CCCS
Declining Democracy
       
 

Francis Alÿs
Michael Bielicky &
Kamila B. Richter

Buuuuuuuuu
Roger Cremers
Democracia
Juan Manuel Echavarría
Thomas Feuerstein
Thomas Hirschhorn
Thomas Kilpper
Lucy Kimbell
Cesare Pietroiusti
Artur Żmijewski

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Installation view at CCC Strozzina, Palazzo Strozzi, Firenze
Photo: Martino Margheri

Thomas Kilpper’s artistic practice is characterized by a strong social and political engagement expressed through sculptural works, drawings and installations, often produced in public spaces. His work aims at developing a social dialogue between people, where voices, places and human histories often hidden or excluded from public debate take on a central role.
Kilpper’s intervention for the exhibition Declining Democracy comprises works that deal with migration and document aspects of his own experiences in Lampedusa. Starting in 2008, Kilpper has been working on the project A Lighthouse for Lampedusa, for which he lived on the island for some time, with the ultimate intention of creating a lighthouse partially built out of fragments of boats used to transport migrants to this place. The lighthouse was conceived as an effectively working structure, able to send out light signals as a reference point for navigators. At its basis there will be a sort of art lab, created in collaboration with architects, artists and inhabitants of Lampedusa, which will host concerts, meetings, conferences and exhibitions.  
The artist approaches the theme of immigration focusing on the specific case of the Italian island, which is situated only eighty nautical miles from the African continent, from where 20.000 refugees cross over every year. Most of them arrive on board of small boats, overcrowded beyond all measure. Often the “journey of hope” turns into a tragedy: the humanitarian organizations estimate that one in ten refugees dies during the dangerous crossing. Within the exhibition, we can see large-scale prints on fabric created by Kilpper, tracing out his engravings on the floor of public buildings, in which he has reprocessed diverse images of the media world: the landing of the migrants on Lampedusa, a neo-Nazi aggression towards Asians in Berlin and a homage to the political photo-collages of the dadaist artist John Heartfield, portrayed as Silvio Berlusconi’s aggressor.
In the video work A Lighthouse for Lampedusa, Kilpper documents moments of his stay on the Sicilian island through shots of the landings as well as of everyday life, integrating his own artistic project with real interviews with migrants, the local authorities and the citizens of Lampedusa, whom witness what has been defined a state of emergency of immigration and are directly involved in it. With the drawing A Lighthouse for Lampedusa (Mapping Diary), the artist creates a topography of the main sites of the island: the harbour, the stores, the local radio station, the police post, but also the spots of the landings of the migrants, the collective accommodations, the enormous black smoke column of the fire set to a centre for identification and expulsion in 2009, the boat cemetery, the military base. Kilpper also adds fragments of facts, conversations and reports to the description of the sites, leaving traces of his direct experience on the island by means of this mapping activity.
For the migrants Lampedusa is one of Europe’s outposts, a place that holds the promise of a better life and safety from political persecution or from poverty. However, the old continent proves to be incapable of finding possible answers in the new geopolitical and economical but first and foremost ethical and humanitarian equilibrium. For today’s Europe, developing a way to confront migration represents an issue that profoundly involves its identity: between the image of a “European fortress” and that of multiculturalism and integration within the limits of a democratic system.


Installation view at CCC Strozzina, Palazzo Strozzi, Firenze
Photo: Martino Margheri


Installation view at CCC Strozzina, Palazzo Strozzi, Firenze
Photo: Martino Margheri


Installation view at CCC Strozzina, Palazzo Strozzi, Firenze
Photo: Martino Margheri


John Heartfield and Silvio Berlusconi, 2009
Incisione su linoleum stampata su stoffa
Lino cut, print on fabric
Collection Kadist Art Foundation
Courtesy Patrick Heide Contemporary Art, London

Thomas Kilpper (1956, Stuttgart, DE; lives and works in Berlin, DE) was trained at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main. Recent solo exhibitions include: (2010) Punk statt Stasi!, Galerie Christian Nagel, Cologne; Anemonevej Surprises, Tumult, Nakskov; (2009) State of Control, Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin, Galerie Olaf Stüber, Berlin; (2008) A Lighthouse for Lampedusa, Dispari & Dispari Project, Reggio Emilia. Group exhibitions include: (2011) Speech Matters, Danish Pavillion, Venice Biennale; Encuentro de Medellín MDE11, Medellín; Philagrafika – The Graphic Unconscious, several venues, Philadelphia, Fokus Lodz Biennial, Lodz; Mediation, Poznan Biennial; Transient Spaces: The Tourist Syndrome, NGBK – Neue Gesellschaft fur Bildende Kunst, Berlin and Fondazione Morra Greco, Naples; IABR – the 4th International Architecture Biennial, Rotterdam; Prison, Bloomberg Space, London; Momentum, Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art, Moss; Critical Societies, Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe. Since 2006 Kilpper runs the Berlin- based exhibition space after the butcher. In the current year 2011 he is one of the fellows of Villa Romana, Florence.

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Declining Democracy