Free River Zone
Süderelbe. Hypothetical Closure to Commercial Cargo Shipping. is an art and
research project of the Galerie für Landschaftskunst (Gallery
for Landscape Art), a free artist project space in Hamburg, striving to
redefine a landscape space. Near Hamburg, the river Elbe splits into two
branches for a few kilometers, both of which have been converted into
canal-like waterways. Considering the dual structure of these branches, the
project asks if it would be possible to partly remove one of these branches
from its economic use. Moreover, what would happen here and what kind of new
urban or landscape space may develop? The approximately seven-kilometer-long
section of the Süderelbe between the Elbe river bridges and the Bunthäuser Spitze (Bunthaus promontory) is
being declared a Free River Zone. The
project was initiated by Till Krause in 2011 and develops the idea of a new
river and urban space together with many participants in social activities, art
and scientific research.
A special discovery from the Free River Zone will be presented in the showcases of the Kunstverein Harburger Bahnhof in the spring of 2021.
“Recently we made a discovery in the village of Bullenhausen very close to Harburg. On a pile of bulk waste on the side of the road lay five sheets of paper with a text, headed by the enscription Transcription of papers left to me by my great-grandmother Natalie Liebknecht: A forgotten extract from William Morris’s NEWS FROM NOWHERE. Since this find struck us as peculiar, we took it back with us and began to investigate. There is little to find online about Natalie Liebknecht (1835–1909) on the internet, but she must have done amazing things. Her life was closely linked to the early socialist movement of the 19th century. Together with the writer Clara Steinitz (1844–1931), she produced the first German translation of William Morris’s novel News from Nowhere. William Morris (1834–1896) was an English artist whose activities combined painting, decorative arts, architecture, poetry, and even extended to engineering and letterpress printing. In 1890, his novel News from Nowhere – an idyllic dream of a future society after the Communist Revolution – appeared in The Commonweal, the journal of the British Socialist League. As early as 1892/1893, the translation appeared with the title Kunde von Nirgendwo in the German socialist journal Die Neue Zeit.
Initially the text seemingly narrates an insignificant walk, but quickly proceeds to peculiar descriptions and thoughts. According to the manuscript, it is a forgotten section of the novel. Forgotten by William Morris? Or by the translators? Motivic comparisons suggest that the text may be related to the novel’s fifth chapter. However, neither the known publications, nor the unpublished, yet archivally accessible manuscripts of William Morris bear this or any similar passage.
Yet another circumstance seems strange to us: the place in which the artefact was discovered. Bullenhausen is part of an area along the Süderelbe which we proclaimed a Free River Zone in 2011, coupled with the thesis of its hypothetical closure to inland shipping navigation. A wide array of activities reaching from art to scientific research have since circled around the area, some of which occurred quietly and for the sole sake of it, others occurred more loudly and with provocative inquiries and challenges. What is this territory and what could it be? Could it be wrenched from the imposed constraints and economic functionality, and thus completely transformed? To find such a manuscript here, of all places, feels like both a question and a challenge. Therefore we have decided to publish this text. It will be presented to a larger public audience for the first time in the showcases of the Kunstverein Harburger Bahnhof.
Starting at the showcases, several guided tours and wanderings will lead into the area of the Free River Zone and to the site of the discovery.”
(Text: Till Krause, Translation: Johanna Glover)