"The Competition" by Jochen Gerz

Letter from the mayors, 2002


Bad Berleburg and Schmallenberg, 22 May 2002

Dear Townspeople,

In your hands you have a letter signed by two mayors; it is not a tax statement or an official notification. It is a letter for which there have been few predecessors. We invite you personally to participate in the shaping of our two towns. We encourage you to become the creator of a work of art which will in future link Bad Berleburg and Schmallenberg.

What is it all about?

For around two years, our towns have been connected by the Wittgenstein-Sauerland Wood Sculpture Path (see reverse for more information). Some people have not realised this yet. But anyone who knows the long history of separation in our regions can only be happy. This path displays sculptures from internationally famous artists. Two works of art stand in the middle of our towns, and these are by Jochen Gerz, based in Paris. But really, it is a work by all of us. Gerz wants - and this is why we are involved - to encourage all of us to become active, to participate ourselves, and to write a letter. Everyone writes their own letter. In the work by Gerz, a letter will become an enamel road sign which everyone can read later.

What to do?

You write us a letter. It is really a letter to yourself. A personal letter. A letter which only you can write. You are the author, but many people will be the readers. You simply write why you live here and not somewhere else – in Bad Berleburg or Schmallenberg and their surrounding areas. What you liked, what you learned to enjoy, what is new for you, but also what has annoyed you for a long time, what disappoints you. What you would like to change, and what makes you happy. Why do you live here, what is there worth mentioning?

Where to write?

People living in Schmallenberg write to the mayor, Mr Hans-Werner Braun in Bad Berleburg, and people living in Bad Berleburg write to the mayor, Mr Bernhard Halbe in Schmallenberg. Everyone writes to the town hall in the other location. Write to us. We will be the first readers. And we are going to participate as well by writing a letter. Each to the other town hall. You will find the address below. You may sign your letter or not, as you wish, but you should place a return name and address on the cover. That way, we and Jochen Gerz will be able to thank you in person with the gift book of the letters.

Where can I find myself?

Your letter will cross the Rothaar ridge in the same way as the Wood Sculpture Path does. The letter from Schmallenberg will be opened in the Bad Berleburg town hall. It will be enamelled like a road sign and permanently mounted on the house of a letter writer from Bad Berleburg. The letters from Bad Berleburg will decorate houses in Schmallenberg, and those from Schmallenberg will be found in Bad Berleburg. Anyone who wants to find their letter, and the house where it is to be read, must make a (short) journey.

A competition?

Jochen Gerz calls his new work "The Competition". We are of course curious which of us will receive the most letters. Who writes the best letters? Where do the most authors live? And where are the happiest townspeople? Because the letters from Bad Berleburg will be mounted on the houses of letter writers in Schmallenberg, and vice-versa, the number of enamelled signs will be the same in both places.

Why me?

You can take only if you also give. That applies to everything in life: to social interaction, democracy, and to this as well. The competition is an artistic parable. The chain cannot be stronger than its weakest link. You count only if you become involved. Here, the winner is the person who participates. In years to come, people from Schmallenberg and Bad Berleburg will pause when they think of the stories from a past time. They will still visit each other after many years to finally discover the person who wrote the letter which decorates their own house.

The kiss of the muse

The competition is a challenge to all of us. For you just as for us, the mayors. You sense that we are participating out of conviction, and that we want to make you enthusiastic. We each hope that our town will be an example to the other. You know that this is a letter which you will receive only once from your town hall. For the visit of the muse to Bad Berleburg and Schmallenberg, we wish you and ourselves fun and ideas, a flowing and perhaps sharp pen which writes what you would otherwise prefer to keep to yourself. We are not only committing ourselves; the newspapers and the high schools in both towns are collaborating in the creation of the combined work of art. We are all looking forward to your letter with great excitement. "The Competition" will be dedicated in a year's time.
We hope to receive your letter by 10 July 2001. Don't keep us waiting!

With kind regards,

Hans-Werner Braun
Mayor of Bad Berleburg

Bernhard Halbe
Mayor of Schmallenberg


You will find more information at the phone number above.
You will find information on the Internet about the artist Jochen Gerz at www.gerz.fr 


Bad Berleburg
Key word: "Gerz"
Post box 1680
57306 Bad Berleburg

Key word: "Gerz"
Post box 1140
57376 Schmallenberg

Telephone 02751-923-232

You can download the complete artistic concept here!

Download of the concept