smow Song Contest 2022

Following smow Turin’s thoroughly unexpected, if in no way undeserved, victory in the 2021 smow Song Contest, it’s off to Piemonte for the 2022 edition.

A 2022 smow Song Contest being held very much in context of events 20 years previous…….

smow song contest 2022 smowblog

2002 was a very different world than the one we know today.

In 2002, for example, following the ousting of the Taliban girls were allowed to attend school in Afghanistan; Chechens stormed the Dubrovka Theater in Moscow demanding an end to Russia’s military invasion of Chechnya; the EU announced the accession from 2004 of ten new member states: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Cyprus; the Statute of the International Criminal Court, Den Haag, entered into force; the first case of a new respiratory infection caused by the virus SARS-CoV-1 was recorded in China, from where it would rapidly spread becoming a (near) global problem.

And for all in 2002 there was only one smow. And that offline. In Leipzig.

Formally established on September 23rd 2002 and named after……. no, that’s our secret, the first smowroom, the Ursmow, opened, where it still stands, on Leipzig’s Burgplatz, tucked snugly behind the Rathaus. And the start of an adventure that has seen smow grow to not only become, at time of writing, a family of some 17 stores in 16 cities supported by, carried by, 3 logistic and service centres, nor only seen the initial 3 smowler in Leipzig grow into a community of some 150, but also seen the trilingual smow online shop revolutionise the international trade in high-quality designer furniture and the smow Compass, an orientation aid developed in cooperation with tnpx, place the varied users and their myriad needs firmly at the centre of office and workplace design. While in the background smow Blog has tirelessly, and thanklessly, sought to remind all that furniture is a cultural good not a commodity, to remind all that design is a position not a marketing angle, to remind all to continually question the probability of that which social media confirms as a definitive.

But for all a 20 year adventure that is but a start.

Thus there could be no other theme for the 2022 smow Song Contest than two decades of that which some of us call home, and all call smow.

But how?

After much deliberation the smow Song Contest Organisation Committee decided to go back to that so distant yet so tangible year of 2002 and to take a story making the news in each of the contemporary 16 physical and 1 virtual smowtowns, be that a story of only local interest or one of wider, international, interest, and to pair that news story with an appropriate song in any of the three official smow Song Contest languages: German, French, English. A song from any year: for all the beauty in pairing the selected story from 2002 with a song from 2002, in the interests of the musical integrity of the contest it was decided to allow the most appropriate song, regardless of year. But if a song from 2002 could be found, so much the better.

Keeping things very much in context of the passage of time, and 20 years of smow, the participants in the 2022 smow Song Contest concert will perform in chronological order of their opening, starting, where it all began, in the untameable wilds of Sachsen…….

smow Song Contest 2022 …. Waiting for the livestream to begin…..

smow Song Contest 2022 …. Waiting for the livestream to begin…..

Leipzig – Basis of the difference between humans and chimpanzees identified: I wan’na be like you – Louis Prima

Given that the genes of humans and chimpanzees are 98.7% identical, why the great many “morphological, behavioral, and cognitive”1 differences between humans and chimpanzees? That puzzle was, at least partially, solved in April 2002 when an international team of researchers led by the Max-Planck-Institut für evolutionäre Anthropologie in Leipzig published the results of a study which indicated that the reason lay less in the genes per se as in the gene expression, in the proteins those genes produced. In many regards the key discovery being that while the gene expression patterns in the liver and blood leukocytes of chimpanzees was more similar to humans than macaques, in the brain cortex the gene expression patterns of chimpanzees was more similar to macaques than humans, indicating that the reasons for the difference between humans and chimpanzees is the differentiated nature of gene expression in the brain. And that, according to the researchers, a relatively recent differentiation. But why? Why did that differentiation arise and how is it controlled? The answer, according to lead researcher Svante Pääbo, “is our next research project”.2 A timely reminder that while progress is good, and that one should enjoy one’s successes, ultimately, it’s always about the next project…….

Chemnitz – Chemnitzer Modell pilot project begins operation: Downtown Train -Tom Waits

While 2002 saw the start of what one could claim as a partial Chemnitzer Modell, Chemnitz Model, in Leipzig, 2002 did see the start of a 100% Chemnitzer Modell in Chemnitz with the opening of the rail link from Stollberg to Chemnitz Hauptbahnhof; a link which, for the first time, integrated existing suburban railway and urban tram infrastructures to allow the same vehicle to travel on both, and thereby negate the need for passengers from surrounding districts to change on their way to and from downtown Chemnitz. If one so will, allowed a train to travel through Chemnitz as a tram, and tram to travel through the surrounding countryside as a train. A new integrated urban transport approach which since 2002 has been expanded to allow trains from Aue, Burgstadt, Hainichen & Mittweida to use the tram lines through Chemnitz to reach both the Hauptbahnhof and the central tram/bus station. A project which is very much ongoing, which aims in the coming years to add links from Chemnitz to ever more communities. And a project very closely associated with the refurbishment and remodelling of Chemnitz Hauptbahnhof, one of the more engaging, and since its refurbishment and remodelling, welcoming of German railway stations.

smow Online – First UMTS Services in Germany: Nokia Ringtone. Remix- Horus III

While in the early 2020s the phrase 3G wasn’t always universally celebrated in Germany, was something a great many people longed for an end of, in the early 2000s 3G was very much a future a great many wished to be part of, promising as it did mobile data transfer rates previously unimaginable, and for all the promise of a new golden age of telecommunication, ushering in as it did the Multimedia Messaging Service, MMS, and thereby the ability to send not just text messages but also to send photos, videos or audio from your telephone to someone else’s telephone. Following an auction of licences in 2000, in March 2002 Vodafone became the first provider to launch a Universal Mobile Telecommunications System, UMTS, service in Germany; initially in Berlin, Munich and Düsseldorf, and also as a highly effective PR gag at the CeBit Messe in Hannover. Yet for all the excitement of being able to send pictures and videos to telephones, UMTS had its critics and sceptics: the latter questioning from where all the content would, could, come to lock customers to their telephones (and to the suppliers tariff programmes); the former being very much opposed to the new masts that popped up all over the place in order to allow blanket coverage. While for the providers there was the uncomfortable question of what the slowly arising Wireless Local Area Networks, WLAN, meant for the future of UMTS?

Stuttgart – Introduction of Video Surveillance: Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell

Following the introduction of video cameras in Mannheim in July 2001, Stuttgart became the second city in Baden-Württemberg to be placed under video surveillance when in January 2002 5 cameras entered service on the city’s Rotebühlplatz: two cameras above ground and three in the underground station, a location described in January 2002 as a “crime hotspot”.3 And that with, apparent, and certainly local, success, for in December 2002 the Stuttgart police announced that “the primary objective of preventing crime has been achieved” 4, and thus in July 2003, and in compliance with prevailing legislation, the video cameras were switched off. And remained switched off in Stuttgart until June 2021 when, as a consequence of the so-called Krawallnacht violence of June 2020, five cameras were installed in and around the Schlossplatz und the Eckensee. Five cameras that in May 2022 will become ten, the first of a planned expansion of the video surveillance of the city’s Schlossplatz, Kleiner Schlossplatz & Oberer Schlossgarten. One presumes the new crime hot spots in Stuttgart.

Cologne – Start of construction of the new Rheinauhafen: Mir sin Kölsche us Kölle am Rhing – Paveier

In the late 19th century a new port was built at Rhein kilometre 687,5 on the edge of Cologne’s contemporary Altstadt-Süd, the so-called Rheinauhafen; a new port at what had been a location of loading and unloading ships since Roman times, and a new port seeking to profit from the increasing trade on the Rhein advanced by the rise of the steam turbine. Increasing Rhein trade which continued increasing throughout the 20th century and saw Cologne’s port move in 1970 some 12 kilometres downstream to a much larger facility in Köln-Niehl; a move which saw the Rheinauhafen become largely redundant. A redundancy speckled with various attempts at firing a new life before in February 2002 Cologne city council approved a rebuilding and repurposing plan for the Rheinauhafen, the ground breaking ceremony following in June 2002 and since when the Rheinauhafen has developed into a (not universally uncritically received) areal of housing, offices, restaurants and shops on the banks of the Rhein. And all dominated by the three Kranhäuser tower blocks, a new landmark on the Cologne skyline, and constructions which cantilever over the Rheinauhafen in memory of what the areal once was.

Kempten – Dedication of the Anna Schwegelin Fountain: Oh Bondage, Up Yours –  X-ray Spex

Long believed to have been the last witch executed in the lands of the contemporary Germany, a belief largely debunked by the discovery in the 1990s of a record of her death in Kempten prison in 1781, some 6 years after her believed execution in the city, Anna Schwegelin is without question one of the last women convicted of being a witch, and persecuted for being a witch, in the lands of the contemporary Germany.

In 1984 the Kemptner Frauenzentrum was opened and, and as best we can ascertain, from within the Frauenzentrum milieu an initiative was started in 1985 to erect a memorial to Anna Schwegelin by way of not only remembering her life and suffering but also the fate of all those innumerable, often anonymous, women denounced as witches, murdered for being witches, over the centuries and thereby also highlighting and thematising the inherent misogyny and social illiteracy associated with the myth of the witch. Reminding us all that witches aren’t just fictional components of folk tales but real people, real victims of oppression on account of their gender. If an initiative which needed a very long breath: on June 27th 2002 the Anna-Schwegelin-Brunnen was dedicated on Kempten’s Residenzplatz, in front of the District Court, the end of a 17 year campaign which, again as best we can ascertain, was fought against much resistance from the authorities and political leadership in Kempten who, apparently, understood little need for a memorial, a monument, for Anna Schwegelin.

Frankfurt – Introduction of the Euro: Frankfurt – Rio Reiser

In the late 1980s the member states of the future European Union agreed a comprehensive, collective, economic and trade programme, including the creation of a singe currency: the Euro. In May 1998 the introduction of the Euro was formally agreed, on 31st December 1998 the exchange rates between the individual national currencies and the collective Euro were fixed, and on January 1st 2002 the Euro became the official currency in 12 nations and principalities, today 23 nations and principalities. A new currency controlled since its introduction by the European Central Bank from its base in Frankfurt-Ostend on the edge of the city’s Osthafen with its view across the skyscrapers of Frankfurt’s downtown financial district. And, one could almost add, a fresh new currency for a fresh new age of furniture retailing.

Düsseldorf – Demolition of the Rheinstadion: Wrecking Ball – Miley Cyrus

Since the days of Antiquity arenas have been an important component of any urban landscape; locations of emotion, joy, despair, togetherness and violence of which near everyone has a story and a memory. So the Rheinstadion in Düsseldorf: an arena developed to the north of the city in the 1920s, an arena which in the 1970s was modernised and enlarged in context of West Germany’s hosting of the 1974 football World Cup, and an arena which over the decades not only hosted all manner of sport, music, political and cultural events but was inextricably linked with the football club Fortuna Düsseldorf.

If an arena on which Fortuna didn’t smile: on the afternoon of Thursday September 12th 2002 the neigh on 80 year old Schüssel was demolished with the aid of 150 kilograms of gelatinous explosives to make way for a new arena for the 2006 football World Cup. The established ceding to the new as these things invariably do. Not least when commerce is involved.

Berlin – Opening of the first Starbucks in Germany: Starbucks – A

It wasn’t just smow that premiered in 2002, May 2002 saw the first two Starbucks branches in Germany open in Berlin, specifically in the Hackeschen Höfen and on Pariser Platz. Starbucks branches operated by the so-called Karstadt Coffee GmbH, a joint venture in which Starbucks owned 18%, the German department store chain Karstadt 82%, and which thus can be considered very much a Karstadt project, a diversification of the Karstadt business to be assisted, to be carried, by the established Starbucks name and brand identity, a diversification in context of which Karstadt Coffee GmbH planned to open some 200 Starbucks across Germany within five years. And a diversification which ended just two years later against the background of the severe financial difficulties Karstadt found themselves in, not least on account of their many diversifications, and which saw Starbucks acquire in November 2004 100% ownership of Karstadt Coffee GmbH and the, at that point, 37 German Starbucks in 15 locations. Not that coffee shop culture was unknown in Germany in 2002, far from it, and with Einstein Kaffee Berlin had in 2002 its own established coffee shop chain, a chain who today boast some 21 branches in Berlin in comparison to Starbucks 17.

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Munich – Pinakothek der Moderne Opens: Art Eats Art – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

In May 1992 the Munich based architect Stephan Braunfels won the international competition for a new museum on the site of the former Türkenkaserne in Munich’s Maxvorstadt, a new museum to stand alongside the existing Alten Pinakothek, Neue Pinakothek and Glyptothek, a new museum intended to allow Munich to present contemporary art to compliment the more classic of the exiting museums, a new museum that in addition to art would also present design and applied arts through the integration of Das Neue Sammlung and present architecture through the integration of the TU München’s collection, a new museum that would enrich the city’s Kunstareal and “consolidate Munich’s rank as an art city of world renown”.5 And a new museum that in autumn 1993 the newly appointed Bavarian Chief Minister Edmund Stoiber effectively stopped as part of a cost-saving exercise. A stop that caused a great deal of consternation across Bavaria.

And a stop that was the start of a persistent, insistent, campaign that, and abbreviating more than is prudent, saw a compromise reached between the museum’s supporters and the Bavarian government whereby it was agreed that if private donors raised 10% of the 200 Million Mark cost the museum would be built. Which the pro-Museum faction did and the Bavarian government did: the 20 Million being raised by December 1995, construction beginning in September 1996 and on September 16th 2002, a decade a bit after winning the international competition, Stephan Braunfels’ construction opened as the Pinakothek der Moderne as a home for art, graphics, architecture and design in the heart of the Bavarian capital.

Hamburg – Maiden flight of the Airbus A318: Über den Wolken – Reinhard Mey

On January 15th 2002 Airbus’s new A318 undertook its maiden flight from the Airbus factory in Hamburg-Finkenwerder, a circa four hour, triangular, flight that took crew north to Helgoland then south to Düsseldorf and back to Hamburg; and a flight, Airbus hoped, into a bright new future with their so-called mini Airbus with its capacity for between 107 and 120 passengers. A mini Airbus to be built in Hamburg. And on that January afternoon all seemed well with the world, Airbus-Deutschland boss Hans-Joachim Gante announcing that “The start went perfectly”.6 But only the start. By March 2002 problems with the engine saw production stall, in the course of 2002 the vast majority of the advance orders were cancelled as airlines lost confidence in the A318, and generally, one gets the impression, the global airline industry appeared to have but little appetite for such a small commercial aircraft: something tending to be underscored by the fate of the Boeing 717, a ca. 100 seater aircraft introduced in 1998, the Boeing to which the A318 was Airbus’s response, and a Boeing 717 taken out of production in 2006. The A318 faring little better: from the 1900 A318s Airbus expected to sell they have, at time of writing, sold but 80. And which makes the small Airbus also a small lesson about the dangers of following competitors rather than your own path, and the dangers of responding to perceived markets.

Schwarzwald – Restoration of the Neckar: Bald gras ich am Neckar – Traditional, Thomanerchor Leipzig

Flowing through Tübingen, Stuttgart, Heilbronn and Heidelberg on its way to Mannheim where it joins the Rhein, the Neckar rises in the Schwenninger Moos to the south of Villingen-Schwenningen before flowing for some 3,5 kms through the town on its way north. Not that for a great many years one would have known: increasing pollution, caused not least by the growth of the, then, Schwenningen in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, saw the Neckar become increasingly unpalatable and thus in 1960s directed into an underground canal, a classic case of hiding a problem rather than tackling it. An underground canal which also served as a component of the town’s mixed water system, an urban water system that increasingly struggled to cope with the ever growing Schwenningen, leading to both regular flooding and discharges of untreated water into the Neckar. An escalation of a problem that is the invariable consequence of attempting to hide it. But a problem, finally, tackled in context of the 2010 State Horticultural Festival in Villingen-Schwenningen and the decision in 2002 to restore the Neckar, to bring it back above the surface and allow it to flow as a natural river, or at least as natural as is possible through a town, to allow the Neckar to reclaim its route and identity, to become an active part of Villingen-Schwenningen; a restoration begun in 2002, a restoration whose most visible feature is arguably the so-called Vorderer See established in 2002 on the site of the former Kienzle clock factory, and the associated new park. And a restoration of the Neckar at its source accompanied by the opening in 2002 of the 370 kilometre long Neckartal Cycle Path between Villingen-Schwenningen and Mannheim.

Freiburg im Breisgau – First Christopher Street Day Freiburg: Glad to be Gay – Tom Robinson Band

Although the gay and lesbian community in Freiburg had marked Christopher Street Day since the 1980s with protest actions and interventions in downtown Freiburg, the city’s first official Christopher Street Day parade, with accompanying rally in the Stadtgarten and a two-day street festival, was staged on the weekend of 27th and 28th July 2002, the procession through the city featuring some 7,500 participants and observed by a crowd of some 15,000.

And an event that, as best we can ascertain, was intended to not only be inclusive but international: planned as it was as an event to be shared between, and alternately hosted by, Freiburg, Basel and Mulhouse. And although in 2003 a CSD Basel was held as a tripartite event, and a continuation of CSD Freiburg 2002, things quickly slackened in the Dreiländereck and it would be 2014 before the second Christopher Street Day Freiburg was staged. A 12 year hiatus that appears to have seen attitudes change in the Rathaus of the venerable archdiocese city: whereas in 2002 no Rainbow Flag flew from the Rathaus, in 2014 it did. And from where it has flown every July since.

Konstanz – First Tatort Konstanz: Das Lied Vom Schlaraffenland – Kurt Weill

In April 2021 smow Konstanz opened it doors and in April 2002 the first Tatort Konstanz was aired, Schlaraffenland, the 499th episode of the Tatort franchise. Ahead of its formal broadcast a preview was held in the Scala cinema in Konstanz attended by some 300 interested Konstanzer, and while, by all accounts, the production was well received, there was one major problem, or as the Südkurier noted: “No, the audience’s ears didn’t deceive them. At times they really say Konstanz with a hard “st” instead of “Konschtanz”. And the 300 were not happy. “”The landscape was certainly ours, but the language wasn’t,” said one attendee”.7 The production company attempted to explain that people in the north of Germany had to understand what was going on as well as those on the banks of the Bodensee, while the, then, Mayor Horst Frank contributed to the discussion with the wonderfully diplomatic, “those who don’t speak dialect are also Konstanzer.”8 Whereby we believe he meant, are also Konschtanzer.

Essen – Establishment of the Universität Duisburg-Essen: Ruhrgebiet – Wolfgang Petry

The distance between Duisburg and Essen is some 20kms, and in late 2001 it looked as if that distance could shrink when the Gerhard-Mercator-Universität Duisbirg and the Universität-Gesamthochschule Essen agreed to a fusion. Only for that distance to increase dramatically in the course of 2002 as problems arose, problems less between the institutions as between the institutions and the NRW regional government over the practicalities and realities of the fusion, including questions of which departments should be based where and who should head the new institution. A conflict that, as far as we can ascertain, was wholly avoidable. A conflict that saw both institutions ultimately distance themself from a fusion they had initially proposed and advanced. A conflict which resulted in that which is popularly called a “forced marriage” when on 18th December 2002, just two weeks before the planned start of the new institution the NRW Landtag passed the required legislation, and that against the will of both universities. And which led to a flurry of legal activity as innumerable protagonists sought, ultimately unsuccessfully, to overturn the decision. Thus it came to pass that on January 1st 2003 the Gerhard-Mercator-Universität Duisburg and the Universität-Gesamthochschule Essen ceased to be and the Universität Duisburg-Essen became. And today while the situation in the university may have calmed, Duisburg and Essen remain some 20kms from one another.

Nürnburg – Restoration of “Paulus vor den Juden” in St. Sebald Church: The bells of the Sebalduskirche

Sometime in the late 14th century a large tempera painting was completed on the walls of the East Choir of St. Sebald, one of the oldest, and historically most important, church’s in Nürnberg. A large art work which over the years, and for reasons best known to those previous generations, was painted over. And remained hidden until a major renovation of the church undertaken between 1903 and 1906 awoke it from its slumber, and, and by way of preserving it, the restaurateurs transferred the painting onto a plaster support, before, as best we can ascertain, it was removed to a storage facility where it again slumbered until it was re-re-discovered in the 1990s. And when, on account of the artistic quality and cultural and historical relevance of the work, the decision was made to restore it and return it to St. Sebald. The start of a restoration odyssey, for although the restaurateurs in the early 1900s had done everything correctly according to the state of understandings of art restoration at that period, as is the nature of these things, by the late 1900s we knew more, knew that plaster absorbs moisture; moisture, and associated salts, which had not only damaged the work but necessitated the transfer of the millimetre thick, 600 year old, painting to another support material. An operation that took the experts from the Bavarian Landesamt für Denkmalpflege some seven years, before in November 2002 Paulus vor den Juden was returned to St Sebald where it hangs today in the south-east ambulatory as a particularly highly valued example of late Middle Ages European art.

Mainz – Arne Jacobsen’s Centenary: Denkmal – Wir Sind Helden

No, Arne Jacobsen isn’t from Mainz, but in 1970 Arne Jacobsen and Otto Weitling designed a new Rathaus for Mainz, a new Rathaus inaugurated on December 31st 1973 as the first Rathaus in Mainz since 1462, a new Rathaus which in 2002 was employed in a multitude of contexts to celebrate Jacobsen’s centenary, and celebrate Mainz’s association with Jacobsen; and a new Rathaus which in 2002 the authorities in Mainz promised to grant protected building status. A promise which wasn’t realised until 2005, for all considerations, concerns, relating to the lack of flexibility in context of structural and technical changes that protected building status would mean delaying the process. Considerations not unrelated to the costs and problems of maintaining the work. A not unfamiliar problem with post-War architecture, and an ongoing theme in Mainz: as the shine of Jacobsen’s centenary faded so the Rathaus fell increasingly into disrepair, necessitating its closure in 2019 ahead of renovations. Renovations planned to begin in 2020 but which on account of disputes about what changes could, should, must, be made to the interior, exterior and materials, disputes about altering a protected building, didn’t get underway until late 2021, that will take until 2027 and could cost over 100 million Euro. And thus a renovation of Jacobsen and Weitling’s Mainzer Rathaus which serves as a very nice example of the challenges and opportunities inherent in the preservation and continuation of buildings of all epochs. And a very nice context for reflections on the purpose and function of protected building status.

Lyssach – smow now in Switzerland: Super – Neu!


The 2022 smow Song Contest Playlist, including two bonus tracks to make it a “20 for 20”, and all Radio smow playlists, can be found at the smow Spotify page

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1. Wolfgang Enard et al, Intra- and Interspecific Variation in Primate Gene Expression Patterns, Science, April 12th 2002, New Series, Vol. 296, No. 5566

2. Forscher finden Schalter für die Menschwerdung, Sächsische Zeitung, 12.04.2002

3. Videoüberwachung jetzt auch in Stuttgart, Saarbrücker Zeitung, 29.01.2002

4. Mannheim hält an Videoüberwachung fest, Darmstädter Echo, 21.12.2002

5. Der Münchner Museumsbau. Braunfels gewinnt den Wettbewerb, Nürnberger Nachrichten, 21.05.1992

6. Stolz auf den jüngsten Airbus-Spross, Nordwest Zeitung, 16.01.2002

7. Mord mit Zungenschlag, Südkurier, 15.04.2002

8. ibid

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