site-seeing: disneyfication of cities?

Künstlerhaus Ground Floor
13 December 2002 – 9 February 2003

An Exhibition Project by Sønke Gau and Katharina Schlieben

“Going downtown” is commonly associated with shopping, entertainment, and nightlife. Cities have become theme parks in which urban facilities are judged by how well they comply with the demands of business and tourism, and in which image is remodeled according to political criteria. Urban life is thus expressed as staged consumption. The entertainment and leisure industry as well as media and service companies market, mediatize, and “Disneyfy” “public space” and determine our “image” of a city. Western cities are increasingly resembling theme parks and shopping malls. By highlighting a city’s historical treasures and enhancing its museum infrastructure, the tourist industry tries hard to cater to the needs of mass tourism by preserving and marketing an urban image. While contemporary city planning focuses on event programming, media like television and cinema generate and transport this imagery as well as our (self) perception within and of urban entities.

The exhibition project site-seeing: a disneyfication of cities? articulates the processes and visual phenomena accompanying the Disneyfication of urban space and probes into their relevance in a European context. The presumption is that our perception of cities is constituted by such diverse factors as tourism, film, television, lifestyle, and fashion. Urban questions, therefore, do certainly not just fall within the subject area of built architecture.

In a larger sense, the exhibition project site-seeing: a disneyfication of cities? revolves around the current changes occurring in urban realm, turning them into the subject of artistic and scientific analyses. The project comprises five interrelated and complementary formats of equal importance:

artistic activities in the künstlerhaus and a series of artistic projects directly concerning urban space take on the form of field research, city tours, commentaries, and interventions. Site-seeing is regarded as an observation mode: sight-seeing as site-seeing. The Künstlerhaus, situated on the periphery of Vienna’s historic city center, is a prime location for such an endeavor. Vienna becomes a case study in some artistic activities and the backdrop of this exhibition project.

The following artists are involved: Margit Czenki (Hamburg), Harun Farocki (Berlin), Andreas Fogarasi (Vienna), Wiebke Grösch/Frank Metzger (Frankfurt a.M.), David Jourdan/Lisa Holzer (Paris/Vienna), Dorit Margreiter (Vienna), Pia Rönicke (Copenhagen), Sean Snyder (Berlin), Sofie Thorsen/Elsebeth Jørgensen (Vienna/Copenhagen), Alexander Timtschenko (Munich), Pia Lanzinger (Munich), Christoph Schäfer (Hamburg), Zoe Walker (London).

The series of lectures is made up of five sessions consisting of lectures of two speakers and a discussion period. Topics covered by these talks are interdisciplinary – architecture, sociology as well as media, art and cultural theory. The “Office of Cognitive Urbanism” is in charge of designing and positioning the “lecture room”. For each of those five sessions a Viennese site will be selected to act as a reference for the given topic.

Frank Roost – Siegfried Mattl, Regina Bittner – Jochen Becker, Klaus Ronneberger – Margaret Crawford, John Urry – Jonathan Faiers, Office for Cognitive Urbanism – Marie-Luise Angerer.

proceedings summarizing the lectures will be published by b_books/Berlin in Berlin in the spring of 2003.

The architecture used as common thread guiding through the entire project will be designed by Viennese architects Paul Petritsch and Nicole Six.

For more information, please see the folder to be published in late November or check out the Künstlerhaus website