winning hearts and minds – critical art ensemble

Winning Hearts and Minds, one of two projects by Critical Art Ensemble, is a daily encounter in which individuals can engage in whatever free speech they want. It takes place at a house at the far end of the Hauptbahnhof, close to the railway tracks. In this area, reminiscent in its remoteness of “free speech zones” recently established in the US (Guantanamo Camp X-ray, for example), a lecture takes place every day at noon, for the 100 days of dOCUMENTA (13). Lecturers can sign up through an “open call” system on OKNO submitted following :


In the spirit of Joseph Beuys, this salon discusses how art can be relevant again for shaping society in positive ways, as opposed to catering to the speculative interests of a small circle of rich collectors. Concretely, we put forward ecological CORRIDORS in urban environments as a new medium of social sculpture, a Gesamtkunstwerk that relies on the creative participation of many. Corridors are ephemeral living structures in the form of green spaces connected through animal life (such as bee colonies). They are set up and maintained by urban communities to regenerate areas of the city, particularly areas which are subject to social and urban stress. Corridors are here seen as art works that contribute to social cohesion and sustainability by raising awareness and minimizing resource waste. Artists create the safe spaces that enable the disruptive activities required to make corridors and they make the internal structure and activities of corridors visible through visual and auditory representations.

Ecological corridors rely partly on methods of urban agriculture, guerilla gardening, ecological management and social anthropology. Corridors can also make good use of avant-garde technologies, so that such projects become experiments on the edges of art, science and technology: Embedded systems, novel sensors, low energy computing and sensor networks are useful for monitoring soil quality, plant growth processes, animal activity, pollution and the movement and interaction of people within the local environment. Mobile communication and geoinformatics are useful for aggregating sensory data and projecting them in real time onto maps. Complex systems analysis, cloud computing, and machine learning are useful for detecting patterns to allow prediction and the shaping of ongoing social and biological processes. And novel user interfaces are needed to make embedded technologies accessible and usable without requiring sophisticated background or training.

This salon discusses the theoretical bases and ecological and technological foundations of corridors and challenges us to think how corridors act as art works. It then looks at concrete examples of ongoing projects that are in the process of realizing the vision of corridors, particularly the Open Green project by Annemie Maes of the artist collective OKNO in Brussels.