The Wagenhalle as space for artistic production between gentrification and self-administration
Exhibition and discussion at Künstlerhaus Stuttgart
Curated by Robert Steng
The Künstlerhaus has always been taking active part in the discussions around the cultural, political, and sociological questions that have shaped the city of Stuttgart for the last decades. The most important question was initially asked at a gathering titled Kunstprovinz oder Kunstmetropole? – Wie entwickelt sich die Kunstszene (Art Province or Metropolis? – How is the art scene developing) at Künstlerhaus on 9 October 1981. Amongst the participants were Joseph Beuys, Manfred Rommel, Wieland Schmied, Laszlo Glozer, Michael Klett, and “Bunte Fabrik” (Knoedler & Lepetit). This question still holds today.
Relating to this issue we spontaneously initiated an artist run exhibition project with the focus on artistic research and production, taking place at the studios in the Nordbahnhof area.
The project will present and critically reflect upon the range of what has been created so far and think about what could happen with the area in the future.
Stuttgart based artist and technical manager at Künstlerhaus, Robert Steng, organises the exhibition together with artists working at Wagenhallen. The aim is to reconsider artistic production in the inner city of Stuttgart in times of urban change.
“One of the few positive results of Stuttgart 21 originated as a mere side effect. Out of the chaotic tussle around the gigantic restructuring of Stuttgart’s inner city, gaps and open spaces emerged, which have been used intensely by artists since 2000. On the area around Nordbahnhof, former train compartments have been used as studio and exhibition spaces and concert venues. Later on the Wagenhallen became part of it and now offer an enormous home to many artists and musicians. Until then comparable spaces were strictly structured in terms of their usefulness; self-organised artists and studio houses were not even imaginable. Within the ongoing struggles around Stuttgart 21, the area around Nordbahnhof (which was initially a temporary solution) has been developing into a place for artists. The big success and high demand for studio space make it very clear that a vacuum has been filled by this project. After the Waggons were cleared and have become mere history (like other studio houses, such as the OP Nord) a permanent solution for the Wagenhallen as a space for artistic production seems in reach and more needed than ever. Already, it becomes clear that the central location of the Wagenhallen is desirable for all sorts of profitable usage – the key term is gentrification. Further, the question arises if the city planners are willing to protect and integrate this space, after they have recovered from the first shock of S21. Internally, the users of the Wagenhallen have to master the task of organising the structure of self-administration and to shape their focus – concerning the content as well as the space. In my opinion it is most important to understand the space as production space for visual art and support and expand the studios.
The unique aspect of the Wagenhallen is their dynamics and size, the surrounding railroad industry and the proletarian residential areas, right next to the major road with its endless flow of traffic, but still very central. This place is unique and irreplaceable!
The exhibition at Künstlerhaus Stuttgart is no survey of the work at the Wagenhallen, but rather a subjective selection of some artists who are, in my opinion, working with the material body of the place, its fleetingness and the improbability of its history. The positions shown are shaped by the place which enabled them. An outside view of this production (as it can be currently seen at the Gallery of the city of Backnang) and the discussions around gentrification are aimed at supporting the Wagenhallen.”