50 Cities – 50 Tracks text

Klaudia Dietewich Künstlerin Ausstellungsansicht01

Mayors for Peace

“Mayors for Peace” was founded in 1982 by the mayor of Hiroshima, Japan, and registered as a nongovernmental organization (NGO) in 1991. The member cities are dedicated to preventing the global proliferation of nuclear weapons by carrying out activities and campaigns, ultimately calling for their total elimination. Over 8,200 cities and communities in over 166 countries belong to the network.


Cities are not targets.

This is the Mayors for Peace core priority. Cities are the anchors, the guarantors of culture and civilization. Whoever destroys cities destroys their culture, obliterating historical memory along with every trace of human experience.


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Mayors for Peace Lead City Germany

Hanover actively supported this project. At the end of the Second World War 78 years ago, also Hannover was a destroyed city. Every year on May 8, the day of liberation from the National Socialist regime and the end of the war in Europe, the city community commemorates the horrors of war and appeals for peace. “As a twin city of Hiroshima, we have a special responsibility for peace. That is why Hanover is an unyielding advocate for the abolition of nuclear weapons in the global Mayors for Peace alliance of cities and supports the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. More than ever, it is currently the role of cities to fill the ideals of the UN with life,” said Mayor Belit Onay.

Hanover as the Lead City of the German Mayors for Peace presented the project at federal and executive conferences, as well as at the General Conference of Mayors for Peace in Nagasaki as an offer to all German, European, and worldwide Mayors for Peace cities. Hanover took over the general coordination especially for winning exhibition cities and prepared educational materials to support the dissemination of the project’s objectives in the work with schoolchildren and students. 

The art and peace project “50 Cities – 50 Traces” was realized in cooperation between Hanover as the Lead City of the German Mayors for Peace, the 50 Cities – 50 Traces project office in Stuttgart, and the Friedenswerkstatt Mutlangen e. V..


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Friedenswerkstatt Mutlangen e. V.

The Friedenswerkstatt Mutlangen e.V. works for a more peaceful and equitable world. At the historic site of the German peace movement and former location of nuclear missiles, the organization demonstrates paths to successful nonviolent resistance. The press hut served the peace movement as a contact point for its local actions and was acquired by the Mutlangen Peace and Meeting Place Association in 1984. With the help of young people in international work camps, a small seminar house was built and office space for peace groups was created. The press hut is also a living history museum in which the successful engagement against the nuclear threat can be experienced.


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Belit Onay

Mayor of the State Capitol Hanover

Since February 24, 2022, the world as we have known it before is a thing of the past. With Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine in violation of international law, war has returned to Europe, destroying the previous European peace and security order. Nuclear threats by Russia accompany this brutal war. On the first anniversary of the outbreak of this war, the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki therefore issued an impressive appeal. It says: “The danger of another Hiroshima or Nagasaki is approaching threatening today. As representatives of the Mayors for Peace network, which includes mayors of municipalities – as direct representatives of the citizens – as well as the two mayors of the cities hit by nuclear bombs, we raise our voices loudly as a sign of protest and declare the following: Nuclear weapons must never be used. The only guarantee of protecting humanity and the planet from the threat of nuclear weapons is the complete abolition of these weapons.” (Source: www.mayorsforpeace.org)

As Hiroshima’s twin city, the state capital of Hanover holds a special responsibility for peace. Since 1983, the city has been a member of the Mayors for Peace alliance, which comprises more than 8,200 cities worldwide. In Germany, 850 cities and municipalities have joined the network so far. Hanover assumes the role of Vice President, Executive City and Lead City for Germany in the alliance. Three tasks characterize the network: the commitment to the abolition of nuclear bombs, peace education for future generations, and the shaping of peaceful and sustainable coexistence in the municipalities.

 But it is also clear that cities can at best raise awareness for the necessity of disarmament of nuclear weapons. They can offer platforms for dialogue and be sound amplifiers for their inhabitants and councils. In a network, one voice becomes thousands, and ignoring becomes listening. With broad public relations work, exhibitions, international youth encounters, participation in international conferences, and intensive networking within the framework of the European Chapter of Mayors for Peace, Hanover is therefore lobbying for the three main issues of the alliance at national, European, and international levels. Through their involvement in the Mayors for Peace network, municipalities thus make an important contribution within city diplomacy to the preservation of peace in the world.

And this commitment is highly topical: according to expert estimates, the nuclear powers still have around 12,700 nuclear weapons at their disposal. In order to put this global nuclear threat in the public eye in a very special way, the city of Hanover, as part of its peace work in the Mayors for Peace network, was delighted to support the “50 Cities – 50 Traces – A World with- out Nuclear Weapons” exhibition by Stuttgart artist Klaudia Dietewich in various ways. The 50 panels of the exhibition stand, as it were, for the individual beauty of each of the 50 participating cities, which tell their story with a photographed trace, a fragment, or a visual element, and advertise a livable (survivable) future. Wars, on the other hand, destroy these traces, leaving nothing but destruction. The documentation of the exhibition “50 Cities – 50 Traces” is therefore a lasting reminder to preserve peace and at the same time an appeal to abolish the greatest threat to humanity – nuclear weapons – and thus save the world from an unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe.

Protest against forgetting

This was the central concern of ERIC HOBSBAWM, one of the last universal historians, born in Britain in 1917. In 2012, shortly before he died, he said in an interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist, the famous Swiss curator: “Yes, it’s quite true that modern society – the modern economy – essentially operates without a sense of the past; the standard method of solving problems doesn’t consider the past. Yet in terms of human beings and society, the past is not irrelevant. Everybody, in fact, is rooted in the past – in a personal past, in a social past – and knows it, and is interested in it. If you forget what happened in the past, you simply have to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.”

Under the title: “50 Cities – 50 Traces – Against traceless oblivion” a relay race started in January 2018 through Germany, Europe, America, and Asia. 

“Cities are not targets.” That is the core concern of the Mayors for Peace. Cities are the anchor, the guarantors of culture and civilization. 3.5 billion people live in cities today. By 2050 it will be 7 billion. Whoever destroys cities not only destroys life, but also the culture and erases the memories of history and of what people experienced, including all traces and legacies. 

The exhibitions each showed 50 changing traces from 50 Mayors for Peace member cities, supplemented by statements from mayors in office at the time from cities that were for the most part represented in the exhibitions.

“50 Cities – 50 Traces – A World Without Nuclear Weapons” is an artistic peace project. It is not about showing traces of war or violence. This is deliberately avoided. The images of cities destroyed by war are all in our minds. We see them in the news every day. The message of the art project is not quite so direct. Instead, 50 Cities – 50 Traces takes an artistic view of the diversity, individuality, and beauty of the cities in a different way, painting a unique portrait of each city based on its individual traces. These traces symbolize a colorful, diverse, and worldwide movement for peace in cities and communities in which most of the residents leave behind nothing special or remarkable. 

If one asks the question of the memory value contained in the traces photographed, the focus is on looking at the artwork itself. The Stuttgart artist Klaudia Dietewich photographs traces mainly on streets and squares in cities; she calls these traces “on the way.” 

They are snapshots that continuously fade, that disappear again more or less quickly, traces that reveal something about their originators, that tell stories and create images also of the places where they were found.

These traces want to be an invitation to respect and preserve the world with its legacies as a reminder. They want to send a signal against the destruction of our cities, against the use of nuclear weapons, and thus carry within them the core idea of the Mayors for Peace movement.

The artist is interested in the subtle esthetics of remnants of everyday life which in one way or another reflect the state of our world. Like an archaeologist, she examines urban and industrial spaces. She discovers beauty in what is mended, overlooked, and forgotten, and draws parallels to our own existence in the gradual disappearance of motifs. 

Her found objects are graphic treasures, fragments, and shards that, although they are completely abstract, evoke memories and associations. As a “condensate of lived life”, they ask the question: what remains of us and of the world as we know it? 

The photographs alternate between a pure reproduction of the abstract signs Klaudia Dietewich has found and the undefined, in which the viewer believes to see objects and pictorial representations coming into his mind. That‘s what constitutes her enigmatic magic.

The exhibition aspires to encourage viewers to think about war and its consequences and to create an awareness of the need for peace, freedom, and democracy.

Dr. Raimund Menges, 2018

A world without nuclear weapons

On the occasion of the opening of the international art and peace project „50 Cities – 50 Traces – a World without Nuclear Weapons“ in Poznań, I would like to warmly welcome you, ladies and gentlemen. The exhibition is an important building block in the peace work of the City of Hanover. As a City of Peace, as Vice-President of Mayors for Peace, the world‘s largest municipal network for the outlawing of nuclear weapons, and alongside our partner city and Mayors for Peace President Hiroshima with more than 8,200 cities from 166 countries and over 1 billion inhabitants worldwide, the state capital of Hanover has been committed to the abolition of nuclear weapons and a peaceful world since the early 1980s. With this exhibition, Mayors for Peace is approaching the topic of war and destruction in an unusual way. We want to irritate, invite visitors to look, and bring them into conversation with each other about what they have seen. We want to take a look at the traces, the legacies of us humans, which are inevitably lost when wars break out or nuclear weapons are used.

In 2019, we have often commemorated the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe 80 years ago, on September 1, 1939, which began with Germany‘s invasion of Poland. This criminal war ended in Europe on May 8, 1945, but in Asia it dragged on for almost three months longer. In the end, the dropping of the two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki marked a turning point in the history of warfare and security policy. 

While dealing with the theme of the exhibition, I had an image in mind that one or the other of you may also know: it is a photo of a house wall in Nagasaki on which the outline of a person burnt by the explosion of the atomic bomb has been drawn. The person, whether man or woman or child – we don‘t know – crumbled to dust. “Fat Man”, the dropped bomb, left only a single shadow, no other traces. The use of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki not only destroyed thousands of lives in one fell swoop, but also destroyed within seconds all the cultural, historical, and personal legacies of the cities‘ inhabitants. Hiroshima became a symbol of all that man can do to man. One would think that humanity would have learned from this tragedy and refrain from producing such terrible weapons. But instead of renouncing these weapons, a nuclear arms race between the two world powers began after the bombs were dropped. Other states followed suit. There are still around 13,000 nuclear weapons worldwide, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), most of them in the possession of the USA and Russia. Nuclear disarmament efforts have been treading water for years and have even experienced a setback recently. The end of the INF Treaty, this agreement between the USA and the then Soviet Union on the disarmament of medium-range missiles from 1987, which was so important for Europe, represents a historical caesura.

Since then, there has been only one disarmament treaty, the New START Treaty (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), which expired in 2021. But what does a world without disarmament treaties look like? Is there a threat of a renaissance of nuclear weapons, leading to supposedly greater security? Or, in a world without disarmament treaties, can there really only be security without nuclear weapons? The Nobel Peace Prize-winning nongovernmental organization ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) has pushed this idea so hard that it succeeded in getting a nuclear weapons ban treaty off the ground. The United Nations adopted it and it has been out for ratification since September 2017. But so far, the nuclear weapon states, including Germany, have not yet joined the treaty. The Hanover City Council has therefore appealed to the German government to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons without delay. Meanwhile, 55 German cities have joined the ICAN City Appeal. Worldwide, there are over one hundred cities. We hope that many more cities will follow and persuade their governments to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. At a time when a president of a world power is using Twitter to spread pride in his „beautiful“ red button, which can be used to trigger a nuclear war, it is urgently necessary to once again speak out more loudly for the preservation of peace. To promote trust, also and especially in Europe, to seek dialogue in order to preserve peace in a world that sometimes seems to be coming apart at the seams. We, the Mayors for Peace, want to do this.  

As First City Councillor of a city that was 90% destroyed in the Second World War, the preservation of cultural assets and the aspirations for a peaceful world in which cities can no longer be targets of attack are particularly important to me. For the inhabitants, too, cities are more than just a collection of houses and streets; it is a significant reference point for identity formation. And every day we leave traces behind, whether consciously or unconsciously. 

These vestiges that artist Klaudia Dietewich tracks down and photographs are nonrepresentational, with no indication in the image itself of the city in which the photo was taken. But behind each image is a city, along with its history and its future. The photographs in the exhibition show snapshots that not only invite the viewer to pause briefly, but that are also wonderful to look at. Art is known to build bridges, create encounters and trust, strengthen understanding and friendship. The exhibition has already been presented in 12 cities around the world and is planned to be shown in New York in 2020, at the UN headquarters during the next review conference of the existing Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. All conference participants will pass by the photographs – and that is a good thing, because: The exhibition “50 Cities – 50 Traces” warns against the destruction of cities by wars. It is an impressive appeal against the use of nuclear weapons. And it is at the same time a call to respect and preserve the world in which we live.


Sabine Tegtmeyer-Dette, First City Councillor Hanover on the opening of the art exhibition “50 Cities – 50 Traces – a World without Nuclear Weapons” on 17. 10. 2019, in the Marshal‘s Office of the Wielkopolska Voivodeship Niepodległości, Poznań

Found Traces

Stefan Renner

Klaudia Dietewich‘s 50 by 50 centimeter photographic work from 2017 looks on the one hand like a tachist work, and on the other like a large tile taken directly from the asphalt; it has a matt metallic shine – its subject seems to have been captured on iron, which is also due to the image‘s Aludibond background. A section of asphalt was photographed that shows cracks and vegetal-looking lineations that seem to blossom. The work is entitled „Geislinger Spur.“ Where exactly this trace appears is not important – it says somewhere on Bahnhofsstraße. 

This first impression already suggests that the work might have something to do with fixing, holding, archiving, and preserving. With it, our gaze is not drawn to what is far in front of us, but to what appears in front of us when we look directly at the pavement from above, and this while we seem to be actively using it. Something unspectacular has thus become an image that has a concrete reference to our everyday life – no matter how abstract this may seem. What seems to be important is that the trace has been found, photographed, fixed, secured, and now presented and with it what lies behind the things that show themselves. The surface of the asphalt and the injuries to it can be identified. Both have meanings that refer to human activity. 

Asphalt as a material refers to paths, streets, squares and thus to the enabling of urban mobility and activity. The cracks refer to active use, to life that has taken place here and to passing away – momentarily and permanently. Seen in this way, these traces tell stories; tracing them also means sensitizing the senses to them, their esthetics and stories, and allowing associations. Collecting and fixing such everyday traces always thematically takes up their changes and disappearance – everything is subject to constant change.

The fact that this can suddenly and deliberately befall a person is something that people have to experience painfully, especially during armed conflicts. Where bombs fall, rockets are launched, all that remains is rubble and devastation – both of which are unfortunately also an expression of human activity and in turn leave traces – traces that erase and disappear all other human traces – even the most insignificant ones ... even one in the asphalt, such as the one presented here, would be as if wiped away along with the background.

Because the works in the series to which this photograph belongs are capable of stimulating reflection on such aspects, they fit so well with the art and peace project: 50 Cities – 50 Traces. It refers to the 50th anniversary of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty this year. The project uniquely connects cities, citizens, and mayors – ultimately people – in the outlawing of these devastating weapons through a traveling exhibition that is shown in many places around the world. From each of these cities, a photographically captured everyday trace that refers to human life can be found in the traveling exhibition – Geislingen is its first stop!

Stefan Renner, Exhibition Manager
Art and History Society, Geislingen, 2018
Text in slightly modified form published on 16. 2. 2018 in the
Geislinger Zeitung

Artist‘s Statement

Klaudia Dietewich

For me, the city is not the uncoordinated hustle and bustle of the masses or the sea of houses in which the individual gets lost. For me, the city is rather an abstract entity in which man has left his enigmatic repetitive traces. This is the place where I look for the beauties of the modern world, for the bewildering poetry of stains, scratches, cracks, and smears! During my walks through cities all over the world, I visually extract fragments from scarred, blotched, cracked, and battered asphalt surfaces with the camera, which then largely transfer the sur-face structures of the real original to the photograph using a special technique in the photographic print on the image carrier, usually AluDibond.

With my photographs, I try to capture the disappearing and vanishing life in the picture and to create an image archive with the found forms and structures that rediscovers a supposedly well-known urban space – in images that are at the same time familiar, irritating, and alienating. My found objects are fragments of reality, remnants of culture that have coagulated into form. When viewers believe they see objects and pictorial representations, my asphalt images become projection surfaces of the imagination, which for me have lost none of their enigmatic magic after more than 15 years of working on this theme.