Welcoming address by
Prof. Georg Quander, Head of the Cultural Affairs Department of the City of Cologne
in Germany
to Rhinegold-Shinkansen, an exhibition of Siglinde Kallnbach’s work in JAPAN

exhibition "Rheingold - Shinkansen" in Japan
by Siglinde Kallnbach

City of Cologne
Cultural Affairs Department
Richartzstr. 2 - 4
D-50667 Cologne
5 September 2005

Prof. Georg Quander, Head of the Cultural Affairs Department of the City of Cologne

Deutschland/NRW in Japan 2005/ 2006 - Germany/North Rhine - Westphalia in Japan 2005/2006

Under this heading,Germany/North Rhine Westphalia is presenting itself in Japan in 2005 and 2006. Apart from business and scientific projects, extensive cultural encounters will be taking place which continue and intensify the cultural dialogue between the two countries.
The exhibition of Siglinde Kallnbach's works, Rhinegold-Shinkansen, presents Germany not only as a cultured nation, but also as a country of creativity and the fine arts. I am happy that the Cologne artist, Siglinde Kallnbach, is able to present a selection of her creative artistic work in Japan within this context. This seems to be logical and consistent because it has often been toward Japan that Siglinde Kallnbach has directed her artistic efforts.
Initial ties with Japan came about at the beginning of the 1980s. A recent exhibition in 2000 was shown at the Japanese Cultural Institute in Cologne together with works of the Japanese artist, Shozo Shimamoto, as part of a cultural exchange under the heading Japan in Germany 2000. Two years later, in 2002, Siglinde Kallnbach had a three-month stay in northern Japan supported by a grant during which she first came into contact with Nebuta*. In her installation there, Shrines, in which photographs, 32 large drawings, a video and other works were presented, this encounter had already been taken up.
The desire to track down the focus of Siglinde Kallnbach’s cross-media artistic work over more than thirty years leads straight to a centrally important medium of expression for her work.
In innumerable artistic performances, she has made her own body into a motor and simultaneously a medium. Her body has unsparingly served her as a tool for incisive and uncompromising live performances. Some of her spectacularly provocative artistic performances, with which she risked breaking taboos at the beginning of the 1980s, provoked nationwide scandals and ignited heated discussions in the media about the limits of art and about what art may do and what it must not do. Even though at that time some galleries lost the courage against these resistances to continue showing Siglinde Kallnbach's work, the artist did not allow herself to be held back and continued following her own path which led her unerringly onto the stage of the national and international art scenes.
If one rolls out one of her more recent works from 1999/2001, the viewer will follow a very special track. Wishingtrack leads to personal statements in words and images by people living in the twenty-first century which had been taken up and compiled by the artist in many countries of the world over a two-and-a-half year period. The texts and drawings were processed digitally into code and transferred to a 'wishingtrack' with a length of 461 metres. Transformed into this abstract representation, the artist unrolled the tracks of more than four thousand wishes on New Year's Eve of the years 1999 and 2000 in a tunnel below the river-bed of the Rhine River at Cologne.
Wishingtrack visualized important motifs of human existence in our times and presented the universality of wishing and the commonly shared wish for health, peace and personal happiness.
In her artistic work, Siglinde Kallnbach is concerned in diverse ways with the forces of hope. She wants to counter impotence and conceives of her art also as a political force. Siglinde Kallnbach's way of working and also her language have changed their tone over the course of years. If in past years the forms of artistic expression were louder, today Kallnbach finds softer tones which at the same time resonate powerfully and have not lost any of their intensity.
The title of the current exhibition, Rhinegold-Shinkansen, at the Kita Gallery of Yamatokooriyama City in Nara Ken takes up the names of legendary trains in Germany and Japan and is thus a reference to today’s fast living as a feature of modernity.
The photographs offer a juxtaposition of urban situations, everyday moments and celebrations, of modern architecture and landscapes in present-day Japan and Germany. Apart from evidence of modern living liberated from tradition, the viewer also comes across signs of constancy in everyday culture — they are photographs of the Nebuta festival* and Carnival in Cologne.
In the context of Siglinde Kallnbach's oeuvre, in these photographs something of what drove her work on wishingtrack, what characterizes and defines her art becomes apparent: mobilizing forces, conceiving life as a once-only opportunity to shape something and transform it into a festival.
Pictures of celebrations, photographs of publicly celebrated, concentrated, ritualized festivity here symbolize, so to speak, the desire to loosen up cultural fetters and leave conventions behind, they refer to the potential of celebration and to the power of art to penetrate into new spaces and introduce others to them: being able to wish life anew, to strip off and forget what is old, to become another person, to run through the fire and start again as someone new on the other side.
Professor Georg Quander
Head of the Cultural Affairs Department of the City of Cologne

*At this festival known throughout Japan, enormous figures are carried through the streets accompanied by countless dancers. The procession floats are painted colourfully and illuminated from the inside.

Translated from the German by Dr. Michael Eldred, artefact text & translation, Cologne