Calle Libre Streetart Festival 2022/ Vienna

Caution! Even squirrels can be biting: a city’s self-appropriation at the Calle Libre Festival at Vienna’s Northwest Train Station. © Calle Libre e.V.

01.08. – 07.08. 2022

Who owns the city and the street? The Calle Libre Street Art Festival in Vienna in the field of tension between self-appropriation and control.

Jakob Kattner, director of the street art festival “Calle Libre” in Vienna, knows the notorious dilemma of street art: on the one hand, there is the need of people and artists to appropriate the public space that surrounds them as their own cultural and living space and to design according to their ideas. On the other hand, there is the fear of loss of control by owners and the public sector.

City administrations that only want to develop transformation processes that are centrally controlled via master plans are increasingly recognizing that this does not work if the people who live and breathe life into a district are not involved and can shape their environment themselves.

Politicians and urban planning departments are beginning to recognize the incubation potential inherent in street art projects in urban transformation processes. Especially where new concepts are sought for old existing urban.

“Calle Libre” co-founder Jakob Kattner, who studied art and industrial design at the University of Art and Design Linz and is also known as the rapper “Big J”, dealt intensively with the questions of the interactions of urban art and the social development of neighborhoods and urban culture in his PhD Mastertheses.

Questions about the transformation of entire districts are also playing an increasingly important role in Europe. In the course of industrialization, industrial and commercial areas have emerged in many cities close to the historic centers. The initial users are meanwhile gradually migrating further to the periphery because they could not continue to grow at the previous locations.

Urban areas with decaying commercial buildings and no clearly recognizable usage concepts for the future are often left behind. It is precisely this patina-covered charm of decaying commercial zones that has a special appeal to creative people from a wide variety of fields all over the world.

Because the “mobile creatives” are looking for affordable space to experiment, in which they can examine and develop their concepts and also appropriate the space they need for this. Self-development and self-efficacy often take precedence over profit. And the readyness to fail with an idea is part of these dynamic social and creative processes.

In Vienna, the area around the Nordwestbahnhof is such an area. In cooperation with the City of Vienna and the national railway company ÖBB, the Calle Libre Festival “hijacks” this area in August and street art artists examine the potential of the area under the motto “Regeneration”.

With live paintings, workshops, tours and concerts, the festival creates a framework that is intended to encourage people from the surrounding parts of the city to get involved with this area and perhaps soon to use a small part of this space for their own ideas.

City Councilor for Culture Veronica Kaup-Hasler refers to a central function of street art: “Creating visibility for the concerns and messages of young people and alternative scenes has been their central task since the beginning of urban and street art.”

So we can only hope that such concerns will not be made visible, but will also be heard by politicians.

Calle Libre 2022
01.08. – 07.08. 2022
Nordwestbahnhof Vienna