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don’t think about the crisis – fight! @ Vila Flores, Porto Alegre

Text: don’t think about the crisis – fight!
The German artist Thomas Kilpper was in Porto Alegre for 3 weeks doing an artist residency in Vila Flores, invited in collaboration by the Goethe-Institut. In the project, the artist created an unpublished work using and printing directly on the wooden floor of one of the spaces of the architectural complex, built in the 1920th.

The public intervention / procession / exhibition is a errorista experiment within the cohesion of the artistic research collective SYNSMASKINEN. The project results from a collaborative research on the global political context, specifically on the Brazilian context, and Porto Alegre as an example of a space for „specific fight“. The focus is established in the context from May 2016, after the start of the impeachment process. Composed of graphic pieces and literary and dramatic features, the project emerged from discussions on the World Social Forum as a utopian model of political representation and continuity / discontinuity of this model today. The initial Forum´s slogan – „Another world is possible“ – is here transformed into ambiguous title of the project, which clamps arguments on both sides of the current „state of emergency“ for which Brazil seems to be heading. ANOTHER ERROR UNABLE manifests as a procession through the center of Porto Alegre and as a display of a day at Villa Flores.

ERRORISM: practice or philosophy that has the error as the basis for their actions.
Erroristas: crowds, groups or individuals who practice Errorism. The Errorista International Movement was founded in 2005. http://www.erroristas.org
SYNSMASKINEN is an artistic-conglomerate and artistic research on contemporary political crises. SYNSMASKINEN is headquartered in Bergen, Norway. http://www.synsmaskinen.net

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Flucht & Migration – at Galerie für Landschaftskunst / GFLK Halle Süd, Tölz

April 24 – May 14, 2016

Flucht & Migration: different perspectives
Gallery for Landscape Art / GFLK Halle Süd, Tölz

HALL – POLITICS – Picture 4:

Escape & Migration – different perspectives
An art project by Thomas Kilpper

with participation of Maria Demmel, Happiness Enobakhare, Holger Wüst, Massimo Ricciardo, Mohammad Saif, Tracy Michael, Taru Kallio, Hussein Salama, Ziad Shahet, Joy, Patience, Hashemi Ajmal, Rezhan Abdalrahman, Zhyar Mahmood, Rena Nashe, Shachalid, Mohammad Arabsada, Tiqist, Anastasia Jegorova, Naim, Majd-Alkhatib Abou Fakher, and Abdulelah Daghstan.

Exhibition opening: Saturday, 23 April, 17 – 19 hrs.
Exhibition period: 24 April to 14 May 2016
GFLK Hall South, Tölz
Wandelhalle, Ludwigstraße 14, Bad Tölz
www.gflk.de

The Tölzer Wandelhalle – a large modern building is challenged. A test row in 4 pictures, conceived by Florian Hüttner and Till Krause.

Picture 1: The hall and the swastika flag – with Katharina Sieverding
Picture 2: The Hall and the New World (American Occupation) – with Mark Dion
Picture 3: The hall and the cure – with Malte Struck and Mark Wehrmann
Picture 4: The hall and the asylum (the future) – with Thomas Kilpper
HALLE – POLITIK is sponsored by: Culture fund Bavaria, district Bad Tölz – Wolfratshausen, Jodquellen AG / Anton Hoefter

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Exhibition Flyer

MEGAfon

June 20 – August 25, 2013

Inauguration
Inauguration: 19. June 19, 2013, 6pm

Duration of Installation:
June 20 – August 25, 2013

MEGAfon is a reference to the place and its eventful history of political demonstrations from the Weimar Republic to the time of the fall of the Wall. In this tradition, the sculpture may and should be used by everyone in the sense of a Speakers’ Corner.

To speak clearly and loudly through the MEGAfon requires courage, determination and physical effort, as the sculpture does not require an electronic amplifier. Its resonance body has little amplifying effect, but the voice is slightly alienating.

MEGAfon raises the question of who has their say in our society, who makes themselves heard. In the hundredth year since the Volksbühne was established, it has been a stage and platform for the people, for those who want to express themselves publicly, for self-styled performers as well as for the public.
for politically active people.

with the support of
Verein zur Förderung von Kunst und Kultur am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz e.V
Stiftung Kunstfonds Bonn
Bezirkskulturfonds des Bezirksamts Berlin Mitte

MEGA fon Performances
As part of Thomas Kilpper’s MEGAfon project, we would like to cordially invite you to the first three performances at Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz. Please note the different starting times.

Sunday, August 11, 1pm
Artur van Balen: “The Internationale” goes international.
By singing the “Internationale” in different languages, Artur van Balen refers to an important aspect of the history of Rosa Luxemburg Square and the labour movement.

Tuesday, August 13, 9 pm
Katja von Helldorff: cosas raras – para Rosa Luxembourg
In the series “cosas raras” (“weird stuff”) this #3: a 15 minute poetic speech on bricks, time and love, is dedicated to Rosa Luxemburg.

Thursday, August 15, 8.30 pm
Kerstin Cmelka featuring Daniel Laufer: Nora
Microdrama by Kerstin Cmelka featuring Daniel Laufer. Text: Henrik Ibsen, “Nora. Ein Puppenheim”, 3rd act, last scene.
“Nora. Ein Puppenheim” was written in 1879 and premiered in Copenhagen, 1880 in the first German versions in Hamburg and
Munich and in 1890 was included in the programme of the opening year of the “Freie Volksbühne Berlin”.

Saturday, August 17, 4-8 pm,
10-minute reading rehearsals.
Achim Lengerer: Rehearsals for Peter Weiss
19 January 1970, Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf: After tumultuous scenes the public dress rehearsal of the play “Trotsky in Exile” by Peter Weiss has to be stopped after the first act. Two dozen demonstrators storm onto the stage and make a racket. The ensemble, spontaneously formed from all ranks of the audience, introduces the performance “Trotsky in Exile” with a dance.
Stephan Geene: solemn renunciation of megafonal. forever or at least now
10:00 p.m. Stephan Geene interprets the megaphone.

Sunday, August 18, 3.30 pm
Christel Gbaguidi:La Republique en Fuite/The Refugee Republic
“The Refugee Republic” is a process-oriented and pedagogical cooperation with so-called “immigrants and refugees”.
As part of the implementation of the northern phase of the project: “MIGRATION AND ICH Part 3: Over the Bridges of the Arts to a Common Homeland Earth”, some residents of the protest camp at Oranienplatz, Berlin, took the opportunity in workshops from March to June 2013 to speak for themselves and tell their own stories, anecdotes, statements about their emigration or flight, their paths to Germany, their experiences as refugees, living together with the other people with whom they share the same refugee life and space.”The Refugee Republic” invites the people of this globalised world to reflect on the concepts of “identity” and “illegality” and at the same time opens up a space of exchange between players and spectators on the subject of migration.

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Learning from the Maghreb @ Museo Marino Marini, Villa Romana and déjà.vu

June 30, 2011

Museo Marino Marini, Villa Romana and déjà.vu present

THOMAS KILPPER
Learning from the Maghreb. How to get rid of unwanted presidents?

featuring Emanuela Ascari, Astrid Auberger, Giulia Cenci, Eva Geatti, Maria Gleu, Ozan Erme Han, Cemile Kaptan, Daniela Spagna Musso, Alia Scalvini, Dominique Vaccaro, Eugenia Vanni, Johannes Wagenknecht. Curated by Lelio Aiello ——  30.06.2011, 6:30 p.m.

In June the artist Thomas Kilpper (Germany) held a workshop titled Learning from Maghreb. How to Get Rid of Unloved Presidents? in Villa Romana, Florence. In line with the past years’ experiences, the work.lab has focused the attention on everyday life and its territorial, social and political implications. It has asked questions about the role of the artist in society and how to address social issues through art. For whom do we produce art? Which is the role of art in the struggle for social emancipation and equality? Could artistic and aesthetic strategies be developed for social change?
The workshop has involved twelve participants in the realization of an artwork in the entrance area of Museo Marino Marini, for which recycled materials were used. The installation was elaborated within the limits of sculpture and architecture through the active participation of the group.

The twelve participants were selected by the committee formed by Lelio Aiello (work.lab curator), Angelika Stepken (Villa Romana Director), Alberto Salvadori (Marino Marini Museum Director), Thomas Kilpper (artist).

work.lab is part of déjà.vu, a project born in Bologna, that has pursued for four years a study that includes internationally renowned artists, students, and public places in a dimension of dialogue and participation.

Villa Romana is a structure founded in Florence in 1905 by German artist Max Klinger which acts as a forum for contemporary art that favors, through exhibitions and various initiatives, a fruitful dialogue with the local reality, and promotes cooperative relationships with interesting partners. Each year it establishes an international award for artists offering a residence for one year.

The Marino Marini Museum is a Foundation that ensures the conservation, the protection, the development and the exposure of Marino Marini’s works to public, and to manage the Museum situated in San Pancrazio’s former church, in Florence. It promotes cultural events and exhibitions dedicated to artists and themes from the twentieth century to the contemporary.

aritmia is a cultural association based in Bologna that promotes artistic experimentation and production most adherent to the contemporary culture.

work.lab2011
Imparare dal Maghreb. IT
Museo Marino Marini, Villa Romana e déjà.vu
sono lieti di presentare

THOMAS KILPPER
Imparare dal Maghreb. Come sbarazzarsi dei presidenti non desiderati?

con Emanuela Ascari, Astrid Auberger, Giulia Cenci, Eva Geatti, Maria Gleu, Ozan Erme Han, Cemile Kaptan, Daniela Spagna Musso, Alia Scalvini, Dominique Vaccaro, Eugenia Vanni, Johannes Wagenknecht. a cura di Lelio Aiello —— 30.06.2011, ore 18:30

Il Museo Marino Marini inaugura giovedì 30 giugno alle ore 18.30 Imparare dal Maghreb. Come Sbarazzarsi dei Presidenti Indesiderati? Un’installazione che coinvolge la zona d’ingresso del Museo, realizzata con materiali di riciclo frutto del laboratorio “work.lab”, a cura di Lelio Aiello, tenutosi a Villa Romana da Thomas Kilpper con dodici giovani artisti italiani e internazionali.

Thomas Kilpper (Stoccarda 1956) residente a Berlino, invitato ad esporre alla Biennale di Venezia nel padiglione Danese, è noto per i suoi lavori che intervengono in specifici contesti sociali e politici. L’artista, borsista nel 2011 a Villa Romana, Firenze, ha tenuto per due settimane, nel mese di giugno, un laboratorio. I dodici partecipanti selezionati da una commissione formata da Lelio Aiello (curatore work.lab), Angelika Stepken (Direttore Villa Romana), Alberto Salvadori (Direttore Museo Marino Marini), e dallo stesoo Kilpper sono: Emanuela Ascari (Maranello, 1977); Astrid Auberger (Berlin, 1986); Giulia Cenci (Cortona, 1988); Eva Geatti (Bologna, 1981); Maria Gleu (Nurberg, 1988); Ozan Emre Han (Istambul, 1985); Cemile Kaptan (Istambul, 1977); Daniela Spagna Musso (Bologna, 1975); Johannes Wagenknecht (Bulgaria, 1987); Alia Scalvini (Desenzano, 1980); Dominique Vaccaro (Bologna, 1980).

In linea con le esperienze degli anni passati il laboratorio ha focalizzato l’attenzione sul quotidiano e sulle sue implicazioni territoriali, sociali e politiche. Ha posto interrogativi sul ruolo dell’artista nei confronti della società e su come affrontare questioni sociali attraverso l’arte. Per chi si produce arte? Quale ruolo ha l’arte nella lotta per l’emancipazione e/o l’uguaglianza sociale? Si possono sviluppare strategie artistico-estetico per il cambiamento sociale?
Il laboratorio ha coinvolto i dodici artisti nella realizzazione di un’opera nell’area d’ingresso del Museo Marino Marini, per la quale sono stati utilizzati materiali di riciclo, elaborando una installazione al confine tra scultura e architettura, che ha preso forma attraverso la partecipazione attiva del gruppo.

Con il sostegno del Museo Marino Marini, di Villa Romana, della Fondazione del Monte di Bologna e Ravenna. Col patrocinio del Comune di Firenze, Media partner Brainstorming art project, UndoNet, Exibart, Edizioni Zero.

work.lab s’inserisce nell’ambito di déjà.vu, il progetto bolognese che da cinque anni porta avanti una ricerca sui linguaggi del contemporaneo che include artisti, studenti, pubblico e luoghi, in una dimensione dialogica e partecipativa.

Villa Romana è una struttura fondata a Firenze nel 1905 dal pittore tedesco Max Klinger e si pone come un forum di arte contemporanea che intesse, attraverso mostre e varie iniziative, un proficuo dialogo con la realtà locale, promuove rapporti di cooperazione con partner interessanti. Istituisce annualmente un premio internazionale per giovani artisti che si concretizza in una residenza di un anno.

aritmia è un associazione culturale con sede a Bologna e promuove le sperimentazione e le produzioni artistiche maggiormente aderenti alla cultura contemporanea.

Con il patrocinio del Comune di Firenze

info: info@dejavu-bo.it – www.dejavu-bo.it – www.museomarinomarini.it – www.villaromana.org
Media partner UnDoNet, Exibart, Edizioni Zero

piazza san pancrazio
50123 firenze, italia
t +39 055 219432
www.museomarinomarini.it

Revolutionary Free Speech – a workshop

June 24 -25, 2011

Thomas Kilpper
Revolutionary Free Speech – a workshop with lectures and performances on the occasion of Speech Matters, a group exhibition curated by Katerina Gregos in the Danish Pavilion at the 54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia

workshop flyer  [PDF]

Friday, June 24

2:00 – 3:00 pmRegina Wamper„Beyond Freedom of Speech“
3:20 – 5:10 pmJakob Jakobsen„The Cultural Battle in Denmark since 2001“
4:40 – 5:10 pm(salong)noise performance with young artists and students of the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich
5:30 – 6:00 pmReBiennale„Beyond the Venice Biennale“ – social and environmental activities in Venice.
Afterwards there will be food and a party at the social centre „El Morion“ in Calle del Morion, which is run by the ReBiennale network

Saturday, June 25

11:30 am – 12:30 pmGáspár M. Tamás„Beyond Revolution“
2:00 – 3:00 pmSalah Methnani„Beyond Migration“ – The anger of the Maghreb and Arabworld, To what extend belongs „Freedom of speech“ and the „freedom to move“ together…?
4:00 – 4:30 pmThomas Kilppergives a tour in his work
5:00 – 5:30 pm(salong)– noise performance with young artists and students of the Accademy of Fine Arts, Munich

Guided Tour @ State of Control

© Neuer Berliner Kunstverein / Jens Ziehe

Tuesday, July 16, 5pm – Meetingpoint: Entrance to the Exhibition “State of Control“, former Ministry of State Security, Normannenstr.19, 10365 Berlin-Lichtenberg.

We will first visit the Stasi-Museum next door and subsequently have a guided tour with Thomas Kilpper (artist) and Sophie Goltz (head of communications at n.b.k.) through the exhibition State of Control.

State of Control @ former Ministry of State Security – Normannenstraße 19

State of Control – Out of Control – (Arbeitstitel)

In Normannenstraße 19 – a building of the former Ministry of State Security – an oversized ‘linoleum cut’ will be made in the floor covering; 800 m2 PVC floor covering will be the starting material.

I cut into the found substance of this charged place in order to ‘appropriate’ it. Images emerge from the context of ‘state surveillance and strategies to counter it’. I inscribe them in this place and thus transform its ‘base’ – the ground – into a stamp. A controversial, abandoned place in contemporary history is reoccupied, revived and redefined.

PVC-flooring – Normannenstraße 19 – Stasi-HQ – Berlin

Diary Part II / November 18 to 23, 2008

Tuesday 18
At 4.30pm Andrea Sassi the director of dispari&dispari project and I leave Reggio Emilia and drive to the Airport of Parma.
We have booked Parma to Palermo. Queing up for the saftey check before boarding… the loudspeakers call “Mr. Andrea Sassi…please come to the luggage-control office…” oh oh, I think we get a problem… – in our luggage is one electrical and one petrol run chain-saw…. Andrea goes there while my hand-luggage get controlled more than intensively. My tripod does not go through; how naïve am I – of course it’s a potential weapon! Bringing it to my car is too late… so one policeman kindly organizes to get the closed check-in reopened and one more luggage-ticket.
Andrea arrives – he manages to make the police-officer say, “generously and exceptionally we do not halt your chain-saw”…

In Palermo superstress, even our plane arrives 10 minutes ahead schedule, we have only 5 minutes, as we booked two different flights and have to check-in (Palermo – Lampedusa) once more. We decide that Andrea goes directly to the check-in and only I wait for our luggage. When he arrives at the check-in desk, it was already closed! At the same time at the buggage belt when the first suitcases arrive I realize its really difficult to recognize someone else’s suitcase. They all look the same… but I was lucky to grab the right one – a quick look inside helped to make it clear.
Running upstairs as fast as I can… Andrea calls me, “Thomas where are you, hurry up!”… In the meantime he has gone to the office of the airline and manged that they reopened the check-in desk… They take our luggage and we run to the departure, passing the saftey control and boarding immediately. Puh, this was very tight.
Now a small propeller aircraft with about 30 passengers takes us. It flys quite nervously compared to the lethargic Airbus. At 10pm we arrive in Lampedusa. Maria’s sons pick us up at the airport and bring us to our appartment. The same house like during my first stay – but one more room was open and prepared for us. It’s different – this time I return, everything seems familiar and aquainted. After a pizza we go to bed – totally tired.

Wednesday, 19
After a quick breakfast-shopping and coffee, we go to the townhall. I say ‘hello’ to Marco, last time my interpretor – together we go to the major’s office, but he is not in. He is supposed to be here at 1 o’clock… So we get photocopies of the appeal and the invitation for our Friday evening meeting about the lighthouse project. From Berlin – some days ago – I had called Antonino from Radio Delta, since than he has organized this meeting. Really super! At Edo’s Noleggio we rent a scooter and a bike. ‘What are you doing here again?’… After a little chat and handing over the freshly copied appeal and invitation Edo’s wife Michela tells us, that she has a job in the refugee centre. She suggests to put us in touch with the anthropologist who works in the centre, too. Sounds very interesting. Andrea leaves his mobile number and we agree to stay in contact. We do a little tour with the scooter – to the boat cemetry, where some twelve new boats have been delivered since I was here, seven weeks ago.

Boat-Cemetry Lampedusa, 2008

Making contact with the depot’s staff members… some recognize me…Then we cross half the island down to the Istmo dei Conigli (Isle of Rabbits): Whow! What a stunning beach! White sand and the clearest and purest seawater I have ever seen.

Istmo dei Conigli (Isle of Rabbits), Lampedusa, October 2008

At 1pm we are back to the major’s office, but he is busy with another meeting. We are told to come back half an hour later, but we prefer to wait. Ten minutes later the major, Bernardino De Rubeis leaves the meeting and comes to us to sit down in front of us.

Andrea explains our request, that we already had expressed, that we need his authorisation in writing to split and take some of the refugee boats on a big truck to Reggio. Mr De Rubeis calls the director of the waste depot that we already have met in the morning. He doesn’t have any objections to our plan and instructs his assistant to set up a letter of authorisation. Half an hour later we have got it.
Off we go!
Preparations start, buying a petrol can, the petrol itself, gloves and we need extention lead for the electrical tools… Antonino – accompanied by his friend Nicholas – from Radio Delta and Alternativa Giovani comes to the waste depot. Great to see him again. He organizes the extention cables that we have to fix with each other – otherwise they loose connection: tape! We are badly organised, but the circumstances are difficult. What boat shall we take, shall we both work on the same, shall we do documentation, video, photos…? We choose one – that looks still relatively nice and is laying close to the entrance gate and office, where we get electricity. The sound of Andrea’s chainsaw is amazing. It immidiately suggests heavy labour is underway.
We do some ten – fifteen cuts – mostly in the direction against the boards, trying to avoid to hit the nails.

cutting the refugees’ boats

When we have to finish because of the darkness our results are meagre. Tomorrow we have to start early in the morning and do the cuts more systematically.
Andrea receives a phonecall of Michela who works in the refugee centre: tomorrow at 11am we can meet with the director of the CPT.

Thursday, 20
I wake up at 6.30 (for me very early), do a fruit breakfast, knocking up Andrea at 7.30. I join him to the bar for a quick coffee – at 9 everything is prepared and the chains are rattling. But today we have to cut in the other direction, where the chance to hit a nail is much bigger. Underneeth relatively soft floor planks are the beams that carry the weight and absorbe the power of the waves. They are the very core of the boats’ construction – and made from incredibly hard wood. And here I hit the nails. You cannot avoid as you can not see where they are. Promtley the chain is killed and smoke rather chippings arises. Definitely my day of disillusion. I get the feeling to fail. Shippwrecking with shipp-splitting?

Shortly before 11am we stop cutting – Andrea and I – briefly meet with Michela and Federico x, the director of the Lampedusa refugee centre – in front of the entrance gate. When he appears I first think: ‘this is not the centre’s director…‘ but obviously he is. thirty-something, long hairs, sportif, casual wear, bad teeth. I would like to address some questions… but he insists: “I can’t talk to you, as I don’t have any authorisation…”, “but why do we meet at all if you can not talk to me?”, my question fundamentally questions this meeting what everybody seems to understand; Federico changes his attitude: he now explains what we have to do: “write a fax with your personal details… to the Prefettura in Agrigento and ask for permission to visit the refuge centre and to do an interview with the directorate / me…” noting the fax-number on a piece of paper and leaving the scene quickly after.
Michela offers that we can send the fax from her husbands moto-rental workshop. So we drive to Edo’s ‘Noleggio’ – set up a letter first in English, Andrea translates it into Italian. An hours later the fax goes through – pigs must fly to get permission by tomorrow. But we have nothing to loose.

Andrea and I we go back to the ships and continue our work – but again the results are devastating and frustrating. Not easy to admit, but my time is too short, my means to little to get the plan carried out. I think I must give in and change the whole concept how to present the project in Reggio Emilia. To build an adequate model, walkable in its interior… in Andreas 300sqm space with nine meter ceiling… I’d need not just 15, 20 pieces (one sqm each) but at least some 100 or even 200 – otherwise its looking redicoulus.
Is it embarrassing – first to ask for permission and than to fail? And what about the company of the transport? We have to call them and cancel the job. Otherwise we have to pay! That means: we must decide now!

we cannot succeed… the boats are densly nailed. These nails kill our chain saws…“, explaining the situation to Antonino and Nicholas who again came to the waste depot: they are quite disappointed and take it serious… what I like.

from left: Andrea, Antonino and Nicholas

from left: Andrea, Nicholas and Antonino

“It would be so great if you could build a tower from these boats… if you can’t do it now you must do it later in Lampedusa itself!” I agree and promise to try at a later stage – but for the time being – within our tight schedule – the boats are ‘stronger’ than we and our means.
That failure looks like a metaphor for the refugee problem as a whole: its bigger and more serious than expected. Dealing so directly and closely with the African boats I get a sense how much power is involved in the process of migration.

from authorities damaged refugee boat, Lampedusa harbor, 2008

For African fishermen the boats must be of big value. They are not designed for crossing the sea – but going out for fishing some miles offshore they seem well functioning and totally worthwhile.
Andrea calls the transport company but can’t get hold of anyone – he leaves a message “sorry, but we have to cancel our transport to Reggio Emilia…”, they don’t call back.

From now on we take photos from the boats and the boat cemetry as a whole – more systematically. If I can’t build the tower with the real boats I want to have the option at least to use photos of them in one way or the other. Building a tower with a large-sized collage of photos?… it’s totally open how my installation will be built and look like in 2 weeks time…

In the later afternoon Andrea and Antonino go for a swim – I prepare my slide-talk and the meeting tomorrow…

Friday, 21
At 10am I call the Prefettura in Agrigent. First attempt: the operator hangs up when he get aware that I ask for permission to visit the refuge camp in Lampedusa. Second attempt: he does not react nor put me through to the right officer until Andrea takes over the phone: “You will get the official decicion within ten days…”. “Sorry, but we’ll leave Lampedusa already after tomorrow, on Sunday”, Andrea explains very friendly. There is little hope to get permission; the reason seems because I am not a journalist.
In the afternoon we collect our belongings, tools etc… at the waste depot.

In the evening – at about 6pm – Andrea receives a phonecall from the prefettura in Agrigent! Friday evening, I never received any phone call from public authorities, but here in Sicilly they are still at work: they are about to release the permission for my visit in the refuge camp! What a surprise! And they need my date and town of birth… Wowh! Nobody expected anything like that: the next day I will be able to enter and visit the camp!
Interviewing the camps’ director, yes! – But…: no permission to talk to or even contact the migrants! That’s dull and very strange. Why that? … It’s said “to their own protection”? As if they could not express themselves if they don’t want to be interviewed. Somehow this shows their status: they are in custody and under state supervision, like a prisoner.

The meeting and my talk goes well. Twelve interested Lampedusians come; unfortunatelly only men – but the interpreter, she is an English-teacher. A film maker, two journalists, radio maker, students… even the pastor came with an African colleague. I show photos of previous projects and give a short introduction to my work – and as well to the lighthouse project. It is a very nice and constructive athmosphere.

talk and discussion at radio delta

Saturday, 22
Andrea drives the scooter and I – just sitting on my bike – holding his right arm, get pulled… what a nice way to move. shortly before 11am, we are waiting at the entrance gate of the refugee camp for the director and to get in… After a while it is clear: Andrea can’t enter, because we did not mention his name when we asked for permission on the fax to the prefettura… We try to convince the officers, “Can you not turn a blind eye on that, Andrea could be my interpretor…?” but they stick to their regulations. Only I can go in…

At first the police officers say: “no photo, no video…”, but the head-administrator of the camp, who is my supervisor intervenes: “panorama shots yes, portraits not”. He stays closely next to me, keen that I do not go beyond this “red-line”… but the longer we are in the camp, the more relaxed he gets.

Already at the entrance gate you can get a feeling that the camp is very full and crowded. It’s now shortly before lunch-time and the inmates are waiting outdoor in the courtyard and queuing for their meal.


Lampedusa Refugee Camp, November 2008

Francesca the camps interpretor (she speaks Arabic, French, English and Italian…) explains the structure of the camp. A so called “pre-identification” is the first thing in the camp the migrants have to undergo. Most of them arrive without official papers or ID, they are asked about their name, country of origine, date of birth and get an internal registry number. This procedure is followed by a health check with medical assistance and doctors from the camp. After that civil employees from the camp are handing out the so called “kit”. The “kit” comprises all clothes needed: a jacket, trousers, a shirt, underwear, socks, shoes… and a 5€ telephone card. So the migrants are able to call their families or friends for one or two minutes…


phoning @ Lampedusa Refugee Camp, November 2008

The Lampedusa camp is a closed off area. The migrants are not allowed to leave it. They are supposed to stay here for only a couple of days to make place for new arrivals. But in reality most of the inmates must hold out for a couple of weeks if not months because the other refugee- camps and CPTs in Sicilly and Italy are full, too or the Government not willing to take the Lampedusa-migrants. Therefore the Lampedusa camp often is heavily overcrowded. The same is now: in the men’s compartment the yard’s floor is widely covered with mattresses. They are without blankets – some inmates have tinkered a makeshift coverage as sort of a ‘roof’ from taped plastic bags, fixed from the camps metal fence to the bottom of their mattress. Coming from Africa to Europe = sleeping rough – even in November!

Lampedusa Refugee Camp, Makeshift Outdoor-Bed @ Men’s Compartment, 2008

We get asked for cigarettes or a lighter… they are welcoming Francesca; she is one of few from the camps administration they can talk and communicate in their language.

One migrant tells of his crossings experience, where three others have been perished drowning in the sea. Two in Africa when they had to swim to the boat – one when they arrived at the shores in Lampedusa… But that is the only short opportunity to talk to one of the refugees, when the inspector goes into the building to check the medical department (if we can go in or if there are patients who could be embarrassed about our visit). Francesca, the interpretor helps translating. I wished to be able to do more interviews with the immigrants. But no way…
In the medical department a couple of GPs and family doctors are engaged – but no specialists, even not a dentist. The administration seems to be proud of the modern kitchen with its conveyor belt and automatic production line.

When we are finished to walk and see the camp and the interview with Federico, the director is due, I learn that it can not take place! He is busy. Strange enough, that was the reason they suggested me to come here. Okay, lets try later in the afternoon.

Cycling back to our flat, I somehow feel stired up from what I have seen in the camp. They are living so cramped, why can they not leave the camp…?

In the afternoon we call Federico to do the interview but again, he is busy. “let’s do it tomorrow” he suggests. Is he willing to do it at all?

At 5pm we meet at Radio Delta’s office. The only local radio station on the island. It’s small but Lampedusians are listening to it. Antonino is doing a one hours live-programme on air with Andrea and me about the lighthouse project! Starting it off with Pink Floyds “WALL… we don’t need no education”, I have the opportunity to tell them how I developed the idea and how it might be realized in the future… We have good fun in the studio. Andrea translates into Italian what I say and he speaks from his perspective as a gallerist. Antonino is great, well organized, hard and fast engaged in social issues of the island, great fun to get to know him.  He really wants to push the project on Lampedusa: “Why are you doing a modell for the lighthouse in Reggio Emilia… you should do it here, here is the place it has to stand…” he said on air.

Later we are going for a nice dinner together. Tomorrow we have to leave. In forteen days the exhibition opens at Andrea’s gallery!

Lampedusa Refugee Camp, November 2008
hairdressing in the refugee camp, Lampedusa, women’s compartment

Diary Part I / September 29 to October 5, 2008

September 29, 2008

Flight: Berlin-Milano-Palermo-Lampedusa

Checked in at Berlin-Tegel, reading the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, loudspeakers shout: “last call for passenger thomas kilpper…” I run to the gate, discover that my boarding-pass and ID are missing, running back to the table where I was sitting… lucky me: my jacket with all the money, ID and stuff… is still there. I am the last passenger to board the plane.
Arrival in Lampedusa at about 9.30pm – about an hour in delay: tourist-photo-shots from the gangway, …“no foto” says the officer – stick to it: no more flash but video: on the way to the exit we pass an african plane that some four, five Africans are just about to board – a guard standing next to the gangway. Obviously a deportation flight.

Weather is nice, mild and warm. I inform Maria about my arrival, ten minutes later I am sitting in her car on the way to my – better: her appartment, off Via Roma. It’s very central, big and quite ideal for me.
Going out for a pizza – I come across a mourning procession, some 50-80 mourners silently follow an old mercedes catafalque that stopps in front of the church, next to a black priest. Nice images, pity I left my cameras in the flat: never go out without ‘em here! I wonder… why do they have a black reverend – here with the african refugees…? I should try to meet with him!
After lunch watching Italian TV, a Vietnam movie – in the style of Stanley Kubrick’s full metall jacket but much weaker. A small group of US-soldiers kidnap a young Vietnamese woman into the woods and rape her – only one of them resists and wants to help her; but he is too weak, to stand up to/against his comrades to stop them. “victims of the war” channel 4.
In the night – must have been in the morning at about 8am – I dreamt intensively crazy stuff, my sister flooded entirely our large bathroom opening the water-pipe to the toilette. When I came to our house everything was watered, even from the neighbours ceiling it was dripping…
A funeral’s procession – rape – flooding… what a start.

Tuesday, September 30

Sleeping late, shopping in the supermercado, breakfast. Prices are fairly high – summs up to 43.60€… giving a 50€ note, becoming 10€ back, with a generous and determinated gesture. Never experienced anything similar in Germany. Islanders…?
Rain. Somehow desoriented I’m roaming in the centre of the town, watching the streets, the houses and public life… looking for a bicycle to rent, looking for the townhall… asking for the councilor for culture… “Antonio Colapinto has just the council…” it seems a new councilor for culture still has to be appointed or voted…? “Tomorrow at ten, the major is here…”.
I ring the reverend’s bell, nothing happens, not at home…
A bike rental asks for 10€ per day… – though I got a scooter offered for 12, and meet a couple with bikes that cost a fiver each per day. But there all the bikes are rented out, so I wait but take a scooter for one day asking the guy he shall send me a SMS once a bike is available.
Scooter is great, really fast, I search the office of “Alternativa Giovanni ONLUS” at Via Grecale 22, find the address and someone in an office on the ground-floor in that very building and ask him about this group… “where are they…?”, “I don’t know, but not here; I think they are somewhere in the centre…”. When I am about to leave the building I discover the group’s logo on the first floor and a sticker next to the staircase. Asking him about that… he was slightly irritated…, “well they are on the first floor… (primero piano)…” – I don’t know what that was, as he works here everyday?

Driving my moped – I reach in 15 minutes the end of the isle passing stoney fields with wild herbs making the air smell oregano. The cliffs are massive and steep to the north coast, beautiful, clear azure blue water, an empty quarry, military radars and antennae. The drizzle now turns into heavy rain, I look for some protection in the quarry, when the rain decreases I go to the moped to return, large and deep slops make me drive slow, as heavy rain starts again I just drive in an open private ground with a garage. After some 15-20 minutes I continue my way back… completely wet and watered.

Model for the Lampedusa Lighthouse with Cultural Centre
Steel Netting Mesh, Wire, Paper, ca. 180 x 50 x 60 cm, January 2008,

Wednesday, October 1st

The day of waiting. At the townhall (municipio) – 2nd floor, here are the offices of the major and the councillors. People just go in and out, no queuing or anything similar… I am told just to wait, what I patiently do for about 90 minutes. Somehow interesting to be here and watch. It reminds me to Jenin townhall – but the big difference: there I had my projects partners from the Goethe and a local scout at my side. But the way people behave and move within the townhall to contact the major or other officials is quite similar. It seems everything is to do with subjective relationship. After 90 minutes an employee of the commune led me to Marco Bartolo – an employee on the first floor – who speaks English and shall come to help translating. First he is not happy about it at all as he would have so much to do. But after a while talking to me – he turns quite open and friendly.
During waiting an elderly, about 70 years old, ordery man roams the 2nd floor, behaving as if he is in charge,… curious what I am about… I show him and the bystanders my project proposal, (that in the meanwhile I received from Andrea Sassi and printed it out in the only public internet-point on the isle) he turns quite openly negative: “we have already a light-house”, “who is your employer or principal, you have to present them here and to write a concrete letter of request…” pushing me to defend the project: “of course you have a light-house… but it is not an art-work – and I am the artist and as such I am my own employer and boss – like Michelangelo was, when he made his David…”. He tries to persuade the employed – in Italian – they should not listen to me, it would be rubish and obsolete – obviously believing I would not understand. I later learn he was an ambassador and now lives part-time in Lampedusa. Marco openly says “he’s an a…” – he will know why.
After almost 2 hours a high-heeled shaky beauty comes and let me know: “Tomorrow at 10am the major will be here, come then once more…”

Now I want to find the boat-cemetry, artist Marco Poloni has told about when we met in Berlin. Easy to find. It looks quite surreal and impressive – a bright blue dot in the middle of the fields.

Actually there are two boat-dumps, one next to the main road, and another one some 300 meter further down the valley, the municipal waste deposal site, for cars, fridges, sofas… and the boats of the immigrants. Partly piled up like sardines in a box partly piled up criss-cross – they seemed to be painted with the same paint as they have almost an identical bright blue tone, most of them have arabic names at the bow. That’s the material for the sculpture – at least for the model in Reggio Emilia and Florence. Should be possible to get some of em, as shredding and removal for the commune only costs money. Most important discovery on the island until now. From now the idea to buy timber and build the model with it seems not convincing anymore. How do we get and transport them? Will shipping be expensive…? I have to divide the boats fitting on a lorry (needs a loader crane) – or would it be better to ship them on the sea to La Spezia. Forgot to ask for the telephone number of the waste depot…
Next… to the lighthouse at the northern end of the isle. It’s in military use (nameplate at the gate), the tower is about 12-15 meter high, wonder how far can it be seen? The cliffs are some 30 meter deep, if not more, it’s postcard idyll. Next to the tower is a climate research observatory.
On the way back to town I pass and stop at “Alternativa Giovanni”, leave a note with my phone number at the door.
Return my lovely moped and change it for a lousy mountain-bike instead, rattling, wobbly, the gears are not working so I have to go back and try to improve it with the mechanics…
Discovering the only Gallery in Lampedusa – “LMP Art Gallery”… increddible kitschy prints, but as well nice old black&white photos from Lampedusa. A photo with Mimmo Paladinos Lampedusa-Refugee-Monument “Porta di Europa” on display makes me ask, if he has any contact to the people who supported the monument.
He gives me the telephone number of Giovanni Fragapane, a local writer and artist. Calling him turns rather in a choking word finding than conversation… but at least we manage to arrange an appointment at 3pm at his house. Via Roma 133, less than 100 meter from my flat… with our cell phones we communicate via satelites over a distance of about 10.000 miles…
On my way home from lunch in a nice restaurant I bump into a wonderful public music and dance party – sweltry tear jerkers at piazza Brignone.
Do some videoing and shots. The dramatic migration problem as background for my journey I arrive in this very party. Haven’t seen a single refugee, none – they are an invisible phantom. Where are they? After my first information, the detention centre would be next to the airport, I do a walk-through there, discovering a construction-site with lots of surveillance cameras. It might be part of the deportation procedure but the real detention centre – called CPT (Centri di Permanenza Temporanea / centre of temporary stay/detention – permanent temporary seems antagonistic… doesn’t it?) – is located in the centre of the isle, placed at the end of a small valley, into which you have to go for about one km (on Via Imbriacola), to arrive at the entrance gate.

Thursday, 10 am – municipio

The major is present, listens just three sentences to jump up from his chair “…che bello… un progetto d’arte… un faro con centro cultura… d’ architetto Renzo Piano…” rushing to the anteroom and handing over the issue to Mr. Gianni Sparma, councilor for tourism, transport, sport and spectacle – as they actually do not have any for cultural affairs.
Great, Marco translates. Mr Sparma is very formal, “we need a precise description and application of what you want …”, “…At this stage, we just need from you the permission to take some four, five boats from the communal waste depot to build my model in the exhibitions in Reggio Emilia and Florence.
Asked to repeat this in front of my camera, for a second he turns sympathetic as he shyly smiles obviously irritated – “shall I feel flattered? or…”. Backdrop during the interview are awful propgandistic illustrations. They truly remind me to the ‘style’ of the Third Reich – they are the cover-pages of the annual reports 2006 and 2007 of the ‘Guardia di Finanza’. Horrible but it clearly shows where we are. Glaring.
After the meeting I write the demanded letter and send it (in English) to Andrea for translation… would be great to present it to Mr. Sparma the next morning.
At 3pm I meet Giovanni Fragapane. Very nice and sympathetic – communication in Italian with some French and English nuggets – quite difficult – but easier than on the phone, as we can watch our gestures. He talks slow and articulate, tries to make me understand. He likes the idea with the light-house but obviously not the use of the refugee boats. That would cause some sanitary and hygienic problems – the purity of the project would suffer – do I understand well? why that? what does he really mean?
I am a bit confused and definetly think different about it. We watch the road atlas of Sicilly and get useful tips and telephone numbers for my trip there. Definitely better to take the plane to Palermo (spending some days in Sicilly…) than the ferry boat to Porto Empedocle, as in case of bad weather, the boat is not running (missing my plane from Palermo to Berlin October 8…)
Nice meeting – but trying to get in touch with any supporter of Mimmo Paladinos Monument…: no way. (I still don’t know how this sculpture was developed and installed but there must have been a group of supporters it can’t have been only the initiative of the artist. The ‘appello’ is peppered with famous Italians.
Take my bike and cycle to the office of the ‘Alternative Giovani’, have a look if anyone is there… – lucky me, this time I meet Giacomo, who confirmed my note at the door, he calls his friend to come as he speaks English. Antonino arrives 15 minutes later and I tell them the idea – what they very much appreciate. They seem to be really enthusiastic and want to see more work – so we switch on their computer and browse my web-site… Giacomo: “crazy artist… – …utopist…”. This sounds not bad to me. Giacomo has to leave for his job in a hotel – so we disperse not without the promise to meet again soon and stay in touch. Nice guys, quite young – I guess 18, 20 something… but not much older? I’d fancy working together with them.
Where exactly is the CPT? – Giacomo made a ballpen mark on the map. But as it was fairly incorrect my search for it took about half an hour. In fact it’s hidden – they placed it at the end of a valley. In the darkening sky an extreme bright light at the end of the road betrayed it. Arriving the entrance gate shortly before 8pm – three men sitting in their car, the engine running… I try to gain some seconds and go aside for a pee but cannot really hide and wait,
there is nothing but some parked cars and they already have seen me…, “I bet they are guards, waiting for a colleague” – my thought is quicker confirmed as born…, of course they can see my camera… “you are not allowed to take any footage, it is a military object – you need to ask for permission at the police-station, yes… even from outside”, I let my camera running, the lense ostentatiously directed to the ground – I hope to have our exchange of words taped and that the sound is utilisable. But no images so far, I need some ideas on that!
Buy a (devil-?) fish and a squid at the nearby harbour – capers, olives, lemon and origan – nice cooking, drawing with the squid’s ink a small sheet – “poor calamari”, tomorrow the other devil gets grilled. Tastes super, I love calamares.

Friday, October 3

At 10am at the never friendly L’EDICOLA – kiosk the only Internet-Point here: Andrea has sent his translation – superb! – we speak on the phone: his suggestion to drop one line for the time being (the light-house shall help minimizing the risk during the perilous crossing) and to bring this when the project is approved… is ok as we need the municipio… the project cannot go ahead without – and it’s run by Lega Norte!
Bring my letter to Mr. Sparma, he criticises the partly general character – I point out: not all things can get finalised at this early stage of the project but that our request for permission to take 4, 5 wrecks is precisely formulated. “Who will decide it?…”
“Probably the prefetura di Agrigento – as it is the superior authority…” – “You can’t decide independently on your local waste dump…?”
Sounds like disillusioning administration-gaga. “How long will it take you to come forward with a decission…” – “at least one month…”, aha, I see (how similar cases seem to be, Frankfurt jail, Frankfurt savings bank 1822, Queen Mary College, German Railway with the Stasi-HQ… – do I anything wrong?) – he stamps and registers our letter: “PROT.N: 12297, RICEVUTA 3/10/08.” Assoluto ufficiale – absolutely official.
Cycling once more to the boat-cemetery and waste-depot, talking to the man at the gate, somehow preparing him, and would have been good to have his telephone number… “here we don’t have”… “and what about your cell-phone?…”, don’t get his number. Leave the scene and at the end of the site where the fence has a gap I sneak in – take out a plank with partly arab signs.
It sticks out of my rucksack so I decide to deposit it nearby under a little tree. I don’t want to attract attention as I will try to approach the detention centre. This time from the other end.
Passing the waste-dump and following the street, that soon becomes a stoney path – some fivehundred meters later it leads into the street that brings you to the prison’s entrance gate… The people and their former boats are not far away from each other. By accident?
I would like to come close to the CPT and try to talk to the inmates, how are you, how was your crossing, how long did it take, what do you expect in your case, deportation or will you get access to europe and the status of a refugee…?
I try to approach the site from south, you have to find the right access, with public paths that do not turn into dead ends… After all I manage to come as close as 300, 200 meter. Am I crazy? Just now a low flying helicopter approaches (in approximately 100m hight); directly above me! Hell, it’s the first time I hear and see a helicopter in Lampedusa. (Reminds me of 1988, when a police-helicopter appeared, after I sneaked into the woods… and made clear an observation is under way).
I didn’t expect soldiers to guard the site from outside. Discovering a Jeep standing on the hill-top next to the path made me look carefully – after a first thought it might be one of those car-wrecks rotting in the middle of nowhere… – I really discover a group of three soldiers, chatting under a camouflage net in the field, about 20 meter away from their jeep. They seemed to be very relaxed, no idea whether they have seen me – I guess they must have, it’s nothing here where you can hide… and not so many people are doing their walk right here… Take some shots. Have not the guts to go straight to the soldiers… talking to ’em, asking about their job and have a look how they react. I try to avoid any direct contact with them.

Saturday, October 4

In the morning I cycle to the airport, until now I haven’t got a return ticket, I am just on the waiting-list for the flight tomorrow morning… Wowh, it works out… I didn’t expect it, I got the ticket to Palermo tomorrow morning at 6.50! Super. But that means it’s my last day in Lampedusa.
I asked the guy at the airport to call Maria and explain I would like to meet her at my flat – check out – as I have to leave earlier… shopping (water for today and the journey), SMS to Antonino to meet and ask whether he has any idea how to contact the Medicines sans Frontiers – a red Opel Corsa with MSF-sticker the other day reminded me of the fact that they are working here… (should have left a note under the wiper!) – about 2 hours later he SMS’s back the telephone number of Marinella. She works with the Medicines sans Frontiers. I call her – and leave a message on her mailbox.Paying Maria (on the phone she said 20€ per night – six nights / she says seven days… I give her 150€ – first she did not seem to be satisfied, but after a minute she turned very happy and friendly. I suggest to stay in bed instead of driving me at 5.30 to the airport… not a problem to walk…
Try to meet with the Reverend – twice he is not in, the third time he is and I can talk to him – videoing. Vincent M Wagala, five years ago he came from Tansania – he is positive about the light-house idea and sees a difference to sensation seaking journalists who never think about what they could do themselves… but his attitude towards the authorities, including the CPT makes me wonder: the collaboration with the CPT would be fine, he gets called if one of the detainees wishs to see him, he beliefs circumstances within the prison are not bad as he does not hear any complaints, most of the detainees should be released fairly quick as faces are always changing…
I think the church did a clever job to place a black Reverend at this very hot spot – the African gateway to Europe.
Would like to get some footage from the CPTs entrance gate; this time I decide just to cycle towards the gate the camera switched on, not to stop but constantly move… Again some officers are outside, just about to leave the prison and get onto their car or moped… I carry on – five meter in front of the gate I make a U-turn rolling downhill back. Someone blows a whistle, a moped closes in on me, – I switch off the camera – a youngster, 20 something, drives next to me and made me understand “the police officer wants to talk to you… please return to the CPT…”, “why?…”, “because they would like to talk to you…”, “okay…” pretending to obey I turn again – making the guy pleased, he accelerates and drives on – so that I continue my getaway and leave the road immediately after he has disappeared. I am now on the way to the waste dump… I expect them to deploy and look for me – I stolidly follow this path, – passing a construction site that looks like a home for dogs… with a dozen dog pounds. What do they plan here? – and again driving past the waste dump. Under a tree off the road I check my footage, almost not useable, nothing brillant at all. What a pity I switched off the camera when the moped was coming… the sound – the guy’s words would have been funny enough.
Someone briefly let my mobile ring – like knocking at my door – it’s Marinella from MSF – calling back is to open my door… I can talk to Saverijo a friend of hers, explaining why I would like to come in touch – super: we arrange to meet in half an hour. The address is opposite ‘Alternativo Giovanni’ – so I don’t need to search the street – we meet at their private house – don’t know if they have an office here in Lampedusa… Very nice people, Marinella and Saverijo are doctors and Louisa is a nurse. My idea to take a strong light beam as a guideline, downsizing as far as possible the danger of the crossing is very much appreciated. “Most serious and even fatal accidents happen exactly if they have lost orientation – so at least during the night this definitely could provide orientation and help cutting short the peril…”
They must know – MSF carries out a general primary medical care and first aid for the refugees… They are in contact and can talk to them.
Wished they would repeat this in front of my camera… but they need authorisation of their headquarter in Rome. I offer not to use any footage unless the ‘okay’ is given… but they do not. It’s a matter of trust – bad experience before? I do not see it as a personal matter as they ‘know’ me for 20 minutes…
I can imagine that the organisation is not too keen to get involved with the project at this early stage. They have to stay trustworthy so that the coast guard and boarder police will call them furthermore. If they would jeopardise their relation and would put at risk not to get called anymore … they could quit the job. This must not happen, as their job is far too important for the migrants.
…First aid in Europe in the truest sense of the word. MSF has an agreement with the coast guard, they get called by the authorities when new “clandestines” (how the refugees are called by the police here) have been found. Before they are brought to the CPT they can check their health, give them water, vitamins or other essential nutrition, or they arrange transport to the hospital or other medical treatment if needed… Just four days ago they got the latest call – that means a new group of refugees arrived when I was here but did not notice anything. Although I am sensitive to the issue.
It seems their impression of both the administration at the townhall and the priest is similar to mine. They are quite critical about them. I have to think about it, what I want from MSF, it might be better to collaborate on a more informal and personal level rather institutional.
Last supper – fish – clean-up of the flat and packing my stuff. Too tired to contact the youngsters from “Alternativa Giovani”, at 10pm I return the bike to the shop.

Sunday October 5, Lampedusa

I wake up shortly before 5am – before the alarm-clock rings. An espresso helps me to really awake. When I leave the house it’s still dark; spooky silence, only binmen and some cats and dogs are on the streets. My walk to the airport is like the walk to my S-Bahn station in Berlin. The airport terminal is still closed, with some other passengers I dozily wait on the metal benches in front of the building, they remind me of Wolfgang Breuer’s bench in front of our house… Personnel arrives and opens the doors. Inside the airport almost all the walls are decorated with motifs from the island, either framed photos or even some painted murals – like a wonderful wall behind the check-in desk – where at the bottom our suitcases disappear on the luggage belt in a cat flap like black hole…
Above the clouds soon after take-off Mount Etna gleams in the morning light. Why not going there? I have three days to wait until my already booked (and fix) return flight leaves Palermo.
Plane is completely booked out. Not until we get out of the plane in Palermo I discover that I was flying with the entire Lampedusian football team! They have a match here in Sicilly the same day. I take some shots – little stars, no one loves more to pose…

“this is the most southern european football team, even Malta is more north…” the president of the club (3rd from left on the above photo) states.
Sitting on the train to Palermo – the airport is in the outskirts in Punta Raiis, 45 minutes away from the centre – I think, how silly, I could have asked them to join – as a supporter, that would have been great, filming the guys… they would be flipped out, I guess…
Anyway… I didn’t do it, didn’t have the guts to ask and was not resolute but wavered. At the station I buy a map of Sicily and ask the shopkeeper what is the best way to Mount Etna… – 5 minutes later I am on the coach to Catania. Buying the tickets…: the machine for the train did not take any note, so the conducter friendly said, come in… at the bus station the price for Palermo-Catania is 13,90 I pay with a 50€ note and the teller tried as clever as he could giving as few change as possible – first only a 10 Cent coin, than a twenty € note and a tenner – hesitating to come up with anything more… me: not running away and counting what have I got… oh… here are coming some more coins… (in total 6€!) – so even the bus is leaving in a second: do not rush but recount.
In Catania at the train station I am welcomed by a police officer with the Hitler salute after asking about the luggage storage and a bike rental… makes me sick. Really astonished and disappointed not to see me laugh – he knows a place to rent a bike. I deposit most of my baggage, keeping my cameras, laptop, rain- and fleeze-jacket, food… in my rucksack. The bicycles to rent are the cheapest – with broken plastic pedals and heavy steel frames…really bad – but I go for it – 100€ deposit, 20€ rent for two days. Stinking traffic although it’s Sunday, Mount Etna… off we go! No signpostings – after one or two kilometers street gets super steep; I end up in a cul-de-sac, a footpath trough scrub and waste land saves me from descending… My legs are fine, sweating like crazy, my ¾ trousers let the sun burn my thanks…


to be continued…

State of Control (working title / concept)

Concept for an art project in the building Normannenstraße 19 in Berlin Lichtenberg, former Ministry for State Security of the GDR

In Normannenstraße 19, an oversized “linoleum section” is being created in the floor covering of the building; two large halls with over 800 m2 PVC floor covering form the starting material for this.
I cut directly into the found substance of this charged place and inscribe myself in it with pictures and words. I break the resistance of his material: the building or its floor is transformed into a huge stamp. A controversial place in contemporary history that has been abandoned for years is revived, reoccupied and redefined.
After the linocut has been produced, it is printed and sewn onto 3-metre-wide lengths of fabric. The site and the artistic intervention will then be made accessible to the public in an exhibition.
The six-week exhibition in Normannenstraße offers the opportunity to present the entire print (approx. 18 metres high and 30 metres wide) on the outer façade and numerous individual prints as well as the entire ground work inside the building. Here visitors can walk over the work of art – the printing block – and the print results hang from the ceiling and on the walls. The viewer finds and moves between “positive” and “negative” – the floor work and its prints become an installation.
It is particularly important to use the floor for this intervention, because it is literally “fundamental” and the starting point for all our activities. Important events, clashes, history – everything inscribes itself sedimentarily here – the ground is a carrier of meaning, in which one has to dig oneself in if one wants to find it.
For me, the process of approaching and working with the soil material symbolizes the handling of the Stasi – an open process to uncover the deposits and sediments.

Definition of content and background

For many years I have been interested in abandoned, functionless buildings as artistic source material: On the one hand, in order to appropriate and occupy the “dead” space beyond the institutional art world and thus open up new play and effect spaces for art. On the other hand, it is the socio-political dimension: the phenomenon of “vacancy” in urban agglomerations is the result of a real estate market increasingly determined by speculation and profit maximization. Intervention in this wasteland resource therefore also has a social dimension and significance. By establishing references to the social function and history of the place, my interventions can be compared with the attempt to reactivate forgotten memory by means of psychoanalysis.

The building Normannenstraße 19 in Berlin Lichtenberg, which had been vacant for about 10 years, was part of the Ministry for State Security of the GDR. Here there was a cinema, canteen and ballroom for the servants and agents as well as shopping facilities in Intershops. A few weeks after the opening of the Wall and the “Wende”, the building was occupied in January 1990 by numerous citizens of the former GDR and searched for files. Hardly any other place in Berlin was more severely rejected or even hated than this one.
The topic of surveillance and punishment inscribed in this place is the starting point and reference point of my intervention.
It is about both a critical examination of the former state security of the GDR and a historical review of various state concepts of surveillance and repression – from the medieval pillory to the Nazi block warden, from grid searches to the digital present, locating people from outer space via GPS and mobile phones.
“Telephone Surveillance, Raster Investigation, Bugging Attack, Government Access to Bank Accounts, Video Surveillance, Data Retention, Secret Searches
private computers, central storage of digitized fingerprints, internal military operations, shooting down hijacked civilian aircraft…” (Heribert Prantl, in Der Terrorist als Gesetzgeber, How to make politics with fear. Verlag Droemer Knaur 2008) – this is the direction in which new initiatives are constantly being taken by politicians under the heading “Fight against international terrorism”. They repeatedly raise the question of the relationship between civil liberties on the one hand and state control on the other. This relationship is increasingly shifted to the detriment of freedoms and in favour of state control. This development and its implicit contradictions are put up for discussion in the project in the sense of an emancipatory discourse and a civil societal confrontation between civil liberties vs. state power – data protection vs. security.

Even if problematic tendencies towards excessive surveillance can be observed, at the same time there are manifold initiatives to infiltrate and question these measures by the authorities. These impulses of resistance should also flow into the work.
In addition, the project explores the extent to which art – in times of dominant market orientation – is able to convey and transport universal contents such as the idea of “freedom” as a current social concept of life.

Promotion

This labour-intensive and complex project requires substantial financial support in order to be realised. It has the potential to be perceived in and beyond Berlin as an important art project and to initiate a social debate among the general public.

Thomas Kilpper
Berlin, April 2008

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.

Diary

22.03.03
Subject: reclaim public space for social and cultural initiatives!
Date: Thu, 22 May 2003 00:25:45 +0200
From: jenin@kilpper-projects.net
To: jenin@kilpper-projects.net

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

03.06.03
Subject: my project
Date: Tue, 03 Jun 2003 21:13:01 +0200
From: jenin@kilpper-projects.net
To: jenin@kilpper-projects.net

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

yours
thomas

03.06.03
Subject: hello from jenin
Date: Tue, 03 Jun 2003 22:02:39 +0200
From: jenin@kilpper-projects.net
To: jenin@kilpper-projects.net

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.

best
thomas

06.06.03
Subject: palestine – israel
Date: Fri, 06 Jun 2003 22:23:21 +0200
From: jenin@kilpper-projects.net
To: jenin@kilpper-projects.net

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
thomas

09.06.03
Subject: the jenin-horse
Date: Mon, 09 Jun 2003 16:43:27 +0200
From:
To:

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
thomas

ps: in the “perlentaucher.de” 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

12.06.03
Subject: back to normal
Date: Thu, 12 Jun 2003 21:08:25 +0200
From:
To:

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…
best
thomas

13.06.03
Subject: death squad in jenin
Date: Fri, 13 Jun 2003 19:26:24 +0200
From:
To:

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.

16.06.03
Subject: german luftwaffe in jenin
Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 22:17:20 +0200
From:
To:

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.
best
thomas

20.06.03
Subject: in the refugee camp
Date: Fri, 20 Jun 2003 22:01:29 +0200
From:
To:

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.

best
thomas

23.06.03

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

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?
strange.
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.

best
thomas

24.06.03

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

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…

best
thomas

27.06.03
Subject: shots into the workshop
Date: Fri, 27 Jun 2003 22:50:07 +0200
From:
To:

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!

best
thomas

01.07.03
Subject: friendly fire in jenin
Date: Tue, 01 Jul 2003 23:53:13 +0200
From:
To:

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,
thomas

08.07.03
Subject: ride your horse
Date: Tue, 08 Jul 2003 19:20:52 +0200
From:
To:

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!

best
thomas

17.07.03
Subject: horse riding in the westbank
Date: Thu, 17 Jul 2003 22:36:32 +0200
From:
To:

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
thomas

23.07.03
Subject: the ride to ramallah
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2003 00:10:22 +0200
From:
To:

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
best
thomas

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

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
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