Datenschutz serbska  deutsch  english
  The Project Rupprecht Matthies Bertram Weisshaar Joanna Rajkowska ABOVE GROUND_07 Press Imprint/Directions  

Rupprecht Matthies

Location: cycle path between Findlingspark Nochten and Boxberger Ufer along Bärwalder See

Pillars bearing words of the Upper Sorbian language by Rupprecht Matthies

in cooperation with Boxberg YMCA youth club, the countrywomen of Nochten, and Fabian Kaulfürst (linguist at the Sorbian Institute, Cottbus).

The older we get, the harder it is for us to learn a new language. In spite of this, many of us secretly wish they could delve deeper into foreign vocabularies, to penetrate the mysteries of English, French or Spanish. In most cases, this motivation is professional. In border regions like Lusatia, it also often concerns the languages of our direct neighbours - in this case Polish and Czech. We try evening classes, with audio courses and interactive CDs. How quickly we allow ourselves to be discouraged, thus also foregoing a chance to better understand other people's cultures. But what if this culture exists in our midst, not conveniently separated from our everyday life by a political border, as in the case of the almost extinct Sorbian culture?

Complacently, we fall back on the argument that the Sorbs among us have been assimilated for centuries, that their language now has very few active speakers, and that the preservation of these relics is a highly subsidized, museum-like affair. But sometimes we come across some of these "living fossils", Sorbs who still use their original language as a matter of course. And then we enviously note that these people can move with great confidence within the European scene of today - they communicate with their Polish, Czech and Slovak colleagues and friends without ever opening a dictionary, and they are streets ahead of us. Suddenly, a knowledge of this old Slavic tongue seems not at all anachronistic and superfluous at all, but entirely in keeping with the times. And perhaps this also makes us notice the large number of committed individuals who have helped this minority language to surmount periods of repression, keeping it alive and up-to-date.

The word columns created by Hamburg artist Rupprecht Matthies and his helpers aim to act as a gateway to the adventure of the Sorbian language and its relevance in and beyond the Lusatian region. Together with members of the Boxberg YMCA youth club, the countrywomen of Nochten and the Sorbian linguist Fabian Kaulfürst, he developed a walk-in dictionary of the Upper Sorbian language. In each of the metal frames installed along the cycle path between Findlingspark Nochten and the Boxberger Ufer lakeside site hang a selection of words with a specific thematic focus such as nature, youth language, Sorbian traditions or everyday usage. The words were written down by the people who suggested them and then transformed by the artist into coloured metal objects. This is among the artist's signature techniques, his own artistic handwriting, so to speak. His work is usually based on close involvement of the setting for which it is created, understanding art as an instrument for integration between generations and social groups. The results created under his supervision are finally poetic portraits of people and their interests. Unlike much museum art, the word objects allow the project participants to identify with the work as co-creators.

Certain words in the selection are familiar to us as they reflect the proximity of the region's overlapping cultures: "dudy" (bagpipes, in German "Dudelsack"), "fidle" (fiddle), "hólowac" (fetch, in German "holen") or "šnuptichl" (handkerchief, in German "Schnupftuch"). Others feel foreign and exotic - like "pripoldnica" (Lady Midday), "dzecatko" (Christ child) and "jejkamoler" (egg painter). The boards with translations beside the pillars allow visitors to enter into the work without difficulty. Of particular interest is the category of youth language, which has not resisted the widespread advance of anglicisms. And why should it? This demonstrates the vitality and creativity of a language which, like all modern means of expression, is not stagnating. Not all of these expressions are socially acceptable, but they are certainly accepted on the street. Now the inline hockey players of the "Nochtener Grubenflitzer" team can refer to themselves in Sorbian as "Jamosmalerjo".

In this way, bilingualism comes out of its shadowy existence on German-Sorbian street signs and starts being fun: the grandson who has previously shown little interest in his grandma's second language can suddenly score points with her. The Sorbian dictionary has become a walk-in book and an interesting reference point for locals who wish to recall their roots in a playful way and for visitors who always wanted to find out something about this aspect of the Lusatian region.

B i o g r a p h y

1959 Born in Hamburg

lives and works in Hamburg and Berlin

Studied sociology

1980 - 1986 studied at Hamburg Art Academy with Gustav Kluge

P u b l i c a t i o n s
2008 Don't be so romantic
2007 Völksen
2006 Mut
2005 Nervus Rerum
2003 Sprachzylinder
2002 Neuruppiner Tagebuch

S o l o   e x h i b i t i o n s   (selection)
2008 Don't be so romantic, Conrad, Berlin
2006 lächeln, Galerie am Bollwerk, Neuruppin
2005 Paix et Joie und Eierkuchen, Galerie Thron, Reutlingen
2004 Prima Prioritäten, Kunstfenster im BDI, Berlin

Spam, Produzentengalerie Hamburg

2001 Mustermaster, Hamburger Kunsthalle
Numerous group shows and public art projects.



Christ child


deine Mudda

     PDF to download and print