"Local Calls"
It Began with Curiosity

Promenade concert in Młyn Hilberta
Photo: Christian Ahlbo

A promenade concert in Młyn Hilberta in the small Polish town of Dzierżoniów was the closing event of the Goethe-Institut’s Ortsgespräche (Local Calls). Artur Celiński, curator of Ortsgespräche, takes a look back at the two years of work on this project for "The Latest at Goethe".

In essence, the aim of the Ortsgespräche (Local Calls) in five towns was to bring together potentials and concepts. We used each stage of the project as an opportunity to share experiences and local stories. One of the German artists, Sarah Washington, who talked with former workers of a textile factory at the beginning of her work, described it very aptly, “I didn’t have a finished script for the workshop in mind, although I had considered a few exercises. [...] The women didn’t even suspect how their memories of working in the rhythm of the looms would fit together to help me find the main motif for my sound piece.”

Helmets for the concert in Młyn Hilberta Helmets for the concert in Młyn Hilberta | Photo: Christian Ahlbo

A concert amid machinery

The promenade concert attracted more than 150 residents of Dzierżoniów. Probably none of them had ever heard about the work of Knut Aufermann and the project’s other twelve Polish and German artists. What attracted them was the opportunity to participate in a non-everyday event and to listen to the sounds that filled the vast production halls of Młyn Hilberta, which still contained flour-dusted machines. For us, the organisers of the project, the walk through the floors, along the production line, was a kind of time travel. We travelled back to the key moments of our project, thanks to which we succeeded in combining the context of the place, the history of a building and the people working in it with the creative potential of the invited artists and cultural organisers.

Far from the cities

It began with curiosity. The Goethe-Institut usually operates in metropolises and larger cities. A meeting with cultural professionals and curators from medium-sized towns was meant to help us better understand the transformations we are experiencing today. We also needed new inspiration for other actions. It was important to us to be invited into this – for us – strange world and to observe the peculiarities of medium-sized towns through the eyes of their inhabitants. So we didn’t do a customary call for a competition for the projects. We didn’t transfer money to the winners.

More than 150 residents of the town of Dzierżoniów attended the promenade concert More than 150 residents of the town of Dzierżoniów attended the promenade concert | Photo: Christian Ahlbo

Creativity and trust

Instead, we spent the first half of the year preparing for collaboration with the potential partners. At least we wanted to build a smidgeon of mutual trust. We needed this trust to develop principles of cooperation that wouldn’t favour those who were already able to write stunning applications. So they were allowed to submit the description of their ideas to our contest in any form – even as a drawing.

The methodology of the collaboration was the key to the success of the Ortsgespräche. At the very first meeting, following the announcement of the results of the selection process, they noticed that they could never have convinced us of the value of their idea if they had only had to describe it in words.

Those responsible for the artistic dimension of the Ortsgespräche were: Knut Aufermann (Ürzig, curator), Frauke Berg (Düsseldorf), Gunnar Geisse (Munich), Wojciech Kurek (Słupsk/Warszawa), Aleksander Moś (Siemianowice Śląskie), Udo Noll (Berlin), Di.Aria aka Hania Piosik (Gorzów Wielkopolski), Katarzyna Pokuta (Jaworzno), Mateusz Rosiński (Gorzów Wielkopolski), Ralf Schreiber (Cologne), Sarah Washington (Ürzig), Barbara Wójcik-Wiktorowicz (Jaworzno), Barbara Kuźmińska (Dzierżoniów).