Ralf Witthaus

Den Gestrauchelten

Den Gestrauchelten (to the floundering ones) sees itself as a “monument” to the homeless. It is a performative intervention in the green spaces of the Hansaplatz and uses fragments of the names of homeless people in the Hansaviertel to create a lawnmower drawing in public space: the spaces between letters will be greatly enlarged and the graphical forms of the letters will be cut into as many green areas around the Hansaplatz as possible.

The Hansaviertel is a social vision of the city of tomorrow. When people moved into the first apartments in 1957 they were objects of prestige and cost significantly more than apartments elsewhere. Still today few low-income earners live in the Hansaviertel. Yet the presence of homeless people, alcoholics and junkies in this district is impossible to ignore. They live in the green areas and anywhere they can spend the night sheltered from the elements. It is not hard to see the huge discrepancy between the urban vision for the Hansaviertel and growing homelessness today. The monument to “Die Gestrauchelten” aims to raise awareness about the need for a safety net to catch floundering people and to improve their chances of leading a dignified life.

With the consent of local land owners and the participation of volunteers, the artwork will be able to extend beyond the Hansaplatz and into surrounding green areas. The artwork will create a space for something that has no place in society: people who are our neighbours just as much as those who have their own doorbell.

The “monument” will only be visible for a short time. The drawings in the grass grow over again within a few weeks. The art project is essentially a social intervention. The conversation with inhabitants, passers-by and vagrants is an integral part of the work. The work itself will be carried out in a black suit and a strimmer. In the past people have often offered their help, sometimes residents but mostly enthusiastic volunteers from elsewhere. They have supported this project over many years and are part of the performative process. Everything that happens along the way is documented by a photographer and becomes part of the artwork.