Fountains of D.C.

March 20 – TBD | #fountainsofdc @KUNSTrePUBLIK

A mobile replica of the Temperance Fountain located in Penn Quarter / Washington D.C. is moving through the city.

Created by the Berlin-based artist collective KUNSTrePUBLIK, Fountains of D.C. is inspired by the relationships of two significant periods in DC’s history – the 19th century Temperance Movement and the 20th century Straight Edge punk rock music scene. Both periods share similar values of social reform, activism and counter culture. The fountain will be hijacked and modified by various groups willing to express their values and agendas of change in 21st century.

It will be taken to specific sites around the District relating to their ideas and used for inspirational public gatherings, musical events, and community dialogues.

KUNSTrePUBLIK’s Fountain at the rally for Trayvon Martin @ Freedom Plaza in downtown Washington D.C. on March 24, 2012

Why the Temperance Fountain ?

One of the key figures of the temperance movement was Henry D. Cogswell. In 1882 he donated a Temperance Fountain to the city, which is still to be found at the corner of Seventh Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. This fountain was one of a series of fountains he designed and commissioned in a belief that easy access to cool drinking water would keep people from consuming alcohol. Under its stone canopy the words “Faith,” “Hope,” “Charity,” and “Temperance” are chiseled.

Much later in history the idea of temperance was promoted and very success- fully exported into the entire world under very different premises: In the late 70s and early 80s, Washington D.C. became  one of the epicenters of the American hardcore movement. Out of this subcultural scene, the idea of Straight Edge was born.

Straight edge, symbolized by the letter ‘X’, stands for positive change through self-reliance, political awareness, and, ideally, refraining from alcohol, tobacco, and other recreational drugs. Perhaps, the clearest, most literal example of this ideology is expressed in the short but not so sweet 45 second song “Straight Edge” by DC’s most famous and influential hardcore band, Minor Threat:


I’m a person just like you
But I’ve got better things to do
Than sit around and fuck my head
Hang out with the living dead
Snort white shit up my nose
Pass out at the shows
I don’t even think about speed
That’s something I just don’t need

I’ve got the straight edge

I’m a person just like you
But I’ve got better things to do
Than sit around and smoke dope
‘Cause I know I can cope
Laugh at the thought of eating ludes
Laugh at the thought of sniffing glue
Always gonna keep in touch
Never want to use a crutch

I’ve got the straight edge
I’ve got the straight edge
I’ve got the straight edge
I’ve got the straight edge

The movement and the ideals of that scene where also adopted by German youth cultures in the 80s and 90s – directly linking the personal biographies of Kunstrepublik’s members to Washington D.C.’s output of culture and values.

Both movements – the temperance movement and the straight edge scene – were in very different ways discussing broader values of society, counterculture and self determination. The strategies of representing these values were very different: the temperance movement of the late 19th and the early 20th century created a fountain applying sculptural and formal methods *1, whereas the Washington D.C. hardcore scene was representing their values (which essentially went far beyond a rigid interpretation of temperance) in a more ephemeral and informal way: through music and temporal gatherings.




Identify a space in D.C. relating to your protest. We will deliver the fountain to enhance your perfomance with a proper representational tool.


The original fountain has four words en- graved into its roof structure. (‘Temperance’, ‘Charitiy’, ‘Faith’, ‘Hope’). The mobile replica comes with a magnetic letter set, so these words can be adjusted according to your message.


The original fountain has a bird-sculpture on top and a fish sculpture underneath the roof. These are left out in the replica, so the visual gap can be filled by objects of your choice.


The replica is equipped with a functioning water pump and a bucket to be filled with liquids.


There is a decent soundsystem built into the fountain, including microphones. Electricity is provided by the pickup truck towing the fountain.

If you would like to hijack the fountain, please tell us the following:

  1. Which are the four words, that you want to stick to the fountain (using the magnetic letter set)?
  2. What is your campaign about ?
  3. Where and when do you want to stage your performance (location / date / time) ?
  4. What’s your or your organizations’ name?

Please send email to:
move [at] fountains-of-dc [dot] net

More at the Fountains of D.C. project website.

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