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Counter-Memorials and Para-Monument

Nora Sternfeld.

“I was a stranger and you took me in. Ich kam als ein Fremdling und ihr habt mich beherbergt.” A quotation from the Bible in four languages (Arabic, English, German, and Turkish) on a 16.3-meter-high obelisk stood during documenta 14 in the middle of Königsplatz in downtown Kassel. The work in question was produced for documenta and entitled Das Fremdlinge und Flüchtlinge Monument by artist Olu Oguibe. Both the Bible and the shape of the obelisk develop over-determined meanings. Olu Oguibe won the City of Kassel’s Arnold-Bode-Preis for this artwork. On the cultural committee that had to decide whether the obelisk would remain on Kassel’s Königplatz, Thomas Materner, Kassel municipal councillor for the AfD party, described the obelisk as “ideologically polarizing, distorted art”. He announced protests against it. The newspaper Hessisch Niedersächsische Allgemeine reported he had also said: “In his experience, the citizens’ anger over the obelisk was great”.[2] Not only the word “distorted” but also the talk of the anger of the citizens brought to mind echoes of the history of the November pogroms in Germany when the Reich Ministry of Propaganda insisted on the wording “the people’s anger” at a press conference.

What shape can artistic memory take if it has once again become possible to publicly denounce art as being “distorted” and “abhorrent”, [3] while at the same time everyone talks about a “never again” of which it has long since become unclear what this means? And what does this mean for a culture of remembrance that had to be fiercely fought for until into the 1980s, only for it to become reflexive in the 1990s and in the noughties to actually become a tourism factor – while at the same time being right-wing is once again stylish, possible, and powerful. So, what is a monument as a place of remembrance in a neoliberal world that is in many places becoming increasingly fascist? This essay outlines the history of artistic counter-monuments and explores the idea of para-monuments for the present.

Wrestled memories

An attempt to reconstruct the history/histories of remembrance cultures in the successor states of Nazi-Germany offers us insights into a contested terrain. For a very long time, monuments and memorials to support an admonishing memory of the Nazis’ mass crimes were by no means a matter of course in West Germany, in Austria, and in East Germany. Many decades after the liberation, in the successor states of Nazi-Germany the burden of remembering the Holocaust thus lay with the survivors and their relatives. For example, Sonja Klenk writes that “It was the survivors who directly after the end of the war erected commemorative plaques and memorials, whereby in the course of the following decades these fell into ruin and were forgotten.”[4] In this context, art started taking the Nazis’ crimes as subject matter for aesthetic enquiry as early as 1945. This was driven by the largely marginalized self-organization of the survivors. Taking as their motto “Never Forget”, survivor organizations dedicated themselves continuously to remembrance projects. On April 11, 1951, for example, a rally was held by the KZ-Verband on Morzinplatz in Vienna, the place where the Gestapo prison and the former Hotel Metropol had stood. In this context, a memorial stone to the victims of the Gestapo was designed and consecrated by the Opferverband (Association of Victims) without official authorization, in other words illegally. Not until the 1980s was the Arbeitsgemeinschaft der KZ-Verbände und Widerstandskämpfer Österreichs able to unveil the new memorial to the victims of violent oppression by the Nazis. “The nascent aesthetics of commemoration is usually driven by a monolithic and block-like formal idiom and figurative symbolism of suffering: The battle for remembrance is expressed in modernist monuments that take the sheer fact of survival as their subject matter, lend material form to mourning the murdered, commemorate the persecuted as individuals, and seek to express the victory of Modernity. In other words, initially it was about taking a stance as a gesture by the survivors and that stance was not infrequently bound up with struggles over the history of politics.”[5] Remembrance had to be fought for if it was to be won.


While this took a lot longer in Austria and remains controversial to this day, in West Germany in the 1980s (in the wake of the US TV series Holocaust having been broadcast on the ARD channel in 1979) a new, almost omnipresent self-reflexive debate on the Nazi crimes ensued in art in public spaces. For example, James Edward Young wrote in 1992: “Germany’s ongoing Denkmal-Arbeit simultaneously displaces and constitutes the object of memory.”[6]. In this context, he coined the term “counter-monument, which he found exemplified above all by the practice of Jochen and Esther Shalev Gerz, while also referencing Horst Hoheisel, and in their work saw a German memory against itself”. A key role in these projects for counter-memory was that they did not wish to pre-empt any debate or create a monumental presence in its stead. In other words, instead of substituting the debate people should be having, the idea was to ensure the wound was not allowed to heal and the debate kept going. This resulted in artistic/formal strategies ranging from presence to absence: In this context, the best-known example is the Harburg Memorial Against Fascism, War, and Violence – for Peace and Human Rights by Jochen Gerz and Esther Shalev-Gerz. When erected in 1986 it consisted of a 12-meter-high stele that challenged passersby to write on it and thus participate in remembrance, and as part of this to help gradually lower the column into the ground. We can read on a panel in seven languages, and the panel remains the visible trace of the column which has since disappeared into the ground: “We invite the citizens of Harburg and visitors to the town to add their names here to ours. In doing so, we commit ourselves to remain vigilant. As more and more names cover this 12-meter-tall lead column, it will gradually be lowered into the ground. One day, it will have disappeared completely and the site of the Harburg monument against fascism will be empty. In the end, it is only we ourselves who can rise up against injustice.”[7]

In 1987, artist Horst Hoheisel created a memorial for documenta 8. It, too, refused to create closure for remembrance simply by reconstructing something or providing a classic monument, and instead sought to keep memory open and thus highlight that there can never be any closure. The result was a memorial as negative: Hoheisel’s piece references a fountain with an obelisk – a 12-meter-high, 12-step pyramid sculpture made of sandstone that stood in front of the Kassel City Hall. Nazi activists had, as part of a pogrom on April 9, 1939, destroyed what they had decried as a “Jewish fountain”. It had been donated in 1908 by Kassel burgher Sigmund Aschrott on the occasion of the new-build City Hall being inaugurated and had been designed by the same architect, Karl Roth. Hoheisel’s counter-monument consisted of “sinking the fountain as an inverted shape into the ground on the forecourt outside the City Hall. In this way, the pyramid became a funnel into which the fountain’s water cascaded loudly. The symmetrical opposite of the original fountain reached down as far as the water table and thus became a symbol of the rupture, the absence that had arisen and which could no longer be filled.”[8]

What has happened since

While this critical debate was increasingly occupying public space in West Germany during the 1980s, global politics was changing. After German Reunification, the remembrance projects were as good as the pre-eminent theme presented by the country. In the noughties, a certain sense of pathos of negative remembrance was transformed into a tourist attraction that definitely fostered a specific identity and completely overwrote the discourse on remembrance in East Germany – which had most certainly also been problematic and inadequate as regards tackling anti-Semitism. In the course of this, the East German notion of “anti-fascism” was actually delegitimized. Such a smoothing over of negative memories in the noughties are symbolized best by the “topography” and the “stele”. In the booming tourism metropolis of Berlin, where rents seem to go up by the month and an ever-increasing number of districts are experiencing gentrification, remembrance became an overall urban project. “The concrete of the blocks in the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe may perhaps quote the above-mentioned Modernist gesture of the survivors, but here concrete also becomes the stylistic material of a new German “pride in remembrance”, and the omnipresent “stele” of the noughties becomes its prime form.”[9] In the noughties, remembrance started to forge an identity not just for Germany, but also for Europe. Enzo Traverso thus pointed to the danger of the culture of history becoming depoliticized as a consequence. In his opinion this “does not involve forgetting the Shoah but rather an abuse of memories of it, enveloping it in balm, locking it away in museums, and neutralizing its critical potential, or, worse still, using it apologetically as the support for the current world order.”[10] So what should a counter-monument do if it is the counter-monuments themselves that are now fostering identity? And what to do if the “culture of remembrance” tends to assist the emergence of the New Right rather than causing an outcry at it happening?

Kassel’s Königsplatz is located a few hundred meters from the venue of the former Aschrottbrunnen fountain. It was there that from summer 2017 until fall 2018 an obelisk once again stood – the documenta art work by Olu Oguibe that was then derided as “distorted art”. It may be a conscious strategy to get people accustomed to hearing these words echo. And in the context of the documenta, that is as ironic as it is bitter[11]: After all, since its first edition back in 1955 the documenta has repeatedly presented itself publicly with the function of drawing on an artistic practice that was ostracized for being “degenerate”.[12] The fact that a fountain stood like an open wound in front of the City Hall changed nothing as regards the stance of the AfD or the way the debate on the obelisk took place in the city. The irony and scandal of the repetition of the right-wing threat to an obelisk in downtown Kassel went unnoticed.


Now, Olu Oguibe’s defamed artwork is formally anything but a counter-monument. It does not try and duck the eye, dares to tower up into public space as an obelisk, to occupy Königsplatz. I suggest Olu Oguibe’s Das Fremdlinge und Flüchtlinge Monument be read as re-appropriation. Indeed, in relation to German “counter-monuments” I would term it a para-monument. It does not address the idea of a monument negatively but appropriates the form and discourse of the powerful monuments in order to turn these properties against them. This complicated relationship that is neither completely against the monument nor completely defined by it can best be described by the prefix “para”. After all, the Greek prefix παρά means both “from… to, near, next… to, toward… along” (spatially speaking) as well as “during, along” (temporally) and metaphorically “compared to, unlike, counter to, against”. In the Greek, the emphasis here is on the deviation and not on the contrasting opposition. It is nevertheless the prefix that in Latin becomes “contra”.

What we find in Oguibe’s monument is thus the sediment of the Bible’s violence and colonialism, in the course of which hundreds of obelisks were erected in the colonized cities of this world. However, in this instance the obelisk is not meant to admonish but is rather appropriated in terms of a dimension intrinsic to it and is now aimed at the violence of Christendom and colonialism as well as against the violence of the European border regime and racist discourses in Europe. Oguibe makes use of the phallic shape of the obelisk, a shape that initially arrived in France as a result of its violent expropriation, where it then became the insignia of power in the colonial districts. Oguibe turns this around and uses the massive object as a call for action. What if it were the obelisk itself that were to declare the sentence written on it? For the colonial obelisks most certainly arrived in the cities in which they stand as strangers. And evidently many of them stand there intact to this day.

As a practice that operates both in the midst of the sediments of monumental histories of violence and over and above them, I read Oguibe’s obelisk as a massive and concrete form of (re-)appropriation. The para-monument is thus not an anti-monument. Rather, it is the uncanny practice that seeks to bring to life the ghosts of the sedimented conflicts and histories of violence. The para-monument does not refuse to be monumental; however, it does refuse the refusal attributed to it, possibly by the critical art world and also by the latter’s critics.

Olu Oguibe’s para-monument became a venue where people assembled in downtown Kassel: Each day, its plinth was used by young people and passersby. They sat on it, read, tapped away on their smartphones, and occasionally started chatting with one another. The para-monument on Königsplatz thus had performative traits: Each day, it acted out its inscription, displayed the slogan’s innate irony when it looked as though it would not be able to stay; it invited people to use it, to meet in front of it, became the trigger for a political conflict that was paradigmatic for the political situation in Germany in 2018.

And in actual fact the obelisk was not allowed to stay at Königsplatz. Precisely after two Neo-Nazi murders had taken place in Kassel – Halit Yozgat (1985-2006) and Walter Lübcke (1953-2019) were the two victims – it would have been a real symbol. Nevertheless, the municipal authorities took it down and moved it to Kassel’s Treppenstrasse – a venue on the route from the Fridericianum to Kulturbahnhof – which is a central location for the documenta in Kassel and easier to market in the context of the “documenta mile”. It is, however, less heterogeneously frequented and therefore evidently simply seemed opportune. There, the obelisk returned to having a more monumental function and exudes the flair of contemporary art at a place where it is less of an irritant.

Etymologically speaking, the term monument derives from the Latin word “monere” (remain, admonish, warn, refer to). This relates, on the one hand, to the past, and, on the other, to the future. In other words, with monuments the focus is, as it were, on the meaning of remembrance. And this brings us back to the problems that we could have with the notion of the ‘monumental’. On the one hand, the meaning of remembrance is itself a bone of contention. Monuments get appropriated and given a new meaning. And, on the other, the pathos of meaning its itself problematic. Hannah Arendt already gave things a perspective when speaking of the “perfect meaninglessness”[13] of the Shoah and warning against assuming the Nazis’ crimes had meaning or assigning them such. However, when seeking an anti-fascist “we” and a “never again” we repeatedly stumble across this meaning. So, what would a monument be that neither instils nor assumes a meaning? Possibly one that faces up to the fact that history is something that is fought over.

[1] This essay is based on a lecture in the lecture series “[Counter-]Monuments. Practices of remembrance in the public space”, held by the Sculpture Projects Archive Research Group at the Institute of Art History at Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster during the 2018 summer semester, and on an essay that appeared in the catalog of artist Ernst Logar in 2018. Nora Sternfeld: “Gegendenkmal und Para-Monument. Politik und Erinnerung im öffentlichen Raum/Counter-Monument and Para-Monument. Politics and Remembrance in Public Space”, in: Ernst Logar (ed.): Ort der Unruhe/Place of Unrest, (Klagenfurt & Celovec: Drava, 2018), pp. 40-61.

[2] [Last visit: 09.11.2021].

[3] In January 2018 Austrian politician Gottfried Waldhäusl, a member of the FPO and Section Chairman in Lower Austria, spoke in connection with an intervention with a statue of St. Mary of “abhorrent art”, of dirty art, and of filthy art.

[4] Sonja Klenk, Gedenkstättenpädagogik an den Orten nationalsozialistischen Unrechts in der Region Freiburg-Offenburg, (Berlin, 2006), p. 8.

[5] Katharina Morawek & Nora Sternfeld, “Visuelle Geschichtspolitiken im öffentlichen Raum. Eine Reflexion über künstlerische Strategien der Erinnerung im Postnazismus,” [Last visit: 09.11.2021].

[6] James Edward Young, “Counter-Monuments. Memory against Itself in Germany Today,” in: Critical Inquiry, vol. 18, no. 2. (Winter, 1992), pp. 267-96, here p. 269.

[7] Harburger Mahnmal gegen Faschismus, [Last visit: 09.11.2021].

[8] Ibid.

[9] Katharina Morawek, Nora Sternfeld, Visuelle Geschichtspolitiken im öffentlichen Raum. Eine Reflexion über künstlerische Strategien der Erinnerung im Postnazismus, [Last visit: 09.11.2021].

[10] Enzo Traverso, Gebrauchsanleitungen für die Vergangenheit. Geschichte, Erinnerung, Politik, (Münster, 2007), p. 71.

[11] Another historical documenta piece was vandalized in 2018: Identitarian movement members stuck their hate stickers “Kein Fußbreit den Antideutschen” and “Good Night Left Side” on the label next to Thomas Schütte’s “Die Fremden”.

[12] The anti-Semitism innate in the “Degenerate Art” exhibition was not, however, the topic when in the 1950s the documenta, in opposition to Nazism, again sought to take up from the “ostracized” art as it was called back then. Rather, it was mainly works by non-Jewish artists that were rehabilitated in Germany, for instance by art historians such as Werner Haftmann, who had himself been a Nazi Party member. This appeared like a radical new beginning, an innocent Modernism, but merely masked Nazi continuities. Today, the talk is of ‘art-washing’ as regards the first documenta in 1955 – meaning a documenta myth that ensured one did not have to speak about the crimes or one’s own involvement in Nazism and its art and knowledge output and rather was able to present oneself as the victim, to over-identify with the real victims and place oneself in the genealogy of “ostracized art”.

[13] Hannah Arendt, “Die vollendete Sinnlosigkeit,” in: Nach Auschwitz, (Berlin, 1989), p. 29.

Detail: Installation by Mark Morris; photo: Tim Albrecht

Graduate Show 2024 - Letting Go

From 12 to 14 July 2024 (2 - 8 p.m.), more than 160 graduates from the 2023/24 academic year will be showing their final artistic works in a comprehensive exhibition at the HFBK Hamburg. In addition, all graduation films will be presented in the new cinema hall of the Filmhaus at Finkenau 42 as part of Final Cut.

Julia Scher, Territorium, 2024, installationview at ICAT of HFBK Hamburg; photo: Tim Albrecht

Finkenwerder Art Prize 2024

The US artist Julia Scher will receive the Finkenwerder Art Prize 2024, while Anna Stüdeli, who studied sculpture at the HFBK Hamburg, will be honoured with the Finkenwerder Grant from the HFBK.

Natan Sznaider stands at the lectern and delivers his keynote address.

photo: Tim Albrecht

In conversation with Natan Sznaider

The Israeli sociologist Natan Sznaider talks to the author Navid Kermani and the philosopher Juliane Rebentisch about the Middle East conflict, working towards a peaceful future and the legacy of Hannah Arendt.

Archives of the Body - The Body in Archiving

With a symposium, an exhibition, a film programme and a digital publication, the research project conceived by Prof. Hanne Loreck and Vanessa Gravenor examines the "archive" as a form of order with regard to the human body. Which body archives and discourses have become established? What potentials for political-aesthetic resistance and activism could and can emerge?

Sharon Poliakine, Untitled, 2023, oil on canvas, detail

New partnership with the School of Arts at the University of Haifa

On the occasion of a new partnership with the School of Arts at the University of Haifa, the HFBK Hamburg is presenting an exhibition by the artists Birgit Brandis, Sharon Poliakine and HFBK students.

photo: Ronja Lotz

Exhibition recommendations

Numerous exhibitions with HFBK participation are currently on display. We present a small selection and invite you to visit the exhibitions during the term break.

Visitors of the annual exhibition 2024; photo: Lukes Engelhardt

Annual Exhibition 2024 at the HFBK Hamburg

From February 9 -11, 2024 (daily 2-8 pm) the students of HFBK Hamburg present their artistic productions from the past year. In addition, the exhibition »Think & Feel! Speak & Act!« curated by Nadine Droste, as well as the presentation of exchange students from Goldsmiths, University of London, can be seen at ICAT.

Examination of the submitted portfolios

How to apply: study at HFBK Hamburg

The application period for studying at the HFBK Hamburg runs from 1 February to 5 March 2024, 4 p.m. All important information can be found here.

photo: Tim Albrecht

(Ex)Changes of / in Art

There's a lot going on at the HFBK Hamburg at the end of the year: exhibitions at ICAT, the ASA students' Open Studios in Karolinenstraße, performances in the Extended Library and lectures in the Aula Wartenau.

Extended Libraries

Knowledge is now accessible from anywhere, at any time. In such a scenario, what role(s) can libraries still play? How can they support not only as knowledge archives but also as facilitators of artistic knowledge production? As an example, we present library projects by students and alumni, as well as our new knowledge space: the Extended Library.

Semester Opening 2023/24

We welcome the many new students to the HFBK Hamburg for the academic year 2023/24. A warm welcome also goes to the new professors, whom we would like to introduce to you here.

And Still I Rise

For over 20 years, US artist Rajkamal Kahlon has been interested in the connections between aesthetics and power, which are organized across historical and geographical boundaries, primarily through violence. With this solo exhibition, the HFBK Hamburg presents the versatile work of the professor of painting and drawing to the Hamburg art public for the first time.

photo: Lukes Engelhardt

photo: Lukes Engelhardt

No Tracking. No Paywall.

Just Premium Content! The (missing) summer offers the ideal opportunity to catch up on what has been missed. In our media library, faculty, students and alumni share knowledge and discussions with us - both emotional moments and controversial discourses. Through podcasts and videos, they contribute to current debates and address important topics that are currently in focus.

Let's talk about language

There are currently around 350 international students studying at the HFBK Hamburg, who speak 55 different languages - at least these are the official languages of their countries of origin. A quarter of the teaching staff have an international background. And the trend is rising. But how do we deal productively with the multilingualism of university members in everyday life? What ways of communication can be found? The current Lerchenfeld issue looks at creative solutions for dealing with multilingualism and lets numerous former international students have their say.

photo: Miriam Schmidt / HFBK

Graduate Show 2023: Unfinished Business

From July 13 to 16, 2023, 165 Bachelor's and Master's graduates of the class of 2022/23 will present their final projects from all areas of study. Under the title Final Cut, all graduation films will be shown on a big screen in the auditorium of the HFBK Hamburg.

A disguised man with sunglasses holds a star-shaped sign for the camera. It says "Suckle". The picture is taken in black and white.

photo: Honey-Suckle Company

Let`s work together

Collectives are booming in the art world. And they have been for several decades. For the start of the summer semester 2023, the new issue of the Lerchenfeld Magazine is dedicated to the topic of collective practice in art, presents selected collectives, and also explores the dangers and problems of collective working.

Jahresausstellung 2023, Arbeit von Toni Mosebach / Nora Strömer; photo: Lukes Engelhardt

Annual Exhibition 2023 at HFBK Hamburg

From February 10-12, students from all departments will present their artistic works at Lerchenfeld 2, Wartenau 15 and AtelierHaus, Lerchenfeld 2a. At ICAT, Tobias Peper, Artistic Director of the Kunstverein Harburger Bahnhof, curates an exhibition with HFBK master students. Also 10 exchange students from Goldsmiths, University of London will show their work there.

Symposium: Controversy over documenta fifteen

With this symposium on documenta fifteen on the 1st and 2nd of February, the HFBK Hamburg aims to analyze the background and context, foster dialogue between different viewpoints, and enable a debate that explicitly addresses anti-Semitism in the field of art. The symposium offers space for divergent positions and aims to open up perspectives for the present and future of exhibition making.

ASA Open Studios winter semester 2021/22; photo: Marie-Theres Böhmker

ASA Open Studios winter semester 2021/22; photo: Marie-Theres Böhmker

The best is saved until last

At the end of the year, once again there will be numerous exhibitions and events with an HFBK context. We have compiled some of them here. You will also find a short preview of two lectures of the professionalization program in January.

Non-Knowledge, Laughter and the Moving Image, Grafik: Leon Lothschütz

Non-Knowledge, Laughter and the Moving Image, Grafik: Leon Lothschütz

Festival and Symposium: Non-Knowledge, Laughter and the Moving Image

As the final part of the artistic research project, the festival and symposium invite you to screenings, performances, talks, and discussions that explore the potential of the moving images and the (human and non-human) body to overturn our habitual course and change the dominant order of things.

View of the packed auditorium at the start of the semester; photo: Lukas Engelhardt

View of the packed auditorium at the start of the semester; photo: Lukas Engelhardt

Wishing you a happy welcome

We are pleased to welcome many new faces to the HFBK Hamburg for the winter semester 2022/23. We have compiled some background information on our new professors and visiting professors here.

Solo exhibition by Konstantin Grcic

From September 29 to October 23, 2022, Konstantin Grcic (Professor of Industrial Design) will be showing a room-sized installation at ICAT - Institute for Contemporary Art & Transfer at the HFBK Hamburg consisting of objects designed by him and existing, newly assembled objects. At the same time, the space he designed for workshops, seminars and office workstations in the AtelierHaus will be put into operation.

Amna Elhassan, Tea Lady, oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm

Amna Elhassan, Tea Lady, oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm

Art and war

"Every artist is a human being". This statement by Martin Kippenberger, which is as true as it is existentialist (in an ironic rephrasing of the well-known Beuys quote), gets to the heart of the matter in many ways. On the one hand, it reminds us not to look away, to be (artistically) active and to raise our voices. At the same time, it is an exhortation to help those who are in need. And that is a lot of people at the moment, among them many artists. That is why it is important for art institutions to discuss not only art, but also politics.

Merlin Reichert, Die Alltäglichkeit des Untergangs, Installation in der Galerie der HFBK; photo: Tim Albrecht

Graduate Show 2022: We’ve Only Just Begun

From July 8 to 10, 2022, more than 160 Bachelor’s and Master’s graduates of the class of 2021/22 will present their final projects from all majors. Under the title Final Cut, all graduation films will be shown on a big screen in the auditorium of the HFBK Hamburg. At the same time, the exhibition of the Sudanese guest lecturer Amna Elhassan can be seen in the HFBK gallery in the Atelierhaus.

Grafik: Nele Willert, Dennise Salinas

Grafik: Nele Willert, Dennise Salinas

June is full of art and theory

It has been a long time since there has been so much on offer: a three-day congress on the visuality of the Internet brings together international web designers; the research collective freethought discusses the role of infrastructures; and the symposium marking the farewell of professor Michaela Ott takes up central questions of her research work.

Renée Green. ED/HF, 2017. Film still. Courtesy of the artist, Free Agent Media, Bortolami Gallery, New York, and Galerie Nagel Draxler, Berlin/Cologne/Munich.

Renée Green. ED/HF, 2017. Film still. Courtesy of the artist, Free Agent Media, Bortolami Gallery, New York, and Galerie Nagel Draxler, Berlin/Cologne/Munich.

Finkenwerder Art Prize 2022

The Finkenwerder Art Prize, initiated in 1999 by the Kulturkreis Finkenwerder e.V., has undergone a realignment: As a new partner, the HFBK Hamburg is expanding the prize to include the aspect of promoting young artists and, starting in 2022, will host the exhibition of the award winners in the HFBK Gallery. This year's Finkenwerder Art Prize will be awarded to the US artist Renée Green. HFBK graduate Frieda Toranzo Jaeger receives the Finkenwerder Art Prize for recent graduates.

Amanda F. Koch-Nielsen, Motherslugger; photo: Lukas Engelhardt

Amanda F. Koch-Nielsen, Motherslugger; photo: Lukas Engelhardt

Nachhaltigkeit im Kontext von Kunst und Kunsthochschule

Im Bewusstsein einer ausstehenden fundamentalen gesellschaftlichen Transformation und der nicht unwesentlichen Schrittmacherfunktion, die einem Ort der künstlerischen Forschung und Produktion hierbei womöglich zukommt, hat sich die HFBK Hamburg auf den Weg gemacht, das Thema strategisch wie konkret pragmatisch für die Hochschule zu entwickeln. Denn wer, wenn nicht die Künstler*innen sind in ihrer täglichen Arbeit damit befasst, das Gegebene zu hinterfragen, genau hinzuschauen, neue Möglichkeiten, wie die Welt sein könnte, zu erkennen und durchzuspielen, einem anderen Wissen Gestalt zu geben

New studio in the row of houses at Lerchenfeld

New studio in the row of houses at Lerchenfeld, in the background the building of Fritz Schumacher; photo: Tim Albrecht

Raum für die Kunst

After more than 40 years of intensive effort, a long-cherished dream is becoming reality for the HFBK Hamburg. With the newly opened studio building, the main areas of study Painting/Drawing, Sculpture and Time-Related Media will finally have the urgently needed studio space for Master's students. It simply needs space for their own ideas, for thinking, for art production, exhibitions and as a depot.

Martha Szymkowiak / Emilia Bongilaj, Installation “Mmh”; photo: Tim Albrecht

Martha Szymkowiak / Emilia Bongilaj, Installation “Mmh”; photo: Tim Albrecht

Annual Exhibition 2022 at the HFBK

After last year's digital edition, the 2022 annual exhibition at the HFBK Hamburg will once again take place with an audience. From 11-13 February, students from all departments will present their artistic work in the building at Lerchenfeld, Wartenau 15 and the newly opened Atelierhaus.

Annette Wehrmann, photography from the series Blumensprengungen, 1991-95; photo: Ort des Gegen e.V., VG-Bild Kunst Bonn

Annette Wehrmann, photography from the series Blumensprengungen, 1991-95; photo: Ort des Gegen e.V., VG-Bild Kunst Bonn

Conference: Counter-Monuments and Para-Monuments.

The international conference at HFBK Hamburg on December 2-4, 2021 – jointly conceived by Nora Sternfeld and Michaela Melián –, is dedicated to the history of artistic counter-monuments and forms of protest, discusses aesthetics of memory and historical manifestations in public space, and asks about para-monuments for the present.

23 Fragen des Institutional Questionaire, grafisch umgesetzt von Ran Altamirano auf den Türgläsern der HFBK Hamburg zur Jahresausstellung 2021; photo: Charlotte Spiegelfeld

23 Fragen des Institutional Questionaire, grafisch umgesetzt von Ran Altamirano auf den Türgläsern der HFBK Hamburg zur Jahresausstellung 2021; photo: Charlotte Spiegelfeld


Who speaks? Who paints which motif? Who is shown, who is not? Questions of identity politics play an important role in art and thus also at the HFBK Hamburg. In the current issue, the university's own Lerchenfeld magazine highlights university structures as well as student initiatives that deal with diversity and identity.

photo: Klaus Frahm

photo: Klaus Frahm

Summer Break

The HFBK Hamburg is in the lecture-free period, many students and teachers are on summer vacation, art institutions have summer break. This is a good opportunity to read and see a variety of things:

ASA Open Studio 2019, Karolinenstraße 2a, Haus 5; photo: Matthew Muir

ASA Open Studio 2019, Karolinenstraße 2a, Haus 5; photo: Matthew Muir

Live und in Farbe: die ASA Open Studios im Juni 2021

Since 2010, the HFBK has organised the international exchange programme Art School Alliance. It enables HFBK students to spend a semester abroad at renowned partner universities and, vice versa, invites international art students to the HFBK. At the end of their stay in Hamburg, the students exhibit their work in the Open Studios in Karolinenstraße, which are now open again to the art-interested public.

Studiengruppe Prof. Dr. Anja Steidinger, Was animiert uns?, 2021, Mediathek der HFBK Hamburg, Filmstill

Studiengruppe Prof. Dr. Anja Steidinger, Was animiert uns?, 2021, Mediathek der HFBK Hamburg, Filmstill

Unlearning: Wartenau Assemblies

The art education professors Nora Sternfeld and Anja Steidinger initiated the format "Wartenau Assemblies". It oscillates between art, education, research and activism. Complementing this open space for action, there is now a dedicated website that accompanies the discourses, conversations and events.

Ausstellungsansicht "Schule der Folgenlosigkeit. Übungen für ein anderes Leben" im Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg; photo: Maximilian Schwarzmann

Ausstellungsansicht "Schule der Folgenlosigkeit. Übungen für ein anderes Leben" im Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg; photo: Maximilian Schwarzmann

School of No Consequences

Everyone is talking about consequences: The consequences of climate change, the Corona pandemic or digitalization. Friedrich von Borries (professor of design theory), on the other hand, is dedicated to consequence-free design. In “School of No Consequences. Exercises for a New Life” at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, he links collection objects with a "self-learning room" set up especially for the exhibition in such a way that a new perspective on "sustainability" emerges and supposedly universally valid ideas of a "proper life" are questioned.

Annual Exhibition 2021 at the HFBK

Annual exhibition a bit different: From February 12- 14, 2021 students at the Hamburg University of Fine Arts, together with their professors, had developed a variety of presentations on different communication channels. The formats ranged from streamed live performances to video programs, radio broadcasts, a telephone hotline, online conferences, and a web store for editions. In addition, isolated interventions could be discovered in the outdoor space of the HFBK and in the city.

Katja Pilipenko

Katja Pilipenko

Semestereröffnung und Hiscox-Preisverleihung 2020

On the evening of November 4, the HFBK celebrated the opening of the academic year 2020/21 as well as the awarding of the Hiscox Art Prize in a livestream - offline with enough distance and yet together online.

Exhibition Transparencies with works by Elena Crijnen, Annika Faescke, Svenja Frank, Francis Kussatz, Anne Meerpohl, Elisa Nessler, Julia Nordholz, Florentine Pahl, Cristina Rüesch, Janka Schubert, Wiebke Schwarzhans, Rosa Thiemer, Lea van Hall. Organized by Prof. Verena Issel and Fabian Hesse; photo: Screenshot

Exhibition Transparencies with works by Elena Crijnen, Annika Faescke, Svenja Frank, Francis Kussatz, Anne Meerpohl, Elisa Nessler, Julia Nordholz, Florentine Pahl, Cristina Rüesch, Janka Schubert, Wiebke Schwarzhans, Rosa Thiemer, Lea van Hall. Organized by Prof. Verena Issel and Fabian Hesse; photo: Screenshot

Teaching Art Online at the HFBK

How the university brings together its artistic interdisciplinary study structure with digital formats and their possibilities.

Alltagsrealität oder Klischee?; photo: Tim Albrecht

Alltagsrealität oder Klischee?; photo: Tim Albrecht

HFBK Graduate Survey

Studying art - and what comes next? The clichéd images stand their ground: Those who have studied art either become taxi drivers, work in a bar or marry rich. But only very few people could really live from art – especially in times of global crises. The HFBK Hamburg wanted to know more about this and commissioned the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences at the University of Hamburg to conduct a broad-based survey of its graduates from the last 15 years.

Ausstellung Social Design, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, Teilansicht; photo: MKG Hamburg

Ausstellung Social Design, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, Teilansicht; photo: MKG Hamburg

How political is Social Design?

Social Design, as its own claim is often formulated, wants to address social grievances and ideally change them. Therefore, it sees itself as critical of society – and at the same time optimizes the existing. So what is the political dimension of Social Design – is it a motor for change or does it contribute to stabilizing and normalizing existing injustices?