»Deutscher Urlaub« is a research based project dealing with the latent exoticisation of German synthetic grass. Unlike in the most European countries, turf carpets are often sold in German DIY and wholesalers stores with the name of paradisiacal islands such as Antigua, Bahamas, Bali, Capri, Corfù, Gran Canaria, Ibiza, La Gomera, Mallorca, Malta, Mallorca, Santorini and Sumatra. These nomenclatural retouches of the goods are aimed at marketing the Sehnsucht for dreamy holiday destinations and represent a surrogate for heavenly places. But what happens when a square meter of Mallorca artificial grass is more expensive than a flight to Mallorca itself?

Have a look at the continuation of the project here

Exhibitions: Deutscher Urlaub; KDK der Deichtorhallen, Hamburg (DE)

ArtStadt; Altes Karstadt Haus, Hamburg (DE)

ID—entity; Galerie LADØNS, Hamburg (DE)

RESEARCH: The starting point of the project was a special offer at the German discount-supermarket »Aldi« in 2020, where artificial grass called »Barcelona« was available for a reduced price. According to a bizarre, almost perverse marketing strategy, the artificial grass in question was supposed to remind people of the Catalan city, and by purchasing it, consumers were allowed to supposedly own a piece of Barcelona at home. Furthermore, more examples of this strange artificial turf edition were to be found in German DIY and Hardware stores. In addition to the usual range of artificial grass advertised with the name of its purpose, such as hockey or tennis, there was a wide range of artificial grass carpets named after paradisiacal islands such as Antigua, Bahamas, Bali, Capri, Corfu, Gran Canaria, Ibiza, La Gomera, Mallorca, Malta, Santorini and Sumatra. Interestingly, some of these strange artificial grass carpets are sold in the shape of a circle to supposedly suggest the basic shape of an island, as if the artificial grass were now an abstracted representation of the island itself.

The research attempts to deconstructs the bourgeois norm of laying out lawns on one's own doorstep. The historian and philosopher Yuval Noah Harari devotes several paragraphs to lawns and their imperialist history in the book »Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow«. According to the author, this norm has its roots in the late medieval French and English aristocracy, which in the early modern period began to lay out lawns in front of their own castles. The empty lawns required land and lots of labour, but they produced nothing of value: The fine lawns around the châteaux were accordingly a status symbol. Here, the long-term mindset of the royal and high nobility was anchored in the soil, for only those who could think in terms of generations could afford the luxury perspective of planting their own gardens. When kings were overthrown and dukes guillotined in the late modern period, the new presidents and prime ministers kept the lawns. Parliaments, Supreme Courts as well as presidential residences increasingly proclaimed their power in a row of well-tended, green blades of grass. People thus identified the lawn with political power, social status and economic flourishing. Subsequently, the emerging middle classes in the 19th century embraced the lawn with enthusiasm, and as the Industrial Revolution spread the middle class and gave birth to the lawnmower and later the automatic lawn sprinkler, millions of families could suddenly afford their own patch of grass. In addition, the lawn found another, more practical use, functioning as a ground for sports such as football, tennis or baseball, which began their global triumph in the course of the last decades of the century. This exponentially strengthened the lawn's character as a positive projection surface for dreams.

In this respect, artificial turf can be understood as a surrogate or cheap simulation of an established status symbol that has hardly been questioned historically. Furthermore, artificially produced turf takes on a further connotation through its exoticisation in the German-speaking world, in that it seems to imitate not only a sign of financial prosperity but also paradisiacal holiday resorts in their entirety. Thus, the artificial grass carpet in its tendentious, two-dimensional form represents the cartographic attempt to depict a three-dimensional place flattened/unwrapped. As philosopher Sybille Krämer discusses in the lecture »Digitalität und die Kulturtechnik der Verflachung« at re:publica 2019, the cultural practice of flattening creates an artificial space that can be surveyed, controlled and manipulated. We live in a three-dimensional world, but we are surrounded by artificial surfaces, Krämer said. From cave paintings and skin tattoos, to the invention of pictures, graphs, diagrams, tables and maps, to computer screens, the band of planar representational practices stretches. In this respect, the arbitrary special nomenclature of artificial turf pushed by German DIY stores suggests an artificial form of representation of real places that embodies dreamy holiday destinations in an abstracted way, flattens them and turns them into purchasable products.

Stefano Dealessandri Works Info Imprint
Deutscher Urlaub