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U10 – from here to the imaginary and back again

A concept by Sofia Bempeza, Ania Corcilius, Jacopo Gallico, Eva Hertzsch and Adam Page for NGBK Berlin.
An art project financed by Berlin Council’s Department of Culture and supported by the Berlin Underground Train Company (BVG), the Berlin Fenster (in-train TV) and by Wall AG.

"In this train of thought spirits and ghosts are as real as atoms, particles, photons and quanta…"
Robert M. Pirsig

Art in the public interest

50 years of public art in Alexanderplatz Underground Station in Berlin came to an end in 2008. The next project on the Berlin Underground, U10 – from here to the imaginary and back again, sets a new focus on the social and collaborative dimension of public art.

Our curatorial aim will be to find artists whose practice is group orientated and who understand art as a means of communication and exchange. We will seek to set U10 in the context of an internationally practiced public art form which is increasingly produced in collaboration with specific groups in society outside art institutions and a regular art public. The resulting collaborations between artists and specific members of the public seek to extend participation in cultural processes to new areas of society. In this sense, art in public space art can become art in the public interest.

Members of the Underground Network staff, passengers, kiosk and snack bar owners, buskers and ticket traders become not only a potential audience but also potential collaborators on a joint research of the Berlin Underground.

The U10 Line

The name U10 – from here to the imaginary and back again refers to a line on the Berlin Underground which was originally conceived in the 1930s but has never been finished. Today it remains derelict, consisting of fragments of tunneling and abandoned, incompleted stations. During the Cold War, the then West Berlin-owned Underground Company (BVG) had to use part of the East Berlin-owned S1 line. The BVG therefore started building the U10 line parallel to the S1 line in order to be completely independent of the East German regime. Three U10 stations were built but never completed because of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The U10 line’s unknown existance (or non-existance) and its fantastical and historical qualities as a mystical place and a relic of divided Berlin offer the artists a number of points of approach.

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The U10 project is interested in the whole of the Underground network, seeing it as a parallel underworld, both real and imaginary. The Underground is a real, living space, that is physically linked to people’s everyday routine – it is a place of work, shelter, transportation and encounter. Despite this familiarity, entering the Underground subtly disrupts our sense of time and place. We disappear into a mysterious world of black tunnels in the city’s subconscious.

Down here an unexpected and secretive mirror image of the city is registered seismographically. The city’s inner spirit materialises. The artists’ role in the project U10 – from here to the imaginary and back again is to examine this mirror image or spirit and its unknown, hidden contexts.

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Collaboration with Underground experts

The organisers aim to embed the U10 project into the social context of the Underground and, by doing so, discover what the Network really means to the identity of the city. They will seek to build lasting relationships to white and blue collar BVG Underground staff. The best place to speak to staff is at BVG’s many public events (for example spring and summer fetes, special trains, station and depot open days, tunnel walks etc), in the BVG museum and in the company’s main canteen. The criteria for the call for submissions will be developed in dialogue with BVG staff, two of whom will consult at the selection proceedure.

U10 will also seek to build lasting relationships with members of the public, for example with trainspotters passionate about public transport, with commuters who have the network „knowledge“ and with people who „trade“ (and sometimes sleep) on the platforms. The organisers will seek to continually involve a small number of Underground staff and the above mentioned members of the public as project experts and as consultants to the selected artists.
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The competition – an open call for project proposals

The organisers are looking for situation specific and/or participatory projects which focus on the Berlin Underground and its staff and/or users. They can range from being short, interventionistic artistic reactions to specific occurances on the Underground to being long term collaborations aimed at creating sustainable relationships to BVG staff and/or users over a number of years. The competition sees members of staff, passengers, kiosk and snack bar owners, buskers and ticket traders not only as a potential audience but also as potential collaborators on a joint research of the Berlin Underground.

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