Contemporary art in Saxony is extremely diverse, highly creative and very experimental. It goes beyond classical painting and sculpture to encompass complex installations and modern media art. The entire scene is in a constant state of flux, bursting with energy and exuberance. No longer limited to museums and galleries, contemporary art is now also displayed in public spaces as urban art, for example in parks, like “Parkkunst” in the small town of Waldenburg in western Saxony, or on abandoned factory grounds and unused municipal land.
The boundaries between embellishing public buildings and vandalism are blurred, and especially the more banal forms of this kind of art are often branded as “scribble”. Yet urban art is becoming increasingly mainstream. In western Saxony, it has even been given its own festival: IBUg. What began as an unofficial gathering of graffiti artists has since grown into an internationally renowned and recognised symposium for urban art and culture.
CREATIVE USE OF ABANDONED BUILDINGS
IBUg is an abbreviation of “Industriebrachenumgestaltung”, which means “rejuvenating industrial wastelands”, or more specifically giving a facelift to old factories that are no longer in use but still accessible. For over ten years now, more than 60 artists from all around the world have gathered in the last week of August in towns throughout western Saxony, such as Meerane, Glauchau, Zwickau, Crimmitschau or Plauen, to transform a piece of Saxony’s industrial history into a unique work of art. A one-week creative phase, during which the artists work on graffiti, illustrations, installations and multimedia projects, is followed by a festival weekend, where they present their works to the public.
The artists use spray cans, paint and brushes, as well as materials like wood, paper, plaster and metal, anything they can find in and around the industrial ruins, to forge their ideas on incorporating the architecture and history of the buildings into art.
IBUg is about interacting with the environment, integrating it into the creative process. The artists are encouraged to first gain inspiration before getting down to the actual physical work. Ultimately, the idea is to create an incentive to innovatively explore the past in a region that has seen radical industrial and demographic change. The works of art emerging from this creative process are of course not intended to last forever. After the festival, the buildings will eventually be demolished. As Thomas Dietze, an original member of the IBUg team says: “Just as public spaces change, urban art is also transient. It is important for the artists to be able to present their work and have space in which they can be creative. Once a work of art is finished, it’s over and they move on to other things.”
FROM AN IDEA TO A FESTIVAL
IBUg was initiated in 2006 by TASSO, a graffiti artist from Meerane in western Saxony. TASSO, whose real name is Jens Müller, discovered his talent for graffiti in the 1990s and has since travelled around the world, painting his photo-realistic murals on facades and other surfaces.
“Even though Saxony is a flourishing, industrialised state, many of its towns still have derelict industrial buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries. And Meerane is no exception. Before these sites and buildings fell into complete disrepair, I wanted to spray-paint them legally. Our mayor was very open to the idea and gave me permission. Only later did I realise that the factories were much too big for me to spray by myself in the short time before they were torn down. So I invited a few graffiti friends, and the result was an art symposium,” Tasso recalls.
The idea was not to simply paint series of figures or slogans, but rather to incorporate the environment using available materials, such as machine parts or cabling, to play, as it were, with the architecture. The result was graffiti installations and 3D artworks, such as the picture of a torch shown above, where the chimney in the background reinforces the painting.
At the first IBUg, the week-long creative phase did not culminate in a festival, but more of an open house. This met with such an overwhelming response, particularly among town authorities and the art association, that the organisers obtained permission to hold a second art symposium the following year. It was to be even bigger and on an even larger scale than the first, and as a result, an urban culture festival was born. (excerpt)
decorum Kommunikation/Stephanie Rinck
Photo: (c) Conny Heimer