Sur les palmiers, la neige
by: Christoph Schäfer, 2007


Our wheels race through steep turns, eat into the earth, drive through a system of funnels and tracks, jump over improvised ramps. We ridicule gravity. Our actions and our perceptions are synchronized, planning and enjoying are not separated anymore. We use every irregularity in the topography of the territory; every dusty spot, every muddy pool is a source of pleasure, challenging our driving skills.


It’s 1975 and my elder sisters frequently return home now with impressingly bruised knees, ripped jeans, dirty anoraks and serious damages on their bicycles: they have discovered the Gipsy Forest. We live in a suburb of Essen, and a good kilometer further, towards the posh areas, behind the cemetery with the graves of the Krupps and Thyssens, the Allies have left a small reminder to the war profiteers from the neighbourhood: bombcraters in a patch of trees, on a field not yet built with suburb houses.


Our bodies shape and reshape the landscape. But when the spontaneity of the informel painter starts with the white canvas, imagined as an unhistorical tabula rasa, our game (our dance) starts right in the mud of history: there was only a thin layer of 30 years between our parents and the Third Reich, when the kids bring back the repressed past in a hedonistic game, played with the commodities panhandled off them over years: bonanza-bikes, Mopeds.




The moment of destruction, when in negation the possibility of souvereignity against the omnipotent commodity regime lights up. The transfer from unpolitical to anti-political. The moment of affirmation of this gesture, the speeding up of commodity production cycles.



... a few skateboarders start to skate the private swimmingpools vacated by the oil- or economy-crisis. These pioneers change skateboarding from scratch: it stops being a sport and becomes something completely different, a dance für boys, a redefinition of urban space. Like no hobby before, the starting point of skateboarding is not the mastery of natural phenomena (like surfing), neither is it a game on a neutral field. The starting point much rather lies in the detournement of concrete parking lots, pedestrian zones and swimmingpools.



This mode, originating from the fucked-up-ness of the world, misappropriating it, transforming it, in the process, into something soft, into something connected in a different way, into something downright erotic, this relationship to the world expresses itself in the name of an 80ies skate-clothes-company: Life’s a Beach. Paraphrase – of course – of life’s a bitch, but with an unconscious link to the sixties anti-alienation-hit Under the Pavement – the Beach / Sous les pavés, la plage.

Skateboarding transforms the pavement into the beach. It’s constructive and yet a negation of the city’s status quo. If I was asked how art could develop and extend it’s scope, without falling back into the ugly universalism, it would have to work like a skateboard. Like a device, allowing you not only to see the world with a different perspective, but like one, that let’s you use the world in a different way.

Desires will leave the house and take to the streets


For quite some time, Park Fiction has worked like such a device. In St. Pauli, Hamburgs red light district, but also living quarters of people without papers, without money, of squatters, artists, musicians and dogs, the task in the mid-nineties was, to stop the city from selling the last piece of land with a view over Elbe river and harbour to investors.

As we were not in the mood for trench warfare and as the legal path seemed not to lead to positive results, we chose a different way: we organised a Parellel Planning Process and a Collective Production of Desires in the community.



Without being legitimized or contracted by the authorities at this point, we directly started with the production of desires: we organized the process as a game, developed questionnaires, that connected the question for park designs with the question for situations of happiness, holiday places, cities, spaces of pleasure, if one has been there alone or with someone, who else was there and how many people are needed to create the situation; we asked for holiday snapshots, descriptions and sketches. We developed tools: starting with signs in US-demonstration style, that were hammered into the not-yet built slope; later a gameboard showed all points of access to the process; we placed an office container in the planning territory, that contained a Garden Library and the Knetbüro (plasticine office/ office de paté a modeler), a set of tables that could be pieced together to form the planning area in scale 1 : 35, and the Archive of Desires. For people, who get their best ideas in the middle of the night, we installed a telephone hotline.

With the Action Kit, a portable planning studio in a suitcase, equipped with an unfoldable harbourpanorama, maps, modelling clay, a polaroidcamera and a taperecorder, we roamed through the neighbourhood. When I visited a turkish women’s group with the Action Kit, I sat next to another visitor, also with a suitcase: the Avon-Lady with an impressive set of make up and cosmetics.



Instead of organising frontal speeches or demonstrations, we employed forms, that seemed to be forgotten by the vocabulary of politics and enlightment, forms that, at the beginning were not even recognized as something political: we organized a garden-related exhibition in all shops, cafés, bars and some flats around the park; at the opening there was a garden shaped salad bar, guided tours and infotainment, Open Air Cinema with propaganda slide shows in the style of fifty’s advertising in provincial cinemas. The talk on islamic gardens was arranged in a temporary turkish teagarden – we aimed at creating situations that were inspiring and fun there and then, and not only meanigfull in respect to the political goal that we wanted to achieve.


This practice was carried by a neighbourhood network that had formed and radicalized itself in the time of the squatters struggles in Hafenstrasse. There were individual neighbours, argumentative priests, a visionairy headmistress, a grafic designer, caféowners, artists and espescially musicians from the scene around the Golden Pudel Klub. The Golden Poodle Club (Club de l’caniche d’or), space of the politicised musicians of the Hamburg School, whose selfironic performance style influenced Park Fiction a lot, and also home of Galerie Nomadenoase and Akademie Isotrop, was in the centre of the desired park and threatened to be demolished by the existing zoning map (Bebauungsplan/plan d'aménagement de zone). When we managed to draw highranking politicians into our territory a year later, Park Fiction was already everywhere, as imagination and desired park, and very real as a social meshing, even hip&trendy, and quite known in the german speaking artworld.

Finally on the basis of this work / constituent practice, and this network (in the background the threat was still lingering, that rioting might start again like in the squatters era), we managed in 1997, just before the local elections, to assert the park. We developed a concept from the desires and presented all ideas in a community conference. There, for instance, all teenagers were missing (who had contributed most ideas), and of all things, the skateboardtrack, a seventies style snakerun, was removed from the plan. In the Park Fiction group we discussed, that our idea of production of desires was not a democratic playing down of ideas, and we decided, that the second community conference would be the last, and all designs agreed upon on that instance would not be discussed in the big group again.Instead, these designs were devoloped further by the authors or groups of authors, together with the artists and the architects, accuminated, the differences accentuated. That way we developed a concept for a park of islands, with different, contradicting and complementing functions and languages. Our idea of public space was not claim everybodys normed equality (as the calculated, need-satisfying greenareas of the sixties did), but that the „subjective factor“ grips the street, and everbody, in their differences, still shares one space.



Only in the year 2003 the first part of the park was realized, the whole area was inaugurated in 2005 – with a Permanent PicNic against Gentrification.There are many elements, that do not prescribe, how you have to use them, but that offer diverse possibilities. You have to come up with something: the Flying Carpet for instance became popular directly with one- to four year olds, who enjoy going round in circles on the arabian style border, as if it was a magic strip.

Frequently people bring hamocks to hang between the artificial palmtrees, and two years ago the rabbit fashion broke out: neighbours walked their pygmy rabbits on a leash in the park. The tacky dog garden with it’s stand and the Buxtree Cut In The Shape Of A Poodle is so popular amongst dogowners, that it keeps nearly all dogs and a lot of conflicts out of the rest of the park. For a while, kids even lent out dogs, to have an excuse to go there. On the remnants of a world war 2 bunker, there is now a Boule Field and the semi-private Neighbourhoodgardens. We have three Open Air Solariums, and the Tulip Patterned Tartan Field byNesrin Biguen works – different from our expectations – very much like a mediterranian villagesquare: the scene changes every twenty minutes and on summer evenings the grownups sit on the edge watching the activities. At the moment not one specific group dominates the park. It got the honourable title Hartz-4-Mallorca (social welfare benefits-Mallorca). A lot works like we hoped, on warm days the park is the most popular place in town.

Recuperation & Gentrification

The ugly couple knocked at our door vehemently in the year 2001, right in the construction phase, in the shape of an investor, who had leased a rotten building under the park from the city. He made himself known in the neighbourhood by chopping off trees and by fencing off the piece of park on the buildings’ roof, and transforming it into a building site. The esoteric millionaire fit well with the new image policy of the city, and organized a bigtime event in his construction site, the medianight, part of the new media congress Hamburg Dialogue. At this point, Hamburg tried to market itself as the New Media Harbour City, and the park with it’s harbour view and cool connections to the subcultures was suddenly in the centre of the postfordist redirection of the city, in the focus of image policy: the hanseatic city desperatly was seeking for investors for the Hafencity – a giant piece of the harbour near the city centre, to be transformed into a commercial office area. A flyer and a fake invitation for the event were enough to provoke a large scale police operation, that blocked the whole neighbourhood in a violent action (that later was declared illegal).

The Medianight, in turn, took place closed in by police, money was hurled by protestors at the arriving guests, and from two sides the event was surrounded by critical filmprojections. The Image of the investors space was damaged for years, the finances got confused, and till 2005, no further event happened there. Then a rarely visited example of lounge-architecture came up there, where till today, food is served on square plates for too much money.

This affair was hardly over, when on the other side of the park a new problem appeared in shape of a mirror-glassed new building. The view from this house, fought free by us, now provides the house with the highest rent prices in town.


Landlord is a real estate developer about whom it is rumored, that he made his triple digit million fortune with pushing weapons and trafficking of women. Today in prison because of deceit, the construction work is on ice. But it seems as if a follower was found in the solarium tanned person of a rich artists inheritor from those circles of the Hamburg bourgeoisie, where a phonecall is enough to make politicians and authorities act in your private interest: because the view from the unfinished building was perturbed, the Park Fiction construction sign was removed without further ado from the public space of the park. The house is still empty because the juristical situation is unclear, and the first windows have been smashed.

Also elsewhere political and administrative auhorities intercede to break controversial or special elements out of the plan: the Woman Pirates Fountain is not financed, the strawberry shaped tree house has disappeared completely from the plan, and even the heartpiece of the project in regards of content, the Park Fiction Archive for Independent Urbanism, to be housed in our former container, floating above the park, was stopped by the local politicians, even though it was completely financed by the cultural board (just to name some of the annoying bureaucratic interventions and architectural attenuations ). The elements of negation of the status quo, that constitute Park Fiction as a project, and that were to complement the affirmative parts, are missing in the park.

Lines of Flight


Not only for tactical reasons, but also to avoid walking on the spot and to avoid being worn down by the forces of the factual, Park Fiction moved into fields and collaborated with others, who haven’t got much to do with the political or planning methods or were only loosely connected to the community: it started with a talk on Parks & Politics, parks and their ideologic backgrounds, and proceeded with exhibitions, the production of a movie (Park Fiction – Desire will leave the house and take to the streets by Margit Czenki), finally the exhibitions in cittadellarte / fondazionepistoletto (2001) and on Documenta11 (2002).

Turning upside down a popular hierarchy, we tried to bring local knowledges into a global exchange. For Documenta11 we travelled with 40 people from the neighbourhood in the bus of FC St.Pauli, 2003 we subcurated the congress Unlikely Encounters in Urban Space in a disco on Reeperbahn, showed the Documenta Installation there (virtually on the street), and youths from the community gave guided tours through the exhibition and the park. In a tent in the park we discussed in 2006 in a one day symposium Umsonst & Draussen about art and the construction of desiring machines in urban space. These activities we see as part of the Institute for Independent Urbanism, to be opened in 2010 in the first floor of the Golden Pudel Klubs. Next to the archive of desires we want to go on collecting on urbanism and to research from an every day life perspective, to link up with others and to develop international projects. As a first manifestation of the exploded archive of desires, soon a Boulevard of Unrealized Desires in the shape of a series of peepshow boxes will meander through the park – as a polite answer to the rude attacs on our project.

Working close with or in the music scene, we want to research on the spaces of collective desires so often created by musicians (and create new ones), and we want to continue developing those cooperative and exchange based (art) practices, that can not be developed under the conditions of the artmarket, and which, subjected under the paradigm of urban development, are threatened to turn into the opposite of what they were intended.

It’s about connecting to a utopian trace that an anonymous stickerist let resurface last year everywhere in Hamburg. Under a drawing of the Park Fiction palmtrees in the snow, he (or she) placed a slogan, that echoed repressed ideas from the just gone  past, the slogan read: Sur les palmiers - la neige.

A good example of this you can find in an article about the project that was obviously informed by the architects, in issue 1/2007 of L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui

Other congress issues were: Constituent Practices, Local Knowledge/Global Exchange, Unlikely Encounters, with Ala Plastica from La Plata, Sarai/Cybermohalla from Delhi, Isola Arte/OUT from Milan, Borderhack/Maclovio Rojas from Tijuana, the Schwabinggrad Ballett and Ligna from Hamburg – see more at

ufor free & outdoors, with Nic Duric, Ted Gaier, Christine Mennicke, Nina Möntmann, Grant Kester, Anne Querrien, Wanda Wieczorek and more – see under: