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urban hijacking in amman, berlin, casablanca

An international artistlab during the years 2015 – 16

October 2015, Amman

The first COMMON SPACES lab took place in Amman, this ancient city that now looks like a patchwork rug of diverse communities reaching deep into the countryside. It has been repeatedly populated by waves ofmigration since 1948. While the architectural evidence of an Arab modernity has disappeared under numerous layers of densified and commercialized city uses, official urban planning is trying to gain a profile with major projects that are supposed to play a role on the international stage: for example, a popular modernist factory was destroyed in order to realize Zaha Hadid’s rather generic design of an opera house. When the project was then abandoned during the financial crisis, the ruins remained  an opportunity for the city politicians’ beautification mission: a large informal market  – well placed between hotels, residential areas and long-distance
bus routes – was pressed into smaller surfaces at an inopportune peripheral site. The defiant merchants are now under stricter observation – they have been placed closer to the police. COMMON SPACES took these dynamics as the starting point in order to initiate the “OPERA BIBALASH” („opera for free“) at the market with the merchants. An opera that took place with all of the active market’s sounds, actions and settings. The visitors from this mostly socially segregated city were pleasantly surprised as their expectations were irritated.


COMMON SPACES is sponsored by Heinrich Boell Stiftung (Berlin, Ramallah & Rabat) and supported by Robert Bosch Stiftung / International Theater Institute, Rabat & ifa — Institut for Foreign Relations (Künstlerkontakte)

COMMON SPACES is an international artist-lab designed dveloped in collaboration with artists & activists from Amman, Berlin & Casablanca. At its core is the role of art in recapturing and re-defining public spaces as platforms for social actions, as common grounds that belong to all citizens.

We understand the “COMMON” in this context to be a fluid sphere of practices and claims to public space in our urban environments by which its inhabitants, users and citizens, take ownership of their surroundings.

Guiding questions for the general projects and its site-specific LABs are: How can public space and the commons, artistic practice and political participation be precisely positioned in each context? And how can these specific practices be brought into a productive dialogue across different urban and artistic cultures?

In each city we opened a COMMON SPACE in a specific urban location that inherently shows an aspect of the topic. Each COMMON SPACE is a temporary platform for discourse, sharing of our approaches and the artistic interventions which took place in the other cities or are being prepared for this one. We invite theoriticians and practicioners of this city – urbanists and philosophers, activists and visionaries – to contribute, influence, inspire and potentially modify the course of our research in a series of changing formats of debate and presentations together with an interested audience.

Parallel to this public platform the artists collaborate to develop site-specific interventions for a row of locations that were singled out for their capacity to represent open questions of the state of the COMMON in each urban fabric. In doing so the artists share their tools and open up to collaborations with other disciplines and a different approach in their work. Thereby blending their preferred method of working with new influences – from the specific place, its social context and their colleagues.

At the end of this practical research COMMON SPACES invites the public to a series of COMMON CLAIMS: Artistic interventions in public space that transform, question, focus and highlight that state of the COMMONS as well as opening up visions of a future practice of COMMONS in this city that would re-appropriate and cultivate the public sphere.

Our aim is to create a moving laboratory for open exchange of all participants and local communities. A space in which the differences of artistic practices and political experiences turn into productive and reciprocal widening of the horizon of what is imaginable and what actions this could bring about.

Artists & Makers: MOHAMMED FARIJI visual artist; DINA HADDADIN, Visual Artist & Architect; ABDELLAH M. HASSAK, sound & new media artist, music producer, JOSEPHINE HEIDE, Production Management; SORAYA EL KAHOULI , sociologist and filmmaker; CLARA KIENZ, Community-Architect & Urban Planning; MOHAMMED LAOULI, Photo- & Video-Artist; LUKAS MATTHAEI , director & initiator of common spaces; AMINA NOLTE, Academic Research & Development; MOHAMMED AL QAQ visual artist & multimedia trainer; SAID RAIS Photography;  NEZHA RHONDALI, Dance performer & Choreographer; SUSANNE VINCENZ , Dramaturg & Initiator of Common Spaces; JAKE MC CARTHY WIENER , filmmaker; SABINE ZAHN , choreograph and urban interventor

Partners: 7iber (Amman);  ZK/U Zentrum für Kunst und Urbanistik / Internationales Theaterinstitut / Szenenwechsel (Berlin);  Atelier L’Observatoire (Casablanca)