Art scandal in dresden: on and under the carpet

Dresden is cosmopolitan, but also the founding city of Pegida. Ekici seeks dialogue with the installation "PostIt".

Until July 5, the art installation "PostIt" by Nezaket Ekici will remain in front of the Dresden Regional Court. Photo: Uwe Rommel

"The dialogue has gone in a completely wrong direction," says German-Turkish artist Nezaket Ekici after her installation "PostIt" was restored in front of the Regional Court in Dresden. She is surprised and hurt by the Islamophobic writing on her work, because she wanted to initiate a dialogue to bring cultures closer together. Instead, Dresden is showing hostility.

The city has suffered severe damage to its image, especially since the Pegida demonstrations, and is trying to find solutions with projects such as "Dresden? – Working with the City". In this competition, curators were invited to propose concepts for art in public space that deal with the city’s sources of energy.

For the winner Thomas Eller, these energies are "the history of Saxony, the science of the city of Dresden, and dealing with the Other." Especially the latter can be a chance for Dresden to polish up its image. "Dresden is helpless when it comes to problems with xenophobic movements," Eller says in the interview "There are a lot of initiatives, but the issues don’t resonate with most residents."

Ekici’s gate hints at the existing Oriental culture in the Occident. But the rugs, which are often found in middle-class living rooms, also represent sitting, talking and negotiating together. The idea is to create a dialogue that begins with the contemplation of the work. This should lead to an exchange among recipients and ultimately to a negotiation about the currents and problems in Dresden. "It should be negotiated, as in the classicist state court behind the portal," says Ekici.

Art as a memorial

But it’s also meant to be a reminder. The carpets look like Post-its and recall a particularly tragic trial in the regional court on July 1, 2009, when Marwa El-Sherbini, an Egyptian, filed a lawsuit against Alex Wiens, a Russian-German, who had previously called her an "Islamist" and a "terrorist" because of her headscarf. During the trial, El-Sherbini was murdered by the defendant with 18 knife stabs.

The gate in front of the district court is a memorial. On May 25, 2015, just five days after it was erected, the installation’s carpets were spray-painted with "Shit Islam." According to Ekici’s testimony, two carpets had already been dismantled and stolen in the days before and four more after that.

Until August 16, the exhibition "Everything you own, owns us" by Nezaket Ekeci is on display at the Haus am Waldsee in Berlin.

The work strikes a sensitive nerve among Islamophobes in Dresden. Police feared the writing would remain and had the fire department remove the affected carpets. "It is disrespectful that everything was dismantled so quickly and without consultation," says Ekici, "the act was to be swept under the carpet, which led to the installation being destroyed a second time." The intention of the attack was thus further reinforced by the authorities. Curator Thomas Eller was also not notified. "There should have been a dialogue, because the partial montage violates the copyright, which lies with the artist."

At the end of May, the graffitied carpets were released by the authorities and reattached to the installation by the artist and will remain hanging until the end of the project on July 5. "To continue using the smeared carpets means to remember them. Through this, an artistic process takes place in the work," Ekici says. The carpets have been reversed so that the writing is visible but unreadable.

Successful in failure

The presence of the lettering makes it clear that the dialogue has "gone in a completely wrong direction," but draws attention to the issue. "Sometimes things have to break down before they can grow back together," Eller says. It’s good that the installation can draw that attention and has actually picked up the energy, he says. "The project succeeded in its failed communication."

The attacks seem as if the dialogue about Islamophobia and the work on Dresden’s image has failed, but in this negativity there is also potential for improvement. City administration, but also citizens supported the artist in the reworking. Nezaket Ekici would work in Dresden again because she likes the city and its inhabitants. "They are not all evil."

On the anniversary of El-Sherbini’s death, July 1, there will be rallies again, Ekici and Eller will also be present in Dresden then.

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