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`Buden` youth culture in South Germany

This feature was written by Anja Hertenberger and edited by Fiona Whelan.

The post contains examples from the exhibition/project catalogue `Buden`, Foundation Hornes Stiftung and Dr. Stefanie Dathe, Museum Villa Rot, 2010. Anja Hertenberger worked with Fiona Whelan on the Dream Depot project in North Amsterdam.

While working on the Dream Depot project with Fiona, I found a link to the youth culture in the area of South Germany were I grew up. The big difference between this youth culture and the one we were dealing with during the Dream Depot project, is that is was not an urban culture, but one of the countryside.

The `Buden`
When I was a young teenager I heard about `the boys` meeting in the `Buden`. What is a `Bude`? Young people, mostly boys, look for a empty space, like a old shed, a old unused basement belonging to a farmer, an old chicken-coop, a dumped container, trailer or caravan. They acquire the space or ask the owner for permission to use it. With lots of energy they make it into their own place, with old sofas and chairs, perhaps a TV and a video recorder and other found and collected things. And a bar! Some of them even rebuild the space. The grown-ups have diverging views on these `Buden`. Some of them found them dangerous. Some supported the youth in creating these spaces. The `Buden` sounded of course very thrilling to me when I was young. I was eventually invited to join one of these `Buden`. I visited them from time to time but I was never an active member. My little brother however was and still is a member of a `Bude`.

During the summer of this year when I visited my family in South Germany, there was an exhibition in a small regional museum about the phenomenon of the `Buden`. The director of this museum didn`t grow up in the countryside and she was fascinated by the activities of these young people. She came up with the idea to present this tolerated illegal activity and autonomous nature of the `Buden` as an art project.  She invited five artists who had grown up in or around the region to join her in a reflection on the `Buden`. This resulted in five diverse art projects, and an exhibition presenting the art projects accompanied with an historical research. The catalogue Buden documents the project as a whole. The book also contains a text written by a police superintendent and an interviews of town councillors of the region.

The view of the police superintendent
Hubertus Hgele begins his text with a personal statement that he is not against the `Buden culture`. But in his point of view as a superintendent of the police authority some things developed in a wrong direction in the past few years. He likes to see his text as a starting point for a discussion about the `Buden`. He doesn`t think the `Buden` should be forbidden but he sees a need for more structure and rules. He says the young people are drinking to much. They are using the `private space` of the `Buden` to meet after closing time of pubs and village fairs to drink more booze. This has resulted in bad car accidents and violent behaviour. He misses a structure for the young people in these tolerated illicit spaces which would prevent such incidents. He also talks about a dark field of illegal activities in `Buden` without giving any facts. There is no proof of these illegal activities, but if exposed there could be shocking insights.
Some years ago the district authority of the region set up `a concept for appropriate Buden-Culture` together with the the police authority. This concept was devised mainly to improve health and safety in de `Buden` but to date has not been applied.

The view of the town councillor
Franz Rmer is a politician. He worked for the city council for four years and for 17 years now has had a seat in the government. In a quite personal interview he describes his experience with `Buden` in the village were he lives and was part of the city council. His son also had a `Bude` in the basement of his own house. From 1975 on he was politically confronted as an municipal administrator with the `Buden, and the problems with the `Buden` and the big question if they should be forbidden or not. He never gave the youth groups space or ground for a `Buden`, but he helped by talking with family of the youth in order to help them obtain a private space for a `Bude`. So he supports them morally and mediated between them and their parents. He emphasises that the `Buden` are both financially independent and independently managed by the youth. The `Buden` don`t have a association structure in a common way. He emphasised that the youth in this region grow up together. They know each other and know how to deal with each other. Normally there are no big changes in the group. They don`t need a register of members, so the way they control each other is like it happens in a natural group situation. If one is drinking too much or behaves aggressively the others will bring him back to the accepted group behaviour. If there are problems with the neighbours or with the village in general, he or other adults will talk to the youth or as a more radical option they switch of the electricity.
He tells that the `Buden` are also involved in general social activities of the village. They are asked to help on a goodwill bases to help organise village parties or help to build things for example for a Kindergarten.

Franz Rmer believes more that society should have an organic structure. He thinks the `Buden` can be more controlled in relation to this legal grey zone. They have no rights and if there are problems, they can close a `Bude` quite easy. But in his experience, these groups of youth protect their space and will look for a compromise rather than have them closed down. They put a lot of work and their own money into creating these spaces, so they also feel a kind of responsibility and will also learn in this way to be responsible.

One art project in `Ksserow`, resembles the DreamDepot Project most closest. Here follows a summary of it. Ksserow is a small village in the former DDR, East Germany. Rolf Wicker is an artist who works and lives in Berlin and Ksserow. When Stefanie Dathe invited him for this exhibition he couldn`t imagine that a `Bude` would work in Ksserow with all the problems the youth have there and the big difference between the youth there and in South Germany. But the basic needs of the youth are the same in both places. This was well described by a member of a `Bude` from South Germany: "Actually the point is that you can hang out with your buddies. And for this you don`t need much: 4 walls, a roof to protect against the rain and something to sit on."

The Project in Ksserow was an experiment with an open end and without a predefined aim. Rolf Wicker was interested to bring the idea of a `Bude` to another region with a different cultural, historical, political , social and economy background. He didn`t like to copy the idea. He started an process without being involved inside the group. His opinion is that he as an artist is not a social worker and neither should be the youth producing his art piece. He expected the project to fail.

Rolf Wicker visited the `Buden` in South Germany. Back in Ksserow he got slowly in contact with a group of young people that hang around at a bus stop in the village. In Ksserow there is no youth club or restaurant or bar where the youth can meet up. Of course they would like to have their own dry place. So Rolf Wicker made contact with the mayor. After explaining his plans and telling him about the history of `Buden` in South Germany, people from Ksserow spontaneously started to help Rolf Wicker. There was an old construction workers cabin in the village which was left over from the time of the DDR. After a long cold winter the group of young people brought it with help of the community to a piece of land belonging to the community at the end of the village. Rolf Wicker gave two girls the task of being the contact persons. They held the key of the cabin.

What is Interesting, is that this group of young people hadn`t heard anything about the `Buden` in South Germany. In their own group process they acquired the cabin and changed the space with their own hands.

Rolf Wicker rebuilt this cabin as an 1:1 walk-through model for the exhibition in South Germany. The inside walls document the photos of the project, the group process of the acquiring and renovation of the cabin. This documentation creates a clear parallel with the "Buden`- culture in South Germany. It voices the universal need of young people to create their own individual space as a retreat room.

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