad, my landlord to let me in, no respond. tried to call him on his mobile… already switched off… than I shouted – he was sitting on the roof top…(amazing view) and a minute later I happily was let in. puuh!
later on (in my flat) I heard a megaphone with political statements / propaganda driving through the streets. can’t understand the message. thought it would be about the israeli apache-rocket attacks in gaza, which happened the same day killing 18, injuring about 50 palestinans… now I do guess it was about the jenin murders an hour ago.

at midnight I listened to the german radio, “deutsche welle” with adjoining political comments. confusing news: they say hamas calls all foreigners to leave not only israel but also explicitly the palestinian territories!!
I think the news are not correct. does “deutsche welle” false such news? or do they just adopt the israeli version without any journalistic care? or what is going on? in the morning (today) I phone farid, the director of the goethe institute ramallah, he thinks that hamas calls foreigners only to leave israel and not the palestinian territories, to prevent them getting killed or injured (‘collateral damage’) in the announced terror attacks to come… you may have learnt that hamas called publicly for the first time all its militant members and cells to attack israel right now (as revenge for the attacks on dr. rantisi and the cities in gaza over the last two days).

as you may understand this news-“detail” is quite important to me. if hamas would call foreigners / me to leave the palestinian territories, I would feel less welcomed and less secure and my project and stay here in jenin would be called into question. I belief this is false information and it would fit the israeli policy of making us thinking that we are threatened by the palestinians. the israeli government issued a statement to foreigners to leave the occupied territories in the westbank and gaza as safety can not be guaranteed and as if saftey in israel could be guaranteed! none of this is true.
I am frightened to enter israel – and I am quite horrified about the days to come and what will happen there. from what I saw, of course hatred for israel and its policy is understandable, but to make this the driving force of their politics… leads to a desastrous strategy.
on the other side the israelis do not understand that we only feel threatened by their soldiers. when I entered jenin for the first time I was asked by the israeli soldier at the checkpoint, if I wasn’t scared to go there… of course they hardly can differentiate between themselves as threatened soldiers as part of an occupation force and the status of a welcomed guest.

Subject: german luftwaffe in jenin
Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 22:17:20 +0200

info 7
jenin, june 16
dear all

the question if the hamas’ press release three days ago is calling the foreigners to leave not only israel but also the palestinian territories was not precisely to be found out and verify. some said they would not have said that, some said they did but “they would not mean it”(!)… but everybody made sure foreigners and I, we are still totally welcomed. this confirms without any doubt my feelings, but discussing such announcements politically it was necessary for me to let my palestinan partners know that I was upset about it and the confusion it produced.

the project goes well, but quite slow – it is still a lot to do and I hope we can complete the sculpture in time – scheduled: june 25… in 9 days!!
attitude towards work here is very relaxed, three hours work in the burning heat is enough for the participants of the workshop. so I have to do some extra shifts on my own, which is good and I still love the pysical challenge of the project.
our plan is to place / fix the horse first (june 25) on a cart or trailer and pull it for this day through jenin, joined by local riders on their horses…, traditional music groups, youths, palestinia flag and as many people as possible… don’t know if this will be possible… but we’ll try.
the following day we would like to install it in the very centre of the town – at a little site between the refugee campf and the town, opposite a provocative german war memorial from the first worldwar when the german luftwaffe fighted alongside the turkish against the british army here!! so may be we can put the horse as a statement against this sort of boring and offensive colonialistic remaints…
fingers crossed we get permission for that particular site.

sorry, too tired to write comprehensively. soon will come more.

Subject: in the refugee camp
Date: Fri, 20 Jun 2003 22:01:29 +0200

info 8
jenin friday june 20

dear all

the idea to use destroyed and smashed materials in order to create our artwork was taken on by my jenin partners and friends. I shortly mentioned already in a previous info the murder of palestinian doctor hallil suliman.
last year his ambulance car from the red halfmoon while on emergency duty got attacked by israeli soldiers with a rocket granate (launched from the shoulder of a soldier, =stinger?). two other members of the medical service sitting in that ambulance when ambushed at the entrance to the refugee camp got severely injured in this incident. the israeli army declared the attack “justified” because the ambulance would not have stopped! yesterday we attached parts of the door of this very ambulance vehicle to the horse. the idea to do so came from people in jenin, (I neither knew of this assassination nor of the existence of the ambulance-wreck before).

before yesterday – in the afternoon for the first time I went on my own to the refugee camp. it is a difference walking on your own or together with local people friends especially in this part of the town. but shortly before I arrived at the camp I got a loud ‘hello tommaass’ from the other side of the street…. basim a municipatlity worker who joined my horse-workshop recognized me. asking me what I would be up to… I told him I wanna visit samir (my assistant and welder) at his restaurant… basim was with a friend. that friend, jamal got not only very helpfull as a translater – as he speaks fluently english – but (later on) it was very interesting to get to know him and his wonderfull familly…
I asked basim and jamal if they would like to join me to samir’s place… and they happily agreed. so off we went with two smart little kids (2 years and 5 months old) on our arms… that was brilliant. from now onwards I didn’t feel scared at all.

preparing the dough for the falafel it took samir completely by surprise when he saw me knocking at his door… he gave us a warm welcome and showed me his little restaurant, offering delicious houmous and falafel…
as I wanted to see the cemetry of the martyrs they arranged a car for us to get there. in jenin the killed fighters and civil victims are burried together but at a seperate cemetry. after leaving the camp it is just a three minutes ride. arriving at the “old” martyrs cemetry I see a totally smashed entrance gate and a smashed (but reassembled) memorial . defiled cemetries… until now I only knew that from germany and europe where such things are carried out by neo-nazis / fascists against jewish graves. here I had to learn that israeli soldiers did not hessitate to do the same thing with their tanks! how poor!
after a short prayer samir and jamal showed me round. they knew many of the burried and were able to tell the story of their death.
and than we went to the new (“current”) cemetry.

as jenin got one of the most heavily attacked towns of the westbank they had to open a second cemetry. the first had about 60, 70 graves and was used for about fifteen years. the new cemetry was opened just last year and had to take on already more than fifty graves!

after that jamal, who is a teacher at the elementary school but was imprisoned (without any trial) for some nine months and just got released two weeks ago, invited us for a tea to his fathers house. his father, ali, aged 81 workedfor three years in germany (1967-70) welcomed me in german “wie geht es ihnen?” (how are you)… jamal had already told about what happened to him last year: shouting at him “do you wanna die?”an israeli soldier shot from a distance of just one meter first in this right hand and than in his foot. I don’t know how they managed to save ali’s life as the ambulance was kept out of the refugee camp for eight days! the terrible wounds were clearly to be seen. jamal told that after this incident was reported (on tv?) the israeli army said ali’s story would be a lie and that his wounds were caused by an accident and had nothing to do with them. than they showed me round in their house which stands now in the “first row” – that means in front of jamal’s house is now a huge open field, cleared from the rubble… where until last year dense built houses stood.

most of you will know that the capture of the jenin refugee-camp by the israeli army saw one of the fiercest fighting/resistance during last years military operation “defensive shield”. as a revenge for their heavy losses about 300 palestinian houses got demolished by the israeli army. almost all houses in the camp were badly damaged. I tried to follow these news and saw a lot of footage on british tv. and now I am here in the middle of this hotspot.
we are in their living room, the front wall (towards the street) was completely smashed (already fixed again), an embroidery with a koran text sliced by a soldiers knife, almost all walls had big openings. during their seven days stay in the house they used it as a shooting range and embrasure (schiess scharte) for snipers. a graffity with the star of david and a text in hebrew “this is our land not yours” (jamal translated) is still to be seen in one of the bedrooms. bulletholes all over.
we got to the terrace on the roof-top and sweat tea with fresh leaves of pepermint were served. (everything sweat is very very sweat here, no land for sugar avoiders!!) the air cools down – the half moon arises at the horizont, if there wouldn’t be so many mosquitos… and if it wouldn’t be a war zone, it would be more than romantic. wonderfull place to be!
jamal told more about his life, the prison, (as far as I remember he was imprissoned for the third time!), the pain beeing bound to a wobbly chair for the first 4 weeks, not allowed to sleep but tried to get interrogated…
last year’s killing of his younger brother by the israeli army and the assassination of his colleague who got blown up in front of his own (seven, eight years old) pupils when he was walking out / leaving the school-yard…
I found jamal a very quiet and open minded man and I didn’t get the feeling he was exaggerating or telling false stories. heavy stuff!

in the end I got invited to sleep at samir’s house, his wife prepared a lovely bedroom (with adjoining shower and toilet) on the top floor – beautifull view into the valley towards afula/israel for me: it is the flat of samirs brother who is kept in prison since spring last year – accused of beeing a hamas student delegate at his university…
the next morning I got a lovely breakfast with fresh houmous, eggs, tomatoes and falafel… really delicious.
at 8 we started work at the horse – in a good mood, singing “habibi tommaass”, “habibi saamr” – (“I love you tomas, I love you samir…”). what a nice chap.



Subject: joy riding in jenin
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2003 22:29:51 +0200

info 9
jenin, june

dear all

final spurt for the horse and our workshop. it clearly takes shape. but I must admit it got rougher / coarser than planned. it almost seems to have a club-foot (klumpfuss). positive reading we developed a new race: an arab thorough-bred (arabischer vollblueter).

today we got permission from the major, to put and install it at our favorite site – a small traffic island opposite the german luftwaffe memorial.
the party / inauguration will be next sunday. if we finish it on thursday we might be able to pull it through the streets on friday afternoon or saturday? would be great! we have already found a trailer, which still has to be fixed (puncture? etc…) and we have to get the right car, strong enough to pull it and especially to slow / brake it!
a further technical problem might be, that here the electric cables are hanging so low across the streets… that one person might have to sit on the back of the horse (hic!) and lift the cables when passing them… oh oh, I think we have to provide a saddle – at least we have to find a rider who is not afraid to take on such a wild ride. (the streets here are in a very bad shape… so he has to have some abilities to stay firm on the back when diving through the potholes.) we’ll see. good news.

now, since two days, as the result of our labour is getting more visible I have the feeling the kids are easier to motivate. at least for some of them it was rather difficult to get connected to the thing. for them it is indeed quite a long period.
the beginning was exciting – quite easy – then a week or so preparations (cutting metal sheets from car bodies, bending the rods, welding the frame etc…) without getting a clear picture and idea how it will work – here may be some kids got a bit demotivated. just my impression.
the coordination and organisation of the labour partly was and still is difficult. the main reason: there are just not enough tools, machines etc… (one hammer for the whole municipality metal workshop, with about 10 employees) – and it is clear, if a lorry arrives there with a broken seat or bumper… it comes first – has to be fixed / welded… and often samir has to do this job and we can’t continue our stuff… sometimes it’s like fighting through the jungle. very very chaotic. but again and again I’m surprised that something comes out of it.

of course some of the kidz (from the camp) began asking for money – already the second day. what shall I do? the third or fourth day I can’t withstand anymore. but once you start giving some you press a certain button. like with the power of an avalanche it hammers down. showing me their poor shoes I decided ‘ok let’s go shopping’ together. two got new shoes (they looked for the best shop in town) two preferred to get money (little bit less than the price of a good pair of shoes). afterwards we went for a cocktail (soft!!) drink (no alc in jenin!!). in the tallest building in the town centre on the sixth floor is a nice pub/cafe – nice view, nice water-pipes.
music tv with western styled female singers attrack their attention. we speak about love. kissing having sex etc… for them “not a problem…” that I am unmarried but have sex with my girlfriend, for themselves… “this is not possible”. asked if they would like to have a girlfriend it was mixed.
some would like to have one – some just want to marry…

are they more inhibited or just different from us? hard to say. but life here is completely masculin dominated/ orientated. (we tried to get girls to the workshop – and planning the workshop they (from the youth centre) said ‘okay’, but unfortunately in the end not one girl came. have to find out the precise reason. of course it is due to the difficulties, but was it through the institution or the parents or the girls themselves that this didn’t happen?)
when invited into a house, normally women get signalled (from the husband, father…) to hide and stay away from me/us before we enter. but this is practised not through-out and not strictly… (to be more examined).

after our shopping excursion the mood of the kids seemed to be stired.
leaving the cafe they were angry with each other, shouting aggressively, I get doubts was it a good idea to do it?
in comparison with them: you may find the (14, 15 years old) kids from the town driving a nice air-conditioned (of course in israel stolen) audi 80 up and down the streets. compared to the london or birmingham kidz: the westbank, at least jenin is providing extended opportunities of joy-riding.

in my last report I told you about the graffity of an israeli soldier with the david star on the wall of jamal’s house. an israeli friend sent me the precise translation: “I don’t have another country, even if my land is burning…” – written by an occupying soldier in your house in the westbank… I can understand that palestinians may read / understand it as a hostile statement “this is our (jewish) land, not yours”, but obviously jamal’s translation was not exact.



Subject: no taxi to jenin
Date: Tue, 24 Jun 2003 21:08:36 +0200

info 10
jenin, june 24

dear all

the news today: 160 men arrested in hebron and nablus, by israeli army.
in the bush “roadmap” it is one corner stone to release palestinian prisoners. israel says it is willing to follow the roadmap, releases some dozens of their five, six thousand detainees… which brings sharon and his government a big hug from bush. and the next day they fill the empty cells with new detainees. and of course they are all ‘terrorists’ because they are in their late teens or in their twenties, masculin, sportif and angry about their living conditions.

that is enough here to get imprisoned as a terrorist. no court, no juge has to be involved to arrest palestinian through israel – the army has the right to put you behind bars for half a year without any charge and if the time expired they can renew the term…

half a week ago israel announced they would stop their policy of “targetted killing”. before yesterday in hebron the local leader of hamas got killed with the same method like ten days ago two activists here in jenin.
a jenin ambulance officer told me how it went: under-cover agents with palestinan outfit and (car) number plates arrived in their car at the house, shot their targets without any warning and disappeared as fast as possible.
five minutes later a tank and army personel arrived on the spot, picked the one of men who was still alive up and brought him to the next army camp (to make sure his live will not be saved by the ambulance and may be he could be questioned). half an hour later the jenin ambulance got a phone-call from the army they could collect the dead body. it seems there was no attempt whatsover to arrest the men, who – as far as I was told – had no weapons when shot.

even the german “deutsche welle” reports in their news: the building of settlements in palestinian territories is continuing with fresh and accelerated efforts. all the posts which got cleared last week by the boarder police are re-established. to stop israeli settlements in the occupied territories is a corner stone, too of the ‘roadmap’.
so what? any american / european pressure on sharon and the israeli government to be seen?
but the main problem we learn from powell and other western politicians is the palestinian “terrorism”. it turns the facts from the bottom to the top.

the facts on the ground lead in the peoples heart to a bitter mood. rather fight than knuckle under. as I already made clear I don’t accept some of the methods of the palestinian struggle and I think they are politically devastating for their own sake. but beeing here I can understand clearer than ever the feelings and desperation of the people which lead to the readiness of a broad part of the society to take such extrem meassures.
today mr. mofaz, the israeli defense (better:war)-minister made clear that the palestinian side is discussing a truce / cease-fire is dangereous and not of any interest for israel as it would only lead to reorganisation and strenghening of the terror-groups.

I clearly think if the israeli government wants peace it has to make it with its enemy and the enemy are the militant groups of the palestinian national movement. nobody else. mahmoud abbas has no real power. but the militant groups – like them or not – seem to me are deeply rooted within the palestinian society. the steady announcements of sharon to destroy and crush them is an annoucment to crush the palestinian society as a whole.

in my workshop the kids have not only seen fierce fighting, with appache helicopters launching rockets at residential houses, tanks roaring through the streets, humiliating treatments at checkpoints etc. almost all of them have seen dead or even dying people. a father, brother, friend, uncle, neighbour etc. – dying of hostile army activities.
as a result of this “environment” most of them have nothing else in mind than to kill.
quite interesting to discover underneath a pritty rough behaviour an enormeous need for care. from some I get ten or more “hellos” and “tomass habibi” (‘I love you’)… a day. making fun but as well clearly to get back some attention and tender sign.

as you may know: the german aussenminister and former taxi-driver, joshka fischer currently tours the region: lebanon, syria, jordan and today egypt.
what a pitty I thought that he does not make the way to jenin to speak to some of his (former) colleagues. they have not just very nice taxis (see the attached photo), they might be more interesting partners to debatte (than the kings and dictators he visits) and to learn some of their lifes, feelings and their “roadmap” of palestine…


Subject: shots into the workshop
Date: Fri, 27 Jun 2003 22:50:07 +0200

info 11
jenin june 27

dear all

yesterday was supposed to be the last day of work, but the kids decided not to work so we didn’t finish and I worked on my own throughout the day. quite exhausting. crazy project: welding in the blaze and sweltering heat. about 37,40 degree celcius in the shadow at midday. in the night our eyes water from the dazzling light – during work we loose body moisture, sweating all the time…

one ear, parts of the tail and stomach are still missing. but we have no more body parts from broken cars… and the endurance of the participants came to a limit. so may be we have to leave it like that. why not?

before most of the municipality worker leave at 2pm abu rami, the supervisor at the workshop get a tender treatment: afifi, one of the youngest colleagues shaves him in his little office, next to my horse.

at about five o’clock in the afternoon two israeli tanks and one armoured jeep thunder down the nablus street. the noise of the tanks is unbelievable loud. very impressive. they take position at a mainstreet junction some two hundred metres away from us. the jeep stops in the middle of nablus street between the townhall and the municipality workshop. the jeep slightely changes its position all five minutes.
children are running towards the tanks. without any fear! throwing stones.
young men seem to be more cautious. traffic almost as usual, only some truck-drivers when discovering the tanks leave the main road and try to avoid passing the tanks directly.
I take some photo’s. not without fear. after coming to the street and watching what’s going on the municipality workers and me get back into the workshop. after a while I start working again. I am fixing our last metal sheets to the tail of the horse, standing on our wobbly ladder… when at a sudden a round of about five, six bullets were fired into the workshop. very loud, very quick. klick klick, bling bling…rtrtrtrt… seem to be fired from very close distance. I can clearly hear that metal is hit. I come down the ladder. some workers hide in the backyard others – me too – take to the office of the workshop. we hear the jeep leaving. a minute later the tanks pass by, roaring again impressively loud. the presence of the army in front of us takes about twenty minutes.

in this situation the shots towards the municipality workshop were the only I could hear.
what exactly happened? after the israeli army had left the scene, I can see one palestinian gunman 150 metres away. if he has shot at the jeep we would have been – behind the target – clearly in the line of fire.
we try to find the bullet holes. we see some fresh marks at the ceiling and at a steel girder and at a wall next to the entrance. the shots at the ceiling and steel girder must have come from a lower point. the position of the palestinian gunman was ten, fifteen metres higher than our building.
impossible he shot directly through the windows into the ceiling from that position. ricochet (querschlaeger) of palestinian fire that hit the workshop? as I said: the noise was clearly from shots of close range. was the noise from responding fire of the soldiers in the jeep? or did we – the municipality workshop in jenin – get a warning message by the israeli soldiers. but why? is it my horse-project? (they certainly know about it – but I can’t believe they would consider it that important.) or is it just the fact someone from the workshop (me) took photos of the scene (they certainly saw that) and they were angry about that?
hard to say. hardly to find out I guess.

later on there is more heavy shooting to hear. seems to be real exchange of fire. we see smoke coming from a house some two hundred metres uphill. than the announcement from loudspeaker in the town, that an attack on a nearby settlement was ‘successfully’ carried out. one settler was announced dead and the unit got back safely.
the night after that was one with the heaviest fightings since I am here.
tanks hammering down the streets. (but they did never pass my house directly.) over hours, again and again shots of different calibre and from different dircetions… dogs barking. and then the muezzins at the mosque nearby. his taped prayer has got a terribly distorted voice. strange mixture.

today I got a very nice ride through the jenin area together with montaser.
a very very nice chap, with whom I got aquainted when he once proudly showed me his mother horse with its foal. just fifty metres away from the workshop where we build our “jenin-horse”.
we want to drive to quabatia, the next town – but the checkpoint on the road is busy. about 20 cars are queuing – nothing moves… once more we have to do a u-turn and go through the small stoney paths/roads through the field. the trees along our way turned grey from the dust… bizarre.
we arrive half an hour later in quabatie – visiting friends of montaser, having a nice and relaxed afternoon with very nice people. but again I almost see only men. even they study at the university and turn music of the backstreet boys…

at home my brain starts to work on how we’ll get out the horse through the entrance gate of the workshop. that will be the next step. big task? we definitely have to put it to the side! upright it is too high! don’t know how heavy it is. don’t know exactly how we’ll manage it. we fixed two hooks on its back. hope we get a crane… exciting!


Subject: friendly fire in jenin
Date: Tue, 01 Jul 2003 23:53:13 +0200

info 12
ramallah june 30

dear all,

saturday june 28, the horse got finished. we built the ears and the tail.
in the afternoon a big lorry with an amazing crane was to come and get out the horse of the building… but despite hard efforts the truck didn’t fit into the entrance gate of the workshop. so we had to develope a totally new plan: to pull the beast somehow into the backyard, grap it with the crane and lift it (about ten meters) through the air to the next street uphill!
whow! could this be possible?

we put a big rope around its two front legs. fixed the rope to a car and pulled, and pushed… and helped easing its weight through lifting it…
what a ‘rude’ meassure. it groaned, got one more punch and groaned again…
in the end we got it moved up to the point where it can get picked up. the big moment for the crane. it spanned his arm spectacularly over half the backyard. we fixed two chaines to the hooks in the horse-back and – ‘burak-like’ off it flew… (the burak is the horse with wings. in the koran the prophet mohammad is said to fly into the paradise on the back of it…).
some ten metres higher it landed softly on our prepared trailer. a jeep had pulled the trailer up there.
with heavy bolts we fixed the horse onto the trailer.
now it is ready to go. intriguing what will happen tomorrow?

sunday, june 29
we meet at 10 in front of the municipality workshop. when we arrive the horse has already received a proper wash with a high pressure cleaner – the colours now look definitely brighter, great!
an abulance car, ‘real’ horses and riders appear, to lead our procession which is now due to start.
everybody is in a good mood, the kids, the municipality workers, the horse-keepers / riders, farid from the goethe institute, hasan my local scout and translater and last but not least samir, my wonderfull assistant who had still a lot to organise…
we fix the trailer to a jeep from the municipality and start slowly to pull out onto the street. of course not without causing traffic chaos.
traffic-jam in jenin! everybody is pressing his horn, nice concert, a mixture of celebrating the extraordinary appearance of such a huge beast…
and emphasizing the need and wish to get through and to move…
I start filming with my video camera, the kids are cheering and kidding all along. they take to the trailer holding on to the horse and creating sort of a nice frame for it.

after about 15 minutes we pass the site where the horse is to be installed and where municipality workers had already carefully prepared deep concrete foundations. we take the street towards the refugee-camp.
asked if I would be happy I said yes, I just miss the palestinian flags…
we discussed that beforehand, don’t know why they are missing. forgotten?
even after I mentioned it they are not to get hold of.
some more 15 minutes in the procession we pass the ambulance station where hallil suliman used to work as emergency doctor when he was killed (and two or three colleagues got seriously injured in that attack). we stop here for a short prayer. everybody – even the loudest kids – keep silent for a moment.
getting closer to the camp more and more children join our bandwagon, cheering and shouting louder and louder their intifada slogans. the street are getting narrower and more sandy and dusty. we literally walk in a dust cloud with about fifty or more excited celebrating kids. shortly before we arrive “ground zero”, the centre of the camp where 250 houses got destroyed by israeli bulldozers and tanks… the clutch of the jeep packs up – just in front of an old partly destroyed building, the former jenin railway station (I think built by the otomans or was it by the british?)
we have to wait, until the engine of our jeep cools down. not an easy one here in the desert-like blaze. I thought we need another traction engine may be a tractor, but astonishingly after again 15-20 minutes we can restart and move again.

each time when power cables are hanging low we come to a brief standstill, looking for a broom or even longer wooden slat. to lift them over the ears… all obstacles are getting removed one after the other. great. we arrive at ground zero… where new building work is just about to begin. the foundations of at least two houses are already laid.
we want to turn the bandwagon but first the kids have to come down of the trailer… otherwise it’s too heavy for the pulling jeep. its clutch is still to be smelled badly…

our next aim is the cemetry of the martyrs and victims of the conflict. we pass a massive eucalyptus tree – totally bullet riddled… nature suffers from the conflict, too. once we arrive and the horse stands still at a sudden the kids are running to the graves. most of them seem to look out for those graves of their loved one’s. a short prayer again and off they ran back again to get a good place/position on the trailer.

we take the way back and arrive at about midday at the site opposite the german war memorial from worldwar I. red ribbon is brought and bound around the legs… the deputy major arrives at the scene. after a warm hello and short conversation he cuts through the line. handshake, pressphoto… thank you, tomass…
I briefly answer the thanks and express my wish that the horse may get well received and beloved in his town and that one day it might be walking or gallopping in a free palestine without roadblocks and checkpoints and soldiers…

samir starts to prepare for the “last lift”: from the trailer to its final position. we wait for the big truck with its massive crane. but instead a small car arrives at the scene. angry men get out starting arguing and shouting at us who are standing around the horse. I don’t understand what they are saying but obviously there is a problem. at least one of them pulled his gun and shot at the horse. some try to calm him down and to talk to him but he keeps on beeing furious, firing one more shot at the horse and some more in the air. signalling the horse (and we) should leave immediately. some of my kids take it as an order, get in the jeep and drive away with the horse!
the gunmen leave too. everybody seems to feel dazed and confused if not shocked.
friendly fire in jenin!
from one minute to the other the wonderful atmosphere with a mixture of celebrating, demonstrating, comemorating and having fun was blown away.
what is the problem?

as I saw the film “jenin jenin” (an interesting documentary about last year’s military operation and resistance in jenin) I recognized one man, who gave an interview in this film. obviously no one else but the leader of the al aqsa brigade of jenin payed so much respect and attention to this artwork to give us his visit and such memorable performance….

why? the exact reason is not clear to me. but it seems it has nothing to do with the project itself. may be they were upset not having been invited to the celebration? may be it has to do with tensions between the town and the camp?
anyway. the fact they didn’t want to talk to us but shot at the work and expelled it instead… casts some light on the situation here. the process of critical dispute and learning to clearify a controversy through arguments rather than force seems to be underdeveloped. it looks like the war situation makes everybody rougher and at the same time more vulnerable.

we meet at the townhall for some speeches and a dinner. there the atmosphere is pretty tense and depressed. when I start my speech on the podium the first two, three minutes… I realize I have to struggle with tears. the horse, my baby received four bullets, is wounded. it had to flee to escape further more attacks… I now feel it makes me really sad. but I manage to make my speech.
during the dinner a rather sombre mood is laying above all. samir, my assistant is completely shattered and upset. I try to ease his frustration.
not simple to achieve.

after the dinner we go to the horse to check the damage – I discover the entries and exits of the shots, two of which would have to hit the parts of hallil sulimans ambulance! that is really tragic.
we learn in the meanwhile the big quarrel between the militants and the municipality is about the site, where to install the horse. the fighters want to put it in the refugee-camp rather in the town… (as we planned).

we just go for a coffee – when all of a sudden and completely surprisingly these guys turn up again to say “sorry” about their bad behaviour…! they seem to be pretty nervous and left immediately as appache helicopters in the sky above us are clearly to be seen and heard.

next morning we get up at six to leave for ramallah. meeting there with the major. my feeling: I must and want to come back to jenin to accompany the process of finally installing and fixing the horse. don’t know what the municipality decided so far.

all the best so far,

Subject: ride your horse
Date: Tue, 08 Jul 2003 19:20:52 +0200

info 13
ramallah, july 8

dear all

it’s quite a while that I wrote my last account. I might have become a bit confused mainly about two things.
1. the jenin horse is still not installed. that means the project is not completed.
2. the major of ramallah does not approve my proposal.

firstly to the latter:
2. the “shade giver” / umbrella, my ramallah project is not going to get realized. we had at least three meetings with the major. he objects this proposal because in the town centre he wants to get rid of the many young
man (shebab’s) who are hanging out there and my work invites them and everybody to stay for a while and have a breather.
unfortunatelly the objections of the major do not match with my vision of an open society. I made clear the problem are not the men / shebab’s but the fact they are (due to the political conflict) unemployed in large numbers.
instead of that I now try to help artists from the “young artist forum, ramallah” to develop their own public art-project. since a week I assist them. their plan is to build a big bird from metal scrap, technically similar to the jenin-horse.
they are going to start building and welding it in the next days.

to no 1.
after my horse in jenin got shot and had to flee to safety the situation there changed to the contrary: everybody wants the horse in his area. the
jihad islami group wants it somewhere in east jenin and the al-aksa martyr’s brigade wants it in the refugee camp (which is west of jenin)…
this is a bit strange to me, as these groups had nothing to do with actually carrying out the project, so how can they claim the horse now? seems to be a “macht-spiel”, to exercise their power and authority.

on the one side I don’t like this attitude – on the other side for me as an artist it is interesting and quite a success that my work draws so much attention. it touchs almost all sections of the society of the town: people of the refugee camp were involved, kids from really poor famillies to privileged one’s (including the son of the major) took part in the workshop,
municipality workers (very much proletarian, working-class people), employees of the jenin administration, the deputy major, the palestinian committee of the red crescent, ambulance workers and emergency doctors, horse owners and riders, the local youth centres and last but not least the militant groups involved themselves… and the debate where to put the horse is still on. if art’s function is to provoke and develop an “auseinandersetzung” / argument / debate – here it happened.

it took me a while to realize that the fact that the horse is still not fixed to the ground but waiting on the trailer may provide a positive chance to develop the project even further. since a few days I was coming back to my very first idea of a westbank-art-project which was to move the horse through this so called ‘holy’ land.

a roadmap to the next roadblock or a roadmap to freedom?

at a time when bush and europe… talk about a “roadmap to peace”… I would like to test and challenge that “roadmap” and see what substance it provides.
as far as I can see this land is still scarred with all the same army checkpoints and roadblocks as before to make the palestinians stop travelling their country. as long as this does not change in its substance I am afraid there is no real thing you can call “peace”. peace of course would include: freedom. freedom to move as a minimum.

in a way it is a simple question: can we bring an art-work from jenin to ramallah (some 50 km) to put it on show there or not? the question as simple as it is, to me and my friends it is exciting and really intriguing.
thinking of this step my heart beat quickens… will it be dangereous? how do the soldiers react, when we approach the checkpoints? do we get through or have we to return?… will we meet any agressive settlers on our
way…??? many questions – only the practise will answer them.

woallla’ – let’s roll. starts saturday. tom kay, british architect teaching currently at bir-zeit university and a friend of mine, decided to join me.
wonderful. maxim, a YPA (young palestinan artist) wants to join, too.

tomorrow: east-jerusalem. will give a talk (about my work…) at the ma’mal foundation / jack persikians gallery.
thursday: taxi to jenin – friday preparations for the procession (have to take a driving lesson with the tractor and its trailer in case I have to do a u-turn that I am able to drive backwards… guess: not easy if you are not familiar with it…)
saturday hopefully start to move the horse…!
fingers crossed!


Subject: horse riding in the westbank
Date: Thu, 17 Jul 2003 22:36:32 +0200

info no 13 [no. 14] ramallah july 17

dear all

this time you’ll get just images of our horse-ride through the westbank.
simply had not the time to write, will do it later. it was tremendous.

we were happy to arrive in ramallah and two days later back to jenin. it was a great experience for all of us – but this is not a ‘positive approval’ of bush’s so called “roadmap to peace” – the hindrances/obstacles on the way were to enormous. in total we had to pass and cope with 17 checkpoints and controls! as you may confirm this is not a free way to travel!

jumping over all these obstacles… I think the horse did a great job.

I want to thank all participants helping me realizing this project.
samer my assistant, naser our tractor driver (both from jenin), tom and addah kay from ramallah/london (many of the fotos are from tom), peter and maeggi from canada, amira haas from ramallah, farid majari, director of the goethe institute ramallah, and last not least the youngsters themselves – omar, mohammad, mezer, hany, kahled, rasim, rimah, hasan, shaedi, ibrahim and and and…

tomorrow I have to go back to berlin. I had one of my most intense times of my life.
whoever might sympathise with the idea: come and visit the palestinian territories. you will never forget.
best wishes

Subject: the ride to ramallah
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2003 00:10:22 +0200

info 15

dear all

on thursday 10th of july tom kay and I travel from ramallah to jenin to prepare our horse ride.
we arrive in jenin at about 1pm and go straight away to the town hall to talk to salahadin from jenin administration. over the last days salah arranged to get us a tractor for our trip (to pull the horse). he calls the owner of the tractor to meet with us in the evening. brilliant!
he phones ziad from the qattan foundation about the matter of insurance.
what if the tractor or the trailer or the horse gets damaged or destroyed etc… who covers any costs of fixing it? not an easy one this – may be we have to close our eyes about that and hope that we have just a bit of good luck.

tom and me go to the steed, examining what needs to be done before we can leave. the hoofs have to be closed again, screws tightened and a rope attached at the horse’s neck to fix it properly to the cart.
on the way to the town centre we pass my friend montaser’s workshop. he, his brother, father and some friends sitting infront of their blacksmith-workshop. we get a friendly ‘hello’ and invite for a drink but we explain we have to go to buy some bits and stuff. really helpful and unselfish he takes us in his little fiat to the shops. we buy screws, screw-driver, rope, gloves, pliers etc…
he then brings us to samer’s house in the refugee camp! what a nice chap, superb!

after a little siesta at samer’s place tom and I go for a stroll to ground zero and through the camp. I take some photos and do filming. suddenly we bump into zakariya the commander of the fatah al aqsa brigades in the northern westbank. this time no appache helicopter is in the air… and he is very relaxed. we sit down and begin to discuss. about the horse-project, their intervention, the proposed place to install it and a bit about the political situation and the difference between legitimate resistance and terrorism. interesting but difficult. unfortunately we don’t have a good translator who can speak arabic and english fluently.

in the evening we meet naser the owner of the tractor and arrange to meet for a “test-drive” the next day, friday afternoon. afterwards I take salah and tom out for a wonderful cocktail freshly mixed from several fruits at mahmouds bar. coming home to samer we
sit on the terrace enjoying a sweet watermelon (bati’ich) and smoking a lovely waterpipe (n’argila). as samer’s wife and children are at her parents house in a nearby village we, samer, tom and I go to bed all together in his living room. it reminds me of my early years in the eightees when we lived together commune-like with functional but private rooms.

friday we fix the horse and prepare it for the tours. in the afternoon naser comes with his tractor and I do a short test-drive. although I feel able to do the job naser is not happy about my driving abilities and clearly hesitates to give me his tractor. so I ask him what might be better for him. “would you prefer to drive it yourself? could you join us?” surprisingly naser agrees to do so. wow! that is even better for me and us – we not just have a tractor but a driver, too. and what a smart one. it is a real pleasure to look at him. deep furrows draw striking lines over his cheeks – sparkling but gentle eyes seem to reveal his cleverness. really love him.

in the late afternoon montaser takes tom and me to a local spectacle: horse racing. about 20 horses and riders meet on a field pritty close to the centre of jenin. some horses are amazingly fast leaving huge clouds of dust behind them with very talented riders: riding without a saddle! in the evening we get a delicious dinner with montaser’s familly on their terrace. his sister is a lovely cook. she works at the hospital as a nurse and speaks fluently english – unfortunately she didn’t join the dinner and stayed with the other female members of the familly in a seperate room.

we just finished the dinner when two of “my” youngsters who worked on the horse – kahled and rimah – turn up, “we want to come with you and the horse to ramallah…” – so far I informed as many participants as possible about my intentions. now it is the first time that two of them clearly express they are determined to join. my palestinian friends and tom kay, who lives in ramallah since 1 1/2 years are very much concerned about that development. “they will get sent back if not arrested…”. we slipped into an intense and partly controversial debate whether it is responsible to take the youngsters with us or not… and I clearly felt: I only can let them know what might happen and if they are still prepared to take the risk I can’t keep them out and say “no, you can’t join me you must stay in jenin…”. they helped me building the beast – so of course they may join it on a journey through their country. their country they almost can’t travel! and what happens if we get stopped or the kids sent back or arrested? my attitude is we have to be aware there might be danger and we have to sort out the concrete problems step by step once they occured.

next morning we finish preparations, collecting a big branch and a provisonal ladder to lift any potentially low hanging power cables or other obstacles across the streets… a municipality worker tells me I have to get a permission in writing to take the horse out “for my ride”… and I try to get samer, my assistant and welder freed from work and on board. so I spend quite a time in the offices of the townhall.
everything seems to be ready for take off… what about the youngsters? how did they decide? there come five of them, not only kahled and rimah but also rasim, ibrahim and hasan. all of them from the refugee camp. I call one of their daddy’s to get a feed back that this is ok with him. I hear in the worst quality of mobile-phone-reception you can imagine a chopped “yes, it is ok.” but I must send hasan back. I feel sorry, but he is younger than the others and joined the workshop (inofficially) half way because his brother kahled participated.

amira haas, a brave israeli journalist who lives within the palestinian territorries for the last 4 years, tom and his wife adah (from london), who live in ramallah and maeggi with her husband peter from the states came to join the bandwagon, too.
I look out for them to inform them that I want to start right now, but I stumble straight into a political discussion in a small office. here I get confronted with some palestinian statements praising germany and its governmental policy. I have to contradict and insist “I don’t feel german, I am just born in germany” – not only our past (two world-wars, the nazi-fascism, the holocaust…) but also the presence is politically devastating (closing the borders for refugees, racism, occupation forces in afghanistan, tanks in kuwait, soldiers on the balkans, may be soon in iraq, too etc…) anybody who thinks this is positive? nobody… nevertheless most of them still think I should feel positive about my country/nationality. but one representative from the refugee camp, jamal he understands and explains it to the others.

at long last we start at 11.30 am. we take nablus street to the south. soon,
after ten minutes the first checkpoint is to be seen. two massive tanks positioned in a 90 degree angle to eachother block the road. I collect all our passports and ID’s and present them to the soldier in charge. “what’s that?” “well, it is an art-project we carried out together over the last weeks… and we are going to put it on show in ramallah…” my letter from the goethe institute confirms that. he takes a look inside the horse’s belly not without a smile. his mood seems to be something between beeing amused and irritated. his colleague next to him approaches the youngsters on the trailer rather provocative: he gives rimah a ‘soft’ slap and asks him in arabic “how are you (ki fa’la)?”. rimah stays calm. he doesn’t take on the provo. the charme of the horse seems to work: after a short while we can pass. great! we are now in a very good mood!

we move quite slowly. the steed squeaks and groans because of the bumpy road strewn with hundreds of potholes. we pass some quarries with many stone hewers, fields with farmers to harvest the vegetables and fruits…, in quabatiya, the first town after jenin, we cross the new vegetable market and later we pass all these cafes with so many men sitting in front of them.
once the horse is discovered they all look happily surprised if not stunned but clearly amused. their twisting hand signals the simple question “what is this about?” and the youngsters shouted hundreds of times “we are from jenin-camp, we are going to ramallah…”
because of the traffic in the town we come to a standstill, what makes it even more exciting and the four rush into their slogans, tremendously quick.
this could be the new beat of arab rap-music. the horse breed – an arab thorough-breed with thick legs – is new, why not creating a new trend in arab music, too?
the project – the moving horse – now has pritty much the character of a little popular festival – so may be I achieved a work of real (palestinian) pop-art.

after qabatyia fields again, olive trees, rocky mountains and dust. the horse provides enough shadow and the deserted country-side the adequate quietness for us to have a little breather. but only twenty minutes. and we arrive again a polulated area. the first houses of zebab’da and if I get it right we are forced to stop by an electrical line across the road right in the centre next to the place where all the yellow cabies are waiting for their passengers… one of the most vibrant and colourful places in palestinian towns. kahled gets the big branch, ibrahim climbs on the tractor and lifts with kahleds help the cable. naser moves carefully and slowly until the ears have passed. the excitment with joyful cheering, some political slogans, reachs a new peak. arab carnival. wounderful. as if the actual topograghy of this area is made for us. vibrant towns and deserted fields take turns with a perfect wave-like rhythm. so we don’t get exhausted too quick…

following this rhythm we have once more the ‘calmness’ of the country-side (apparently calm as the next tank or sniper can be around the corner, behind the trees or on the next hill-top), large fields mainly with olive-trees.
burning heat. the street is glimmering.
next little town is aqqaba. we pass a completely destroyed large building right in the centre of the town, I guess it was the local building of the palestinian authority. perfectly flattened. blowing up – a job the israeli army certainly masters. nonetheless again a noisy welcome, cheering and waving our hands to the local people in the street and vice versa theirs to us.

fields again, trees – some lovely, colourful birds I have never seen…
before we are descending the hill we have a great view into the plain area with the beautiful town of tubas. I get down from the bandwagon to take some video shots with the horse moving smoothly through the fields and approaching the town. to catch up again with the others I try to get a lift – and even he is (downhill) pritty fast one driver stops to pick me up. “do you know a good place in tubas to get a shawarma-sandwich…”. “no problem, I’ll take you there”. we pass the trek and tell them to join his car for our lunch. tubas main street, about 2pm: 13 sandwichs are to be ordered and freshly prepared. everybody is more than hungry and happy about the break.
we know the next checkpoint is soon due to come. it will be a crucial – may be the most difficult one and we have to be fit.
an hour later we start again. soon we are in the middle of vast fields, but now the landscape narrows, after passing the small town al far’a camp we are heading down a little valley, palm trees, water at the bottom – the four almost get flipped out about the water. here where it would be going to be really romantic we have to pass a smelly, smoky waste-land right above the brook… no other place to throw the rubbish?
the valley gradually widens, here we pass more and more bedouin tents, shepherds guarding their flocks, mainly sheep and goats, few cows. only alongside the river green banks and fields are drawing a relatively thin line of prosper agriculture. the vast majority of the land looks pritty dry.
the wind towards us, coming up the valley turns hotter and hotter – almost desert-like. we are just 10 km away from the jordan valley, the lowest area on earth. about 200 meter below sea-level. as if you can feel the glowing of the earth’s core.

hamra checkpoint. we arrive at about 4pm. already some twenty cars waiting in a queue. we estimate half an hour to wait before we get checked. but just five cars get controled, two of them get turned away. loaded with newly manufactured furnitures, (which are only partly covered with plastic sheets, torn up to loose pieces due to heavy air stream…) they are ordered to go back! must be a pain in the arse. and not a good sign for ourselves either.
if the soldiers are not relaxed (‘generous’?) with others why should they be so with us…? and then nothing goes. no car can pass at all for more than one hour. peter – how great, he manages to bring an entire box of apples. refreshing and delicious luxury! everybody grabs at least one if not more.
at 5pm new soldiers arrive. seems to be a change of shift. but they wait until 6.20 when they start further security checks.

2 1/2 hours after the arrival at hamra it’s our turn. the horse moves between the concrete roadblocks and the muzzles of about half a dozen uzi’s and other automatic weapons. the soldier’s faces tell again some positive feelings. surprise and amusement. the force of the horse’s charme. I pass on our ID’s to the soldiers.

in a parallel control an officer of the israeli police (they appeared half an hour ago at the checkpoint with their blue landrover) checks the details of naser, the tractor driver. driving license, tractor insurance etc… after five minutes he seems to be satisfied. naser gets back his certificates, no objections from police’s side to proceed.

but the commanding soldier stays firm, he says he requires a special permit from the CLO (the army’s coordination and liaison office). “if you haven’t got that permit to pass, we can’t let you go. why haven’t you got a permission from the CLO?” I don’t want to tell him, that this was part of my decission, not to apply and not to show too much acceptance of their authority in advance. (the westbank is simply not their land. they are occupying other peoples country…) instead I let him know “it was a relatively spontaneous decission to do the journey, we had not the time to apply…” – so he urges me to call the CLO in jericho.
I dial the number I am given and explain the case to the officer but somehow we get stuck with our communication. the commanding soldier of the checkpoint now takes my mobile phone and explains the situation again, now in hebrew. amira stands next to me, following and translating his conversation. it appears to happen a miracle, the CLO-officer tells his colleague he just issued a permission for our treck to pass!

wow! we get the okay to move on! how come? still excited I call farid, the director of the goethe institute in ramallah. this is rather unexpected.
I learn from farid, that he has sent a fax to the army (CLO?) to inform them about this trek and art-project. did I know about it? can’t remember.
anyway, farid means it would be the first time this would have any impact.
so it is something in between – not a proper application and not a proper lack of cooperation but an information so they may still feel respected enough…

after hamra the streets are going to be at least two classes better, here many israeli cars are underway – foremost settlers. if they get aware of the horse their reaction is so different from the palestinians. not one smile. just motionless severe and cold looking. why this? don’t know.
7pm – we have now a very nice warm light – the sun sinks more and more down and this brings us a nice fellower, everytime we pass one of the embankments or a little hill a second horse appears to be with us. looks great even it is just for some seconds.

between gittit and ma’aleh efrayim settlement comes another checkpoint, just 10 km after hamra. the commander seems to be very young, he – in contrast to his colleagues – has a fairly nasty approach. (we could see that he checked the lorry in front of us up and down and again and again – which didn’t make any sense but to provoke problems. at least we had to wait for more than half an hour…) but with amira’s help talking in hebrew to him he can get persuaded to call the CLO and receive authorization to let us pass. once more.

after this roadblock we gradually climb the mountain and the air is getting fresh. from about zero up to 800-900 metres above sea-level. I have just a blanket (give it to rasim) and my jacket which I pass on to ibrahim who widely loses himself in it. but it looks good, really cute.
the last hurdle (or is it a corral for our horse) to be taken seems now the time, as qalandia, the “normal” checkpoint to enter ramallah closes at 9 pm.
imagine! nine o’clock last entrance into your town! even in the middle ages towns were longer open!
naser shows his tractor the whip, we almost fly up the hills. but we clearly can not match this time-table – at 9.30 we have still some 10 kilometres to go. we are definitely too late for qalandia.
there is only one chance: to call farid from the goethe and get through the diplomats and VIP checkpoint of bet el with his help. I call him and he happily agrees to come and help.

we arrive just in time before this checkpoint closes (at 10pm), too. no lights, pitchdark, rather ghostly this roadblock… a soldier sends us a flashlight-signal to approach the actual control. farid did already speak to the officers, so it goes smoothly. they check us and the horse (inside and outside) but passing the diplomats entrance without problems means we and our horse are treated statesmanlike…
shortly after 10pm we enter ramallah and once again an enthusiastic partly effervescent “hi and hello” is echoeing in the streets. proudly as if a dream comes true the four let everybody know “we are coming from jenin, from the jenin camp!” we circle twice the round shaped central square of al manara, the horns sound and get mixed with clapping, cheering and shouting with cracking voices…
we park the bandwagon at the municipality workshop 10 minutes away from the centre and meet at tom and adah kay’s house. we try to plan the next day, but soon feel too tired – dead tired in fact. at midnight rimah, ibrahim and I arrive at my flat. we prepare our beds, I take a shower – coming out of the bath the kids are gone, my door stands wide open… I call them, the only response I get is the hiss of a nearby cat.

soon more to come

ps: the link to amira haas’s article in the israeli newspaper ha’aretz is:

he, who has the money, has the power! | frankfurt/main | 2002

he, who has the money, has the power!

Forum of the Sparkasse 1882,
Frankfurt 2002

I was invited to do a show in September 2002 at the Frankfurter Sparkasse (Savings Bank). For more than 120 years bees served the bank as their logo. I planned to place a bee-hive in the middle of the exhibition-space so that the bees can fly into the open, collect the nectar and bring it – the ‘gold’ – to the bank. Public assets turn private – as an equivalent to the dominant tendency, to develop the public space according to private interests. I got technical advise and support from the head of the Frankfurt University-Bee-Institute.
The show should include a public hung poster, a catalogue and a public discussion-meeting. because of my research and critical view and statement about the bancs involvement in the Third Reich I got univited and the show cancelled shortly before it went on display.
From September 17 to October 11 2002 the exhibition space of the bank stayed empty.

The freedom of art is a fundamental right.
“The freedom of art is a fundamental right.”
(From the advertising of the Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe at Documenta 11)

No, its not.

In October 2001, I received an invitation to hold an exhibition within the framework of the ‘Jahresprogramm 2002 der Galerie 1822-Forum’ from 17.09. to 11.10.02 in the rooms Töngesgasse 40 of the Sparkasse 1822. It is clear to me from the beginning that I will develop a new work for it. An installation that will deal with the place – in this case the institution “1822”, i.e. a financial institution.

I therefore suggest that those responsible use material from the Sparkasse archive to critically shed light on the history of the bank, especially the period of Nazi fascism. This proposal is rejected. I do not get any insight into the archive with the documents from this time. This is justified by the “1822” with its responsibility for the “protection of customers and banking secrecy”.

Even with my second proposal, I initially met with little approval: for over 160 years, the Sparkasse used bees and beehives as company logos and logos. Symbols for diligence and thrift. I would like to bring the bees back to this place as living beings. In the middle of the room a beehive is to be set up in such a way that the bees have the possibility of flying outside through a window opening.
Only the words of Professor Nikolaus Koeniger, the director of the institute for bee science (a daughter company of the “1822”), who kindly agrees to take over the list and support of the bees, can convince the responsible persons of the savings bank. From now on, it is planned to use red transparent film on the windows to bathe the entire room in red light and thus direct the bees on a trajectory to the window opening.
The possibility for the bees to fly outside, to collect the “gold” in the public space and to store it in the rooms of the Sparkasse… are metaphors that deliberately refer both to the history (and function) of the bank and to this year’s theme of the exhibition series, “Art and Public Space”. In this context, the bees are a kind of ambivalent symbol that can be perceived as both lovable and threatening.

Parallel to the practical preparations for the installation, I am working on the invitation card, poster, and catalogue that accompany this exhibition.
Even without being able to fall back on the Sparkasse’s archive, I try to form an impression of the bank’s earlier activities – especially during the period of Nazi fascism. I go to the city archives, obtain information from the Jewish Museum, the Fritz Bauer Institute, and read the “Chronicle of the Frankfurter Sparkasse” by Friedrich Lauf. The results of my research will be incorporated into the text in the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition.

The “1822” insists on the recognition and cultivation of its “proven traditions”, celebrates – not without pride – its 150th, 160th, 175th anniversaries – and includes the 12 years of Nazi fascism as silently as naturally. At the same time the company history in the Third Reich is described more or less from the perspective of the victim: “It remained for those responsible… there was nothing else left but to… for the sake of the survival of the Savings Bank.” (“Chronicle of the Frankfurter Sparkasse 1822”, p.185 by Friedrich Lauf)

Annex for further details
In order to add further insights to this trivialization of the events of that time and to advocate a different attitude, I plan to organize discussion events parallel to the exhibition: “The role of the banks in the age of globalized economy” (planned to invite a representative of the initiative “Ordensleuten für den Frieden” as well as of Attac and the works council of the “1822”) or “Banks in the Third Reich – Work on History – How and with what Goal? (It is planned to invite representatives of the Fritz Bauer Institute and the Jewish Museum).

Even before I can deepen this idea, I am stopped by the “1822”. On the contrary, I am now informed that my invitation to the exhibition as a whole may be revoked, that my person and my work have been “misjudged”.

I then formulate a compromise proposal: I renounce the planned events and promise to concentrate in my catalogue text on researching the history of the “1822” – the exhibition / installation is to be realized unchanged.

It will take almost another three weeks: on 31 July I will be informed by telephone that my exhibition will not be approved and that I have been uninvited. There is no written explanation, it simply means “we can’t do that”. A decision by the Board of Directors.

I was aware that my intention to take a critical look at the inviting institution could lead to certain tensions. However, in keeping with the exhibition conditions, I expected the Sparkasse to respect the freedom of artistic work.
That was obviously a misjudgement. Just as my hope was wrong that my contribution would be welcomed as an occasion for further discussion of these issues inside or outside the “1822”.

This experience reminds me of conflicts that had long been believed to have been overcome: there were always heated discussions between my father and myself on the subject of ‘fascism’. On the one hand I wanted to be able to love my father, but on the other hand I had to reject or even outlaw his actions and an important part of his person. The more intense our discussions about the time of fascism and the war became, the less I was able to understand him only as a “victim”. On the contrary. I had to see him more and more as a soldier, armed – on the side of the aggressors. It was disturbing to see my father in these conversations for a long time almost incapable of self-criticism, but with a tendency to justify himself.

Today there are attempts from various sides – not least by artists – to draw a line under the argument about ‘the dark chapter’ of German history and to free oneself from the ‘one-sided burden of guilt’ (Martin Walser). But in a time in which it is virtually considered necessary to speak of the suffering and victims of the Germans in and after the Second World War (as in Günter Grass’s novella “Im Krebsgang”) – in a time characterized by the attempted “transformation of the German culture of remembrance: from perpetrator society to victim society” (Neue Zürcher Zeitung, April 3, 2002) – I consider it indispensable to research and thematize further historical facts and insights. Findings that not only deepen our awareness of history but can also be helpful in shaping our present emancipatively and progressively.

After being denied access to the archive, it became one of my goals to use my work to bring into play the idea and the request to make the archives (from the Nazi era) of the German “traditional” companies – and thus also that of the Sparkasse “1822” – accessible to independent historians.

It is regrettable that the Board of Management of Frankfurter Sparkasse in 1822 is attempting to prevent this conflict and testifies to an extraordinary short-sightedness in dealing with its own history. Moreover, the behaviour of the “1822” contradicts any claim to a democratic and critical discourse.

The fact that the association organ of Frankfurter Sparkasse, the Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe, promotes Documenta11 with the melodious slogan – “THE FREEDOM OF ART IS A BASIC RIGHT” – can only be read bitterly ironically after this incident.

Thomas Kilpper – London, August 2002
PS: Further distribution expressly welcome

projects | london | 2002/03

making mice and rats artists & artlab II

Queen Mary College, Turner Building
Whitechapel Campus, London 2002

artlab II and making mice and rats artists (in collaboration with the artist Alex Hamilton) was the attempt to rededicate the empty microbiological research laboratory (Turner Building) of the Queen Mary University in London to an experimental art laboratory.

In making mice and rats artists, in collaboration with the artist Alex Hamilton, mice and rats were to be held in an architectural ensemble consisting of the remaining laboratory furnishings and prepared canvases / picture carriers in such a way that they corrode the pictures and thus turn them into works of art or become the authors / artists. In Great Britain there is widespread resistance to any form of animal testing. This is what the work has aimed at, among other things. The project could not be realized, because the university management wanted to hide the fact of the animal experiments in their sovereign area rather.

In the context of artlab II, exhibitions, performances or lectures by invited artists, scientists and architects were also to take place in the Turner Building. The starting point for the planning was the specific location – on the one hand the Whitechapel area with up to 60% immigrants, mainly from Asia, on the other hand the virus research of the medical institute (e.g. HIV, anthrax…).

Rahere’s free guesthouse and workshop

Interdisciplinary workshop on fallow land
of the Queen Mary College Medical School.
Charterhouse Square, London 2002/03
with students of
Architecture Association and the Royal College of Art

This project was planned on one of the last brownfields in the centre of London, dating from the 2nd World War. In collaboration with Jo Stockham, lecturer at the Royal College of Art, an interdisciplinary workshop with students from three disciplines, architects, artists and doctors, was planned. Under my guidance, a temporary classroom and a Helter-Skelter tower were to be built. The starting material was to be a large mountain of discarded furniture from the university. The curriculum should include lecturers from different disciplines and overlapping topics (medicine, art, and architecture). For months there was the prospect of a permit from the university, but unfortunately this was not granted in the decisive phase for reasons that were not explained.

drowning hercules | london | 2001

Thomas Kilpper
Drowning Hercules

14 – 30 September 2001
Private View: 13 September 18:00 – 21:00 Introduction by David Thorp (Curator of Contemporary Art Projects, The Henry Moore Foundation)
Opening Hours: Tue – Sun 12:00 – 18:00

Riddell House, Basement – St. Thomas’ Hospital
Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1

German artist, Thomas Kilpper, has been working over the last eight months as artist in residence at Riddell House, a former nurses’ home of St. Thomas’ hospital. Kilpper’s work instead of celebrating the opening of a new building temporarily commemorates the end of one. Drowning Hercules will exist only until Riddell House is demolished to make way for a new children’s hospital.

Drowning Hercules stands between the past and the future of the site, a momentary pause for reflection and look back at the history of Riddell House before the site enters its next phase. For Kilpper a building is not simply a four walled structure to cut into and work with. He goes as well into its history to find out what has happened on this site in the past. In this case the title of the work refers to the site’s history. In 1870 a stone throw away from Riddell House’s site stood for some 120 years the very first purpose-built circus in the world, Astley’s ‘Royal Amphitheatre of the Arts’. Also in the vicinity was the residence of William Blake, ‘Hercules Building’ named after the strong man in Philip Astley’s circus. The circus, like Kilpper’s piece, was made out of old wood. Astley offered gin and beer to those who brought him the remnants of the old Covent Garden hustings.

Situated in the basement of Riddell House, Drowning Hercules has been made entirely out of abandoned drawers, cupboards, tables, doors and parquet flooring which once furnished the nurses’ rooms. With a touch of irony the wood that was once forcibly cut into flooring and furnishing has been forcefully led back again into the form and appearance of a tree. The function which the wood served remains exposed in parts of the tree.

In the space’s resonating silence the tree stands implanted in the bottom of the former swimming baths. Spanning the height of the basement room it presses against the glass roof as if trying to break out of the confinement of the space and into the daylight. Created in a organic process its sprawling branches spread like tentacles.

The tree project is a continuation of Kilpper’s temporary large-scale site related work that draws on the history of spaces. Last year as part of the South London Gallery’s Projects initiative Kilpper created a gigantic wood-cut at Orbit House, Southwark which merged the histories of the site as a boxing ring, the area of Southwark and his own personal history. In 1999, Kilpper’s carvings onto the entire floor of a building, near Frankfurt, disclosed the site’s history from its uses as a Nazi interrogation centre to a U.S military camp.

The exhibition is accompanied by a video by Hector Hazard which documents the process of the developing work.

The project has been made possible by the generous support of London Arts and the Goethe Institut.

For press information and images please contact Sally Lai & Ifat Cafri on 07960 371843 or via e-mail on drowning_hercules AT

the ring | london | 2000

The Ring
Woodcut Project 1999-2000
Orbit-House, 197 Blackfriars Road, London

Over a period of 12 months The Ring, a 400 sqm woodcut in the parquet flooring on the 10th floor of an empty office bloc in the centre of London, came into being. In the building the Oriental Collection of the British Libray was located and as part of its Collection the oldest woodcut of the world, the Diamond Sutra from China, stored.
About 70 portraits from famous and unfamous personalities, all with a certain connection to the site, appeared on the façade and made the building reviving. Boxers, politicians, artists, popstars…
During the exhibition, which was organised by the South London Gallery (David Thorp) the entire print was hanging on the façade and like a squatter’s banner waving in the wind.
Parallel to the show and in reference to the site four lectures were given: from the head of the Oriental Collection of the British Library, from the president of London’s Ex-Boxer Association (in the 1920’s on the very spot was a popular boxing ring), from Sandy Nairne (Tate Gallery, which opened its new Gallery, Tate Modern a stone-throw away) and from the architect in charge to redevelop the site, Prof. Will Alsop, who spoke about the future of the site and of South London.

Knock it Out by Neil Mulholland
“My work is sort of a re-installation of the Blackfriars Boxing Ring in The British Library. I picture the very special audience of a special boxing fight. About eighty people are packed together to join this spectacle, some are well known, others not – Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Johann Gutenberg, Alfred Hitchcock, Denis Healey, Adolf Hitler, Len Harvey, Henry Cooper, Mohammed Ali, Marie Lloyd, Mata Hari, Richard Wagner, Georg F. Handel, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Madonna, Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Leo Castelli, Sigmar Polke, Gilbert & George… From my perspective all are connected to the particular site, to the Southwark area, or to me.” Thomas Kilpper

On the tenth floor of Orbit House, an abandoned office block in Blackfriars Road, Southwark, Thomas Kilpper has produced a four hundred square metre woodcut. For the last five months, carving directly into the mahogany parquet floor of the building, Kilpper has inscribed it with its own histories, presenting a map of the vast socio-cultural, political and economic changes happening in Southwark over a period of more than two hundred years. We can chart the various changes in social organisation, politics and economics from the Christian uses of the site in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to the current advent of cyber-capitalism.

Kilpper’s use of woodcutting, the oldest form of printmaking, is highly significant. Appearing in Europe at the beginning of the fifteenth century, woodcuts were used to reproduce knowledge, literally inscribing events in history. One of the major shifts in worldview that came with the invention of the printing press in this period was the notion that the natural world is just passively waiting for us to appropriate it.

Kilpper’s narrative commences in 1780 when the octagonal Surrey Chapel was constructed on the site by the charismatic Reverend Rowland Hill, who was known to draw congregations of over a thousand to his services. The chapel was eventually abandoned in 1890 when it became Green & Sons Engineering Ltd, and then a furniture warehouse in 1905. Between 1907 and 1909 the building was converted into one of London’s first cinemas, returning it to its original function as an arena of glamour, ritual and escape. Kilpper’s interest in the relationship between spectacle and the historical erasure tallies well with this period of cinematic history. At the beginning of the twentieth century, actors were rarely given credit for their film work. Many of the early actors came from a theatre background, wherein film work was considered inferior. Often they did not want to be recognised in the films.

Designated as an entertainment venue, the building became the popular boxing arena known as The Ring. From 1910 to 1940, it played host to some of the most famous boxers in London. During this period sports such as boxing became one of the central sites in the social production of masculinity in Western societies. Many attempts had previously been made to link combative sports with moral strength – such as in the muscular Christianity – espoused by leading Victorian headmasters. This was particularly conspicuous in the period spanning the two World Wars, when the boxing ring became an arena for the development of physical presence, stoic courage in the endurance of pain, and judgement under pressure – unequivocally military values which were then portrayed as essential parts of the achievement of manhood.

Kilpper weaves the ideological role of boxing with more personal recollections of the sport, representing figures such as Mohammed Ali and Henry Cooper. This again fosters the leitmotif of the relationship between celebrity and historical erasure in The Ring. Boxing fame is particularly fickle and transient. We remember Ali and Cooper but, like greyhounds and racehorses, most boxers come and go. In The Ring, Kilpper draws parallels with the artworld, including a portrait of Leo Castelli alongside Tony Shafrazi and Bruno Bischofberger’s famous poster of Warhol vs. Basquiat (1985), which depicted the artists preparing for a boxing match. Like a successful boxing promoter, Castelli’s reputation outlasted his clients’ careers. Of unsuccessful abstract expressionists, he once said “they accuse me of killing them; they blame me for their funerals. But they were dead already. I just helped remove the bodies”

During this period the building doubled as a theatre and music hall, where the music of Wagner and Handel could be heard. The Old Vic Company – with Robert Atkins and Leslie French – performed Shakespeare’s Henry IV at The Ring. (The original ring, Shakespeare’s legendary Globe Theatre, had not yet been reconstructed.) Alfred Hitchcock used The Ring as the set for his 1926 silent movie of the same name, in which a boxer falls in love with the ticket girl. Hitler also left his mark on the site. Nazi air raids struck The Ring twice, bringing an end to boxing and theatre at Blackfriars Road.

The current office building, Orbit House, was erected in the sixties for the Ministry of Defence, commissioned by Dennis Healey to house the secret printing office of The Army. Kilpper illustrates this era by reproducing the first Western representation of a printing office, The Dance of Death (Lyon c.1500). This macabre image raises the history of print as an instrument of control. The Church’s monopoly on information during the manuscript book period ended with the arrival of print. European nation states flourished as the world could now be mapped without recourse to religious propaganda. The world was no longer unknown, but a manageable, controllable resource to be exploited. (A replica of Francis Drake’s sixteenth century galleon the Golden Hinde, docked adjacent to Orbit House, testifies to this.) As a eurocentric world economy flourished, armies and attendant nationalist propaganda were needed to protect and develop the new colonial markets. Thus print liberated and imprisoned simultaneously.

Digging Deeply by Donna Lynas
There are many important buildings that contribute to Londons long his
tory. Some become symbols, monuments even that are recognised throughout the world – the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, St Pauls Cathedral, etc. Most of us appreciate that even the most mundane buildings around us have potentially fascinating histories but very few of us make the time to investigate these histories. Thomas Kilpper is someone who does.

Kilpper, who was born in Stuttgart, arrived in London in the spring of 1999. He had just completed a residency in a gymnasium at the aLandoned US military base of Camp King in Oberursel, outside Frankfurt. During his time there he carved images of the history of the base, alongside images of his own biography, directly into the wooden parquet floor. Kilpper had come to London in scarch of a building in which to do a similar residency. He was immediately drawn to Southwark, initially because of the high profile regeneration this impoverished area was undergoing. This regeneration was symbolised by the reinterpretation of significant buildings – the Tate Modern, Shakespeares Globe Theaire, the new Peckham Library. Kilpper systematically researchod abandoned buildings in the area and found Orbit House, an anonymous 1950s office block. Orbit House and Camp King share an important similarity. Both were goverument built, for secretive, even sinister, purposes.The general public were only ever admitted to them under strictly controlled conditions. Kilpper exposed the secret histories of these two places by permanently carving those histories into the very fabric of the buildings. Orbit House in particular was to be dramatically exposed when Kilpper hung a full size print of his carving onto the front of the building, for all to see.

Kilpper approaches his work first and foremostly as an artist and it is because of this that the work evolves and develops in the way that it does. He is categorically not a social historian. As well as digging deeply to uncover the stories of people who have been long forgotten he introduces elements of his own history, interests, the people he meets and his political opinions into the ever-expanding narrative. This process runs concurrently with Kilppers physical intervention in the space itself. He chisels images from the stories he has uncovered directly inlo the parquet of the floor, chipping away at the building itself. The finished work is big, very big, 400 square metres in the case of Orbit House, and takes many arduous months to complete.

The uncovering of Orbit House began when Kilpper discovered that a very well known boxing ring, called The Ring, used to occupy the site. The landlord of the pub across the road told him about the rise and fall of The Ring. Leads emerged, characters entered and exited the narrative leaving behind their images in the floor of Orbit House. As Kilppers contacts grew and stories and links emerged so the image itself spread out further into the floor. The sheer amount of information that Kilpper managed to unearth was astounding. He discovered that the boxing ring actually occupied an 18th Century octaponal chapel. The chapel itself had many interesting stories to tell, all recounted by Kilpper in the work. It was eventually destroyed during the Blitz when it was bombed by the Luftwaffe, and Orbit House was built in its place, ironically, by the Ministry of Defence to house their secret printing offices. The building then fell into the hands of the British Library, who used it to house their Oriental Collection.

But it is the real people who really existed and who played a part in the history of that small part of London that Kilpper brought back to life. What his work demonstrates is that the vast potential of the past is close to us all the time if we only choose to investigate it. Looking at Kilppers work is like talking to an elderly relative about the times in which they lived, times that have gone forever. There could be a terrible sadness in that. That all these people who lived their lives as fully as we live ours have come and gone and been forgotten.

But Kilppers work is overwhelmingly positive. His art makes us think about how often we overlook our environment, by using the narrative form to bring it to life for us. He makes us aware of our continuing relationship with the past and our individual contriLutions to an ever-evolving history. The past is alive and well and real and to be found, sometimes in the strangest of places.

Donna Lynas
Curator, South London Gallery

Thomas Kilpper approached the South London Gallery to ask for support to allow public access to his work at Orbit House. This we happily agreed to do as part of our SLG Projects initiative, a scheme that enables us to commission and exhibit work outside of the Gallery context. The Ringwas opened by us from 11 to 26 March 2000.
The future of Kilppers work at Orbit House is uncertain. The building will be demolished and the work very likely with it. Alsop and Störmer, architects of the new building, proposed to absorb the work into their design but there is hesitation to this from the owners of Orbit House. However, a small section of the carving will be preserved. It has been bought, along with several prints, by the Tate Modern for their collection. (D. L.)

Portraits and other Prints
Portraits and other Prints

Rowland Hill Reverend + Founder of the Surrey Chapel
Len Harvey – Dick Burge – Alf Manzini – Fredie Mills – Jack Hood – Billy Wells – Jack Stanley – Phil Scott – Jack Powell – Kid Socks – Johnny Curley – Georges Carpentier Boxers of “The Ring”
Muhamad Ali – Henry Cooper Boxers
Moss de Young Referee of The Ring
George Harris Master of Ceremonies at The Ring
Dan Sullivan Manager of Boxers e.g. Len Harvey
Bella Burge Manager of The Ring
Text {Bella Burge):’Welcome to the boxer rebellion” with Chinese characters: justice, peace, fist, rebellion
Marie Lloyd Musical Singer, adopted Bella Burge
The 8th Marquess of Queensberry established boxing rules
Apple Tree
Alfred Hitchcock Film Director, used The Ring as a set for his silent movie “The Ring”, 1926
Carl Brisson Actor, the boxer in Hitch’s movie “The Ring”
Gordon Harker Actor, the trainer in Hitchcock’s movie “The Ring”
John Mumford conservator, Oriental Collections of British Library (OIOC) worked in Orbit House
Tim Thomas Readers Service of OIOC, worked in OH
A book pile
Japanese wood cut (genitals of a whore, from a brothel guide, late 18th century)
The Diamond Sutra from 868 AD oldest printed book, belongs to OIOC, was stored in Orbit House
Sir Aurel Stein rediscovered the Diamond Sutra, brought it from China to London
Johannes Gutenberg “inventor” of movables types (1452)
William Caxton printed the first book in English, 1475
Anthony Panizzi Italian rebel, one of the founders of the British Museum and British Library, commissioned the round reading room of the B.L.
Charles Wilkens started printing and collecting books and prints for the India Office
Patrik Wright Managing Director of the British Museum Company
Ivory figurine, about 4000 BC British Museum item No. EA 32141
Charles Dickens Writer, passed Surrey Chapel daily as a schoolboy
William Shakespeare was staged in The Ring
Ho-Chi-Minh Vietnamese politician and revolutionary
Andreas Baader – Gudrun Ensslin – Ulrike Meinhof – Monika Berberich Members of the Red Army Faction who began their fight alongside the Vietcong
Benno Ohnesorg Student, shot dead by police in !t a demonstration against the Persian Shah, Berlin 1967
Hilary Cresk Member of the Angry Brigade, about 1975
Bobby Sands died in prison during a hungerstrike, Member of Parliament and of the IRA
Guy Debord Philosopher, Situationist, wrote “The Society of Spec
Denis Healey Politician, MOD, commissioned Orbit House
The oldest medival representation of a printing office Lyon 1500, Dance of Death.
Soldier woman showing her breasts when the Royal Navy left the harbour for the Falklands War
Winston Churchill Member of the India Of fice Cavalry
Adolf Hitler The Luftwaffe bombed The Ring twice
Karl Barth was head of the Nazi’s interrogation centre of the Luftwaffe in Oberursel
A Bomber from the Blitz
Robert Atkins Actor and theatre maneger of The Old Vic organised the performances of Shakespeare in The Ring
Leslie French Actor, performed Shakespeare in The Ring
Mata Hari Dancer, was executed during the First World War as a spy by the French Military
Madonna Singer, actor
Marlene Dietrich actor
Kate Moss model
Mona Lisa
Leo Castelli American gallerist, died 1999, represented Warhol among others
Advertising Text of the Tate Gallery, slightly modihed :” The Ring and the Tate Gal lery of Modern Art will bring signifocant cultural, social and economic benehts to the Borough of Southwark, to London and to the UK as a whole “
Will Alsop Architect, commissioned to redevelop the site “Southpoint”
Stuart Bailey Landlord of Orbit House
Johnny Spence – Stephan Dillemuth – Josephine Pryde – Merlin Carpenter – Alex Hamilton – Sarah Staton – Dan Mitchell – Anthony Davies Artists, friends
Rosalina Glogan Baby of artists and friends, born 1999
Thomas Kilpper on his knees in play pen
Gilbert & George – Andy Warhol – Michael Basquiat – Sigmar Polke – Holbein the Younger Artists
Henry Abraham Kilpper’s neighbour in East London, was a teenage spectator at The Ring
Klara Kilpper T.K’s grandmother, lived in China
Gerhart Kilpper T K’s father, born in China
Irmgard Kilpper Gerhart K’s sister lived in China
Martin Kilpper T. K’s brother
Michael Schumacher Racing Driver, F 1
Louisa Raeburn
Mao Tse Tung Chinese revolutionary, philosopher and politician
Chinese text (Mao): “We took some of your missioners to the mountains, you took our Diamond Sutra to Europe, we gave them back, you did not”
Sigmund Freud came as a refugee to London
Karl Marx wrote “Das Kapital” in The British Lihrary
I. Lenin lived some years in London
Mrs or Mr Pig – Mrs and Mr Rat – Erna the Crow – Mr Fox
Richard Wagner Composer of “The Ring”
Hans Richter conducted Wagner’s Ring for the first time
G. F. Händel Composer of the Messiah
Sir George Smart conducted Handel’s Messiah on the site
Tommy Smith sprinter, Olympicgold medallist 1968, he reised his black-gloved first as a sign of protest
John Carlos Sprinter Olympic silver medallist 1968, he protested together with Tommy Smith.
A film projector from 1907, when the chapel wasacinema
Wall painting crying Asian child opposite Hackney Town Hall.



happy together | frankfurt-preungesheim | 1998-2000

Project in Frankfurt-Preungesheim jail, 1998-2000
Not approved by the Justice Department.

HAPPY TOGETHER. Thomas Kilpper 2001
I intended to carry out an artistic work in the empty men’s prison Frankfurt-Preungesheim, JVA I. I planned a physical intervention that would have taken several weeks. Subsequently, the result was to be presented as an exhibition on site. This project would have become a challenge for me in many respects. I wanted to work in this thoroughly hostile place, which I know from my own experience and which is charged with aggression and violence like hardly any other. Prison: the place of systematic de-socialisation and deprivation. I wanted to intervene as massively as possible in this system – cutting into the steel doors that create cell walls and floors, images and texts that are related to the whole complex of state punishment. In addition, my design envisaged a work in the outside space: on the roof I wanted to affix the words “happy together”. Like an advertising slogan or corporate logo, they were intended to draw attention to this place from afar. A hint that state punishment in earlier times – in many countries still today – was above all a public act. Just as punishment – and in particular imprisonment – is practised here and today, it takes place predominantly behind high walls, quasi in secret.

In October 1998 I presented my concept to the then Hessian Minister of Justice Rupert von Plottnitz (the Greens) in writing and asked for permission. I received support both from Kasper König, the then rector of the Städelschule, and from Claudia Scholtz, the managing director of the Hessische Kulturstiftung. But apart from a site visit accompanied by the former prison warden and an employee from the Ministry of Justice, I was unable to achieve anything. The reason was: the demolition had not yet been decided. This seemed like a pretext to me and not a plausible reason for a general rejection, because I had made it clear from the outset that I would not interfere with the substance of the building and that I would only work with video, photography and linocuts. It was “left to me” to turn to the ministry again if the situation changed.

In May 2000 I learned from the press that the decision to demolish the building had been made. I wrote again to the Ministry of Justice – now part of the CDU-led state government. Due to their conservative orientation, my expectations were not very high. As for confirmation, I quickly received another rejection, now on the grounds that the demolition work “will begin shortly”. In fact it took more than 6 months until the excavators arrived.

A red-green government, a black-yellow one – an artistic intervention in a former prison is undesirable for the Hessian judiciary. Whether it was the feared public view behind the prison walls and cell doors or my critical attitude towards the penal system and the state that was decisive for the rejection, remains to be seen. In any case, it is a cultural testimony of poverty.

The decision to close and demolish this monster may have been influenced by the visit of representatives of the UN Commission on Human Rights. They had found “inhumane prison conditions” here. A move away from the politics of criminalizing and locking away does not signal them at any rate, because the next prison buildings are already planned, the foundations have already been excavated, so that more prisoners than ever before can be held behind high walls in Hesse, if possible unnoticed by the public. In this way, the appropriate political testimony of poverty is added to the cultural one. That doesn’t make things any better, but at least it makes them round.

Thomas Kilpper
January 2001

Description: HAPPY TOGETHER. Thomas Kilpper 1998
[Working title for an artistic work in the former prison I (JVA I) Frankfurt – Preungesheim]

With my work I would like to deal with this place, its function and concrete condition formally and contentwise. In a physical working process, I would like to cut and chisel images that stand in the context of this place, images on the subject of “punishment and discipline – aggression and crime – power and impotence – freedom and captivity” into the ground, the walls and (cell) doors. I would like to do this with my physical strength as well as with the help of machines like routers, flex / cutters etc. The work would extend to one of the floors in the cell wing. On the floor surface one of the largest “linocuts” ever created could be created. The continuous approx. 4mm thick plastic covering seems to me to be well suited for this. I would then blacken the various motifs and print them on fabric or paper.

I want to dedicate a part of the work to looking back at the history of punishment (up to the “birth of the prison”).
Another part would be to systematically search and photograph signifying statements of the detainees (wall drawings, comics, sayings, newspaper articles, etc…) in the building and let them flow into the work.
A third aspect would be to weave my subjective experiences (keyword: “What do I have to do with the whole thing?”) into it.

In several respects, this project would mean the concrete further development of my last work in the former US military camp Camp King in Oberursel. The result was a giant woodcut, for which the combination of “official” and personal history was an essential starting point.

From an artistic-technical point of view, I would like to “take away” the substance found and thus redefine the place and space. I am thus practicing the classic sculptural procedure par excellence.

Complementary / Parallel to this work inside the building, I would like to work with the façade and thus the effect on the outside space.
The idea is to have a text in large letters run around the top floor. E.g. “happy together” (back), “feel me, touch me, kiss me, hurt me” (front towards Kreuzäckerstraße). The building thus becomes a direct carrier of images and meaning. (The exact text still has to be worked out.)

The idea of orienting part of the work to the outside has a historical background. In earlier times, punishment was above all a public act – in some countries it is still the case today. Just as punishment, in particular imprisonment, is structured here and today, it essentially takes place behind the walls, quasi hidden. This part of my work – with its effect in the public space – would be, so to speak, a reference to this history and the public character and claim of punishment.
In addition to those mentioned here, there are other alternative project ideas. My preferences, however, clearly apply to the ideas developed here.

To the realization:
My wish would be to start work next spring (March). (I would like to make the photo documentation of the carvings in the cell walls rather, in order to be able to begin with the preparations – like e.g. the selection of the motives). The possibility of an exhibition after completion of the work on site would of course be very desirable.

My idea is to show the printing block (the so-called “negative”) as well as the prints (the “positive”) inside the building in addition to the work on the facade. Using the prints hung on clotheslines, the room would be structured and structured in a new, artistic way.

Thomas Kilpper
November 1999


don’t look back | camp king oberursel | 1998/2002

Planning don’t look backThomas Kilpper was confronted with a vast space and an enormous part of history: Camp King, in the vicinity of Frankfurt/Main, was used after 1945 by the US secret service for interrogations of significant Nazi militaries. Here it was decided who would go to court and who would be integrated into American intelligence services. During the war Camp King had been the central prison of the NS Luftwaffe (German air force) where all shot down pilots of the allied forces were interrogated.
Thomas Kilpper chose to cut open the parquetry floor of the former basketball field and transform it into a large-scale printing block. The result was a huge woodcut that would newly occupy a place that had gone through many transformations – empty after the military use the building was torn down and rebuilt for public use – with the purpose to examine the location’s history and intervene in its transformation process. The images from the woodcut were printed on modern textiles and digital advertising posters.

Patrick Heide

don't look back by Angelika Nollert (1998)
Don’t look back – This is the title of a work created my means of long and arduous labour by the Frankfurt artist Thomas Kilpper (born 1956), located inside a gymnasium on the former US military base of Camp King Oberursel.
It consists of a woodcut of gigantic dimensions that depicts various scenes, which refer not only to the history of the site but which also reflect the artist’s own history.
Camp King was initially a Reichssiedlungshof for the National Socialists during the Third Reich, then later a Luftwaffe transit camp for captured Allied pilots, and at the end of the Second World War, it was taken over by US Army and the CIA. Kilpper was marked by the Cold War period, as well as by the political developments of the Seventies and Eighties and he tackles his father’s past as a member of the German Armed Forces. In various of the images there are references to himself. In this way a common history can find an echo within a personal one. The artist reflects his own biography against this background.
Since 1993 the town of Oberursel has been planning a civilian re-modelling of the site. However, to this day, the neglect of the former military area continues to generate a surreal, morbid atmosphere.
The artist’s initial selection of this location was a consequence neither of content nor of aesthetically based concerns, but rather born first and foremost of practical reasons. For the realisation of an oversize woodcut, Kilpper was seeking a building condemned for demolition and containing a parquet floor, and he found in the oak flooring of the unoccupied gymnasium within Camp King the ideal printing plate. The choice of site led to research into locality, and a content-based analysis, portrayed by the artist in a narrative sequence of individual scenes on the wooden floor. He then took prints of separate images on paper, wallpaper and material and hung them on lines strung across the room. In this way, the visitor could experience the positive and negative versions of an image simultaneously, and, so to speak, walk through the space while reading its history. This work of Kilpper’s would be inconceivable without the specificity of the site. It was realised in situ. For this reason, it was not at first possible to imagine preserving the piece independently from the building. However, the work has stirred in the population an awareness of its own history and so there is now a plan from the Town Council to cast the piece in cement and to install it permanently as a “Streetball” court. With this in mind, the floor has already been sawn up into individual sections and preserved. Now the hope is that the plan can also be financed and subsequently realised (meanwhile realised and inaugurated in 2003), thus leaving a lasting impression both of the site and of the human destinies dependent upon it.

Angelika Nollert
Portikus, Frankfurt/Main 1999

Translated by Josephine Pryde

No time for hesitation! History is being made. by Martin Pesch (1998)
“Since grey is always deceptive in colour enlargements grey tones should wLer over possible be avoided – hold on, and things clear up”
Felix Philipp Ingold

History, they say, leaves its mark. This commonplace phrase disguises what actually occurs – people leave their mark on history. Undoubtedly, the one state cannot compensate for the other. A tension remains, an insoluble dialectic through whose dynamic it becomes unclear whether the individual has a particular position in relation to conditions, or whether the conditions – the famous class, political and social conditions – have been allocated to the individual. And then whatever you have ready to serve by and large as an explanation for your own situation is always only going to be a story, even when it is grandly described as a history – a story interpreted in a particular sense, however much the explanation may also intend to be objective.

Thomas Kilpper’s woodcut in the former basketball court of a site steeped in history in Oberursel is located both concretely and metaphorically within the field of these problematics. With this work, his attempt to occupy a position in the present is born out of the conviction that this will not be possible without confronting the past. What Kilpper has cut and shaped into the parquet floor, across a surface area approaching 300 square meters, has to do with the history of the place and with the destinies of the people who went about their business there, as well as with his own biography.

The series of images begins with Kilpper’s great grandfather’s time as a missionary in South East Asia but reaches its first main focus during the period of World War II. The site was an assembly camp for captured pilots of the Allied Air Forces. Here, they were interned and interrogated. The reigning atmosphere of the period was tied to the values of the so-called soldier’s code of honour. This led to the expression of respect for the enemy officer, also utilised by Kilpper: “You had your job and I had mine.”

At the end of the war the site was taken over by US Forces and was used mainly for secret service purposes. The enemy was no longer the German troops but instead the communist Soviet Union. There was now partial collaboration with the former National Socialist enemy. With “Operation Paperclip” the US Americans tried to deploy German scientists and sections of the political elite for their own ends, thereby divesting them of accountability for their work under the National Socialist State. In the course of these actions, Klaus Barbie was pretty much able to slip away from Oberursel to Bolivia. And Reinhard Gehlen, former Chief of the National Socialist Secret Service “Fremde Heere Ost” (Foreign Army Eastern Division) founded the so-called “Organisation Gehlen” in Oberursel, the forerunner to the subsequent Federal Secret Service (Bundes-Nachrichten-Dienst, BND). The overlapping of personnel discernible within these two examples, and the power relations that endured across ideological and political divides are significant for Kilpper’s work. He follows them through right up to the present time. The image of the execution of a member of the Vietcong (US soldiers were trained in anti-guerilla warfare at Oberursel at the time of the Vietnam War) and the image of the kidnapping of Hanns-Martin Schleyer are examples of this. (Schleyer, as a former member of the SS with a position of leadership in Eastern Europe, and later as President of the federation of German employers’ association was a practitioner at high political level of the above mentioned overlapping in the deployment of personnel.) And this is where Kilpper’s own biography comes into play. It is marked by his father’s confrontation with the past as a member of the German Armed Forces (Wehrmacht) and also by the political conflicts of the Seventies and Eighties in the spheres of left wing radicality.

Through the subjects of the pictures, which are not presented according to either a rigorous thematic or to a chronology, Kilpper sets in motion the question “Where, pray, might I get my grey tones back again?” This question is aimed at the loss of differentiation within political confrontation and treatments of history. It is not for nothing that Kilpper uses as his models photos that are widely known and often reproduced by the media. Through these pictures he can on the one hand make the political intention of this work more accessible and on the other hand, he also demonstrates an approach that is only allegedly simple with regard to the historical developments in which we are situated. For it is not as if the question simply swings between the poles of black and white, or good and evil. To understand it requires much more than the simplistic signals transmitted via pedagogical or other mediation.

Kilpper turns the cliché of bearing-the-mark-of-history around and uses it graphically, in the printing sense. Through prolonged and heavy-duty work, he has chiselled a history into the floor. He has made his mark on the history-bearing images through the act of his physical labour. He has appropriated them in the fullest sense of the word. Through working on his woodcut, he has transformed the feeling of being overpowered by history into the energy of the overpowering itself. The fact that in the process, he destroys the parquet floor, cutting it up with chisel and chainsaw is not the least important aspect of the work. For the flooring, at one time functional and in use for basketball games, can be taken as a symbol of an unalterable history whose end has been written – and whose authority has been stolen by Kilpper. His way of working can also be compared to hip hop sampling. Just as there, Afro-American musicians utilise elements taken from pop music history stamped “white” in order to realise a tradition of their own, so Kilpper utilises samples from the “official” history in confrontation with his own, with the view to making them his own, too.

He has used form to solve the problem of a mere reversal. As it stands, the enormous woodcut is at best half of the work. You could say that it simply becomes the tool towards a further step. For the whole series of images can be seen in their mirror versions. The woodcut is therefore a negative. Prints can be taken from it that show the images the right way round. It is the printing plate for the pictures that Kilpper prints on to various materials, materials whose origin and structure play an important role in their use. The curtains and wallpapers stand for the border between private and public space, whilst advertising posters and flag fabrics bring with them an assortment of influences through their symbols and invitations to identification. For the most part, Kilpper hangs the prints up on thin ropes across the space of the former sports hall and makes the positives confront their own negatives, cut into the floor beneath them. Once again, the viewer is caught in the middle, where it lies with him or with her to confront both the depicted images and the associations that Kilpper draws, and to get the missing grey tones back.

Martin Pesch is a music and art critic (for, amongst others, Frieze, Spex and Kunstforum International), Frankfurt/Main.

Translated by Josephine Pryde

bakehouse | 1997 – 2004

generally, artists produce pictures. with the installation backstube, the possibility for the production of explosives is created. in a hut assembled from used wood panels, there are all the components necessary to act as a bomber. fire extinguishers and gas bottles as metal containers, various chemicals for the production of explosives, tools, electronic parts, alarm clocks converted to timers, books on the political background. a typewriter is obviously intended for the writing of statements of intent.
does the artist become a bomb maker and potential bomber? bombs instead of pictures?
what’s going on here? should it be attacked – who or what – why and for what?
backstube was created in 1997. the work has so far been shown at three different locations. at kunsthalle schirn, frankfurt (frankfurter kreuz, 2001), at markus ambach’s “sommerpalast” exhibition in neuss (2002-03) and at art fair art, 2004 in frankfurt. each time, it raises different questions. each time, it raises contradictions. for example, the frailty of the hut and the poverty of its furnishings stand in contrast to the obvious striving for power.

Overview – urban Drawing

1996 – 97

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