The Actopolis Project

The international project Actopolis wants to change cities with artistic ideas.

Actopolis is a project of Urbane Künste Ruhr and the Goethe-Institut that deals with the future of urban life. Sixty-five curators, artists and architects will develop over several years ideas for Ankara, Athens, Belgrade, Bucharest, Mardin, Oberhausen, Sarajevo and Zagreb. A short interview with Katja Aßmann, Artistic Director of Urbane Künste Ruhr.

Actopolis is about getting “the arts to act”. How can art and culture help shape the development of cities in specific terms?

Art and culture can’t change cities from one day to the next, but they can contribute to changes or at least stimulate them. Art and culture can provide food for thought, open up new possibilities and above all motivate citizens to help actively shape their city. The advantage is that art works differently from classical city planning. Art can experiment, explore boundaries. It can also playfully address and integrate people in a surprising way.

What connects the participating cities?

The cities are of course culturally very different and each has its own structural problems. But some things connect them – among others, the high unemployment, and some of the Eastern European Actopolis cities lie on refugee routes. The cities deal with their problems in very different ways. The artistic strategies of the invited artists are also very different. Some treat their subjects in a more discursive manner, others in an activist way, and still others, like the “geheimagentur” in Oberhausen, playfully.

What exactly is happening in Oberhausen?

In Oberhausen we’ve written the motto “We’re building a new city” on our banners. For instance, where before there was only a pedestrian zone, now there’s an allotment garden. On a disused railway track you can hear “spirits of good hope”. If you would like to explore the new city, you can take part in guided tours beginning in the city centre. Here too the first chewing gum museum in Europe will open its doors. Finally, this year we’re setting up so-called micro-residences in Actopolis cities. In this way artists can work in other cities for a relatively short space of time.