artists address
the transformation
of the
Emscher Valley

<< 2008


A major construction site || The Emscher conversion

The Emscher flows about 85 km through the Ruhr region, formerly the site of much coal and steel production, from Holzwickede to Dinslaken, where it empties into the Rhine. The Ruhr area, with about 5 million inhabitants, is one of the largest post-industrial urban conglomerations in Europe.

Since industrialization 80 years ago, this river has been used for sewage as an open wastewater canal. In concrete terms, this means that the river stinks and that access to the river is restricted for safety reasons. Since 1991, this situation has started changing gradually as part of the master plan emscher:zukunft (Emscher future) which, at enormous financial cost, will restore the river and all its tributaries to a natural state by the year 2020. The project as a whole is being carried out by the Emschergenossenschaft based in Essen.

Whereas, a century ago, the original river landscape was intentionally transformed into one of the largest sewage systems in the world, the current development planning is oriented in the opposite direction. The planned recovery of the river landscape is of enormous economic, social as well as architecturally aesthetic significance for the entire Ruhr region.

The development of the new Emscher Valley is unique by European standards. International locations like Amsterdam, Lille or London are also working to improve the quality of life near waterways to make them more attractive to inhabitants. It is especially significant that the residents are more directly integrated in the planning process than formerly and therefore can contribute more significantly to lasting development “right outside their own front doors.”
This socio-cultural aspect of the Emscher reconstruction is to be addressed and artistically treated by the “FlussKlang:RiverSound” project presented here.

The history and future of the Emscher region are addressed in selected urban districts and localities. Art, as a non-linguistic and supra-linguistic form of individual and collective aesthetic expression, and also as a manifestation of social identities, is intended to convey the productive conflict and mutual permeation and overlapping of regional and local cultures which, as “crossculture” constitute the reality along the Emscher.

Against the background of its multidimensional confrontation with the heterogeneity of the region, the project’s international orientation is also gaining in importance. Furthermore, questions of water management and the effects of climate change are in the focus worldwide. They therefore provide an impetus for involvement by artists around the globe in further stages of FlussKlang:RiverSound.