Spring is the time of year when nature and life are refuelled with energy. Sun, fresh green and blossoming flowers point to a lively new beginning. The Polish artist Pawel Althamer (born in Warsaw, 1967) conveyed this feeling with his exhibition project Frühling (Spring) at the Kunsthalle Fridericianum. For the project, he had invited several hundred children from Kassel to occupy over 1,000 square metres of this historically charged, world-famous exhibition site, which had been a library and a parliament building in the past. His main aim was to enliven and transform the museum with the help of the children’s youthful, bold, and above all still “free” creativity. The children have been the main actors, while Althamer played the role of their guest and assistant.

For Pawel Althamer, multiple authorship through the delegation of authorship to other participants, often to the underprivileged, such as the inhabitants of the outskirts, the homeless, prison inmates, illegal workers, street musicians and, repeatedly, teenagers and children, is an important artistic point of departure. With his action Bródno 2000, for example, he convinced 200 families in a pre-fab apartment block in Warsaw’s outlying district of the same name to turn on or off their flat lights, as needed, so that the year 2000 could be seen brightly illuminated on the facade. The feeling of togetherness and being part of a group played a key role. In 2001 he explicitly sought out Polish homeless in Frankfurt to dress them in typical art-scene “vernissage outfits” and had them mingle unrecognised among the opening crowd at the exhibition Neue Welt. For his exhibition Prisoners (2002), Pawel Althamer worked together with the inmates of the local gaol in Münster. In joint workshops they produced objects and drawings that, together with simple found objects from the prison, were quite conventionally presented at the Kunstverein Münster.

Ideas and signs of change and expansion, as well as the dissolution of predetermined, rigid structures, play an important part in Pawel Althamer’s artwork. With his performances, which are very conceptually oriented and thrive on process-related aspects, the artist subverts systems of rules and triggers new patterns of action. His withdrawal as an artist from the realisation of his performative projects promotes a complete blending of art and life and at the same time draws attention to people who in other places are socially ostracised, and what is more, stimulates public awareness of their plight.

Since the latter part of March 2009, when both spring and the setup of the exhibition began, the children had been free to implement their ideas in all of the rooms in the first floor of the Fridericianum. A camp with a giant tent in the middle, sofas, tables, chairs, rugs, and mattress castles had been conducive to conversations, among other things. Drawings made by the children referring to their projects hung on the walls. A giant Trojan Horse awaited its residents as did several caves and a two-storey flat with hanging furniture. Models made by the children based on great ideas had been distributed all over the room. Among them had been a knight’s castle with a labyrinth, a cabinet of horrors, a disco, wings for flying, Egyptian furniture, boats, and submarines.

The children were teeming with expectation, energy and excitement, and so was the Fridericianum. Frühling at the Fridericianum was continuing to develop as a processual artwork until it closed with the official end of spring on 21 June 2009.


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