On Monday, October 17, 2022, the winter semester 2022/23 of the Karlsruhe State Academy of Design was officially opened. This year, at the opening, the prestigious Cultural Scholarship of the City of Karlsruhe, totaling 20,000 euros, was also presented by Mayor Dr. Albert Käuflein to two HfG alumnae. Vera Valentina Gärtner and Leonie Mühlen were awarded the Karlsruhe Cultural Scholarship due to the special artistic positions of their final projects. The scholarship is intended for graduates of Karlsruhe's art colleges, who can thus live and work in Karlsruhe for a year and present their results to the public.
Vera Valentina Gärtner studied exhibition design, scenography and curatorial studies at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung in Karlsruhe from 2013 to 2022. She observes her surroundings closely, and when she encounters something that arouses her interest or displeasure, she begins to research it in more detail. Gärtner reads, researches, compares and speculates with realities, most recently, among other things, in the Karlsruhe city archive for her diploma thesis.
Her artistic questions revolve around socio-political issues, especially queer and intersectional-feminist topics. In her interdisciplinary way of working, she has a special interest in the overlooked. This is particularly visible in her preoccupation with the properties of secluded places and refuges, for which urban space (Karlsruhe) usually forms the starting point of her practice.
Gärtner dares curatorial experiments, designs anti-hierarchical conference architectures and activist walks. But she also creates site-specific sound installations, as in her thesis ffountain, a gender-historical investigation of street naming as well as the bodily representations of monuments, fountains, and outdoor sculptures in public space in Karlsruhe. Here, Gärtner artistically poses the question of who is visibly remembered and who is not.
The documentation of the actual state of affairs in Karlsruhe, the analysis of the representation of gender relations, and especially the focus on the persons who are not remembered, expose the deeply rooted web of patriarchal, racist, ableist, classist, and (neo-)colonialist structures within the city and society.
By means of methods of rearranging, misappropriating, and overwriting, pre-existing responses are collaged and counter-proposals are made. They manifest themselves in a "zine" as a compilation of research, through postcards as souvenirs and activist tools, in a floorplan, and finally in the eponymous ffountain: a counter-design of the spitting, misogynistic fountain on Stephanplatz - a spatial staging of a mixtape as a celebratory, collective, and empowering counter-moment.
These are attempts to open up counter-narratives - invitations to deconstruct and re-imagine. A tribute to appreciative sampling, remixing, quoting, reinterpreting, palimpsesting, compiling. ffountain aims to give space to the non-normative body, to (re)create and (re)narrate memory.
Soundcloud link to the ffountain mixtape: https://soundcloud.com/vv3000/ffountain/s-TCDAemhrDyh?utm_source=clipboard&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=social_sharing
Leonie Mühlen studied exhibition design, scenography and curatorial studies at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung in Karlsruhe after completing a Bachelor of Arts with a focus on architecture. She graduated here in 2021.
Mühlen's artistic practice is strongly influenced by two thematic complexes - urban space and natural space. She is interested in the many ways in which the two intersect as well as their placement in social systems of evaluation.
Her works usually give space to fragile things, sometimes telling of the marginalized or even the unwanted. A low-threshold approach is intended to enable a public confrontation with the question posed.
Phases of intensive research are supplemented by precise observations and documentary recordings. Based on this, installative works and performative interventions are created that strongly relate to their surroundings and the urban environment of Karlsruhe.
Within her interdisciplinary way of working, Mühlen resorts to various media and techniques and, not least, makes use of craft procedures, which she reinterprets artistically in a way that deviates from their usual use.
Mühlen's works have something timeless about them, as she often deals with fundamental needs: living spaces, dwellings or displacement, food, community, and memory. These aspects are also evident in her thesis work, "Unordered States."
The exhibition Ungeordnete Zustände (09.-27.06.2021, Luis Leu, Karlsruhe) told in different strands about the dissolution of the allotment gardens at Stuttgarter Straße in Karlsruhe.
Huts, gardens and paths were cleared, dismantled and carried away over the last years. At first it seemed as if the site would thin out and disappear, but then, undeterred, it grew back elsewhere. People, animals, and plants appropriated the site over and over again.
Leonie Mühlen observed these movements, documented them, and participated in them herself. In selecting and taking away, different value systems were indicated: Some things were found to be precious or worthy of protection and taken with them, some were granted compensation or refuge, and some were simply thrown away. This selection of what was worth preserving is reminiscent of the logic of archival collecting - the filtration of the contents generates their history, as it were.
The exhibition itself represents an archive of Stuttgarter Straße, which reacts to these hierarchies of value with subjectivity and casualness. The collection is an attempt to comprehend and conserve the place. Precisely this place in demolition, which in its disorder and disobedience was a refuge for many things and beings.
The Karlsruhe Cultural Scholarship was approved by the city council in 2007. The aim of the cultural scholarship is to offer outstandingly talented graduates of Karlsruhe's art colleges an opportunity to work in Karlsruhe following their studies. The links between the city and the art academies are thus to be strengthened. In addition, Karlsruhe's reputation as a city of the arts is to be further strengthened. For the purposes of this scholarship, art colleges include the Academy of Fine Arts, the Karlsruhe State Academy of Design, and the Karlsruhe University of Music. The scholarship is awarded every two years in alternating rotation to a graduate of the respective university.
Preference will be given to artists whose artistic project deals with the city of Karlsruhe in the broadest sense. In the musical field, composers or chamber music ensembles should be given preference.
An annual stipend of 20,000 euros will be awarded. The sum is earmarked for rent, general living expenses as well as material or similar for artistic activities and the final event or presentation. The scholarship holder must have successfully completed their studies at one of the above-mentioned universities within the past three years.