Yes, definitely. There are countries in which it simply is not common to utilise public spaces for any sort of encounter or activity. In these cases public space is used only as a route to get from one place to another or as a place for trade. Cultural or sociopolitical events are expressed differently across the globe and the locations for these cultural expressions vary from culture to culture. In New-Delhi, for instance, we occuopied public spaces to dicuss global warming, using theatre plays and sketches. In most places, this was completely unheard of. Since nobody had ever occupied public space quite the way we did, the impact was particularly tremendous. Eventually, these experiences facilitated a whole year themed on Germany. We took large tents to the public spaces of New-Delhi, Calcutta and other cities.
Could you describe the impact in greater detail?
If you work in public spaces or use them for protests, you generate attention and might eventually convince people of your cause. Using it sparks the imagination and encourages people to pause for a moment and reflect. If you encourage people to communicate with each other or engage new subjects, this already marks a tremendous achievement. From within our individualised society a community emerges. In contrast, closed spaces always serve a specific purpose, whereas public spaces wait for someone or something to define them.
Interview with Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, president of the Goethe-Institut, published in the special edition “Reclaiming Public Space”. This interview was extended here online with two current questions.
Günter Keil and Andrea Tholl held the interview.