Erbarmen als soziale Form

   The Art Project of Caritas in Köln

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Felix Droese: Erbarmen als soziale Form, 2012




Felix Droese: Erbarmen als soziale Form, 2012 








Giving and receiving – always a fraught relationship. Many people are moved by the needs of others and with the best of intentions organise help to provide the essentials. Tables, soup kitchens and clothes banks are springing up all over the place. However: an increasing number of people are having to rely on this subsistence lifestyle because they can no longer see any possibility of self-reliance and self-determination in the light of current political and social reality.

Caritative groups and communities have an increasingly professional approach to developing their provision for basic living. As a result of these developments, the food industry and retailers can rely more and more on the fact that their unsold and over-produced goods will still be used. The public authorities can see that men, women and children living in poverty are catered for without any further need for official involvement. But is this development either inevitable or right? Does the existence of Tables actually contribute to a general acceptance of poverty structures in our society? How godly or god-forsaken are giving and receiving?

In 2013 two events coincide: the 20th anniversary of registered Tafelvereine (Table Associations) and the Eucharistic Congress in Cologne. This creates opportunities to think hard about how caritative help should be given. Visual artists will make a significant contribution to such discussions: They look at situations and are able to present in an easily-understood way links that would otherwise be complicated and hard to grasp.
The project "Erbarmen als soziale Form" (i.e. Compassion as a social shape) picks up on this artistic expertise in searching, critical examination. The spectrum of artistic involvement encourages greater perception. A wider discourse can then emerge on the problematic relationship between givers and receivers and on who else can profit from this exchange.


The momentum came from the members of Caritas. The project is experimental and is intended as an open-ended enquiry. Four artistic projects will be implemented to start with. These will give shape to what is being thought, said, proposed and believed about compassionate giving – and may well put those taking part more accurately in the picture.