For the project “What to do with the world?” the House of World Cultures (HKW) asked twelve people whose work spans disciplines and contexts to answer this question. Artist Wolfgang Tillmans has created typographic and photographic interpretations of the twelve answers, which can currently be seen on billboards throughout Berlin. In the run-up to the reopening of the HKW in June, the project sees itself as a walk outside and an invitation to the public to bring their worlds with them.
Image above : Poster of the campaign What to do with the world?, 2023. Design: Wolfgang Tillmans based on a quote by Craig Santos Perez © Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Photo: Laura Fiorio/HKW
In response to the question “What to do with the world?” contributors from Balbala, Bebedouro, Errington, Gordes, Hawai’i, Kathmandu, Kechurewe, Nogojiwanong, Paris, Port Antonio, and Tilcara sent poems, questions, slogans, and other messages sharing their curiosities, concerns, hopes, and fears about the state of the world yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Artist and researcher Zoe Todd asks a counter question, “What do these worlds actually have to do with us?” She shares this stance with poet Elicura Chihuailaf, who concludes, “The world wonders: what to do with humanity?”
Other responses invite us to rethink man’s relationship to the world. Poet and essayist Ricardo Domeneck advises a return to the waters to “learn from the whales,” while intellectual Leanne Betasamosake Simpson goes a step further: “Sing to the waters … Against and in spite of this presence.” A plea to reconnect with a world – as a form of resistance.
In the spirit of a dialogue spanning time zones and continents, the HKW has invited Berlin-based artist, photographer, and activist Wolfgang Tillmans to engage with these responses, relate them to his own artistic ideas, and interpret them for a visual intervention in urban space. A selection of the poetic text-image dialogues can be seen on billboards and other advertising spaces in Berlin in spring 2023: Commercial infrastructure becomes a space that enables fundamental questions about the state of the world today.
Wolfgang Tillmans: “I was interested in creating text-image combinations that function at different speeds – just as we experience the city: sometimes slowly, as we wait, and sometimes quickly, as we hurry through it. In choosing the photographs, I wanted to create an alternative color palette as diverse as that of the words entrusted to me.”
With this intervention, the HKW leaves its own four walls and approaches Berliners from all walks of life. The images and texts allow the question “What to do with the world?” and its possible answers to reverberate in the urban space and inspire diverse interpretations. In the run-up to the reopening of the HKW in June, this project sees itself as a walk outside and an invitation to the public to bring with them not only their cultures, but also their worlds.
Hemley Boum, Elicura Chihuailaf, Marysé Condé, Ricardo Domeneck, Ishion Hutchinson, Craig Santos Perez, Rita Segato, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Manjushree Thapa, Wolfgang Tillmans, Zoe Todd, Abdourahman Waberi
Runtime: Monday, March 27, 2023 until Sunday, June 11, 2023