Europe, and Germany in particular, has a solid history of graffiti, urban culture, hip-hop, breakers, and battles dating back to at least the 1990s. As the street art scene evolved during the first two decades of the 2000s, a number of festivals have sprouted up around the globe, from Hawaii to Norway to Tunisia to Mexico City to London to Hong Kong. We’ve been to many of them. In recent years we have witnessed other German cities making entry into the scene as well, and today we bring you Hola Utopia! in Hannover.
Begun by founders Artie Ilsemann and Jascha Mueller this festival has so much enthusiasm behind it from the community and the artists, you can imagine that it will continue to make an impact in arts and culture in this capital of Lower Saxony with a half million residents. Hola Utopia! has the kind of solid organizing template, smoldering energy, and genuine local support that is not common among many newer festivals, many of which tend to originate as branding platforms constructed to sell products or local city governments with tourism to chase.
Possibly the reason why this duo, along with communications team member Mark Dix, are able to begin this year’s festival with the German premiere of Alexandra Henry’s film “Street Heroines” and a gallery exhibition at the repurposed Helmkehof warehouse complex – in addition to hosting a half dozen or so artists to paint walls – is because of the urban art community that has deep roots here like the UJZ Glocksee e.V.
Glocksee-Gasse, as it is called, is the organic sort of space that evolves its own character in the community. The organizers say it is the oldest independent youth center in Germany, with “a firm place in Hannover’s cultural landscape.” This is exactly the kind of foundational community that can give a festival room to grow and offer different populations an opportunity to participate if intentionally included.
You’ll also be encouraged to see the series of statements on the website that form the philosophical tenants that form the festival. Of course, there is the star-gazing optimism of “Hola Utopia dares to formulate and visualize utopian thoughts to take steps to make the world a better place to live in.”
More impressively perhaps is their statement on privilege that gives more hope toward an equitable festival; “Hola Utopia is aware of its own privileged position that it occupies in its work to devote itself to the design of a utopian world. Injustice in our own environment is openly discussed and with show solidarity to people who are negatively affected.”
Thanks to photographer Kevin Münkel we’re pleased to share with you images of this year’s artists, including Lily Brick, Nasca One, Bier En Brood, Galletamaria, Rookie The Weird, Feros One, and Dilk One. The Ukrainian duo of Feros One and Dilk One remind us of the occurrence of twins in the street art scene, including Brooklyn’s Skewville, São Paulo’s Os Gemeos, and the German How & Nosm. Are there more?
Enjoy the scenes from Hannover and Hola Utopia!