The thematic cycle "The Common Ground" poses the question of the general: What holds societies together? Which technologies and institutions allow productive debates about the future? And what role do art and culture play in this?

STUDIO BONN. Discourse at the Bundeskunsthalle

The Common Ground
Art and Culture in Times of War

Tuesday, 26 April, 7 pm
Live in the Forum
Talk in English


The war of aggression against the Ukraine is resurrecting the spectres of the 20th century: The Russian president legitimises the destruction of a country that is led by a Jewish head of state and home to a burgeoning Jewish community as a ‘denazification programme’, and his supporters stylise themselves as victims of Nazi persecution. Has history become a video game, as Eva Illouz recently wrote in DIE ZEIT? Is violence repeating itself because there is no collective memory in post-Soviet Russia, as Olga Grjasnowa argued in DER SPIEGEL? And do we, here in Germany, even have a map of shared cultural history on which we can situate the Ukraine?

In bestsellers like Gefühle in Zeiten des Kapitalismus (Adorno Lectures 2004), sociologist EVA ILLOUZ, born in Morocco in 1961, explores the shaping of human relationships by the media and the economy. Illouz is Director of Studies at the Centre européen de sociologie et de science politique, CSE-EHESS in Paris and Professor of Sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, from where she joins us.
Eva Illouz' Article in DIE ZEIT

OLGA GRYASNOVA came to Germany from Baku via Moscow and Warsaw in 1996 as the child of Jewish intellectuals. Her acclaimed novels, including All Russians Love Birch Trees and Die juristische Unschärfe einer Ehe (‘The Legal Uncertainty of a Marriage) are sharply drawn portraits of a generation shaped by wars and migration. Her essay Die Macht der Mehrsprachigkeit (‘The Power of Multilingualism’) (Duden 2021) describes structural impediments in the German education system
Olga Grjasnowa in the podcast Alles Gesagt

On 20 February 2022, the artist VOLO BEVZA (born in Kyiv in 1993) travelled to Kyiv with his partner Victoria Pidust for the opening of his exhibition. Trapped by the Russian attack on the morning of 24 February, they both turned to forging tank barriers near Lviv. In paintings and installations, Bevza explores the social-media-fuelled crisis of the representability of reality.
Conversation with Volo Bevza and Victoria Pidust
Statement from Bevza's Bonn gallery Galerie Judith Andreae

Chaired by: Kolja Reichert

STUDIO BONN. Listening to the Future

The Common Ground
404 – Europe not found

Thursday, 9 December, 7.00 pm 
Live in the Forum and livestreamed

Listen now wherever there are podcasts!

Do school and university prepare me sufficiently for life in the Europe of the future? Why are there so many different excuses for the fact that digitalisation does not work Europe-wide, even though we allegedly all want the same thing? Is there a young, European consciousness; is democracy in danger? And where do we actually find our much-vaunted European culture? Studio Bonn celebrates the launch of the podcast Europe, what’s up? It offers a forum for young Europeans to ask questions about Europe and for experts to answer them.

Europe, what’s up? is produced in cooperation with the initiative Its co-founder Janis Gebhardt has travelled to six European countries to collect the voices of the generation that is in the process of discovering Europe and to record their hopes and their scepticism. The first three episodes will be released on 9 December with responses by the historian Ute Frevert and Quang Paasch from Fridays for Future. The fourth episode will be recorded that evening in the Forum of the Bundeskunsthalle.

The young Europeans are represented by 21-year-old Rus Gheorghiu Eva Iulia from Timișoara (Romania) and 20-year-old Artūrs Zāģeris from Riga (Latvia). They are joined by Johannes Nichelmann, journalist, book author and presenter of Europe, what’s up?

The ‘other side’ is made up of the entrepreneur Ghazaleh Koohestanian, founder and CEO of re2you, who works on solutions for European data sovereignty; philosopher Lorenzo Marsili („Wir heimatlosen Weltbürger“, Suhrkamp 2019), founder of the pan-European party DiEM25 with Yanis Varoufakis and campaiger for a more democratic, just and culturally open Europe with the organisation European Alternatives; and political analyst Sophie Pornschlegel, currently a fellow at the European Policy Centre (EPC) in Brussels. They talk about what could and should work better in Europe – and the contribution that digital and cultural infrastructure could make.

Supported with funds from Neustart Kultur

STUDIO BONN. Listening to the Future
The Bundeskunsthalle Discourse Format

The Common Ground

Perspectives for Art and Culture in Afghanistan
Tuesday, 12 October, 7.00 pm, live in the Forum 
and livestreamed in German, Dari and English

Artists fled – if they were able to; in the Bamiyan valley, cultural treasures were looted and sold off, and the Chinese mining lease for the copper mine beneath the important archaeological site in Mes Aynak is up for renegotiation. In the wake of the Taliban’s return to power, Afghanistan has once again entered a period of uncertainty. What will remain of the institutions that have been built up over the past twenty years, partly with German involvement? What are the prospects for the preservation of Afghanistan’s rich cultural heritage? And how can the cultural isolation of the country be prevented? The filmmaker Sahraa Karimi, the director of the National Music Institute Ahmad Sarmast, the diplomat Martin Kobler and the exhibition manager of the Bundeskunsthalle Susanne Annen discuss these questions with the journalist and moderator Natalie Amiri at STUDIO BONN.

In May 2019, film director Sahraa Karimi, born in Tehran in 1985, became the first woman to head the Afghan Film Organisation, founded in 1968. She was forced to leave the country after the Taliban seized Kabul in late August 2021. Her film Hava, Maryam, Ayesha premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2019.

Ahmad Naser Sarmast, born in 1963, is an ethnomusicologist. He graduated from the Afghan Academy of Music in 1981, left the country during the civil war in the early 1990s and returned after the defeat of the Taliban. In 2010, he opened the National Music Institute in Kabul; in 2014 he was injured in a Taliban suicide attack. In August 2021, the Taliban’s return to power forced him to leave the country; he now lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Martin Kobler, born in Stuttgart in 1953, was German ambassador to Pakistan, (2017-2019), Iraq (2006-2007) and Egypt (2003-2006). He led UN missions in Libya (2015-2017), Congo (2013-2015), Iraq (2011-2013), and Afghanistan (2010-2011). From 2007 to 2010, he was head of the Department of Culture and Communication at the German Foreign Office, and from 2000 to 2003, he was head of the office of Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. The blowing up of the Buddha statues in the Bamiyan Valley by the Taliban in March 2001 and the deployment of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops in Afghanistan thus occurred during his time in office. More recently, he has been involved in private cultural sponsorship in Afghanistan as a member of the board of trustees of the Gerda Henkel Foundation.

As exhibition manager of the Bundeskunsthalle, Susanne Annen, born in Meerbusch in 1965, curated the 2010 exhibition Afghanistan. Recovered Treasures. The Collection of the National Museum in Kabul. She then worked in Kabul as an advisor to the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture, organising and designing collections, excavations and exhibitions.

Natalie Amiri, born in Munich in 1978 as the daughter of a German mother and an Iranian father, reported from Tehran as an ARD correspondent from 2007 and was nominated for the German Television Award in 2019. Amiri hosts the ARD program Weltspiegel as well as Euroblick on Bavarian Television. A bestselling author, she has repeatedly travelled to Afghanistan and is currently working on a book about the country.

STUDIO BONN. Listening to the Future
The Bundeskunsthalle Discourse Format

The Common Ground

Monday, 20 September, 8:15 pm, live in the Forum and livestreamed

Are political struggles drowned out by identity politics? Or do the growing self-confidence of minorities and the multiplication of perspectives simply reveal just how much (white, Western European, Christian) identity politics have always determined our society? How does embracing the new courtesies and agonising over the correct forms of expression affect the way we live together? Is freedom of expression under threat, or is it only just beginning to be being fought for? On 20 September 2021, journalist Petra Gerster and journalist Mohamed Amjahid will discuss these questions with Studio Bonn host Kolja Reichert in an installation by artist Verena Issel.

For more than twenty years Petra Gerster (born 1955 in Worms) worked as anchor for the ZDF’s daily news magazine heute – where she introduced the ‘gender star’ (glottal stop to signal gender inclusive use of gendered suffixes). Since her departure from the news at the end of May 2021, Petra Gerster has been writing a book on identity politics with her husband, the journalist Christian Nürnberger, which will be published in November (Vermintes Gelände. Wie der Krieg um Wörter unsere Gesellschaft verändert (‘Minefield – How the War Over Words is Changing Our Society’, Heyne 2021). At Studio Bonn, she will talk about her observations and thoughts for the first time in public.

In his books, newspaper articles and social media posts, political scientist and journalist Mohamed Amjahid (born 1988 in Frankfurt / Main) shows how structural racism works – and what a society and language could look like that afford everyone equal rights and respect. Mohamed Amjahid’s most recent publication is Der Weiße Fleck: Eine Anleitung zu antirassistischem Denken (‘The White Stain: A Guide to Antiracist Thinking’, Piper 2021), the one before Unter Weißen: Was es heißt, privilegiert zu sein (‘Among Whites: What it Means to be Privileged’, Hanser Berlin 2017).

In colourful collages and installations made of low-cost materials, Verena Issel (born 1982 in Munich) builds revenants of art historical forms – and questions their validity in the digital present, which is determined by a dissolution of forms. For Studio Bonn, Verena Issel transforms her site-specific installation SOFT RUINS (Aset in Tadmor II) (2018/2021) into a tv studio. The installation with ancient columns made of pastel-coloured foam was created in the wake of the destruction of the temple complex of Palmyra (also known as Tadmor) by the Islamic State in 2015. Aset is the Middle Egyptian name for Isis, the Egyptian goddess of destruction and reconstruction.

STUDIO BONN. Listening to the Future

The Common Ground
(German with English subtitles)
Henrike Naumann, Andreas Reckwitz, Anke Stelling

STUDIO BONN moves into Henrike Naumann’s tilted post-’89 living room installation “Ostalgie” (2019). Sociologist Andreas Reckwitz (“The Society of Singularities”, Polity 2020), writer Anke Stelling (“Higher Ground”, Scribe US 2021) and artist Henrike Naumann discuss an escalated economy of valorisation and aesthetic displacement.

Digitalisation has taken the debate about what is culturally valuable out of museums and into everyday life. Everybody judges everyone else; everybody is an artist, a critic and a work. Some seek to assert themselves through the originality of their lifestyle, others by defending the putative authenticity of their roots. But if everything and everyone can become a cultural asset, what is the role of the work of art?

A conversation about the changing dynamics of what society deems valuable, the covert class struggle through culture and the connection between culture and populism.

Using Ebay furniture, Henrike Naumann explores German psycho-geographies after 1989. Anke Stelling's novels expose the delusion of self-realisation. In his book Society of Singularities, Andreas Reckwitz has developed a cultural theory that explains the rise of populism and that details the role the increased significance of culture plays in that rise.

STUDIO BONN. Listening to the Future

The Common Ground
(German only)
Monika Grütters, Eva Kraus

Since the opening of the Bundeskunsthalle in 1992, the political value of culture has steadily risen. This can be seen in the budget increases that Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media Monika Grütters has achieved in her eight years in office – most recently in the two billion euros for culture to alleviate the consequences of the Corona pandemic. But do politicians really understand how culture works and what it achieves? Are the existing instruments enough to safeguard the work of artists? How do cultural institutions need to change? Is there a need for a Federal Ministry of Culture? And what remains of the cultural sovereignty of the individual states that make up the FRG? At the premiere of STUDIO BONN, Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, Monika Grütters, artistic director Eva Kraus and Kolja Reichert discuss the future of cultural policy.