The Foyer — Confidence Building Measures – is an artistic research project on entrances and accesses in the context of architecture, art and impartation. The research project took place in art space Zeitraumexit, in the Jungbusch area of Mannheim (GER). Zeitraumexit´s Foyer project space originally served as the mess hall for the workers of an industrial complex in Mannheim-Jungbusch where once grains were milled and trans-shipped. The building itself, with its remarkable exterior architecture, was declared a cultural heritage site, and now serves as the home of the Zeitraumexit art space. Ordinarily, The Foyer is used as just that: a foyer for visitors to the cultural program and events organised at Zeitraumexit.
In 2019, in the seemingly dull space, with its late sixties functionalist interior and beige ceramic floor tiles, three experimental room designs were created and opened to the public. Subsequent artists and architects invited to redesign the room, were to answer several questions artistically:
How are accesses and entrances to rooms in which aesthetic experience is to take place, designed? Which spaces does the public physically cross before coming into contact with art? And what happens when the “Foyer Principle” is designed as a space of change which is sometimes landscape, sometimes
scenery, playground or bedroom?
Holger Nickisch was the first artist invited by the Zeitraumexit art foundation to create an environment:
I sense the movement from outside to inside (the passage through the courtyard into the foyer), only to find myself suddenly in a new rural outdoor space; the extension of the public space by an inner nature; the alienating transformation of a former industrial mess hall as an imaginary world of experience; a kind of ´Holodeck´ Jungbusch. – Holger Nickisch
In blunt reference to the land art work of one of Nickisch´ heros, Donald Judd, man-high rectangular structures were erected in the room, on a field of living grass and common weeds you would expect to find somewhere outside, not inside an enclosed building.
The space was opened to visitors and intended to be used as an extention of public space. Nickisch and the team at Zeiraumexit involved cultural groups from Mannheim in the use of the space for their activities, and employed local youths from the area for the voluntary work of welcoming visitors and tending to the space during opening hours. For more than a few of them, it was their first curious encounter with contemporary art.
Visitors were invited to apply graffiti to the structures, to ´desecrate´ the high-art sculptural installation, and through their collaborative expressions, claim the space as their own as the structures over weeks transformed into a communal artistic work. When it was time to take the structures down and remove the installation, in a ´second act´of a participative performance, fragments of the graffiti were collected and preserved.
Holger Nickisch lives and works as an artist and curator in Amsterdam and has been designing social processes in the urban environment, site-specific installations and interventions in cooperative projects for many years. He tends to integrate a multitude of different perspectives into his sculptural works. With Holodeck Jungbusch he combines his personal fondness of minimal art with the dynamic contemporary culture of Mannheim.
Photos: Arthur Bauer, Sabine Schirdewahn a.o., courtesy of Zeitraumexit