The New Patrons of Rostock

Patrons: Members of the women association Die Beginen e.V.

Mediators: Alexander Koch, Nikolaus Oberhuber

Artist: Candice Breitz

Duration: 2013–2016, halted

Partners: Fondation de France, women association Die Beginen e.V.

“We commission an artistic project that is to exemplify a changed social culture in the life of the city of Rostock: Instead of viewing citizens, migrants and refugees as needy and dependent, they are to be addressed in their potential and possibilities. The work should have relevance beyond Rostock and be able to be shown in different places in the region.”

After research in Rostock and several meetings with the patrons' group, Candice Breitz completed the draft of her participatory performance in summer and autumn 2016 and presented it in Rostock on 28 November. The patrons' group wants to premiere the work in 2017/2018 at a theatre in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and is commissioning the production. Partners are currently being sought for this. A planned performance during the 2016 Berlin Festival turned out to be premature.

The Rostock women's cultural association Die Beginen e.V. carries out committed cultural work and in doing so influences public life in the city of Rostock. A group of members observe with unease that newcomers from abroad encounter a lack of welcoming culture in the city. They want to commission a project that will have a positive impact on the city's society.

In the course of the mediation it becomes clear that the Patrons themselves are affected by the problem, even without a migration background: appointments with municipal authorities are perceived as a negative experience or even as degrading. At the same time, the group suspects that administrative employees cannot be happy either with the kind of communication that characterises their own everyday work. Thus, the project takes a look at the social culture in the institutions and offices of the city of Rostock.

The Patrons want a theatre project or a performative work that can be performed in various places in Rostock, but also elsewhere in the region, for example in schools. They want an international artist with migration experience who has the necessary sensitivity to find a suitable form for the commission. Mediator Alexander Koch suggests the South African-born video artist Candice Breitz, who lives in Berlin. Breitz experienced the consequences of the apartheid regime in South Africa and has developed a popular language in her work to address issues such as social discrimination, racism, class differences or the degradation of women. The Patrons' group of Rostock commission Breitz to design a project.

The artist develops a script for a multi-stage performative action that can be carried out at any time and in any place. At the centre of her idea is language, and with it the limits of mutual understanding. Breitz wants to make it possible to experience in an amusing way how people with and without knowledge of German can find themselves on the slippery slope of their own ability or inability to speak, in order to finally find themselves in a community in which no one speaks better than they do. Participants and spectators should be able to experience how spoken words become written characters, texts become sound poems, what is heard becomes written, how the understood turns into the ununderstood, the comprehensible into the incomprehensible, and vice versa. In the end, all participants will enter a dadaistic, border-crossing language(dream)space in which everyone understands something and no one understands everything.