Die Bremer Befragung
The Bremen Questionnaire – Sine Somno Nihil
Bremen, Germany 1995
In 1990, Jochen Gerz was awarded the Roland Prize for Public Art by the city of Bremen. The prize was given in conjunction with a commission for a public work in the city. Gerz worked on the realisation of The Bremen Questionnaire with art students of Bremen Art Academy. 50,000 citizens of the city were asked three questions:

- What is urgent for you to realise in public space?
- Can your idea be realised by the means of contemporary art?
- Do you want to be part of the artwork?


The questions were aimed at what artwork should look like if they were its authors and what they would expect of it. All the answers were different so the artwork should be many different things at the same time. They show the fear of dictatorship, the desire to protect the earth, the anger about the language of politics. Many were suspicious of art too. "We have invented empty spaces, only to fill them up". The aim of art is to be different.

269 people took part in six public seminars organized by Gerz in the art college, the university, the local newspaper, the corporation Kraft Jacob Suchard, and the prison. They came to the conclusion that public art, in order to exist in the public mind, does not need to be a material object.
Gerz’ work consists of a metal and a glass triangular plaque inserted in Bremen’s Bürgermeister-Smidt Bridge, which crosses the Weser river. On the metal plaque, the names of the participants are inscribed together with a text. The glass plaque projects over the bridge, creating a viewing point. Whoever uses it can look through the glass down at the water. The text reads:

WHEN YOU LOOK OUT ON THE WATER, YOU SEE YOURSELF. AT THE SAME TIME YOU ARE THE IMAGE THAT LEAVES YOU, LIKE A BIRD ITS QUIVERING BUSH. PERHAPS FOREVER. THE BREMEN QUESTIONNAIRE IS A SCULPTURE MADE OF THE IMAGES OF THOSE WHO IMAGINE IT. ALL WHO DO SO ARE ITS AUTHORS… THE BREMEN QUESTIONNAIRE IS DEDICATED TO EVERYONE WHO STOPS HERE AND SEES SOMETHING THAT DOES NOT EXIST.

Object: steel frame construction; triangular V4A steel plate with engraving (1 cm thick); triangular glass (4.5 cm thick); length of sides:
115 x 200 x 230.7 cm.
In collaboration with students of the Bremen Hochschule für Bildende Kunst. Commissioned by the city of Bremen.


The artist uses his artistic license to create a place of experienced freedom. This has consequences: the role of the artist as director and the role of the audience as actor no longer quite work. Is this about the “visual coitus" demanded by Duchamp between the work of visual art and the viewer? It is not the artwork that counts but the way. The search for the way leads to having to rid oneself of art, to the division between actors and thinking being dissolved; to the fact that asking questions does not mean spreading “life wisdoms", solving “world puzzles", or re-attributing “values". Art must not become a “Weltanschauung", a world view. The one who asks questions must remain faithful to himself as an interrogator in all he thinks and does, does and thinks, and avoid premature answers. In the early 1990’s, Felix Philipp Ingold anticipated with great acumen and mastery something that is a necessary prerequisite to present day perception of art: “At the same time as the recipient is being upgraded and activated, the ‘author function’ is being reduced to the rather technical, perhaps also merely playful, function of an operator or compiler, a secretary, a translator or copyist, who no longer has anything left to invent, nothing to say, but who creates new, unusual perceptual contexts by presenting the artistic material in ever new, unusual ways, giving us food for new, unusual thoughts."

Paolo Bianchi, in: What is the Art in Art? in: Jochen Gerz / Miami islet, Niggli Verlag AG, Sulgen l Zurich, 2000, p.145

Publication:
- Die Bremer Befragung, The Bremen Questionnaire, Hatje/Cantz, Stuttgart 1995 (German and English)

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© Gerz studio
 
© Marc von Rahden
 

     
Gunter Metken 1995, Jochen Gerz Bremen Enquiry in: Kultur Chronik 6 / 1995/ Article in English, German, French, Russian