20 September 2020 – 15  November 2020


Under Observation


In Stuttgart and in more than twenty municipalities in Baden-Württemberg, an art festival devoted to the wide-ranging theme Places of Refuge Under Observation. The Art of Withdrawal will take place from 25 September to 18 October 2020.


With Dries Depoorter, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Verena Friedrich, Esther Hovers,Gregor Kuschmirz, Marc Lee, TOAST, Alex Verhaest und Christiaan Zwanikken


Opening: Sunday, 20 September 2020, 11 am

With every click on the Internet, every use of a smartphone and each purchase, it is well-known that we leave behind traces and thereby make public much information about ourselves. In the so-called social media, private matters are often heedlessly revealed. Surveillance systems are being boosted by constantly improving technologies for data storage and facial recognition, bringing closer and closer the day of a seamless monitoring of citizens. This is already being demonstrated by pilot programs whose logical outcome consists of ‘social credit systems’ in which citizens act as accomplices to their own surveillance.

Nor should the possibilities offered by genetic manipulation be forgotten, with their interventions in the human body which do not have only positive aspects. So where do there still exist places of refuge where individuals can find shelter and the opportunity for self-assertion? Where are the retreats, reservations, idylls or oases to which we can withdraw, at least for a while, without being pressured by the media? Can sites devoted to art and culture fulfill this shielding, nurturing function?


With generous support from the ZukunftsStiftung Heinz Weiler and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.


Kunscht! - Kultur im Südwesten

Installation view of Stranger Visions, September, 2014. Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site. Courtesy of the artist and Fridman Gallery, New York.Mixed Reality Vive Landscape, Richie's Plank ExperienceSurveillance Paparazzi 01

16 August 2020 – 15 November 2020


Hoël Duret – low


Start: Sunday, 16 August 2020, 11 am

Due to corona-related restrictions the usual opening does not take place on August 16th. Instead of it, we are offering short guided tours for a limited number of participants Tuesdays to Saturdays from 18 to  29 August at 6:00 pm.
We kindly request that you register at 0711 3512 2640 or at villa-merkel@esslingen.de


With his exhibition entitled low, which is conceived as a Lichthof: inner courtyard / ??, Hoël Duret transforms the two-storied entrance hall of the Villa Merkel into a fantastical, breathing organism – into a sort of illusory landscape, the garden of a post-technological world. This setting is bordered by a succession of new works which are presented in the ground-floor rooms surrounding the entrance hall; these consist of videos, futuristic glass objects and sandblasted spirits. The latter give concrete form in the air to the thoughts of plants. For that reason, they are spirits: they surround us, but we cannot see them. Their shape is related to microscopic pictures and is simultaneously overlaid with a modernist aesthetic.

Hoël Duret’s artistic practice combines fictitious stories with real events. It arises out of the interplay among extremely diverse media. In a pictorial language based on science fiction, the New Age movement, post-apocalyptic cinema as well as the utopias of modernism, Hoël Duret investigates the relationships between nature and technology, especially against the background of ongoing digitalisation. He develops a critical, alternate image to the notion of the digital era as a coherent phase of human history and thereby makes it clear that such a concept can only be asserted at the price of masking diversity.


Hoël Duret, NFT pH<7 logique Hoël Duret, NFT pH<7 Mirror, 2017Hoël Duret, NFT pH<7 logique

Since February 2019




Augmented Reality

by Barbara Herold

In the app BELLE & APHRODITE for smartphone or tablet, it is possible to experience a walk-in audio-visual metamorphosis of virtual plants.

The 3D plant BELLE extends across the entire Merkelpark. As an interactive form-cloud, it leads visitors, on the basis of data regarding their location and movement, to a virtual rose at the centre of the park.

APHRODITE was designed for the skylit atrium. In recurrent audio-visual loops, the 3D installation develops into a Phalaenopsis, a familiar type of orchid. APHRODITE can be viewed from all perspectives and, in its overlapping of simulation space and actual space, plays with the experience of abstraction, proportional relationships, proximity and distance.

Barbara Herold (*1977) directs her attention to the shaping of reality through the media. She investigates structures and phenomena which have established themselves through the influence of media technology on society; she develops her own systems on the basis of prevalent design practices such as computation and algorithms. Her works arise in the dynamic field between analogue and digital technology.



App Store & Google Play Store

Barbara Herold BELLE & APHRODITE, Seit Februar 2019

Since  May 18th, 2014


Lois Weinberger – Mobiler Garten

The ‘Mobile Garden’ of the artist and Documenta participant Lois Weinberger, was set up in front of the winter garden of the Villa Merkel, where it will remain for an extended time. In its wildness, it contrasts with the surrounding Merkelpark, whose well-kept greenery is reminiscent of English landscape gardens.

A field formed out of yellow plastic tubs filled with soil has been exposed to the free forces of nature. Over time, pioneer and ruderal plants have come to occupy the space in a spontaneous colonisation. Nature unfolds in accordance with the dynamism of its own laws in a veritably paradisal, because free manner. A Garden of Eden established itself.

Over the years, this natural process of colonisation began to change into a form of decaThe tubs gradually become bleached and decompose. The plastic particles blend with the soil and the plants; after decades, rainfall can be expected to have washed the underlying area clean again.


The garden is a fundamental form of our encounter with nature. We are familiar with gardens that aim at producing crops as well as those that are set up as beatific sites of contemplation. Affinities with paradise are possessed by the fruit and vegetable garden, the Baroque pleasure garden or, as an oasis amid the city, the public garden – in Esslingen, namely the Maille and the Merkelpark.

Lois Weinberger wässert den 'Mobilen Garten (2014)', Foto: Daniela WolfLois Weinberger, Mobiler Garten, 2014Lois Weinberger, Mobiler Garten, 2014 (Foto 2018)