The ongoing artistic performance about the routes between the venues of the Ruhrtriennale will be continued this year. Three international artists are developing accompanying formats for three new routes and supplementing the existing offerings of the five local routes. As a special challenge – also in the interest of climate protection - the artists developed their works without travelling this year but tried to understand the Ruhr region only through conversations, video conferences, stacks of photos and statistics. An important component was also the direct exchange with the local artists and their experiences… Just as different concepts of the use of space permanently collide in the Ruhr region – fields meet housing estates, highways meet industrial districts, and railroads meet recreational areas – scientists speak here of »Begegnungskanten« (Meeting Edges): how different ways of working and thinking come together.


Lisandro Rodriguez from Buenos Aires began approaching us by sending us lists of questions. At first, we answered them with the help of statistics and graphs, later with more and more personal assessments, and later with fantasy and nonsense. Lisandro realised at some point that asking questions would become his real art. He tested the questions on the roadsides of Buenos Aires and designed a questionnaire for the route from Duisburg Central Station to the Landschaftspark Nord. Passers-by will discover them, respond to them silently, pass them on as a question, or continue to question them. RUHRORTER from Mülheim, describes, on account of three of his questions, their experiences, views and working approaches:

Lisandro Rodriguez: Is art the new mining?
Mining is the labour- and technology-intensive extraction of raw materials for energy production. With your question, we can look at the extent to which art here in the area represents a new form of labour in the extraction of raw materials and, accordingly, the extraction of new energies. Based on the establishment of art institutions, starting around the end of the 1990s, it can be observed that the Ruhr region has become inhabited more and more densely by artists and art institutions for about 20 years. This can be seen, for example, in the Ruhrtriennale, PACT Zollverein, Maschinenhaus Essen, Zeche Eins Bochum, Urbane Künste Ruhr, Hartware KunstMedienVerein Dortmund, and so on. They join the older institutions, municipal theatres, museums and concert halls.
There seem to be good conditions for the production of art, money and spaces for the institutions, and also for the artists.
Lisandro Rodriguez: Whose work is it?
Artistic work is quite different from the industrial dismantling of black coal. It is in general less physically exhausting and less of a danger to human life. And the long-term effects on the environment are less severe. Without the mining industry we – all the people who write these answers and the ones who read them, the magazine in which the text appears and also the festival of beautiful art, brought out by the magazine – wouldn’t be here. Now the coal industry is long gone, to where labour is cheap. Many people regret this because, with it, a certain wage level has disappeared. There simply is not enough well-paid work. And the cultural institutions don’t employ everyone.
Nevertheless, culture should redeem what the term structural change (and the social democratic politicians who speak of it) promises. Replacing what can’t equally be replaced. They should describe a new space in connection to universities, shopping malls and so on. How it will actually work still is not entirely clear. Neither is what happens next.
Lisandro Rodriguez: What would you like to extract?
In the course of our work, we are constantly confronted with situations, people and problems for which we do not have an answer, at first. Not knowing is sometimes uncomfortable, but always a good starting point. It may sound corny, but we learn and change by talking to people, taking it in and listening to it again.

Our group RUHRORTER was founded to offer theatre to people with refugee experience in Mülheim an der Ruhr. To watch and to play yourself. Our rehearsals are an opportunity to come together and exchange ideas, based on joint improvisations and not with the use of biographies.
What we draw from the work is a different view of ourselves, our neighbours and the environment. And we want to share that.


Azadeh Ganjeh and the two artists of the collective Tehran Re:public already know each other from earlier days when they still lived in Iran. Since they all speak Farsi and they mutually appreciate each other’s performance work, it was not difficult for them to speak in a conversation about the Ruhr area, the project, the routes and their experiences in the past year. Azadeh Ganjeh was able to draw important insights from this for her listening stations, which will be set up for Ruhrtriennale 2022 on the route between Essen and Duisburg. In her work, audio tracks sharpen the view of river landscapes in Mülheim Styrum, a perspective that is overlaid by concrete stories from Iran. The following is a part of the conversation that gives an impression of the work Amirhossein Mashaherifard and Shahab Anousha developed for Bochum.

Azadeh Ganjeh: You are Tehran Re:public. What do you feel in connection between these worlds of Tehran and Bochum? Do you feel any connection?
Tehran Re:public:
For us it’s an organic relation. But the form for it depends on every project. Of course, it’s possible that in a project we consciously decide on a topic which is about the relation between Tehran and Bochum or Berlin, but usually it is there in an organic way. Even if we talk about the Berlin Wall, our background is present. Someone speaks who is coming from Tehran. So, for us, it feels more natural and organic when we let our background leak into our art. We don’t see the necessity to have it actively present all the time.
Azadeh Ganjeh: When I was listening to the audio guide, something really touched me. You guided me as if you completely understood me as a stranger. I heard inside-out while I was absent from the actual space, but the detailed text, its duration, even pauses made me able to imagine the landscape which should have been in front of me. This gave me a message: they know and feel the state of being a stranger in a city. Is it somehow related to your otherness? Frankly, I think you are the people who have the experience of being the other.
Tehran Re:public:
I believe there are two reasons: one was the fact that we are not from Germany and Shahab never lived in Bochum, so in a way we are strangers or »the others« in the city. This gave us the possibility to experience our surroundings more in a neutral way, a bit with distance. The second point is that we even tried to turn natives of the city into strangers. That was part of our strategy, to change citizens to aliens, and through this alienation we hoped that we could give this possibility to our audience, to see the city in a different way, as someone who is here for the first time. Maybe that’s the reason you felt involved and close, as you are a stranger in the city as well. You are somehow equal to the people who were there experiencing the audio walk.
Azadeh Ganjeh: My last question is about your intention to go behind things, as is perceptible in the audios of inside-out. You guide the audience to spaces behind. For me it was very interesting how you go behind the phenomena in the meantime. If we agree that these urban bodies are phenomena in space, how and why does this emergence happen in your performance?
Tehran Re:public:
Part of this idea »Behind the things« is coming from the nature of the topic. When we talk about the design, for example when you design a bench for a city, it is not only aesthetic: there is a double functionality behind it. In this case it means you can sit on it but not lie down on it, or as a skateboarder, you cannot slide on it. So this duality and this front and behind is coming from here.


The performance collective lagartijas tiradas al sol from Mexico City and the documentary filmmakers loenkenfranke from Witten have very different languages, forms and ways of working, but they are perhaps united by their interest in concrete individual tragedies in everyday life, a humorous look at details and their desire to process reality. And so it is no coincidence that after loenkenfranke invited the visitors on a trip to the countryside between Gelsenkirchen and Essen, Lagartijas tiradas al sol now invite them on a trip to the south of Essen to show a Ruhr area beyond the usual.

Lagartijas tiradas al sol: Who are you?
We focus concretely on people and their life situations, living conditions, and societal phenomena. In our films, we reflect the political in the private and make major social issues visible in the experience of individuals.
When, as at the Monday demonstration in Leipzig, the crowd chants »We are the people« and suddenly a single sign, »I am Volker«, appears, it starts to get exciting for us.
Lagartijas tiradas al sol: Do you believe that the future will be better than the present?
We very much agree with Alexander Kluge: »I’m wary of being Cassandra as a writer. We don’t know anything about the future. I can only speak about pasts or present and I can speak about possibilities – in the subjunctive and even future tense I can still (say): I will have been. But with the future, I don’t have it in mind.« We deal with the present, the past and the possibilities, in the last 15 years related to the change of the Ruhr landscape and the world and how this change affects the reality of people’s lives.Our working method is characterised by the fact that we shoot many situational moments, accompany, look closely and listen. Thus, we always try to get closer to things from their essence. The present is inconceivable without awareness of the past. The question of whether the future will be better than the present belongs to the realm of speculation. »To be better than something« is an evaluation – we do not try to evaluate…
Lagartijas tiradas al sol: What can people in the region be proud of?
The people in the region have mastered tremendous upheavals in the past and are currently facing another major transformation. Collective pride always has to do with identity. Here in the region, this identity was largely shaped by their collective work in a large industry. However, we believe in the individual. Collective pride of an entire society leaves an aftertaste for us.
Lagartijas tiradas al sol: Where have the mines gone?
The mines are where they are, hundreds of metres below the earth’s surface. But their significance for the people has changed fundamentally. They no longer serve to ensure a (high) standard of living for the people in the region, but people have to deal with their consequences as eternal damage.
Lagartijas tiradas al sol: How do you deal with the feeling that life is happening somewhere else?
In art, life always takes place in the here and now. What we are originally interested in is capturing moments and snapshots, archiving them and bringing them into relationship with each other. This is how films are created that are a piece of contemporary history and only ever yield meaning and significance in the moment of their reception in relation to the present. Great upheavals always go hand in hand with challenge. Turn of the times, change, disappearance. New possibilities open up, and with them new identifications – old ones break away. At a time when everyday life is becoming more and more digital, when everything is available online at all times, when the internet seems to answer all questions, the longing for an alternative reality arises. Obviously, turning to nature (which no longer exists in the original sense in our breadth) currently opens up access to this alternative reality for many people. In the WEGE project, we have chosen the ornithological view for this reason. Alone with oneself and nature, the view through binoculars or spotting scopes makes the world seem small and clear. A suitable refuge to face the challenges and limitations of everyday life – and to counter them with something. This sharpens the view of the essence of man, of his peculiarities, his dreams and fears. And as a result becomes an indicator of the state of society. Inevitably, one is confronted with what constitutes being human.
Lagartijas tiradas al sol: How do you think about progress in a region that itself was forgotten?
In our last film we began with a poem from Andreas Gryphius:

Everything is vain (1640)

Wherever you look, you see only vanity on earth. What this one builds today, that one tears down tomorrow: Where cities stand now, there will be a meadow, On which a shepherd’s child will play with the flocks. What now still blooms splendidly, shall soon be trampled. What now throbs and defies will be ashes and bones tomorrow, Nothing is eternal, no ore, no marble stone. Now happiness smiles at us, soon the complaints thunder. Andreas Gryphius

Change as a never-ending process. Not to accept it as the basis of all thinking would be tantamount to hubris.

Translated from German by Rose-Anne Clermont