The reinterpretation of urban space into a playing field

By Rica Blunck

The project "Overcome Reality Young Star Edition" – supported by the Fonds Darstellende Künste as part of the GLOBAL VILLAGE KIDS program – works with its participants to seek new paths into their own city and interweaves different parts of Hamburg through movement. The partners Kunstwerk e.V., Parkour Creation and Kulturagent*innen Hamburg have joined forces to achieve this. Rica Blunck, an artist involved in the project, shares her impressions.

The square in front of the Hamburg fish market is slowly filling up. This is the meeting point for the 14 participants in the "Overcome Reality Young Star Edition" project. Most of them have been involved for around six months. They started in their own neighborhoods, often located on the outskirts of Hamburg and which the young residents rarely leave.

"Fish market, do they have fish there? Nah, I've never been there," said one of the participants when the upcoming meeting point had been announced the previous week. Some had to laugh, others had never heard of the place either.

The fish market isn’t just a place steeped in history and a tourist attraction in the center of Hamburg. It is also beautiful and offers a great view of the Elbe, the harbor and large ships. Parkour instructors Alena and Shirai, who have been joining the participants on their explorations of the city for several months, take them to the large square in front of the fish market. This is where they will be giving their parkour workshop for three hours today.

A teenager in a baseball cap balances on a thick metal chain stretched between two concrete bollards. Other young people in the group watch her as she does this. © Moritz Walliser

Parkour is still a relatively new sport that, like skateboarding, breakdancing and spray painting, can be classified as a subculture. Parkour reinterprets urban space. Obstacles become challenges, barriers become training equipment, ruins become sparring partners. People who do parkour become movement artists and change the city with their moves: they give places new meanings, retell stories and open up unseen perspectives. New possibilities and paths are created for the young people here and now. Consciously stepping out of their own "hood" offers a new freedom.

Three quarters of an hour later, everyone at the fish market has warmed up and already mastered the first challenges that Alena and Shirai have prepared on the small walls, stairs and railings of the square. Now it's their turn.

"Go to a part of the square where you can do something good, think of a good 'line' and film it. Then we can use it to leave a few challenges for the others," says Alena to her course participants.

A “line” in parkour means several connected movements in a row. Challenges are “lines” that the young people leave behind for other participants in the project. They come up with a parkour challenge and film it. This film is uploaded to a platform and will soon be accessible via a QR code that is stuck to the surface. Later, perhaps only when the project is over, another group will be able to find it, scan it with their cell phone, watch it and copy it. This is how the young people leave their mark on the city.

A young man balances on a metal pipe that connects two brick bollards. © Moritz Walliser

The young people, full of concentration, divide into small groups and spread out across the square. Alena and Shirai observe, advise and help where needed. After half an hour, almost everyone is finished and showing each other what they have done on their cell phones.

There are different groups taking part in the project and the majority of them are made up of young people who are learning parkour during the project. There is also a video group who, under the guidance of a videographer, record the challenges for the QR codes. Another group of young people is designing the website that will later host the films and challenges. There is also a group that researches the locations, collects information about the history of the places, as well as anecdotes and impressions, and creates texts about them.

A teenager jumps onto a concrete bollard. © Moritz Walliser
"It's not just parkour that interests me. I like drawing and I can use that to contribute to the website group." (Rio, participant in several parkour groups and the web design group)
"I've been to the parkour hall a few times before, with school, and I was really happy to be able to take part now. I've tried it on playgrounds in my neighborhood, but it's no fun that way. I’m part of the website group because I want everything to look great at the end." (Vova, participant)

"That's exactly what we wanted to achieve with the 'Overcome Reality Young Star Edition' project. Through my work with schools on the outskirts of Hamburg, I know how rarely the kids living here leave their neighborhood. If you know the whole city, you realize how much it restricts the young people in the socially weaker parts from 'appropriating' the whole city. We wanted to change that, to get the young people out of their neighborhoods and digitally connect the neighborhoods." (Rica Blunck, artistic director of the 'Overcome Reality Young Star Edition' project)

With GLOBAL VILLAGE KIDS, the Fonds Darstellende Künste supports projects at the interface of performing arts and cultural education in rural and digital spaces, financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research as part of "Kultur macht stark. Bündnisse für Bildung."

The "Overcome Reality Young Star Edition" project has been taking place in Hamburg since summer 2023 with children and young people aged between 12 and 18.