What is »Stimmen in der Stadt«?

»Stimmen in der Stadt« is a two-week long audio project in Berlin, launched in conjunction with World AIDS Day. The project is centered on interviews with Berliners who tell their stories of living with AIDS; some explain that they hardly find the strength to leave their apartments and have thus lost all social contacts. Others discuss losing their sexuality, which lead to a decrease in their self-image, while others still, revolt against the social stigma forced upon them and strive to enjoy life. What all individuals share, however, is the fact that the success of the antiviral combination therapy doesn’t actually ease their day-to-day struggles.

On the occasion of World AIDS Day 2010, these voices will be made available to the public. Each year we acknowledge that the disease continues to exist, but the focus is often directed at other regions. In everyday life, many of us have long got used to the fact that some of our friends take the “cocktail” at regular intervals. Everything is under control. Anything beyond that is seldom mentioned. The voices that will be made accessible on December 1st, 2010 are precisely the voices that don’t usually get heard. Their stories challenge our habitual notions about living with HIV and AIDS.

»Stimmen in der Stadt« reclaims the public sphere. But this time, it’s not about the horror scenarios we heard in the 80’s and 90’s. Instead, we expose a new scenario – that of coping with the disease. An average of 2 people die of HIV related diseases in Germany every day. Yet dying is not the main issue anymore, but rather,”what now?” What do I do when I physically don’t have the strength do to anything? Who do I call when I’m ashamed of my own appearance? What’s the point of going on, when I know I’ll be alone? These are some of the questions patients deal with nowadays.

How should one envision »Stimmen in der Stadt«?

The different voice will be heard in various locations around Berlin for the duration of two weeks. Just like the virus itself, the voices are not visible. A special audio technique – rectilinear speakers – will direct the sound onto a specific point, circumscribing only a few meters. Outside this radius, only a vague sound will be noticeable. Digital players will be affixed, together with the speakers, at a suitable height and will be weather protected. Power supply will vary according to the specific location. The station will be easily recognizable as one of the audio stations with the help of lighting and an info plaque. The logo will ensure that the project is unmistakably recognizable and visually present all across the city.

Interviews will be edited to five minute clips which will be played in the eighteen designated locations. Each of the voices will be included in the audio loops of at least three stations across the city.

Possible locations for the installations are open public places (Alexanderplatz, Potsdamer Platz, Kollwitzplatz, Winterfeldtplatz, Hackescher Markt), sightseeing attractions (Scheunenviertel, Unter den Linden, Museumsinsel), high streets (Kurfürstendamm, Friedrichstraße), shopping malls, as well as train and subway stations.

Passers-by are free to decide how long they want to listen to the interviews. The voices will be played non-stop for two weeks in an endless loop, regardless of whether anyone is listening or not. This will offer passers-by the option of returning to the audio station at a quieter time and listening more carefully. The voices are there, night and day, and nothing can stop them from telling their stories.

The full-length interviews and further information about the individuals behind them and their biographies will be available on the website, allowing the public not only to listen to the complete interviews at a more intimate surrounding, but also to interact over the website with comments, criticism or even by sharing their own stories.

The website will also serve as the main platform for more information about the project, including background, press and a call for donations. Audio stations will be indicated on an interactive map of the city.

The project’s opening event will take place on November 24 at the Axel Hotel, Berlin. At the conclusion of the two weeks in which the sound installation takes place, participants and organizers will meet at an official closing ceremony. Photographer Daniel Rosenthal, renowned for his award-winning photo reportages, will document the initiative.

Who does »Stimmen in der Stadt« seek to reach?

»Stimmen in der Stadt« is directed at everyone. This is also the reason for it being a public sound installation. The challenging content and the unusual form of the initiative will ensure media attention. In addition, professional press and communication work around the project will ensure media coverage. »Stimmen in der Stadt« will enrich the local media reports around World AIDS Day and shed some light on a neglected aspect, namely, the reality of AIDS in the 21st century, here in our city.

More specifically, the initiative will address people who are open and receptive to the topic and who are curious and interested. The main target group is people between the ages of 30 and 50, educated and urban. A good section of the target group is homosexual, queer or is thus socially associated. Nevertheless, the initiative is not conceived as an exclusively gay and lesbian project. The selection of the interviewees also mirrors the diversity of people affected by HIV and AIDS.

How is »Stimmen in der Stadt« to be financed?

The financial basis for the project was secured by a grant from the German Lotto Foundation on March 18th, 2010. Further endorsement came from the German AIDS Foundation. Other grant applications are still awaiting reply. For the materialization of the sound installation, »Stimmen in der Stadt« has approached audio manufacturers and rental companies. In addition, sponsoring of a specific station through a company or a private individual is also possible. Other costs should be covered by donations. Donators receive a tax-deductible bill.