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Artists’ initiatives from around the world testing new exhibition and mediation formats were invited to the subvision festival for international contemporary art from 08/26 to 09/06/2009 to present their artistic work as well as their very own strategies of presenting and mediating art. 31 artists’ groups, independent project spaces, off-spaces, and research projects from 19 countries that are developing outside established institutions and disregarding commercial viability created an exciting and variegated presentation forum with exhibitions, artist’s talks, performances, concerts, readings, and video screenings. A temporary exhibition architecture consisting of ship containers and scaffoldings formed an extraordinary frame for an unconventional endeavour. The design of the yet undeveloped “prime cut” of the HafenCity was oriented towards urban planning models, citing them not without irony.



The focus was on cultural strategies alongside established institutions and beyond commercial endeavours: artist collectives, artist-run spaces, nomadic projects, archives, curatorial and artistic networks and so forth. The traditional forms of cultural activity, its art fairs, Biennales and large-scale events, were intentionally confronted with other, opposing formats and experimental ways of (re)presentation and distribution. Often, the common element in these heterogeneous, mainly project-related, temporary alliances is a self-organised, collaborative method of working as well as an emphasis on situative intervention. Independent, viral distribution paths and networks develop, under not infrequently precarious production conditions.


The festival’s sponsor was a limited company owned jointly by three Hamburg art institutions, the Hochschule fuer bildende Kuenste (HFBK) , the Hamburger Kunsthalle and the Deichtorhallen. Martin Koettering, president of the HFBK, was its artistic director, curator Brigitte Kölle was responsible for the festival concept in terms of content. The former director of the Deichtorhallen, Dr. Robert Fleck, and the director of the Hamburger Kunsthalle, Prof. Dr. Hubertus Gaßner belonged to an advisory board. The team of curators was supported in their research, spanning continents and artistic disciplines, by international artists, curators and critics, who, as so-called ‘scouts‘ are well acquainted with local and with current developments. In tandem with the exhibition, an extensive programme of events (symposia, lectures, workshops etc.) took place specifically for this festival, not only intended for those familiar with the subject.


The invited artists were on site during the festival to introduce their work personally and to take part in discussions as part of an extensive programme of mediation. The aim was a wide-reaching integration of the artists into the mediation process. Students of the HFBK Hamburg  also developed and carried out special mediation concepts. An extensive communication platform on the internet prepare for and accompanied the festival. This platform facilitated communication of the unified conception for the festival’s content, as well as the publishing of inter-project information (announcements, dates). A printed guide (in German and English) provided festival visitors with basic information and guidance for further researches. The extensive mediation programme, which included symposia, round-table discussions, lectures, artists’ discussions etc. was an integral element of the festival and gave visitors the opportunity of exploring ideas further through thoughtful engagement, discussion and theoretical reflection.

Unique qualities and aims

In Hamburg there is a lively and heterogeneous scene of self-organised, artist-initiated project spaces and outstanding efforts in terms of networking. subvision placed these art initiatives in a broad international context. Activists, artists and promoters of culture from different geographical, cultural and political backgrounds met there. With its international focus, its exciting, unconventional composition and its unusual presentation, subvision has been a unique event. The aim was both to enable concentrated insights for a broad audience which encourage information and increased recognition of a wider understanding of culture, and to promote direct exchange between international art initiatives and the resulting synergies.