About Actopolis

Traditional democratic institutions are in a state of crisis, while civic urban society has swung into action, at the latest since Occupy, Gezi Park and Syntagma Square. Calls for the good life beyond the politics of austerity, for a multi-layered public life that is worthy of the name, for communities which do not define themselves via isolation are becoming louder and more insistent. In this situation ACTOPOLIS. The Art of Action is establishing a transnational test field for urban alternatives.

Many urban societies are currently in a state of uncertainty. The Goethe-Institut on an international level and Urbane Künste Ruhr on a regional level answer to the condition of fragmentation by establishing decentralised networks. ACTOPOLIS brings together artists, urbanists and activists from South-Eastern metropolises and the Ruhr region in a joint production laboratory, because questions relating to the future of urban life can no longer be dealt with on a merely local level. ACTOPOLIS is a call to action and to co-author the city – across disciplines, national boundaries and cultural differences.

The leading idea behind ACTOPOLIS, and the specific objective of the project, is not a single huge event, but rather the passing on of experience and the joint development of artistic, urban and activist tools. Under the artistic direction of Angelika Fitz and Katja Aßmann and together with co-curators from seven cities, the ACTOPOLIS Laboratory aims to hone our view of current urban questions as well as testing strategies for action. Intervention and critical reflection are both characteristics of ACTOPOLIS. The unusual feature is that the individual project ideas are being exchanged even at the development stage (2015), before they are implemented in local interventions in Athens, Belgrade, Bucharest, Ankara/Mardin, Oberhausen, Sarajevo and Zagreb (2016). During the third year (2017) the local events will be assembled and examined in a trans-regional touring exhibition, a conference and a publication. The transnational work processes and the routes towards local implementation can be followed and commented on in the blog on the website.


More than two years after the project began and sixteen months after the Lab in Oberhausen, an extensive collection of material from all the participating cities has been accumulated. More than forty-five projects were realised between April and late autumn 2016. The result of an analysis of this broad repertoire of options for action — conducted together with the participants — led to the creation of the ACTOPOLIS Glossary. These terms and their open-ended definitions assemble the main topics and methods of ACTOPOLIS and have since served as a flexible template for communicating about the projects across all the different contexts.

"Education is the production and reproduction of culture and society through the legitimisation of certain knowledges and narratives and the invalidation of others. It is a commodity within the global economy, indispensable to productive power relations, and a method to organise the division of labour.

Education can also be para-academic, an apparatus to question canon-making forces and claim its own views on history, art, gender, and class. It is a tool that can be used not only to investigate the everyday functioning and effects of power relations or forms of knowledge but also to call certain narratives into question while at the same time de-vising new ones."
Elpida Karaba, Actopolis Athens, Project: The Soft Power Lectures
"Be it natural, historical, national, or cultural, heritage refers to a specific value or meaning given by a group, a state, or society as a whole to natural resources, flora and fauna, a place, an event, a building, an artefact, or a memory. Heritage can be built heritage, such as houses, cemeteries, factories, and monuments, or intangible, i.e. living cultural heritage that can include performing arts, rituals, social practices, individual stories, oral traditions and expressions, language, digital heritage, traditional craftsmanship, and other knowledge and practices.

Since the 1972 World Heritage Convention — which emerged from two separate movements, one focusing on the preservation of cultural sites and the other dealing with the conservation of nature — the main aim of the heritage movement has been to preserve, protect, and pass on our world heritage through the generations."

Danijela Dugandžić, Actopolis Sarajevo, Project: Actopolis Sarajevo
"Infrastructural decisions create the basis for how we live together: infrastructures not only enable actions; they regulate the potential for action. Infrastructures privilege certain uses and complicate others. Infrastructures organise access to and participation in many areas of society. Because of their scale and the different (political and economic) interests involved, infrastructural decisions often escape political control. Moreover, infrastructures can obstruct the conditions of their functioning. Or, to put it differently: because there are houses, people live in them; because there are streets, there are cars driving past; because there are banks, there are bank robberies."
geheimagentur, Actopolis Oberhausen, Project: Building A New City
"The entire world is made up of labour — if we refer to the global aggregate of human efforts used in the production of goods and services. Life in our societies is all about work diffusing into and penetrating every human activity. How- ever, labour should be distinguished from work and defined as a repeated process that never finishes, aimed at meeting the need for consumption. Work, on the other hand, can be determined by categories of means and end, as a process that leaves behind a durable object.

Today we are constantly pushed to define ourselves by the work we do, to perform immaculately in meeting needs. Assuming the roles of "job-holders", we internalise instrumental reasoning in which it becomes normal to think of everything as a potential means to be used to some further end. Not only do we substitute "use value" for "worth" in economic discourse but intrinsic worth — relative to human demand or need — is being abandoned. By accepting such a condition, we are agreeing to become engines in the cyclical production of "labour" and perpetual (self-) exploitation through jobs that are often insecure and precarious. In the end, are we worker or 'animal laborans'?"
Ana Dana Beroš, Actopolis Zagreb, Project: Invisible Belonging
"In the animal world, migration is a behavioural adaptation,
a long-distance movement that helps individuals and groups survive in new-found lands, irrespective of natural boundaries. Dominant discourses on human migration, however, portray migrants as key figures in abolishing concepts of the nation-state and geopolitical borders by demanding freedom of movement as an essential human right. Transnational migration to the industrialised countries of the West, as a form of postcolonial backlash, is still not widely recognised as a regulatory tool of the labour market.

There are various kinds of migrant — nomadic, circulatory, refugee, settler — who are all part, willingly or not, of the light infantry of
global capitalism. The ambiguous condition of the migrant
is reflected in his or her representation either as a symbolic figure of "fearism", responsible for the (un)conscious production of fear in others, or as a human being invariably
in need of care. Questioning the contradictory perspectives on migrants should bring a new historical consciousness, as this apparently marginal figure deserves to be viewed as a central political agent of change in our time."
Ana Dana Beroš, Actopolis Zagreb, Project: Invisible Belonging
"Nationalism can be expressed as a belief or political ideology that involves individuals identifying with their nation, often characterising themselves by excluding or opposing others.

Some people maintain that the idea of the nation originally came about as a response to colonialism. Today it is at the foundation of the state constitutions of most countries in the world, particularly democratic ones. Nations essentially constitute "imagined communities"."
Boba Mirjana Stojadinović, Actopolis Belgrade, Project: Formally Informal
"From not being allowed to sit on the front seats of the bus to having to raise their kids in unheated schools, people are subjected to segregation in every urban structure, with megalopolises acting as havens for all forms of ghettos, while smaller versions of segregated societies are to be found even in villages.

Urban segregation can be manifested in (sometimes paradoxical) phenomena such as people retreating behind high fences in an obsession with security and well-paid privacy, entire communities living without access to basic amenities like running water, favelas having the best view from the hills of the city (Rio de Janeiro), almost half a city enduring an underprivileged lifestyle (Bucharest-South), people fighting for the right to the sun (Norway). Generous public spaces, the equitable distribution of resources, and inclusive architecture are aspects of policy-making that can prevent segregation and its alienating effects."
Raluca Voinea, Actopolis Bucharest, Project: Bucharest-South
"Self-organisation is the daily production of a non-profit climate of self-empowerment. Non-institutional individuals who work in a self-empowered way are self-organised. They do not receive any benefit from the system, but they still work hard (to articulate the urge) to express themselves through art and culture, directed towards the public from the bottom up."
Boba Mirjana Stojadinović, Actopolis Belgrade, Project: Formally Informal
"'Sharing is caring" is a popular phrase commonly used when you have something and your friend wants a part of it. So we share not only food, cigarettes, tram tickets, and taxi rides but also, more importantly, ideas and emotions. Sharing is a practical concept inextricably connected with the roots of solidarity and the practice of commons.

But what happens when sharing, of goods or services, stops meaning caring? In what is called the "sharing economy", peer economy or collaborative consumption, owners rent something they are not using — a car or a house — to a stranger. Airbnb is a poster child of the sharing economy sector, where travellers can rent out a room, an entire house, or even a castle. Originally the product of the open-source community, nowadays the term "sharing economy" can be misleading, as most of the peer-to-peer exchange services are primarily profit-driven."
Ana Dana Beroš, Actopolis Zagreb, Project: Invisible Belonging
"Social struggle is a layered agonism of a network of classes, ethnicities, religions, and communities that are connected with each other in rhizomatic relations of social process. Social struggle compounds a socio-spatial ramification."
Pelin Tan, Actopolis Ankara/Mardin, Project: Urban Commons
"A radical identity that has been somehow valorised today as a resistance to capital, South is a cultural construct that has been used to justify racial discrimination, geographical determinisms, and stereotypes and to reproduce uneven or repressive power relations."
Elpida Karaba, Actopolis Athens, Project: The Soft Power Lectures
"Sheep pasturing on industrial wasteland. Earthquakes changing urban grids. Rivers having their course re-directed. The direction of winds disciplined. The return of food gardens in the city. Underground networks. Light pollution. Wild animals feeding on rubbish. Car fumes but no pesticides. The weight of people and their technosphere."
"Raluca Voinea, Actopolis Bucharest, Project: Bucharest South
"Cities in conflict are becoming spaces of exception, security zones, new economies, and areas of militarisation. A building or a master plan itself is already weaponised either through warfare or as an outcome of it. Urban warfare is a contemporary type of worship, where urban space, architecture, and infrastructural design are instrumentalised and serve the conflict."
Pelin Tan, Actopolis Ankara/Mardin, Project: Urban Commons
"Claiming is an active right or a title to a place, condition, or an environment (be it political, social, or natural). We can claim a right to the city, public space, running water, a clean environment, or living as decent human beings. Claiming involves taking an active role as an individual or a group to remind decision-makers and those in power of the public interest and commons."
Danijela Dugandžić, Actopolis Sarajevo, Project: Actopolis Sarajevo
"When different individuals engage in a process of working together to achieve common goals we call it collaboration. We can collaborate in real space or online, we can do it in the same office or work on just one initiative, we can work locally and transnationally, with hierarchy or without, but if we want a successful collaboration, we have to work in a motivating, open, and synchronised environment that enables knowledge-sharing and allows us to focus on the same goal.

Collaborations are never easy and if we wish
to build a collective it requires time, energy, mediation, and constant reflection. Most of the time it also requires friend- ship and support as well as a great deal of determination from everyone involved. Nevertheless, the experience shows that the results of a collective practice can lead to the most rewarding processes, from which everyone gains more and produces results that could never have been achieved individually."
Danijela Dugandžić, Actopolis Sarajevo, Project: Actopolis Sarajevo
"Urban Collectors is a platform for graffiti and street art in Bucharest. Collecting, unlike hoarding (an obsession many Romanians manifested post-1989 when confronted with
a limitless number of products to consume), comes from the need to appropriate and to make sense of things. A need to confront and contest existing categories. Artists may collect litter from the streets and press it between the pages of a book (Daniel Knorr); writers may collect oral histories and legends (constantly validating or redefining places in the city and their reputation); mayors may collect citizens’ wishes and ideas."
Raluca Voinea, Actopolis Bucharest, Project: Bucharest-South
"This dubious hope of changing things on a material level: of doing something real, something immediate, maybe even using your hands — like the hand on the big Hornbach billboard that we saw displayed across five storeys on this building in Bucharest. Would it help if people knew how much time artists spend in DIY stores?

Nevertheless. We still want to make things, make things happen, make things real. It is about the things we imagine actually manifesting physically, about sharing time and space with something that before was only an idea."
geheimagentur, Actopolis Oberhausen, Project: Building A New City
"Two things related to playing that we like:
1. Having fun.
2. Pretending, acting “as if” — “as if” another world was possible, as if we could build a new city, etc. — the “as if” of any manifesto: as if this was realistic, as if we were in a position to do something. And then see how real it becomes. Realism is the problem, not reality.

Playing: entering into a long-distance relationship with reality; sometimes, meeting each other halfway."
geheimagentur, Actopolis Oberhausen, Project: Building A New City
"Recording visually is a bodily experience. Although subjectivity is the main protagonist, the image regime is dependent on the action and layers of research, which leads to a shift in the role of the subject (who is recording). Visual and sound recording in research are also related to forensics,
in which recording serves as an image-based act of forensic evidence."
Pelin Tan, Actopolis Ankara/Mardin, Project: Urban Commons
"Researching is following one’s curiosity. It is a process of inquiry into a particular field of interest, revisiting acquired knowledge and experiences beyond one’s own, aiming at creating a bridge between known concepts and practices and those that still lie ahead of us, all the while establishing meaning and sense."
Boba Mirjana Stojadinović, Actopolis Belgrade, Project: Formally Informal
"Talking — uttering, producing discourse — is a meaning-making system. It is also an act of silencing by displacing one narrative with another; it can produce certain subjects and make others obsolete. Thus talking is a site of conflict and a terrain to be won."
Elpida Karaba, Actopolis Athens, Project: The Soft Power Lectures


Katja Aẞmann

Katja Aẞmann

Artistic director Actopolis

Katja Aßmann is a German curator and cultural manager. Aßmann, who studied architecture and art history in Bochum, is currently the artistic director of Urbane Künste Ruhr, a cultural institution to secure the effects of Ruhr.2010. Her curatorial work borders the area where art, urbanity and the public meet.

Katja Aßmann worked as programme director in the areas of visual arts and architecture for the European Cultural Capital RUHR.2010 and as managing director of the state initiative StadtBauKultur NRW. After her studies, she played a major part in the International Building Exhibition Emscher Park (IBA) and, in the final phase, took over the directorship of the departments of art and culture. Along with her curatorial activities, she has worked on interdisciplinary art productions and exhibitions on the subjects of light art, architecture, design, and landscape architecture.
© Pez Hejduk
Angelika Fitz

Angelika Fitz

© Pez Hejduk
Artistic director Actopolis

Angelika Fitz is a cultural theoretician and curator who has maintained her own office in Vienna since 1998. She develops projects at the interface of art, architecture and urbanism for international museums, municipalities and cultural institutes. Many of these projects take on the form of platforms that create links between art, research, and society.

Since 1998, Angelika Fitz has realised several projects in South Asia, including the public art series "Boxwallahs", the exhibition "Capital & Karma", and the platform "Import Export". In 2003 and 2005, she was Commissioner for the Austrian contribution to the Architecture Biennale in São Paulo. Most recently, she curated the exhibition "Realstadt: Wishes Knocking on Reality's Doors", and the platforms "We-Traders: Swapping Crisis for City," and "Weltstadt: Who creates the city?" in cooperation with Goethe-Institut. She is a member of various advisory bodies, including the Scientific Advisory Board of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation and the Board of Trustees of the IBA Heidelberg. She is also the editor of numerous publications and teaches and lectures internationally.
Martin Fritz

Martin Fritz

Martin Fritz, Foto: Maria Ziegelböck
Artistic director Actopolis

Martin Fritz is a Vienna-based curator, writer and consultant specialised in Site Specific Art, Institutional Critique and Institutional Practice, Project Management and Cultural Policy. Starting with independent projects in theatre, visual arts and film after having studied law in Vienna from 1981 to 1986, Martin Fritz has worked in the field of contemporary art production in Vienna and New York as well as Germany and other countries. Among his many assignments he has worked as Director of Operations for the re-opening of P.S.1 Contemporary Art Centre (today: MoMA PS1) in New York, and he served as General Co-ordinator of Manifesta 4 – European Biennial of Contemporary Art in Frankfurt am Main. He was also the Managing Director of In Between ‒ The Art Project of EXPO 2000 in Hanover. His curatorial work includes art projects for the Hospital in Meran / Merano, Italy, art projects for the university in Klagenfurt, Austria and Beziehungsarbeit – Kunst und Institution, a large scale exhibition on Institutional Critique and more for the Künstlerhaus in Vienna. From 2001 to 2007 he was a member of the Board of the International Foundation Manifesta. From 2004 to 2009 he was the Director of the Festival of Regions, a biennial for site-specific art and culture in rural regions in the Austrian province of Upper Austria. (www.martinfritz.info)

Photo: Maria Ziegelböck, Courtesy: Martin Fritz

A project of the Goethe-Institut and Urbane Künste Ruhr
Concept: Angelika Fitz
Artistic directors: Katja Aßmann, Angelika Fitz, Martin Fritz

Curator Ankara/Mardin: Pelin Tan
Curators Athens: Elpida Karaba/Glykeria Stathopoulou
Curator Belgrade: Boba Mirjana Stojadinović
Curators Bucharest: Stefan Gheniciulescu/Raluca Voinea
Curator Oberhausen: Geheimagentur
Curator Sarajevo: Danijela Dugandžić
Curator Zagreb: Ana Dana Beroš

Project director: Juliane Stegner (Goethe-Institut Athens)
Project coordination: Natalia Sartori (Goethe-Institut Athens)
Project management Urbane Künste Ruhr: Carola Kemme, Daniel Klemm, Christina Danick

Co-Production: Goethe-Institut Ankara (Thomas Lier, Raimund Wördemann); Goethe-Institut Belgrade (Matthias Müller-Wieferig, Frank Baumann); Goethe-Institut Bucharest (Beate Köhler, Evelin Hust); Goethe-Institut Bosnia and Herzegovina (Charlotte Hermelink); Goethe-Institut Croatia (Katrin Ostwald-Richter, Matthias Müller-Wieferig), Theater Oberhausen (Peter Carp)

Web Project Management: Internet Department, Goethe-Institut Headquarters Munich, Germany
Graphic Design & Web Design: NODE Berlin Oslo, Berlin, Germany (Based on the Europoly web concept and design by Laura Oldenbourg and Micz Flor, Berlin, Germany)
Web Navigation Concept & Web Implementation: eskima and allesweisz, Cologne, Germany
Editor Web and Social Media: Tristan Biere, Berlin, Germany
Translations into English: Jane Michael
Translations into German: Dr. Achim Wurm

Graphic Design (Actopolis Exhibition): NODE Berlin Oslo
Exhibition Architecture (Actopolis Exhibition): Stadelmann Schmutz Wössner Architekten, Berlin
Translation and Editing (Exhibition Texts): Tradukas GbR
Technical Planning (Actopolis Exhibition): Kultur Ruhr GmbH / Urbane Künste Ruhr


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Press Articles
Selected English and German language articles about Actopolis:

The bilingual Actopolis publication is available with Berlin-based Jovis publishers.

  • Goethe-Institut & Urbane Künste Ruhr with Katja Aßmann, Angelika Fitz, Martin Fritz (eds.), Actopolis - The Art of Action, Jovis Publishers Berlin, 2017
    Softcover with jacket, 17 x 24 cm, 216 pages, approx. 160 col., English/German
    ISBN 978-3-86859-472-0