Vauban Fortification
Example of Vauban Fortification

Study Drawing
Study Drawings by imam@xurban and Liam Gillick
March 2009

proposal diagram
Click Here to Download the Project Diagram



German Pavilion in the Venice Biennial has been an important space for artistic intervention. For instance, we all remember Hans Haacke's piece where he aggressively smashed the marble floors of the pavilion and left the walls empty.

In the beginning of February this year, as xurban_collective, we proposed a project to Liam Gillick to be realized at the periphery of the German Pavilion in Venice's Giardini. We had no intention to intercept Liam's installation but in a way to realize a landscaping project for the pavilion by temporarily transforming the immediate vicinity. To make it clear,  we did not want to be within the German pavilion building, but in a way just wanted to be an extension; as an architectural twist if you will.  And of course, we had no intention to antagonize Liam or create some sort of 'sensation' by utilizing a "British" artist's participation representing Germany. However we thought that since Liam Gillick exclusively  mentions collaborations and collective production, we felt a strategic opportunity, and precisely the 'proximity'  not the 'similarity' was the reason that we approached him (*)

We wanted to utilize the grass field without obstructing the main facade or entrance... The project was in way a landscaping project; we would select certain flowers and plants from Anatolian landscape in different colors and smells to design particular sections. The new garden would, both visually and 'olfactorily', transform the 'Giardini's dry landscape. Landscape design would be an integration of the fortification and gardening into one combined configuration. Just like the downtown buildings in a way...

The fortification part was geared towards protecting the German Pavilion from hostile enemies that may arrive from the waterfront ---historically they were the Ottoman vanguards (some call them Barbarians) who were constantly attacking Venice. Italians are probably still using the term "Mamma li  Turchi!" ("Oh my, the Turks are coming!")--- and other national(ist) pavilions which are strategically positioned around the German Pavilion positing an eminent cultural threat. Watch out the Canadians!

We talked with Liam in person and over e-mails, he was interested in the project and possible collaboration, he was generous with his time and ideas, but understood the conceptual pitfalls, dangers and the problematics of including us in German territory. After almost 2 months of low intensity negotiations, Liam concluded that our project did not fit what he was doing. Maybe it was a bit risky involving "Turks". Or perhaps the foreign ministry rejected the idea. The space was disputed from the beginning. Liam said that only 10 centimeter of the periphery was owned by the Germans, the rest was Italian land.

We believe that it could have been a very strong project in order to problematize many issues at once, in other words the proposed project might have opened many questions into discussion and might create conceptually significant connections between different localities, time-zones, cultures and perhaps even civilizations.  Germany and Turkey share shreds of memory(**), in addition to this, and perhaps most importantly, is the contemporary history of` people(s) from Turkey now living in Germany, which, in our belief made the German pavilion an interesting site for our proposed intervention.

The idea was to question the borders, fortification and exclusion mechanisms, and alternatively to keep the path open (in the 21st century) for further transfer of seeds and plants. This would, we believe, make up a subtle but important contribution to the understanding of an existing conditions on the 'ground'. We regard the "gardening" of the periphery as a suggestive contribution and it coincided with the idea of collective production. In between the other national pavilions, an unfortunate attempt of gardening would create a temporary zone, with no papers, like slums or illegal immigrants in a way, where multi-cultural EU visitors of the art festival could engage without even knowing it was there. In other words, a project destined to fail to be a success...

The proposal was a conceptual operation to emphasize rather than antagonize the conditions of neo-liberal logic of market  which functions alongside with the national identities and borders, often instrumentalizing cultural identities. The possibility of utilizing the building's periphery for gardening and landscaping is mostly  concerned with the rise of rejection of 'hybridization', i.e. the mixture of bodies from different ethnic backgrounds(***). For us it is clear that the neo-liberal transformation works hand in hand with the neo-conservative majority in US and EU and Turkey

Now, to classify the work, we call it: "Proposed But Not Engaged!". .

May 2009, New York, Izmir, Istanbul, Linz

Related projects and texts

* Maybe it would be better if we worked in groups of three? by Liam Gillick
** Void: A View From Acropoli, 2006 by xurban_collective
*** Re:Fused, 2005 _ a proposal by xurban_collective
**** Nullify the Void*, a statement about the Void

p.s. This project proposal can be considered as part of xurban_collective's current (2009) research on the idea of neighborhood and local community in relation to post-industrial cities in various part of Europe. The related projects and presentation will form the basis for an active discussion of the subjects addressed by xurban_collective, including regional conflicts, spatial confinement, urban segregation, and "neo-liberal" exclusion strategies.

p.s.2. Other forms of this proposal has been previously submitted to various art institutions including Pergamon Museum through HKW in part of inTransit09 festival. Due to inter-institutional dynamics and the controversial nature of the the project, the proposal was shelved. This version of proposal will mark an end of this particular venture.