Cultural city development
How Matthias Rauch creates cooperations for innovations
There were times when he played the violin in an orchestra, and others when he played bass in a punk band. When studying he incorporated both liberal arts and business administration into his curriculum. With this in mind it is not surprising that interfaces and intersections are his field of expertise today – and cultural city development is his mission. We sat down with Matthias Rauch in Mannheim Jungbusch for an interview.
Many know you from your work with the music business cluster management. What were your areas of responsibility?
I was head of the cluster management for two years and functioned as a contact person for parties from the music industry in Mannheim. My areas of responsibility included workshops, networking events and representations – both nationally and internationally – as well as advisory services. It was our objective to facilitate access to new markets for businesses in Mannheim, and to settle in other firms into Mannheim. The cluster management is still active, though now as part of the Music Commission, where it is in the best of hands.
You are currently managing the cultural city development. How has your job changed?
I am now the contact person for all creative and cultural parties in the city – across all branches. As a stakeholder I am in charge of executing projects through our contacts and networks, and I also provide support in different stages of planning. Our goal is to initiate projects at the crossroads between arts, culture, economy, technology and science. We aim to bring all parties together, to meet on an equal footing. These interdisciplinary cooperations are the growth medium for real innovation. A priority of ours is to achieve that the parties from economy, technology, science and art learn to see each other as equal partners. Artists bring alternative thought structures to the process – associative, rather than linear. Having creatives involved in change processes from the beginning has a lot of potential. The result is new, exciting ideas and solutions.
Can you give us an example for such a collaboration?
Sure! There are many. One that comes to mind is a current project involving the University Hospital, the Fraunhofer Institute and the cultural and creative industry. The project is at the junction between music, medicine and technology. Together we are determining the potential in treating cancer patients with the help of music. How can we use music to improve the patient experience during chemotherapy? Another project in the same area is looking into how music affects the surgeons during operations, as many surgeons listen to music when working and there is no data to give insight into the effects.
So your current priority is managing these intersections?
Yes and no. We are also working on several placemaking projects, with a focus on the Jungbusch and Neckarstadt-West districts. The projects deal with parts of the city that many experience as problematic or unsafe. We aim to use artistic events to recode these districts in the way they are experienced, both by residents and visitors.
Any success stories with this yet?
At the moment we are supporting a very cool project by two agencies, Yalla Yalla! and Brückner & Brückner. It is called „Haltestelle Fortschritt“ (station to progress). Over a two-week period the Rheinstraße station, that is located at the intersection between the inner city and Jungbush, an artistic event was created. The area has been particularly difficult and has gathered many negative headlines over the year. Many see it as a no-go area. Temporary architecture was installed and a mix of literature, music and film were organized. There was food and drinks, a conference dealing with the topic of urban development was held, and in collaboration with the Mannheim University there was an Urban Hackathon. The event helped to change the negative image of the area, that actually has quite some potential with its green area and sports facility. All in all it was an encouraging success. Pedestrians stopped to ask questions and spend some time there, and I feel the perception of the area has already changed. We have created some beautiful collective memories, connected with the area.
Describe a typical workday in the life of Dr. Matthias Rauch.
My office is in the Musikpark in Jungbusch, and no day is the same here. I meet very diverse people here, that offer very different outlooks. Translation work and moderation are quite required. I function as an intermediate between the various areas. I try to unify perspectives, initiate discourses, and to decode the different thought structures. My studies help me to mediate between these different worlds. I am both a humanities and business scholar – two contradictory positions that have a lot of potential when combined. I wish to create open and inclusive networks that offer space for impulses from the outside.
How does the language of creatives and economists compare?
In business one aims to get from A to B as efficiently as possible. It is a clear and linear process. Artists, on the other hand, keep an open mind and don’t always know where things are heading. Open thinking in open modules – this is what we call artistically creative. Nowadays we a confronted with many complex systems. Artists are well equipped for such a position, as they are used to working with variables and unsure factors. This makes them so valuable for other areas.
As a networker, do you adhere to gut instincts or assignments?
Both. We will often initiate processes and try to bring the parties together in a meaningful way. But we are also requested by commercial companies to put on workshops to achieve issue resolutions. My approach is to break down the walls in the thought processes. Thinking in only one discipline and in rigid patterns is disadvantageous to the innovative capability of a city. True innovation can only come about if different perspectives, people and ways of thinking collide. At best we can introduce a fresh dynamic and the parties involved will pick things up and continue independently. We aim to function as a catalyst.
What was your role in the comeback of Nachtwandel?
Nachtwandel is an important part of Jungbusch. When this tradition came to a halt last year there was an outcry. I’m happy to say things are moving along nicely this year. For the first time we are project planners for the event, and are actively supporting the Jungbusch community center and district manager Michael Scheuermann. We are there to help with questions regarding financing and scheduling, security and coordination amongst the parties involved. Our crowdfunding concept has produced a completely new source of financing for Nachtwandel. We’ve got off to a good start and are getting close to reaching our goal of Euro 10.000. Furthermore we are planning to sell Jungbusch-Cups with an individual design. With these cups one can get drinks deposit-free from all gastronomers involved. The proceeds benefit the event directly. The same applies to the specially-designed Nachtwandel-Buttons, which we are premiering this year. They will be given out for a little donation. The buttons are a sustainable development of the blinking Nachtwandel-Stars from former times. We have initiated these three new forms of fundraising to ensure Nachtwandels continued existence.
What long-term projects are you working on at the moment?
Quite a number! A project that is very important to me is a residency program, that is momentarily in its conception phase. Our aim is to directly integrate artists and creatives into projects in the areas of economy, technology, science and also management. An additional help with this are first projects that are happening at the intersection to medicine and technology. To make this work we require a lot of trust coming from all parties. Artists are often completely new to these fields and have to take in a lot of information. My part is all about trust-building – between everyone involved. A program of this kind offers great potential for all of our future partners.
To you specifically approach partners from out of town?
By all means! The networks that were built during my time with cluster management are becoming increasingly focused nationally and internationally. For the city of Mannheim, and also for Startup Mannheim, internationalization is key. A cool project in this context which I oversaw last year is „Mix The City Mannheim“. The project allows users to create their own soundtrack for the city online. The project was a cooperation with the British Council Israel, and was curated artistically by Ziggy Has Ardeur. A further example of the internationalization of networks is the title UNESCO CITY OF MUSIC. Since 2014 Mannheim is part of the Creative Cities network. This has elevated the city to a high international level culturally. We want to exchange experiences learn from the other parties expertise. How can we do better in the future? Which ides can we translate to Mannheim? Are there project we can support or initiate with manpower from Mannheim? These are the questions we must be asking ourselves.
Mannheim and Tel Aviv are united by a close partnership. What role does this partnership play in the creative business?
The exchange with Israel is very productive for Mannheim, both in cultural aspects, and regarding start-up economy. You have to take a holistic view: culture and creativity are integral parts of any start-up ecosystem. Culture powers dynamic processes and innovation. Only those cities that offer an exciting and dynamic cultural landscape can rank high enough to entice specialist staff from other regions to move there – and to stay there. This is the reason the cultural city development is located at Startup-Mannheim, who are primarily in charge of boosting Mannheim as a location for start-ups and innovation. Tel Aviv is super vibrant and very interesting. We can learn a lot from the Israelis, especially about mentality. When it comes to learning-by-doing and trial-and-error Tel Aviv is way ahead of us. The typically German attitude of planing everything thoroughly before kicking off is not ideal for start-up culture.
Conversion is a big issue in Mannheim at the moment. How important is culture as a driver of innovation in this process?
The conversion areas are a big chance for Mannheim and the city understood early on how important cultural and creative businesses are for urban development processes. There are currently far-advanced plans for a building, that is being developed together with private investors and will operate along the intersection of moving-image and music. I’m sure that the creative industry will play an important part in developing the conversion areas.
Jungbusch, Neckarstadt-West and the conversion areas are the key areas of cultural city development in Mannheim. How do you see things in the inner city?
The inner city area has been shaped by the big and long-standing cultural institutions. Aside from that though there is some catching-up to be done. There is room for improvement, and a lot of the issues are due to the fact that it’s a high-density area. This kind of architecture makes large events very difficult and the problem isn’t easy to resolve. So the question really is: how can one facilitate cultural events in the public realm, in spite of these boundary conditions? Also culture shouldn’t be confined to only the downtown area and certain districts. Resident complaints will also often inhibit these kind of developments. This is why our aim must be to find new agles of communicating with everyone involved.
If Mannheim itself was a form of art, what would you see it as?
A good – and a difficult question! A form of interface-art for sure … music and sound meet moving images. It can’t be reduced to one genre, but I see it as a mix of media art and performance art, with a lot of music, and definitely very multicultural. The openness and tolerance of the city is mirrored in many of the artistic scenes. We have a beautiful young world music scene, which is currently flourishing through the Oriental Music Academy and the Popakademie. Mannheim also has a vibrant jazz scene and as always a magnificent indie and electro scene.
What are your coming highlights of fall/winter?
Fall is characterized strongly by the Enjoy-Jazz-Festival. Traditionally things cool down at the turn of the year, but in the springtime we can look forward to the next Jetztmusik Festival. In April there will be a very interesting event called „The Look of Sound – Fernsehforum für Musik“. The event deals with music in TV movies, which is an interface between music and film. It will take place in the Popakademie. „The Look of Sound“ has taken place for several years in Bremen and I was personally involved in bringing it to Mannheim. I’m also looking forward to the next B-Seite Festival, the Maifeld Derby and Time Warp. I am excited about what the Kiosk in Neckarstadt-West, the Alte Feuerwache and Zeitraumexit, as well as Theaterhaus G7 will offer – to only name few. Mannheim just really has so much to offer culturally.
Interview: Andreas Stanita / LA.MAG Content. Corporate. Communication.
Photos: Ricardo Wiesinger