23 – 29 September 2024


Opening: 22nd of June 2024, 5 pm


CONNECT. The Measurement of Space


Artists: Sam Durant/ Florian Graf/ Kollektiv Plus X/ Mona Radziabari/ Johanna Reich/ Corinna Schnitt/ Studio Vierkant

From the Collection: Ezgi Böttger/ Sylvie Fleury/ Heribert Friedland/ Hamish Fulton/ Barbara Herold/ Katie Holten/ Florina Leinß/ Claudio Moser/ Anike Joyce Sadiq/ Lin May Saeed/ Cécile Wick und weitere


The exhibition is an inventory and exploration of the site. Artworks and interventions in the villa and the park are forming bridges between architecture, nature, urban landscapes, animals and humans. The works of the seven invited artists discuss themes who have a deep influence on the public space, the exhibition space and communal coexistence. The positions are comlemented by a selection of works from the „Graphische Sammlung der Stadt Esslingen“. In the exhibition, Johanna Reich takes a techno-poetical look at how digitalisation pervades the world we live in. With their works, Sam Durant and Mona Radziabari contemplate public spaces and discourses from political and personal points of view. Corinna Schnitt contributes a humorous encounter with how animals live in city spaces, along with a staged video with considerations concerning the future. The works of Florian Graf treat the triad of architecture, nature and humankind. A framework for the entire project is provided by the constructed interventions of the collective Plus X, which build spatial social interconnections and dismantle barriers. Complemented by a wall-work from Studio Vierkant, the exhibition defines a broader exhibition space.



Curated by Sebastian Schmitt and Anka Wenzel




Supported by




Niederflureinstieg Intervention in Spiegelrot, 2024, Holz Metall, Lack, Blech, Foto: Frank KleinbachJohanna Reich, Me as Nature, 2022, Videoperformance, VG Bildkunst Bonn 2024Kollektiv Plus X, Prompt, 2024 Holz, Spiegel, Foto: Frank Kleinbach

The Gardening Season has Begun in the Merkelpark!

Together in the intercultural Urban Field for Art and Diversity.

The Urban Field is located within the Merkelpark, directly in front of the historical Gardener’s House along with its greenhouse. This is a project of the Villa Merkel, Galerie der Stadt Esslingen; it is not only a site of shared gardening but also a platform for intercultural encounters, artistic practice, and diversity. The undertaking began in the spring of 2022 and was awarded a state financial grant from the Zentrum für Kulturelle Teilhabe Baden-Württemberg.

Everyone is invited to share in the gardening, to exchange ideas, to experiment, and to find enjoyment. Here vintage vegetables are cultivated with tried-and-true methods and are harvested collaboratively; their seeds are preserved and a garden is created which is intended as a site of sustenance for all creatures.

Why Vintage Vegetables?


Vintage or historical vegetables come from the time before industrialisation and often differ distinctly from contemporary supermarket goods. They are adapted to particular regions and in most cases are more resistant to environmental conditions such as drought or barren soil. The wide range of their forms and tastes enriches both garden plots and dinner plates. Moreover, as a rule these varieties from the past offer more nutritive substances than do modern breeds.

‘In addition to gardening, there is an attentive focus on artistic practice, on traditional artisanal techniques from the garden, and on a heedful and respectful attitude,’ says Johanna Koop, who heads the intercultural project of the Urban Field. ‘Cultivating vintage vegetables not only adds diversity to what is served at the table, but also contributes to the continued cultivation of plants which are under threat.’

People come together regularly at the Urban Field in order to share in the gardening, engage in the harvesting, and try out new recipes. Workshops offer instruction in both traditional and creative techniques: for example, dyeing with plants or building shelters for animals. The Urban Field is considered to be not a project oriented solely towards crop yield, but rather an experimental context for communal learning and practical experiences.

The aspect of sharing in the intercultural Urban Field is characterised by openness, transparency, respect, appreciative valuation and a sensibility for identifying discrimination. This is an environment which is marked by pleasure, creativity, and mutual support, and in which all persons feel welcome and can develop themselves freely.

The aspect of sharing in the intercultural Urban Field is characterised by openness, transparency, respect, appreciative valuation and a sensibility for identifying discrimination. This is an environment which is marked by pleasure, creativity, and mutual support, and in which all persons feel welcome and can develop themselves freely.


Nature-pedagogical Offerings for Children


Together with the Merkelpark, the intercultural Urban Field for Diversity and Art has developed into an out-of-school site for learning about biodiversity. Together with the youth organisation Naturfreundejugend Württemberg, two nature-pedagogues have developed a richly varied series of programmes for children between the ages of six and ten. Right up until May 17, exciting formats are offered for getting to know plants and animals in the setting of a municipal park.

There is a different focus for every event: for example, an introduction to the wide variety of species in urban spaces, techniques for creativity and cultivation, herbal lore, tree identification, eco-printing, and much more!

03.05.2024, 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm: LandArt + Writing a Nature Diary
17.05.2024, 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm: Making Herbal Salt and Writing a Nature Diary

The meeting place for these activities is in front of the Villa Merkel; participation is free of charge!

How Can I Participate?


Would you like to become part of the Urban Field? Then simply come visit us on a Monday at 6:00 pm in front of the Gardener’s House (Pulverwiesen 21) or take a look at the information about coming events on the website of the Villa Merkel (www.villa-merkel.de) and on Instagram (@villamerkel). If you have questions or require further information, please contact: johanna.knoop@esslingen.de.

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