Street art in Hannover Bringing Colour to Everyday Life

Hannover Streetart, Enni Vuong
Hannover Streetart, Enni Vuong | © Jan Willem Huntebrinker

Graffiti and street art have long since become an essential part of the cityscape. New works appear daily – others vanish. They are creative expressions, temporary logos and statements for a constantly changing art in public space.

Street art is quickly equated with vandalism. But the project Who Owns the City?, in cooperation with young people, architects, historians artists and communications designers in Hanover, have clearly demonstrated that new forms of art in public space are concealed behind street art, thereby building a bridge to deeper investigation of the interrelationships of space, architecture and the city. The project was initiated by Jan Willem Huntebrinker of the Historical Museum in Hanover.

“Experiment Street Art”

Hanover centre, Pro-Nana demonstration at Leibnizufer Hanover centre, Pro-Nana demonstration at Leibnizufer | Bildarchiv HMH, Photo: Niehuus, Essen Street art and art in public space have been a tradition in Hanover. The programme Experiment Straßenkunst was launched in 1970 to reach people who would otherwise not come in contact with art. There was a widespread desire to drive out the city’s grey and boring image. Residents were included in the dialogue on the perception of their city with contemporary art forms and targeted provocations. It was by no means a quiet process, at the outset there was much citizen outrage but also appreciation and support. What followed were actions such as the Rote Faden (i.e. red thread), a trail of red colour which is winding its way through the streets of Hanover, connecting art and architecture with the city’s space.

Rhythm in the belly of the city

However, for many a street art and graffiti artists, this strategy of art communication bypasses the reality of young peoples’ lives. Their pictorial languag is characterised by rhythm in the belly of the city but also by the wastelands of the suburban outskirts, which bear within them far more vitality than the business worlds of the city centre suggest. Not all proceed as ostentatiously as Moses, whose tags are jammed in along Hanover’s train paths. Young people’s experimental spaces live from their subversive power, from provocation, which is nonetheless not necessarily destructive or criminal.

Poetic enhancement of everyday life

Hanover, Street art, Jan Lotz Hanover, Street art, Jan Lotz | Photo: Jan Willem Huntebrinker In the project Who Owns the City?, young people encountered their urban life worlds with highly differentiated temporary statements associated with the particular site. Stencil technique was a part of their repertoire just as were direct interventions in urban space. Jan Lotz, for instance, was fascinated by the light in the city. Photographs of people who live in Hanover’s old city were the basis of his motifs taped with parcel tape onto Plexiglas. These art works, fashioned of layers of tape in a complex process, resemble sepia photographs. Fastened to the shades of historic street lamps near the parliament building, they were to be seen only by night in the glow of the lights, as a moment of surprise and poetic enhancement of everyday life.

Chance encounters

Hanover, Street art Hanover, Street art | Photo: Lasse Kück Also as part of Who Owns the City?, Ellen Kubicki and Shana M'Baya took on the theme of play in the city. The young women missed ease and free spaces for playing in the city, as well as a playful approach to streets and open spaces. Their response was a temporary play promenade along the banks of the Leine with simple, found materials, small interventions, spontaneous gestures and invitations to participate.

Enni Vuong focused on the grounds between the Parliament and the New City Hall. The staircase by the historic “Flusswasserkunst” lies exactly in the line of sight between the two government buildings. The white steed of Lower Saxony is present as a motif a number of times. Vuong has taken this symbol of sovereignty as her point of departure, to conflate the location with the historic city hall in the background into a romantic image. All risers between the steps of the staircase were laminated with colourful, luminescent foil strips that gave visibility at night as well to the motif with two unicorns.

Collective digital memory

On the website of Hannoverliebe the outcomes as well as other locations in the category of art in public are space visible for the future as well. With the continually growing maps, which also include favourite places, artistic discoveries in public space are being documented and thus added to our collective memory. An initiative for presenting the city in a different way, and for creating new identifications with emotional references.