Martin Kippenberger's Metro-Net
Metro-Net was a great art idea by Martin Kippenberger -- simple, intelligent, accessible, thought-provoking and funny. Kippenberger imagined a global underground metro system and started to construct entrances to it in different cities around the world.
Of course, the entrances didn't actually lead anywhere (if you insist on your art being profound as well as amusing, there must be something to be said about these portals to nowhere). Furthermore, Kippenberger died in 1997, aged 43, having only completed a few.
Nevertheless, it's a lovely idea -- a global underground connecting Syros in Greece, where Kippenberger built the first subway entrance in 1993, with Dawson City in Canada and Münster in Germany, where evidence of this subway was also planted, along with New York and Alaska and a bunch of other (unrealised) locations. The artist planned to have subway entrances, exits and ventilation shafts installed in locations around the world.
Kippenberger's motive seems to be mischief and a sense of fun, as much as any more serious commentary on globalisation or communities. The idea of a global subway is such a nice one that maybe the art doesn't work as a cultural critique at all -- except, perhaps, that it draws attention to the ways in which we largely don't travel casually around the whole world; we are insular, our options limited, our world too bureaucratic. In a 1990 interview, Kippenberger said:
The fake subway entrance supposedly leading to major cities in other continents is certainly -- to me at least -- a warm and engaging idea, although it's a bittersweet pleasure, since one can't actually go anywhere. It's a good art idea because it's clever and childishly playful at the same time -- a practical joke -- but also quite obviously raises questions about our metropolitan lives in the context of our existence on the planet.
It's also nice that these meanings are not buried from everyday viewers. Like Gilbert and George, Kippenberger said that his art was for the people ("One of you, among you, with you" read one of his posters from 1979).
Metro-Net also raised the opportunity for drawing a fantastic tube map (connecting New York to Moscow, Dublin to Addis Ababa) which could be displayed at all the entrances, but, as far as I know, Kippenberger didn't really produce one.
Extra Kippenberger insights
In This is Modern Art, Matthew Collings (1999: 211) notes:
In the article "The Bad Boys in the Bande" (Art in America, 1988), Stephen Ellis wrote:
In the 1990 interview with Jutta Koether published in Flash Art, directly before talking about how his art should spread "a good mood" (see above), Kippenberger said:
In the obituary by New York Times critic Roberta Smith, she wrote:
Metro-Net site -- It's not clear who made this site, but it seems to be the (official?) Metro-Net site, with a map showing links to various cities. Clicking on Syros, Dawson City or Munster leads to photographs of Kippenberger's installations in those places; the other city links offer photographic evidence of Metro-Net's existence in those locations too-- mysterious staircases, air vents and holes in the ground which may or may not lead to the mythic global metro.
A Homage to Martin Kippenberger -- Several pages by artists and friends. The two links below are part of this.
New York Times Obituary by Roberta Smith, (March 1997).
Artforum Obituary by Ronal Jones (March 1997).