Public Art Munich - PAM 2018 – Cana Bilir-Meier Foundation Stone

Public Art Munich - PAM 2018 / Game Changers

On October 6, 1967, the ceremonial laying of a foundation stone marked the start of construction on the Freimann Mosque (www.islamisches-zentrum-muenchen.de). However, instead of the traditional stone, a symbolic marble slab was used. The actual foundation stone, which was never installed, is the starting point for Cana Bilir-Meier’s investigation of stories that illustrate how society is shaped by immigration.

Cana Bilir-Meier constructs an audio installation inside and outside the mosque, accompanied by a brochure, and reinstalls the original foundation stone on site. Her research consists of interviews with Hürdem and Zerender Gürel, the daughters of the building’s two architects, as well as with her own mother, Zühal Bilir-Meier, a pediatric therapist who has organized educational programs and German lessons for Muslim women in mosque communities in Munich since the 1980s. The architectural work of the husband-and-wife team Osman Edip and Necla Gürel does not appear in Munich’s city history, even though they designed many influential buildings. Thanks to Bilir-Meier’s initiative, the Gürels’ legacy will now find its rightful place in the municipal archives such as the collection of the Münchner Stadtmuseum.

With her view of the Freimann Mosque, Bilir-Meier departs from the established narrative, told primarily from a Western popular science perspective and focusing on a CIA strategy during the Cold War: The mosque was intended to politicize Islam against communism and to counteract the influence of the Soviet Union in the Muslim world. Bilir-Meier does not seek to examine the contentiousness of such issues against the background of religion and global politics, but instead focuses her attention on the stories of immigrants connected to the mosque, which has also welcomed believers of Turkish descent and has been run since the 1980s by the Egyptian imam Al-Khalifa.