de / en
Was Ihr Wollt! Die Neuen Auftraggeber:
Klappe halten? Handeln in Zeiten lärmender Rhetorik
12.11.

Discourse
In German

Alexander Koch (Neue Auftraggeber, KOW) in conversation with:
Alice Creischer (artist, author)
Dorothea von Hantelmann (art historian, curator)
Maria Kleinschmidt (activist, Extinction Rebellion)
Zoë Claire Miller (artist, speaker bbk berlin, co-founder Berlin Art Prize)

Sometimes things get loud—whether that’s in your own family, at a rock concert, or in politics. Shouting sentences, or even screaming furiously, can be healthy. Too much of this, however, poisons the social climate and does not help, for our ears can easily miss something much quieter, yet with incomparably more power than any noisy rhetoric: action.

When something is done without making grand statements, it can be powerful. The normative power of the factual has become proverbial, and in a time of great uncertainty, creating facts is surely a good idea. For communities, action offers a further assurance: from the sports club to the village festival to demonstrations on Fridays—doing something together makes a difference.

Artists understand this well. Art can end up being very discursive, but its real point is to do something. There is also something about artistic action that makes it different from riding a bike or drying your hair, because if all goes well, it results in things that you could have scarcely imagined beforehand, let alone put into words.

Something that would be catastrophic when building a highway is actually what makes art really good: you don’t know what will come out at the other end—but once it’s there, you’re convinced. And then it also becomes possible to find the right words for what has actually been done here and why and how it works.

So this evening is supposed to be about action. And about how it can transform communities. If something cannot be said, then perhaps it needs to be acted upon instead. When you are looking for the unexpected, sometimes you have to do something instead of just planning it. This is how things can change, even when everything seems to have already been said; while loudmouths are busy vying to be heard, the ground is being dug up around them.

Photo: Fabien Rigobert, Logis Castille, 2008 - 2010, Amiens, France © Les Nouveaux Commanditaires-2

Whatever You Want! The Art of the New Patrons
In 1992, the French project Nouveaux Commanditaires (New Patrons) was launched with the aim of creating a new vehicle for supporting the contemporary arts. Instead of relying on private or public funding organisations, the programme encourages local self-managed groups of citizens to establish contact with internationally renowned artists and commission a stand-alone work for their home town. According to the credo of the New Patrons programme, any individual can become a sponsor of an important artwork. More than three hundred productions, many of which have taken several years to complete, have been commissioned in France through this programme so far. The fine arts, architecture, music, theatre – all artistic fields are represented. Financing is generally provided by private and public sponsors. In Germany, New Patrons is still in its infancy. Especially in structurally weak and rural regions, there are many people interested in participating in such a community-based process which allows their voices to be heard and enables them to respond to challenges in their communities through contemporary art.

Any citizen can be a sponsor. Normally New Patrons are small- to medium-sized locally-based groups of citizens who are committed to addressing an urgent, publicly relevant concern or issue in their community or neighbourhood. A mediator will consult and support the New Patrons with finding a suitable, renowned artist who will work together with them to develop an artistic proposal for their respective project. Once the citizens, mediator and artist come to an agreement, the citizens assume responsibility for acquiring financing, organising policy matters, collaborating with regional partners from the artistic and cultural fields, and hosting civic dialogues throughout the commissioning process. An extensive and long-term civic commitment is a prerequisite for the success of these local participation projects.

This event series presents the New Patrons' projects and, together with various guests, discusses civil society's underestimated ability to take its cultural needs into its own hands. New forms of social cooperation and conflict resolution will be debated, as well as the vision of communities that give themselves their own voices, in order to be the producers and not just consumers of their lives.

The Society of the New Patrons is supported by

With kind support of the Senate Department for Culture and Europe.


Past Activities

Was Ihr wollt! Die Neuen Auftraggeber Von der Wut zum Mut: Über politische Beziehungskrisen

Which new strategies does politics offer to cities and towns, and to their civil societies? How can filter bubbles and echo chambers be opened up, creating new chances for democratic compromises? What kind of language must we invent, which would allow us to understand each other better, to endure and overcome our conflicts? We would like to listen to people who can report from their own practices, describing how they involved whole towns in their discussions, sketched plans for a new community consciousness, or reached new public audiences. A workshopping conversation with representatives from the laboratory of local politics.

Everyone agrees: dialogue is important. There are numerous opportunities for discussion, and participation concepts have become a heartfelt matter—indeed, a top priority—from a local to a national level. Is this approach succeeding? Is mutual understanding growing? Which formats, proposals, and questions are still pending?

We cannot increase the scope of politics and society simply by talking more. When every problem has been laid on the table and every emotion has been brought to light, it becomes a question of striking a balance. It is not only about what each individual wants or doesn’t want, but rather about what we could collectively want and do. Do we need, first and foremost, more courage to experiment, instead of just more dialogue? Do we have new perspectives for collective action rather than merely several opinions? Or are we doggedly clinging to debates and forgetting to look for what is possible? How do we actually create courage?

During this evening we would like to hear from our interviewees about the courageous paths they have taken, which hurdles have been overcome and which are still to be faced, and which experiments have yet to be carried out.

Photo: Raumlabor, CANTIERE BARCA, 2011, Turin, Italy © New Patrons

Whatever You Want! The Art of the New Patrons
In 1992, the French project Nouveaux Commanditaires (New Patrons) was launched with the aim of creating a new vehicle for supporting the contemporary arts. Instead of relying on private or public funding organisations, the programme encourages local self-managed groups of citizens to establish contact with internationally renowned artists and commission a stand-alone work for their home town. According to the credo of the New Patrons programme, any individual can become a sponsor of an important artwork. More than three hundred productions, many of which have taken several years to complete, have been commissioned in France through this programme so far. The fine arts, architecture, music, theatre – all artistic fields are represented. Financing is generally provided by private and public sponsors. In Germany, New Patrons is still in its infancy. Especially in structurally weak and rural regions, there are many people interested in participating in such a community-based process which allows their voices to be heard and enables them to respond to challenges in their communities through contemporary art.

Any citizen can be a sponsor. Normally New Patrons are small- to medium-sized locally-based groups of citizens who are committed to addressing an urgent, publicly relevant concern or issue in their community or neighbourhood. A mediator will consult and support the New Patrons with finding a suitable, renowned artist who will work together with them to develop an artistic proposal for their respective project. Once the citizens, mediator and artist come to an agreement, the citizens assume responsibility for acquiring financing, organising policy matters, collaborating with regional partners from the artistic and cultural fields, and hosting civic dialogues throughout the commissioning process. An extensive and long-term civic commitment is a prerequisite for the success of these local participation projects.

This event series presents the New Patrons' projects and, together with various guests, discusses civil society's underestimated ability to take its cultural needs into its own hands. New forms of social cooperation and conflict resolution will be debated, as well as the vision of communities that give themselves their own voices, in order to be the producers and not just consumers of their lives.

With kind support of



Was Ihr wollt! Die Neuen Auftraggeber: Streitkultur. Mediation und Konflikttransformation in Krisengebieten

Whatever you want! Die Neuen Auftraggeber (The New Patrons).
Debate Culture: Mediation and Conflict Transformation in Crisis Zones

Panel discussion with:

Prof. Dr. Dr. Hans-Joachim Gießmann, Executive Director of the Berghof Foundation

Dr. Nicole Rieber, Project Manager in the field of Digital Peace Education at the Berghof Foundation

Prof. Dr. Angela Mickley emer., Conflict Management, Peace Education and Ecology in the Department of Social and Educational Sciences at the FH Potsdam, Head of Continuing Education Mediation at the FHP in cooperation with Konflikthaus e.V., Research/Development on Crisis Intervention with Social Focus, Dealing with the Past, Reconciliation. Co-Speaker of the Platform Civil Conflict Management

Mechthild von Schwerin, mediator, landscape planner, artist

Moderation: Alexander Koch, Director of Neue Auftraggeber

Conflicts are good; As long as there is room for dialogue. They generate social momentum in private and public life. Every democracy is a constructive cultivation of conflict. But some conflicts are so complicated, deadlocked, or even dangerous that the conflicting parties can see no way out. For centuries, mediators have had to act as neutral intermediaries between the two fronts and find a balance between their conflicting interests and needs.

The demand seems to be growing: today, everything between marital crises and civil wars engage droves of mediators in politics, business, and civil society, working to bring about peace as best as they can. But how do they actually do it? The profession is discreet and complex. It thrives on empathy, psychological insight, and tactical instincts. Mediation also requires professional tools. And above all, it requires trust. That’s the crux of the matter: How is trust formed?

And what happens if conflicts cannot be “solved?” What if only circuitous routes lead to this destination? Or if nobody knows what this destination is like? If a quick fix would only be a new problem? Often, the art of mediation finding the unknown, frequently through an open and perhaps risky process that no one can foresee.

That's what this evening is all about: transforming the challenges and potentials of hot and cold, warlike, crisis, and everyday conflicts, and the reality of those involved. Broadening the concept of a common ground. Finding a new hypothetical, which often seems intangible in conflict situations, and which one must first discover.

One could say that conflict transformation, in this sense, moves closer to being an art form. When it comes to envisioning the unthinkable, finding new languages for old problems, giving the rifts between people and worlds their appropriate form and legitimacy, then artistic methods are not far away. Art as conflict transformation in crises and even in crisis regions—is this conceivable?

Image: Neue Auftraggeber, Martino Gamper, Nichelino Base Alpha, 2010-2013, Turin, Italy, ©Les Nouveaux Commanditaires-13

Whatever You Want! The Art of the New Patrons
In 1992, the French project Nouveaux Commanditaires (New Patrons) was launched with the aim of creating a new vehicle for supporting the contemporary arts. Instead of relying on private or public funding organisations, the programme encourages local self-managed groups of citizens to establish contact with internationally renowned artists and commission a stand-alone work for their home town. According to the credo of the New Patrons programme, any individual can become a sponsor of an important artwork. More than three hundred productions, many of which have taken several years to complete, have been commissioned in France through this programme so far. The fine arts, architecture, music, theatre – all artistic fields are represented. Financing is generally provided by private and public sponsors. In Germany, New Patrons is still in its infancy. Especially in structurally weak and rural regions, there are many people interested in participating in such a community-based process which allows their voices to be heard and enables them to respond to challenges in their communities through contemporary art.

Any citizen can be a sponsor. Normally New Patrons are small- to medium-sized locally-based groups of citizens who are committed to addressing an urgent, publicly relevant concern or issue in their community or neighbourhood. A mediator will consult and support the New Patrons with finding a suitable, renowned artist who will work together with them to develop an artistic proposal for their respective project. Once the citizens, mediator and artist come to an agreement, the citizens assume responsibility for acquiring financing, organising policy matters, collaborating with regional partners from the artistic and cultural fields, and hosting civic dialogues throughout the commissioning process. An extensive and long-term civic commitment is a prerequisite for the success of these local participation projects.

This event series presents the New Patrons' projects and, together with various guests, discusses civil society's underestimated ability to take its cultural needs into its own hands. New forms of social cooperation and conflict resolution will be debated, as well as the vision of communities that give themselves their own voices, in order to be the producers and not just consumers of their lives.

With kind support of



Whatever you want! The New Patrons: Decision-Making on the Citizens’ Behalf. Is it Still Democratic?

With Dr. Mark Terkessidis (freelance writer and researcher of migration studies), Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Merkel (Director of the Research Unit Democracy and Democratization at the Berlin Social Science Center), Dr. Juliane Stückrad (Büro für Angewandte Kulturforschung, Eisenach / Department of Cultural Anthropology, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena) and Alexander Koch (Director of Gesellschaft der Neuen Auftraggeber, Berlin)
Moderation: Simone Miller (culture editor at Deutschlandfunk Kultur)

Politics and the administration act on their citizens’ behalf; a representative democracy cannot afford to have any doubts about this. Yet our faith in public representatives’ ability to fulfill this task has been wavering. The impenetrability of global developments and the practical constraints of policies driven by efficiency-oriented thinking are alienating the electorate from democratic institutions. The increased coarsening of political discussion is producing cracks in political structures. Anyone today who claims to act on the citizens’ behalf is entering uncertain territory. As every regional commissioner knows, you have to prove yourself before you can be trusted.

As a result, there has been a growing desire in various towns and districts for direct self-representation. People have begun fantasizing about a more direct politics that aims to concretely implement specific interests. This does not just apply to the diverse village communities organizing their own theater festivals. Every populist is trying to reclaim the will of the people for themselves in order to undermine democratic debate. Perhaps this risk is outweighed by the opportunities, namely to renegotiate democratic processes locally and develop a language that helps us become personally involved in political participation once again.

For despite all this uncertainty, nobody would dispute that democracy must regain our trust in order to shape society more actively and spontaneously than before. Decision-making on the citizens’ behalf: would this mean that future citizens will increasingly declare their own agencies, make their needs clear and demand them, and in doing so assume public responsibility instead of (merely) going to vote? Will there be new forms of guidance somewhere between local demands and political representation?

Photo: Yona Friedman, Musée des Graffitis, 2006-2009, Paris, France, ©Les Nouveaux Commanditaires

Whatever You Want! The Art of the New Patrons
In 1992, the French project Nouveaux Commanditaires (New Patrons) was launched with the aim of creating a new vehicle for supporting the contemporary arts. Instead of relying on private or public funding organisations, the programme encourages local self-managed groups of citizens to establish contact with internationally renowned artists and commission a stand-alone work for their home town. According to the credo of the New Patrons programme, any individual can become a sponsor of an important artwork. More than three hundred productions, many of which have taken several years to complete, have been commissioned in France through this programme so far. The fine arts, architecture, music, theatre – all artistic fields are represented. Financing is generally provided by private and public sponsors. In Germany, New Patrons is still in its infancy. Especially in structurally weak and rural regions, there are many people interested in participating in such a community-based process which allows their voices to be heard and enables them to respond to challenges in their communities through contemporary art.

Any citizen can be a sponsor. Normally New Patrons are small- to medium-sized locally-based groups of citizens who are committed to addressing an urgent, publicly relevant concern or issue in their community or neighbourhood. A mediator will consult and support the New Patrons with finding a suitable, renowned artist who will work together with them to develop an artistic proposal for their respective project. Once the citizens, mediator and artist come to an agreement, the citizens assume responsibility for acquiring financing, organising policy matters, collaborating with regional partners from the artistic and cultural fields, and hosting civic dialogues throughout the commissioning process. An extensive and long-term civic commitment is a prerequisite for the success of these local participation projects.

This event series presents the New Patrons' projects and, together with various guests, discusses civil society's underestimated ability to take its cultural needs into its own hands. New forms of social cooperation and conflict resolution will be debated, as well as the vision of communities that give themselves their own voices, in order to be the producers and not just consumers of their lives.

With kind support of


Whatever You Want! The Art of the New Patrons: When Citizens Become Patrons

With Susanne Burmester, Denis Bury, Holger Friese, Gerrit Gohlke, Kathrin Jentjens, Alexander Koch and Lena Ziese
Presented by Antje Stahl

They build schools and parks, commemorate victims of war or slain friends, fight for human rights and public awareness, shape villages and change cities: when locals take their concerns into their own hands as patrons of artistic projects, they create a new piece of society and life in their community. Around 500 projects have already been commissioned in Europe. For this opening evening, we will discuss the motivations behind them, the topics that top people's lists, and how artists come up with answers to the challenges on-site. How do the projects work? How does one become a patron? Who pays for it? And how might art be able to assert itself in the midst of life as a contribution to democratic cohesion?

On this first of six evenings in the “Whatever You Want!” event series in the Grüner Salon, mediators for the New Patrons report on civic projects with international artists:

A silver monster mobilises the entire city and becomes its new landmark. Two teachers commission a new school with unrivalled characteristics, which now serves as a model for others. A community of farmers fundamentally changes its dilapidated village and thereby transforms its own understanding of itself. A pygmy people in the rainforest builds its own cultural centre and botanical garden. An empty city centre fills itself with new life. And three nurses decide that their station needs a prayer room for believers from all religions. It's projects like these that spur the imaginations of locals and artists to take on even the most unusual challenges, and to trust that art will create something of significance for many people.

Photo: The New Patrons of Tours: Xavier Veilhan, Le Monstre, 2004

Whatever You Want! The Art of the New Patrons
In 1992, the French project Nouveaux Commanditaires (New Patrons) was launched with the aim of creating a new vehicle for supporting the contemporary arts. Instead of relying on private or public funding organisations, the programme encourages local self-managed groups of citizens to establish contact with internationally renowned artists and commission a stand-alone work for their home town. According to the credo of the New Patrons programme, any individual can become a sponsor of an important artwork. More than three hundred productions, many of which have taken several years to complete, have been commissioned in France through this programme so far. The fine arts, architecture, music, theatre – all artistic fields are represented. Financing is generally provided by private and public sponsors. In Germany, New Patrons is still in its infancy. Especially in structurally weak and rural regions, there are many people interested in participating in such a community-based process which allows their voices to be heard and enables them to respond to challenges in their communities through contemporary art.

Any citizen can be a sponsor. Normally New Patrons are small- to medium-sized locally-based groups of citizens who are committed to addressing an urgent, publicly relevant concern or issue in their community or neighbourhood. A mediator will consult and support the New Patrons with finding a suitable, renowned artist who will work together with them to develop an artistic proposal for their respective project. Once the citizens, mediator and artist come to an agreement, the citizens assume responsibility for acquiring financing, organising policy matters, collaborating with regional partners from the artistic and cultural fields, and hosting civic dialogues throughout the commissioning process. An extensive and long-term civic commitment is a prerequisite for the success of these local participation projects.

This event series presents the New Patrons' projects and, together with various guests, discusses civil society's underestimated ability to take its cultural needs into its own hands. New forms of social cooperation and conflict resolution will be debated, as well as the vision of communities that give themselves their own voices, in order to be the producers and not just consumers of their lives.

The Society of the New Patrons is supported by

With kind support of the Senate Department for Culture and Europe.

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