Joshua Schwebel (b. 1980, Toronto, Canada) is a conceptual artist seeking to make visible the inter-relationships between art and its broader political and economic contexts. His work does not begin with an independent material process; rather, he uses the hosting art institution as his raw material. The works unfold over time through a proposal to alter the administrative, symbolic, or architectural structure of the institution. Given that his work is concerned with the relational systems at play in contemporary art, the negotiations towards the successful or unsuccessful realization of the project are also incorporated into the final exhibition.
Schwebel’s intervention for the Berlin Art Prize 2019 departs from its site, Kreuzberg Pavillon, a socially engaged project space situated between Kottbusser Tor and Moritzplatz in the heart of Kreuzberg. The traditionally working class neighborhood is one of those most severely afflicted by gentrification in Berlin, and drastic increases in rent have already forced many local businesses to close, while the local population is increasingly displaced. However, strong resistance has developed, united by the call to expropriate housing companies in order to thwart real estate speculation: Deutsche Wohnen enteignen! Deutsche Wohnen, the poster child for companies driving out renters with creative methods such as ›modernizing‹ apartments to justify exorbitant rents, also happens to be Kreuzberg Pavillon’s landlord. In The Ground Schwebel subverts the material vocabulary of modernization as well as a hyper-site-specific instance of its concurrent, official PR rhetoric, layering concrete substances and abstract tropes that speak to the ongoing struggle for affordable housing.
This exhibition is supported by the Canadian Embassy.