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2-3 Streets. An Exhibition in Cities of the Ruhr (German: 2-3 Straßen. Eine Ausstellung in Städten des Ruhrgebiets) by the German conceptual artist Jochen Gerz was part of the European Capital of Culture RUHR.2010. It is both a literary work of collective authorship and a unique social process in the cultural landscape. "2-3 Streets" not only aims to change the streets, but also art. Here the creativity and authorship of the whole of society becomes the prerequisite for contemporary culture.
The artistic concept
In his artistic concept (2006) Gerz refers to three books which open up a multiperspective context for "2-3 Streets": "The Rise of the Creative Class" by Richard Florida, "The Cultural Creatives" by Paul H. Ray and Sherry R. Anderson and "The Fall of Public Man" by Richard Sennett. The "2-3 Streets"-concept was for three perfectly normal streets with vacant flats in the Ruhr area to be turned into an art exhibition for one year. 78 creatives were invited to live rent-free in this exhibition and, as part of it, become authors of a joint text to be published at the end of the year. As everyone in the three streets was able to take part – old and new tenants, passers-by and visitors of the exhibition – neither the text created in this fashion nor the development of social relationships and changes on the streets could be anticipated: “We write… and in the end my street won’t be the same.”
Three cities (Duisburg, Dortmund and Mülheim an der Ruhr) decided to take part in “2-3 Streets”, each one selected a street in a “socially difficult neighbourhood“ and renovated vacant living spaces. A total of 58 apartments were made available. By the end of 2008, 1,457 candidates from 30 countries had responded to the invitation to participate (“basic income: living rent-free for a year”). Over the next year there then followed intensive e-mail communication with the candidates. The criterion for participation was motivation to shape a foreign environment for a year and to write regularly. It was thus possible to include 78 participants.
The public artwork began on 1 January 2010 and ended December 31 of the same year. During this time, over 1,300 visitors, in the tradition of Bazon Brock's visitors’ school at documenta 4 (1968), spent time in the streets as art. The “visitors’ school in 2-3 streets”, turned the reality of everyday life on the streets into an aesthetic experience. Sociologists, cultural scientists and town planners undertook scientific studies, and the media threw an additional light on what were otherwise marginal and often problematic districts with a high percentage of migrant unemployment. New public spheres were created, allowing each street to develop a new image of itself.
Sustainability was discussed critically by sociologists, cultural scientists und city planners, but “social creativity“ in this context proved to be a sustainable practice. While year after year, the cities of the Ruhr continued to shrink, over half of the participants of “2-3 Streets” decided at the end of the artwork to stay in their streets as new residents of the region. In Dortmund they continue the work on their own initiative since then under the name “Borsig11“.
A central, if invisible, part of “2-3 Streets” was the text created on-site. The contributions were generated online and were saved chronologically in a central digital archive, which could not be viewed in 2010 while the text was being created. Even the authors themselves did not have access to the work-in-progress; they could not call up their texts, or correct them, or react to preceding contributions. This constant creative process presented itself in the text as the present. The contributions flowed seamlessly and swelled into a "river without banks". A total of 887 people created 10,000 contributions in 16 different languages. Their work impacted the streets in many ways. The "2-3 Streets TEXT" amounted to some 3,000 pages in the publication. “Writing is overcoming emptiness and thus is the epitome of change.” “Creativity, as understood here, is not the privilege of artists, but rather a renewable social energy”.
- Jochen Gerz: Concept "2-3 Streets", 2006  (PDF, 200KB)
- Richard Florida: The Rise of the Creatve Class, New York, Basic Books, 2002.
- Paul H. Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson: The Cultural Creatives. New York, Harmony Books, 2000.
- Richard Sennett: The Fall of Public Man, New York, Knopf, 1974.
- Ads published in German and European print and online media in november 2008.
- Cf. Annette Grigoleit, Julia Hahn, Davide Brocchi: “And in the end my street will not be the same”. The art project 2–3 Streets and its link to (un)sustainability, creative urban development and modernization, in: The Sustainable City and the Arts, Volume 4, Issue 3, 2013, pp. 173–185.
- Hermann Pfütze: As Art Disappears into Society, in: Jochen Gerz - Participation and the European Experience, Frankfurt a.M., 2016, p. 95ff.
- Machbarschaft Borsig11 e.V
- 2-3 Straßen TEXT. Eine Ausstellung in Städten des Ruhrgebiets von Jochen Gerz, DuMont, Köln 2011.
- Ralf Georg Czapla, in: 2-3 Straßen MAKING OF. Eine Ausstellung in Städten des Ruhrgebiets von Jochen Gerz, DuMont, Köln 2011.
- Hermann Pfütze, in: 2-3 Straßen MAKING OF. Eine Ausstellung in Städten des Ruhrgebiets von Jochen Gerz, DuMont, Köln 2011.
- 2-3 Straßen TEXT / 2-3 Straßen MAKING OF. Eine Ausstellung in Städten des Ruhrgebiets von Jochen Gerz, DuMont, Köln 2011.
- Jochen Gerz: Toward public authorship, in: Third Text, Volume 18, Issue 6, 2004, p. 649-656.
- Jochen Gerz: Creating a Cultural City, in: Third Text, Volume 21, Issue 4, 2007, p. 457-462.
- Meadows, A.B. (Feb 13, 2010). "Jochen Gerz: Creative Stimulator of Participatory Art". Art in Society. Archived from the original on 2012-03-31.