Beutekunst, or The Message beyond the Advent Calendar

December is the time for Christmas. And what would Christmas be without expectations, hopes against hopes and Christmas gifts? There’s one more tradition to it, at least in Germany, equally loved by kids and adults: making and getting advent calendars by which I mean a countdown calendar starting December 1st ending December 24th, with the calendar containing a small present behind the door for each day.

Art, candies, toys, whatever goes as long as it makes the recipients happy. In the times of Facebook communication, a calendar like that would advantageously take on a virtual form and reach out to more than just close friends; a whole Facebook community. A happy idea realised by a Berlin artist Oliver Rednitz, under the assumed name of Litekultur, turned his FB profile picture into a Christmas calendar poster message changing each day starting December 1st - a profile picture turned into an artwork in progress, a daily message and calendar seriality all in one.

Oliver Rednitz is loved not only for his Christmas calendar. The posts, with messages put all over the urban landscape – grey zones of Berlin suburbs and city center - speak of love, friendship and values that anyone would know but wouldn’t care about in the big hectic city. It would sound naïve that in the contemporary merciless world, amidst wars, capitalist exploitations and other evils, one would preach messages of kindness and love. But a spoken word matters and a written one can be read by many. For those who see, the message is there, captured in a precise form. And a single word can speak volumes, because in the beginning was the Word.

Litekultur began with T-shirts that he produced with the simple message spelling out Jesus’ love: an enterprise that turned out to be a complete commercial disaster but somehow got into the hands of the Dalai-Lama who was visiting Berlin at the time. It was then that people started recognising it. In the meantime there are more messages put on colourful posters spelled out in precise words that speak to one, immediately recognisable fonts against ever-changing but visually expressive backgrounds. Precise, short but always memorable, optically standing out, words to be read and messages to be seen, formed from the abstraction of letters.

The whole project has a meta level of Beutekunst (art loot) that is related to Richard Wagner’s cycle of “The Ring of the Nibelungs,” where the ring taken from the bottom of the Rhein river: the so-called Rheingold, that stands for the evils of greed and power and costs the legend protagonists their lives until it is put back into the depths of the river. For Litekultur, Beutekunst is the art that is stolen back, rescued from the evils of the world like, for example, public spaces that are being relentlessly privatized, or German mythology that is contaminated with the Nazi past. It is art intended to rescue whoever discovers it. And whoever gets the Beutekunst has to pass it on in the hope that it spreads its message and the cycle comes to an end, just to begin anew. Practice what you preach.

Lily Fürstenow-Khositashvili

24 December 2015 19:38