Friday Group: Art + Environment

What can be learnt from regions that have been severely affected by the end of modern industry? What are the productivities of transition? And how can art and design accompany socio-ecological change?

This is the question posed by the tenth edition of the Friday Group, which this time hosts the Bauhaus Study Rooms as part of this year’s programme.

The region around Bitterfeld-Wolfen has experienced multiple social, political and ecological transitions. Since the 1910s, when industrialisation radically changed the landscape and life in the region, the consequences for the environment have become visible. The legacies of lignite mining and the chemical industry not only characterise the area today, but will continue to affect it ecologically and financially into an indeterminable future – for example, so that the spread of toxins stored in the soil can be contained.

At the same time, Bitterfeld-Wolfen is now regarded as a prime example of green regeneration. New industries are settling here. At the beginning of March this year, for example, a refinery for lithium hydroxide opened in Wolfen. Lithium is often referred to as “white gold” and is exemplary for the desired energy transition. But what consequences do the ecological and economic transitions have for social and political change in the region? And how can this change be organised in a socially just and democratic way?

The OSTEN art and culture festival, which is taking place in Bitterfeld-Wolfen for the second time this June, is dedicated to these questions. The festival takes the region as its starting point to develop perspectives for a socio-ecological transformation of the future. Especially in a region that is repeatedly characterised by transformation processes, it is possible to learn from the experiences of transition. Together with residents and local cultural actors, invited artists will develop action models for a sustainable design of the living space, in which new approaches emerge from the heritage.

This Friday group takes the cooperation between the Bauhaus Study Rooms and the OSTEN festival as a starting point to talk about the role of art, design and culture in shaping social and ecological change. Based on this, parallel developments in other regions of the world and scenarios of alternative futures will also be presented.


6 pm

Welcome and introduction

Barbara Steiner, Director and Chairwoman of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation and Vera Lauf, Research Associate

6:10 pm

The OSTEN Festival

// Impulse

Ludwig Haugk, Chairman of the Kulturpark e.V. association

The second edition of the Festival OSTEN focuses on environmental issues, among other things. Together with the people of Wolfen and Bitterfeld, the festival will visit places of the past and present to reflect on the future. One of the first environmental protests in the GDR will be commemorated: on 18 May 1984, a handful of young people met for a protest march that led from Bitterfeld via Greppin to Wolfen. They wanted to draw attention to the extent of the destruction. The festival reenacts the protest march together with local actors and international artists. How do we live in the ruins of chemical industrialisation today?

6:30 pm

Local participation

// Lecture

Samo Darian, Programme Director Aller.Land

The trombone choir in which both grandfather and grandson play, the community centre where cinema is shown at weekends – these are all important opportunities and places where people of different generations and backgrounds meet in everyday life, and which directly or indirectly encourage them to participate and get involved in society. However, in many places, there are fewer and fewer of them. This applies not only to the so-called transformation regions, but also, perhaps to a particular extent.

With examples from nine years of the TRAFO funding programme and the Aller.Land programme.

6:50 pm

Living memory

// Conversation

With Sven Sachenbacher on the importance of cultural institutions for socio-ecological change

The Wolfen Industrial and Film Museum and the Bitterfeld District Museum are lively places of learning, culture and remembrance that see themselves as identity-forming institutions. More than almost anywhere else, the tension between the great moments of technical and industrial progress and the serious consequences for people and the environment can be visualised here. The museums therefore look into the past, but also address questions of the present and future.

7:15 pm


As always, you will be surprised with a culinary speciality.

8 pm

The Poetic Act

// Participatory performance

Amereida-Ciudad Abierta group and the School of Architecture and Design in Valparaíso

The performance “The Poetic Act” is part of the poetic tradition of the School of Architecture and Design in Valparaíso, Chile. The performance is a kind of collective game that refers to everyday experiences and gives them a new meaning.

8:30 pm

Resistant Communities

// Film presentation

With Marina Otero Verzier, architect and researcher

Grupo de Investigação Territorial, Montanha Invertida, 2022 (15:49 min)
Não às Minas, A film for Medios Libres con la Gira Zapatista, 2021 (9:12 min)

Lithium mining leaves deep scars on both the landscape and the communities. Covas do Barroso in Portugal is an example of this destruction. This region, known for its rich biodiversity and centuries-old culture, is threatened with destruction by a planned mega-mine. The lithium deposit in Covas is considered to be one of the largest in Europe. Local residents, who are aware of the long-term impact of lithium mines on air, water and soil quality, are actively fighting back. They are campaigning to protect their social and environmental rights, which are being jeopardised in the search for a “green future”, with the profits largely benefiting others.

Marina Otero Verzier shows two films that highlight the serious consequences of mining for the landscape and its inhabitants. This resistance in Portugal is part of a broader movement that includes Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, the Czech Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Spain and many other regions.

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