It is what it is 07. June 2022

Der Raum im ursprünglichen Zustand: die Wände und der Boden sind mit weißem Papier ausgekleidet, in der Mitte steht ein halbmeterhoher Stapel weißes A4-Papier, daneben auf zwei Seiten je zwei Stapel Wachsmalstifte (Grün, Gelb und Blau Rot) aufgetürmt, wie gefällte Bäume am Waldwegesrand.

If, in the last few weeks, you have been found scribbling colourful pictures on the wall of a museum in Dresden, then there is a very good chance that you were at the Japanisches Palais – not carrying out an act of criminal damage, but participating in a collective work of art. When the second Children’s Biennale at the museum, on the theme of “Embracing nature”, was extended for a further two months at the end of February, the varied programme of events focusing on people and their relationship to nature was supplemented by the participative piece It is what it is by the Dresden artist Artourette. Having spent their tour of the exhibition relaxing beneath a canopy of thousands of artificial flowers, chasing virtual butterflies and more, visitors entering the last room, which was shrouded in metres of white paper, were offered an opportunity for free expression.

Der Raum im ursprünglichen Zustand: die Wände und der Boden sind mit weißem Papier ausgekleidet, in der Mitte steht ein halbmeterhoher Stapel weißes A4-Papier, daneben auf zwei Seiten je zwei Stapel Wachsmalstifte (Grün, Gelb und Blau Rot) aufgetürmt, wie gefällte Bäume am Waldwegesrand.

A thousand brightly coloured crayons and what started out as a stack of white sheets of paper gave visitors young and old the chance to step out of their passive role and playfully become an active part of a creative process. This offer was taken up enthusiastically, producing some revealing results. From the moment the first visitors entered, the once clean room underwent a gradual transformation. At first, a sun appeared here, a group of dinosaurs there. Hearts and flowers were followed by peace symbols and slogans. It was not long, of course, before the typical, ubiquitous scribblings of “I was here” and initials popped up, acting as a statement of people’s existence and marking their territory in a manner not unlike the tags left by graffiti artists. And thus the individual drawings began to decorate the walls and floor, at first side by side and later on top of one another.

Over the weeks, all these signs and shapes entered into a visual dialogue with one another and with the visitors, spreading over the room like a kind of graphic network. One day, the resulting large-format abstract piece burst the banks of its designated canvas. Released from the confines of the paper, the wax-suspended pigments then also found their way onto window panes and radiators or, in a few cases, even left the exhibition room in children’s hands, dotting the rest of the building with little colourful squiggles. Meanwhile, the sheets of paper on the floor, by now covered in countless layers of wax and a leathery, shiny brown, started to tear until eventually, the colouring even continued on the back.

Although the piece It is what it is initially comes across as a complete chaos of colours and shapes, the participative process of its creation is open to an empirical interpretation of the touchpoint between humans and the environment. After all, this chaos also offers a visual impression of human society. An insight that ultimately raises some questions: How do we shape our environment together, and in doing so, how do we use the raw materials available to us? What behaviour do we display when those natural resources start to run out? It would also be interesting find out what results Artourette’s participative work produced in other cultures, such as the indigenous peoples who have a completely different understanding of how they deal with space compared to our Western, colonialist civilisation. While It is what it is raises not just these questions, but many others about people’s relationship with nature, the final work in this special exhibition can also be read as an exclamation mark placed at the end of a plea to take greater care of our environment.

Artourette. It is what it is | Japanisches Palais

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