In the Middle Ages Cistercian monks from the Maulbronn monastery wanted to eat meat during Lent, which was not allowed. To hide their sins from the eyes of God they attempted to disguise the meat, mixing it together with spinach, herbs and bread, before encasing this mixture in pasta. That's how the story of Maultaschen begins, a ravioliesque speciality from the region of Stuttgart. For curators Susanne Kudielka and Kaspar Wimberley, Maultasche is a symbol for the mentality of concealment in Stuttgart and perhaps also for the technical innovation that is often associated with Stuttgart. They gave their concept to eight artists who live in the city. The artists were asked to look at their own position and to create a response for the Amsterdam Biennale. All of the works were created in the two weeks leading up to the exhibition.
Is your project about food?
Kaspar: 'Food and eating habits often reveal something about the mentality of a place and the people who live there. We invited artists to work around a theme which is based on food, a type of tradition from the area in which we live. The artists we are presenting use the Maultasche as a metaphor or an inspiration to explore a variety of very different issues and very different forms of presentation.' Susanne remarks: 'We are not from Stuttgart originally, so when we were approached to make this pavilion, we thought: why us? But maybe it's good to be an outsider, to have a different view.'
Why is that?
Susanne: ''Stuttgart doesn’t have a particularly good reputation. It’s not considered to be the most beautiful city and has very conservative mentality.' Kaspar completes: 'The car industry based in Stuttgart is one of the main motors of the German economy. This made Stuttgart wealthy, but the city was also hit quite hard by the crisis.' Susanne: 'The city wants to sell itself as a fast running modern city.' Kaspar: 'Though many would say that the city has a provincial attitude.'
What influence does this economic focus have on the culture?
Kaspar: 'Cultural heritage is sometimes brushed aside to make space for the car industry, or other commercial developments. There is a plan to build a new central station that will wipe out land which currently provides very affordable spaces for artists to work. Susanne: 'Arts funding tends to be spent on high art, opera, conventional theatre, as opposed to the more alternative scene. That's probably why a lot of artists leave when they finish their studies in Stuttgart, and go to, for example, Berlin.'
Why is it interesting to visit Stuttgart?
(Both laugh). Susanne: 'The city has a closed character. Geographically it's like a bowl and people tend not to look over the bowl's side, but when you look around you can find a lot of interesting things.' Kaspar: 'The fact that Stuttgart is not the most beautiful or lively city does not make it a boring or irrelevant place to visit. There is just as much for an artist to respond to. Its conservative politics and psychology provides creative people with issues that need to be examined.'
What's the relation between hiding secrets and the pavilion?
Kaspar: 'We asked the artists to create an alternative 'Maultasche', exploring themes that relate to this tradition and examining their own personal relationship to the city. We are going to show another artist every day. Our pavilion consists of two spaces: an exhibition space and a space with two cabins where visitors can make their own Maultaschen. The filling and pasta are ready; they only have to role it up and cook it. The kitchen is open the whole week.' Susanne: 'The secret is put in with pasta letters. Things you want to hide away from sight. At the end you have to confess all your sins.' Kaspar, ironically: 'Without any forgiveness.'
What is the art scene in Stuttgart like? What can you expect there?
Kaspar: 'I wouldn't say it's very lively. For many artists it can be a bit of a struggle to make ends meet.' Susanne adds: 'Artists live in Stuttgart, but work somewhere else. For the free scene there are limited paid opportunities, especially for those with a more experimental or interdisciplinary approach. There was a protest last week of artists campaigning against the proposed cuts in cultural funding, despite the millions that will be spent on the new central station. We were quite impressed by how many people were there. So it's a pretty big scene, but hard to find.'
But Stuttgart is such a rich city?
Susanne: 'I think it's not so obvious that it is a rich city. The richness is quite hidden.'
Very hidden. So the stereotype is true!