WHAT IF…? The first biennial of the URBAN NATION museum open up urban space for utopias, asks questions about the future of urban living and demonstrates the urgency of more sustainable reasoning.

  • by Nancy Henze

From September 13 to 15, 2019, the first URBAN NATION Biennale “ROBOTS AND RELICS: UNMANNED” transforms the space under the U-Bahn high line at Bülowstraße into a time capsule encapsulating both the origins and the distant future of cities. Curated by URBAN NATION director Yasha Young, a cooperation with 27 renowned artists has resulted in a unique, walk-in work of art of more than 100 meters in length.

In a Gesamtkunstwerk or total work of art a multitude of scenarios range from a ruined city to unpopulated natural spaces, such as forests, seas, jungles or deserts. Installations, interactive sculptures and live performances afford the visitors a glimpse of diverse worlds while challenging every last one of their senses. The artworks take their cue from the 17 goals of sustainable development formulated by the United Nations.

What if?

Headline questions of the “what if”-variety guide the visitors through the exhibition, clustering and connecting positions and artistic ideas. The biennial demonstrates once again the potential of Urban Art as a catalyst for highly relevant contemporary debates. Issues surrounding climate protection and future societies become visible and demand reflection. The various sites of the artworks bridge the past and scenarios of the future. They carry us off into barren deserts with relics of human existence, colorfully patterned animals in overgrown areas as well as spherical light worlds. All the artworks at the UN biennial intend to raise awareness of community’s power, to inform us about the status quo of societal and ecological issues and campaign for sustainability.

Different cultural perspectives

Works by 27 artists of different backgrounds present a plethora of perspectives: the works of the Canadian Ekow Nimako are inspired by the mythology of Ghana and the wisdom of West African folk traditions. He translates these into installations made from Lego bricks. Also from Canada hails the illustrator and painter Sandra Chevrier, whose main subject matter is the female body and its colonization by societal stereotypes. Filthy Luker from Great Britain post their comment on contemporary themes by way of larger than life-sized, inflatable sculptures directly into urban space: enormous tentacles sprout from the windows of the museum building. The German duo HERAKUT lay down a light marker in dark places with its interactive installation, highlighting art’s potential to inspire societal change. The Chilean artist INTI, in turn, addresses the metaphysical while his warm color tones are unmistakably informed by Latin American influences.

Art mile and neighborhood festival

On the occasion of its 100th anniversary Gewobag presents the first URBAN NATION Biennial, creating art experiences in the context of a neighborhood festival. All anniversary activities take place under the motto “Zukunft hat Raum” (future has space), instigating encounters and connecting people in their city. Curated by Yasha Young, Urban Art shows where it comes from: the street. Accessibility to the covered art mile is unhampered. Admission is free. Local stores and restaurants support the biennial, offering food and drink to visitors at reduced prices. Children and adults are invited to marvel at the art mile. The smallest children can run riot; the water area asks everyone to immerse themselves, while in the jungle the artistically designed wreckage of an airplane waits to be discovered. A Community Wall is set to inspire visitors to express their own vision of our common future: feel free to make a drawing. The URBAN NATION Museum is the lighthouse project of Stiftung Berliner Leben, a foundation of Gewobag. Based in Berlin, the museum is part of a global network supporting an innovative Urban Art Community. Artists have shown their work in the house since 2017. They exchange ideas among themselves as well as with the neighborhood and are inspired by creative Schöneberg. On the occasion of the biennial a magazine will be published for the first time that serves as a guide to the exhibition and marks thematic focal points.

Project M/15 – URBAN NATION x Moniker CULTURE – SONORO

Moreover, URBAN NATION, in partnership with Moniker CULTURE, presents works by 2 Alas at the URBAN NATION production office in Bülowstraße 7. The concentrated, singular position of the artistic duo from Miami juxtaposes wall-sized black-and-white portraits and geometrical abstractions. The installation addresses the social and the environmental crisis, forcing the viewers to reflect on their ramifications and consequences. The main material employed in the artistic works of 2 Alas is moss – which also shows man’s continuous intervention into nature. The opening will take place on September 13 from 6 p.m. Admission is free.

Bülowstraße 7, 10783 Berlin
September 13, 2019: 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
September 14, 2019: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
September 15, 2019: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Free admission

Download Press Release

PressReleaseBiennale (pdf)