Reclaiming Public Space. Culture between Public and Digital Spheres

22.+23.04.2013, Akademie der Künste, Berlin

The starting point for our considerations is the variety of youth and citizens' revolts over the past two years. From Cairo, London, Madrid, Moscow and New York to Tel Aviv and Tunis it was primarily young, well-educated people who took to the streets.

The reclamation of public space that can be observed in these protests – which are frequently dubbed "social media revolutions" – raises the question as to the altered understanding of the role and function of public space, and how it is designed physically or digitally in each case.

But doesn't the fact that the media environment has gained strength and the digital environment has come into existence demonstrate that the public space was a metaphor that actually describes an abstract interrelationship between people who are communicating? And which aspect of communication attracts particular attention, and under what circumstances?

22. April

Formal opening of the conference



Klaus Staeck
President of the Akademie der Künste

Klaus-Dieter Lehmann
President of the Goethe-Institut

Monika Grütters, MdB
Chair of the Committee on Cultural and Media Affairs in the German Parliament

The opening lecture "Full Circle" will be held by Bahia Shehab
art historian, designer and artist, Cairo

Foyer 6:00 und 10.00
The American video artist Blake Shaw presents his work "Videopainting", in which he creates new virtual meeting places through a collage of overlapping portraits.

23. April

Panel (a): Networking and hope


The use of new media technology for non-hierarchical discussion in the form of online dialogue is a source of great hope for political and cultural participation. This particularly applies to people who – because of their financial, political and cultural circumstances – have until now barely had the opportunity to be active in a public forum or to be taken seriously.

Why do media savvies expose themselves to danger by occupying central public places when the future of social movements does seem to be in the digital sphere? How does spatiotemporal activity interrelate with electronic communication? What forms of artistic activity have been the outcome? Do protest movements create their own cultures?

Bahia Shehab,
Artist, designer, art historian and associate professor at the American University of Cairo

Wolfgang Kraushaar
Political scientist at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research

Florian Kessler
Journalist and author, Berlin

Lena Prents
Art historian and curator, Berlin and Vilnius

Moderation: Johannes Odenthal
Director of Programming of the Akademie der Künste

Panel (b): Communication structures and power


Communicative circumstances characterise societies more significantly than property or space-related conditions. Controlling and regulating them is the exertion and consolidation of power.

How do authoritarian regimes – but also democratic societies – handle the potential and risks of digitally-based media? How do those in power cope with "space" in both senses of the word? What backlash does that provoke? What artistic reactions does this cause, and what are the cultural consequences?

Sherief Gaber
Activist at the Egyptian non-profit media collective Mosireen, Cairo

Francisco Polo
Country Director of the petition platform in Spain, Madrid

Christoph Bieber
Academic and blogger, professor of ethics in political management and society at the University of Duisburg-Essen

Dieter Mersch
Philosopher, professor of media theory and media studies at the University of Potsdam

Moderation: Stephan Wackwitz
Director of the Goethe-Institut Georgia

Panel (c): Imagery of the space


The "public space" is not only a value that can be localised physically. Just like the internet, it also serves as a metaphor for interrelationships – for exclusion and belonging. Are diverse cultural circumstances and concepts of public space leading to specific pre-conceptions of public spaces and of the new digital environment we live in, and strategies to deal with them?

And how are artists involved in these spaces? What do both types of space mean for them?

Wolfgang Sützl
Media theorist, philosopher and translator, academic at the University of Insbruck

Rudolf Maresch
Author, publicist and critic

Rabih Mroué
Actor, playwright and visual artist, Beirut and Berlin

Mike van Graan
Playwright and cultural activist, Cape Town

Moderation: Berthold Franke
Director of the Goethe-Institut Belgium

Panel (d): Responsibility and cultural practice


The phenomenon is not without consequence to the political self-image of cultural institutions working internationally. What is the ideal way to accompany such processes in cultural practice? How can cultural institutions react adequately to a changing concept of "public space"? How can and should we involve ourselves in these spaces?

Johannes Ebert
Secretary-General of the Goethe-Institut, München

Bernd M. Scherer
Director of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin

Sigrid Gareis
Secretary-General of the Academy of the Arts of the World, Köln

Moderation: Thilo Kößler
Deutschlandfunk, head of department "Background"

Rabih Mroué: Pixelated RevolutionPixelated Revolution – A non-academic lecture by Rabih Mroué

Black Box, Akademie der Künste
More ...
The conference will be held in English and German.

    Going Public – On the Possibility of a Public Statement

    Public art in Lithuania, Belarus, Kaliningrad and Germany