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Kinder Königreich

A Children’s Kingdom

Paweł Althamer and Friends


Program A Children’s Kingdom:
All Dates from 2014, June to September

This summer the Polish artist Paweł Althamer is to undertake a diverse, subtle, and experimental art project. For four months, from June 1 through to September 21, he and his friends from the artist group Reactor – Sculpture Lab based in Warsaw will move into the Ludwig Forum and seek to shed light on themes such as power, authority, and freedom from a completely different perspective: from the standpoint of children. The motivation to try something so different and daring is the 1200th anniversary of the death of Charlemagne, one of the most powerful rulers in the Middle Ages.

Together with hundreds of children and youths a Children’s Kingdom will be established that shall extend from the garden and courtyard of the Ludwig Forum, out across public space, and finally annex St Elisabeth’s Church opposite. In workshops and performance actions these locations will be regenerated and transformed: the Church occupied, the surrounds changed, stories fabricated and told, costumes designed, a monument created. The motor propelling these artistic transformations is the candid naivety and creativity of children, which opens up new perspectives for adults as well.

A Draftsmen’s Congress will take place in the heart of the museum. Here walls and floors may be used for drawings – an open invitation to everyone to enter dis-cussions via drawn images. In addition, an Open Academy will provide a platform to create their own works, and these will then be shown in an exhibition.

The proposed highlight will be a festival and parade in fantasy uniforms on the main road in front of the museum – should the children go along with the proposal. They have namely the freedom to carry out the projects in line with their own visions. Althamer and his artist friends, who will be frequently in Aachen for the duration of the project, will lend their support to the young artists and performers, acting as catalysts in the artistic process.

It is part of Paweł Althamer’s strategy to undermine existing systems of rules and evoke new models of action. Whether sculpture, film, or the four months of a Children’s Kingdom: his works are critical of institutions, committed to exploring social issues, and self-reflective. And as results of a process they are at the same time a topic that is concretely present and a carrier of social and aesthetic experience.

Four elements are at the forefront of his works: interaction, self-reflection, participation, and the process. “I believe that art is an open field of communication, more open than politics and religion. Today’s art practice is more in flux and in communication with other areas than everything else, and it resembles most closely what we call freedom.” (Althamer)

Althamer’s concern is to identify action-oriented experiments with freedom. As if testing out what freedom is, he took to the streets of Kassel dressed in a startling full astronaut suit during documenta X. To draw attention to his “inner homelessness” he moved into a tree house in front of the Foksal Gallery in Warsaw for a longer period. In other works he disappears as it were, becoming a participating observer in a collective, or he melts into the background completely. In 2006 for instance, upon being offered a solo exhibition in the Centre Pompidou, he instead sent eleven young colleagues to Paris.

Often he turns the spotlight on people whose voices usually go unheard. These include the homeless, prison inmates, migrants or children and youths without any prospects. For them, and together with them, he conceives of microcosms in which his greatest project, the interpenetration of art and life, can take place. At Skulptur Projekte Münster 2007, Althamer, ably helped by prison inmates, trod down a trail that led visitors through the landscape on the outskirts of town, only to abruptly end in a cornfield. Althamer: “To be in a process, that is the point. […] My work is all about getting others to comprehend this.”

The Aachen project Children’s Kingdom draws on the book King Matt by the author and physician Janusz Korczak, who was murdered in the Nazi extermination camp of Treblinka. Exploring the idea of a children’s republic, the project enters the contemporary discourses on freedom and power as well as organization and politics, while inverting the hierarchical relationship between adults and children. As a contemporary commentary on these issues the project raises questions as to the importance of the youngest members of our society, the situation in which they have to live, their wishes and their ideas of freedom. The Children’s Kingdom is thus a laboratory for democracy and democratic practice.

Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, will act as patron of the exhibition


Paweł Althamer
Born in Warsaw in 1967, Althamer has firmly established himself in the international art scene since the mid-1990s. He has taken part for example in documenta X (1997) in Kassel, Manifesta 3 (2000) in Ljubljana, the 50th Biennale in Venice (2003), the 4th and 7th Berlin Biennales (2006, 2012), the Skulptur Projekte Münster (2007), as well as the most recent Venice Biennale (2013). Important museums have held solo exhibitions for the artist, including the Kunsthalle Basel (1997), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (2001), the Centre Pompidou in Paris (2006), and the New Museum in New York (2014). In 2004 the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht awarded the artist the Vincent van Gogh Bi-Annual Award for Contemporary Art in Europe. The Aachen Kunstpreis followed in 2010.

Documentation of the projekt on Tumblr

Artists: Paweł Althamer, Czarli Bajka, Paweł Chmielewski, Konrad Chmielewski, Witold Nazarkiewicz, Przemysław Pietrzak, Tomasz Waszczeniuk and Anna Zielińska

Curators: Dr. Brigitte Franzen and Esther Boehle
Assistant Curator: Julia Küchle

Entry to the museum is free of charge during The Children’s Kingdom!

Supporters: German Federal Cultural Foundation, BMW Group, Verein der Freunde des Ludwig Forums, Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Peter und Irene Ludwig Stiftung, VW-Stiftung

Cooperation partner: stadtteilbüro aachen nord (Soziale Stadt Aachen-Nord)

Media partner: WDR 3


A Children’s Kingdom,Installation Views and program









Photos: Carl Brunn / Ludwig Forum Aachen

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