oblique thinking.mindful acting
The former Prussian mansion of Neuroofen lies 80km north of Berlin, right in the middle of the forest and near the crystal clear Lake Stechlin. It provides the setting for the work of the Stechlin-Institut.
We offer a place without prejudice in which socially engaged people have the freedom to exchange, reflect, and develop in the serenity of nature.
The Stechlin-Institut enables experiences in which curiosity, art and society converge, in order to encourage social commitment with diverse perspectives.
We are convinced of the power of artistic thinking and social commitment. To think outside the box and question supposedly unshakeable matters are a necessity and resource for positive social change.
The former Prussian mansion of Neuroofen lies 80km north of Berlin, right in the middle of the forest and near the crystal clear Lake Stechlin. We aim to make the house a place where initiatives and artists can live and work together. It will be an inclusive environment functioning as a nucleus for social change and fostering every responsible person’s self-care. Socially committed groups and individual activists can use short residencies here to experience genuine exchanges and encounters. As inhabitants of the house, they experience artistic thinking which is what renders the Stechlin-Institut and therefore conveys itself through it. Distanced from their daily lives, the transfer of this mindful way of living together empowers changes in perspective and encourages problem solving skills.
From 2017 to 2019, the house, still in its former raw appearance, will be used by non-profit organizations and artists during the warmer months of the year. The premises will be carefully renovated with regard to barrier-free criteria in the course of 2019 and 2020. Afterward, the institute will be available all year round to host and connect people we trust in sustainably reshaping social reality. What we offer is not a program, but an open ground that can call protagonists to paramount openness. It’s a safe place, sincerely mindful toward oneself and the other, and based on the conviction that people already have what they need.
More about the Stechlin-Institut in the interview with tbd*
Tell us a bit about your project. What is it all about?
The Stechlin-Institut lies in the former Prussian mansion of Neuroofen, 80km north of Berlin, right in the middle of the forest and near the crystal clear Lake Stechlin. We provide non-profit organizations, social entrepreneurs, and artists with the house for short work stays. The Stechlin-Institut is an idealistic project which arose out of great naivety, because we thought that we as artists have to improve this world, that we really do have something to contribute. But in the existing art system, we didn’t see any opportunities to act. We understand the Stechlin-Institut as a hybrid between an art piece taking shape through the participation of the many and a really phantastic place at the disposal of socially engaged people, where they may retreat, unwind, and exchange experiences. Aside from social initiatives we are inviting socially engaged artists to live here. For 3 to 10 days they share space and time. Bringing people together and supporting them in making their ideas come true is important to us. Like Cornelius Castoriadis, we are convinced of the creative imagination of humans as the inexhaustible “source and origin of otherness and perpetual self-alteration of a society.” And this, in fact, does not only concern artists. Artistic or oblique thinking is an emancipatory process. It doesn’t change that which is disturbing – it creates another perspective on it altogether.
You are speaking of fostering social commitment. How can that process be pictured?
The number of socially engaged people in Germany is growing. These people are investing all their resources into the work they’re burning for, overcoming great challenges with their joy and energy. The shaping of society is brought about by their work. At the same time, also the engaged are in need of long-term self care, strengthening, and encouragement in order to not run out of breath. Joana Breidenbach, co-founder of betterplace.org, recently described this very aptly on tbd*. Such a place where people can come into close contact with themselves, with each other, get in touch with artists, and also other initiatives is a wonderful situation to recharge, take care of the self, focus, but also to gain new impulses. The old mansion, surrounded by fields, forests, and lakes is the ideal place for this kind of retreat.
What was your motivation to found the Stechlin-Institut?
We wanted to change our artistic scope of action. Instead of serving the art market by producing objects in the widest sense, we wanted to get socially engaged through our practice. Working on a symbolic level just wasn’t enough for us anymore – simply pointing out and making noise. Our aim with the Stechlin-Institut is to create a place enabling people to really speak with each other, eliciting their very best. Strengthening those who are helping others and reminding them of their capacity to be the authority over what is possible has a huge impact on solving social problems. We wanted to change something, we wanted to do something. With this house we are now able to make our art take effect.
How can social entrepreneurs profit from your offer?
We think there are two basic aspects of how they profit when coming here: On the one hand, there is the retreat, on a personal as well as on a team level, focussed work, being embedded in an amazing part of nature. On the other hand, we find the possibility of dialogue in various constellations very important in order to develop new perspectives.
The Stechlin-Institut can provide for about 15 people. Until October 2017 we can still accomodate a few more reservations. Staying here costs from 12 Euro per person per day. In our view it’s awesome if there is another group joining the first, so then we support that by reducing the price to 10 Euro per person per day. Just get in touch with us for more details!
Most of the teams and artists coming so far are from Berlin. We are happy about first enthusiastic feedback from teams such as betterplace.org, Open Knowledge Foundation, and Impact Hub Berlin.
What were the greatest challenges you were facing when founding the institute, and how did you cope with them?
Most challenging was figuring out how to acquire the mansion now at our disposal. We didn’t have any money to buy it at all, but then we came across the foundation Stiftung Edith Maryon. They extract property from speculative real estate circulation and hand it over to charitable or cultural institutions. Now we can use both house and land for the next 99 years.
What else would you like to share with our community?
We have all had a dream. By now we are not only dreaming anymore, we have started to do something. We move and change the world. We are here, this is our life. Let’s be together, support each other, and exchange our experiences.
The Stechlin-Institut is your place at times when you are in need for a retreat, to be in solitude, to be together – to work on something for a few days and draw strength for coming tasks at a quiet distance.
August 1, 2017
Retreating and opening up are made possible through the place – the community offers motivation and perspective. This is the foundation on which you are asked to shape your stay with your own initiative.
It is an old house staying cool even in hot weather. Every one of its three floors is about 200 squaremeters. At the moment, we are using two of these floors for living. There are enough beds for 15 people. The main floor can be heated, the top floor under the roof (mainly for sleeping) is not insulated yet.
Our wifi connects via broadband, but mobile reception in this area is rather low.
The house is not barrier-free yet.
Most rooms are spacious and open – this means, there are no single or double rooms. The dining table fits everyone easily, the fireside room overflows with couches, and tiled fireplaces serve to make the main floor very cozy. There are two showers, three toilets, 15 beds, two fridges and three kitchen sinks. You can move your beds freely around the house.
Around the house lies a huge field of grass with fruit trees giving shade in the summer. Big Lake Stechlin is located perhaps three kilometers through the forest. Lake Roofen in the other direction is also nice for swimming and taking long walks.
There are local producers all around. The Faradgang fixed a bunch of bikes for the Institut which you can use to explore the area and go on food hunts. To the eco farmer, fisherman, forester, supermarkets, bakers, or bee-keepers…
The manor of Neu-Roofen was founded by a Prussian family in 1872 who wanted to use their land for agriculture. As a sandy glacial frontal plain, the ground didn’t yield well, so they sold their fields one after the other, and at one point also swapped their house with the forestry department. In the meantime, Neuroofen grew into a small hamlet in the middle of a forest where foresters and lumberjacks were trained. Under the National Socialists, the house was extended, and for a few days in 1945, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht was based here. After the war, the house served as a refugee home before the forestry department returned in the GDR. Some time in between then and now, it also was a summer camp for children, a shop, and a youth club. These different usages and many inhabitants have all left their traces. After this changeful history, the foundation Stiftung Edith Maryon bought the house for the Stechlin-Institut in 2014. When we moved in, we first stripped the house down to its oldest walls. A barrier-free renovation is planned for the coming years.