Decentralize! Self-organize! Commercialize? / Online and offline art

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Guest author: Marlene Ronstedt

The Berlin of the 1990s, with its occupied houses, temporary autonomous zones, and anarchistic playgrounds, bore close similarity to the open internet which emerged at the same time. Back then, the possibilities cyber space offered to geeks and nerds seemed to be infinite. Neither NSA surveillance nor commercialization had yet reached into the digital sphere.

This offline situation constituted – at least in Berlin – the ideal biotope for the art and techno scene to prosper. But it also meant that the city became increasingly interesting to investors and real estate agents, leading eventually to the gentrification of those very places. Unlike in the 90s in Berlin, in the online world of the same period only a handful of net artists came forward to claim digital space. It was only in the early 00s with the rise of web 2.0 – a more user-friendly, but also a commercial and centralized version of the internet – that substantially more net artworks emerged. Tumblr, Flickr, WordPress and Instagram made it easier to put net artworks on display and provide infrastructures to reach followers.

Both on- and offline, formerly autonomous zones have undergone changes shaped by commercialization, regulation, and increased surveillance and censorship. Instagram, for example, forbids images of period blood and female nipples, while monetizing users’ information without giving them an alternative to opt out. In the physical realm of Berlin, erstwhile autonomous zones such as project spaces are often either forced to close down, professionalize or be pushed to the peripheries of the city.

_Disobedient_still_5_smDorine van Meel, Disobedient Children, HD Video 17’00”, 2016

Online, a system has been created to reclaim aspects of the internet’s former ideals of decentralization and autonomy, namely through blockchain. This means that net art has a new chapter ahead of it in which it can be displayed in less restrictive contexts. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the cryptocurrency Bitcoin emerged together with blockchain, on which is based. Blockchain allows for transparent, decentralized structures. Soon startups jumped on the bandwagon, building tools that can ascribe energy, art, votes or cars to blockchain tokens. By doing this they aim to circumvent the power of central banks, institutions, big energy enterprises or even nation-states. Read More

WHATAWEEK THREE: 15. – 21.08.16

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Project Space Festival Day 15: Radical Praxes

16.08.15_PSF_nationalmuseumA Political Idiom, installation view, Radical Praxes, Project Space Festival Day 15
Photo: Joanna Kosowska

nationalmuseum is a large white space on the fourth level of an old factory. And yet it is also not a classic white cube, because the space’s aesthetic is, even if discretely, loaded with history. This is not a neutral place, and so ample space is opened for the generation of new ideas.
In the exhibition A Political Idiom, Radical Praxes fills the entire space not so much with a soberly installed objects as with a very specific intensity.
Two large works set up opposite one another frame the length of the space. On one end, a black-and-white image plasters almost the entire wall. This work, by Ella Ziegler, shows Japanese women fighting one another: a frame from the artist’s film drawing on a book form the 1950s about fighting. Deformed by its enlargement, the strong monochrome contrasts afford this image of close struggle a particular stridency. This tension is also maintained in the other exhibited works.
Filling the wall of the opposite end of the space, the video-work and manifesto of Matthew Burbidge, RP01a, consists of a series of images from art institutions, finance and institutions of power. The video formulates an appeal to break out of the lethargy in which the system cradles us. Read More

Projecting Space

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Guest author: Benjamin T. Busch

I. Center and Periphery
Center and periphery are spatial concepts that, following Henri Lefebvre, resonate in three distinct yet interrelated registers: physical space, represented space, and representational space (1). Considering the periphery, or margin, as a necessary and constituent part of the center, without which the center could not exist, this text will discuss Lefebvre’s “spatial triad” in relation to the project space:

First, in spatial practice, or physical space, the material conditions of society come to the fore. Spatial practice is space that is perceived, constantly undergoing interpretation and transformation by society. Second, representations of space are formalized conceptions of space. Organized by scientists, planners, urbanists and (social) engineers, these spaces tend towards systems of verbal signs. Third and finally, representational space is space as directly lived through its complex symbolisms: the dominated space “which the imagination seeks to change and appropriate. It overlays physical space, making symbolic use of its objects” (2). This is a space of dissensus that challenges hegemony.

As a part of physical space, the project space naturally belongs to the field of spatial practice: It is animated by human beings at the point where center and periphery meet. Now, how can we understand representations of space (e.g. urban legislation and zoning codes) and representational space (the space where ideals and social movements form) in relation to the project space?

II. Expulsions
What we commonly refer to as gentrification, a process closely linked to representations of space, is just the tip of the iceberg. As Saskia Sassen recognizes in Expulsions, the extreme complexity of the global economy tends to produce elementary brutalities. Sassen posits the notion of expulsions as an analytical device that “takes us beyond the more familiar idea of growing inequality as a way of capturing the pathologies of today’s global capitalism” (3).

Home Coming ParadeNile Koetting, Sofia Stevi (Fokidos), Mieko Suzuki, Yukihiro Taguchi and TOKONOMA bond over a sense of home: Who or what constitutes this place, if it even is one? What do we do when what we secretly hoped to have seems to be lost – nowhere to be found? If it doesn’t make sense anymore to imagine such spaces, because the coloring book is full, yet the forms are empty or broken – why go home at all? Is this very absence what covertly keeps everything together?“Who’s gonna take us home, tonight?You know you can't go onThinking nothing's wrongWho's gonna drive you home tonight?”Nile Koetting, Sofia Stevi (Fokidos), Mieko Suzuki, Yukihiro Taguchi & TOKONOMA, Home Coming Parade, 2016
Photo: Joanna Kosowska

If we site gentrification purely within spatial practice, we might tend to believe that artists and other “creatives” are among the first culprits causing rent increases and the homogenization of urban centers. But if we take a closer look at the global economy, to which all real estate is subject in one way or another, we find that expulsions from the center to the periphery are symptoms of something else entirely. Read More

RECOUP: Reflections accumulating before a performance

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Guest author: Bryndís Björnsdóttir

What if I told you – my (for now) presumed female reader – that currently there is an island in the north fighting for your right to gush fresh hot geothermal water on your bare breasts and airdry them in the midst of a public pool, just like saggy manboobs on any old Thursday? Were it not my last name revealing the country I was born in (as you may call me “Ms.-the-daughter-of-her-father”), I could trick you in thinking that I am here making a universal claim, rather than a provocation with a hint of cynicism typical to the cold and dark north. Though – as with many tongue-in-cheek utterances – behind this one lies a feeling of urgency: a longing for feminism to find a strategic path for real transformations.

The most recent representation of feminism in Iceland is the “Free the Nipple” movement, now occurring annually in a festive mode – this year in a local public swimming pool. Baring breasts in public space has a particular history in Iceland, where women used to sun-bathe topless. However, the Free the Nipple movement does not find its origins here, but rather in Iceland’s big other brother, the USA. Feminists in Iceland ride the Free the Nipple wave in the belief that society has become engulfed by pornography. Women do not have the prerogative to decide on their own terms when their bodies are being viewed as sexual or not, especially not on Facebook, let alone in the swimming pool. The Free the Nipple movement shames capitalism – while selling a T-Shirt online with real-life sized white breasts and nipples censored with a black X.

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Befragen, Austarieren, Ausprobieren: Interview mit NBR & Alex Head


Neue Berliner Räume setzt sich im öffentlichen Raum sowie “White-Cube”- und privaten Räumen seit seiner Gründung 2011 konsequent mit dem vorhandenen Ort auseinander. Als bewusst nomadischer Projektraum, der aber fest in Berlin verankert ist, haben sie eine intime Beziehung zu dem Raum einer sich zunehmend gentrifiziertenden Stadt. Die kuratorische Gruppe, bestehend aus Valerie Senden, Sylvia Sadzinski und Manuel Wischnewski, zusammen mit dem Künstler Alex Head, werden gefragt:

PSF: Ihr habt Ausstellungsprojekte im Tieranatomischen Theater, in einem, kurz vor der Renovierung stehenden, Haus in der Lützowsraße, im öffentlichen Raum des Tempelhofer Felds, im Kunsthaus Dahlem und auf dem Dachboden des alten Postfuhramts Berlin organisiert. Was waren eure Beweggründe, von Anfang an eine nomadische Plattform (ohne festen Raum) zu gründen?
Sylvia Sadzinski (NBR): Berlin befindet sich in einem starken Wandel – mehr als viele andere westeuropäische Städte. Zusätzlich vereint Berlin viele verschiedene historische Epochen und Ereignisse, die sich in den Gebäuden, aber ebenso im öffentlichen Raum der Stadt widerspiegeln. Für uns sind diese Räume und ebenso der Wandel immer mit Fragen und gleichzeitig mit Möglichkeiten verbunden. Keinen festen Ort und Raum zu haben, ermöglicht es uns, unsere Projekte frei und offen zu gestalten. Uns immer wieder auf Entdeckungstour zu begeben oder sich von Räumen, die sich uns eröffnen, einnehmen und überraschen zu lassen. Gleichzeitig ermöglicht uns die Arbeit mit und in unterschiedlichen Räumen, verschiedene Menschen zu erreichen. Und selbstverständlich ist nicht von der Hand zu weisen, dass zu Beginn auch ein ökonomischer Faktor ausschlaggebend war.
Manuel Wischnewski (NBR): Genau, am Anfang war das sicherlich einem bestimmten Pragmatismus geschuldet. Wir wussten beispielsweise auch immer, dass wir unseren aller ersten Ausstellungsraum nicht lange haben würden. Daher war uns klar, dass NBR nomadisch würde sein müssen. Aber mit den Jahren haben wir das Nomadische wirklich als eigenständige Kraft zu verstehen gelernt. Man geht anders durch die Stadt. Man muss einen viel wacheren Blick für Räume und deren Geschichten entwickeln. Es geht ja nicht nur darum, immer wieder neue Kulissen für austauschbare Projekte zu finden. Wir wollen ganz konkret aus den Orten unserer Stadt heraus Erzählungen schöpfen und diese dann in Projekten festhalten. Also ein Archiv schaffen.

NBR-A dredging device made of found objects from Der Köpi Brache, Berlin, Alex Head, 2012_lowresAlex Head, A dredging device made of found objects from Der Köpi Brache, Berlin, 2012
Foto: Alex Head

PSF: Für das Project Space Festival im letzten Jahr hattet ihr die Publikation Vom Ende des Projektraums präsentiert, in der ihr für eine größere Anerkennung der Rolle des Projektraums als unabhängigen “dritten Raum” plädiert. Dieser Raum, argumentiert ihr im Text, sollte fähig sein, “nein” sagen zu können. Was war der Anlass für die Veröffentlichung dieses Textes?
Manuel Wischnewski (NBR): Es gab ein paar unterschiedliche Gründe. In dem Jahr hatte der Berliner Senat einen der Projektraumpreise an eine Einrichtung verliehen die – zumindest in Teilen – als kommerzielle Galerie agierte. Und ich empfand das als ziemlich absurde Situation. (Über die auch viele so sprachen – aber immer nur hinter vorgehaltener Hand.) Dann fing ich an mich näher mit den jüngeren Entwicklungen in der Projektraumszene zu beschäftigen. Die für mich überraschendste Erkenntnis war dann, dass die Projekträume auf der einen Seite plötzlich unglaublich viel Erfolg hatten – was ihr Ansehen und ihre Möglichkeiten betraf, sogar ihre finanzielle Situation. Auf der einen Seite aber war immer unklarer, was einen Projektraum überhaupt ausmacht. Da fand wirklich eine Art Verwässerung der Begrifflichkeiten statt. Leute mit ganz unterschiedlichen, ja sogar sich gegenseitig ausschließenden, Ansätzen und Arbeitsweisen nahmen da die Idee des Projektraums für sich in Anspruch. Und das schadet einem Begriff letztlich. Im Falle des Projektraums ist das besonders tragisch, weil das Konzept eines nichtkommerziellen, unabhängigen Ortes eben so wichtig ist für eine gesunde und funktionierende Kulturszene. Als Barriere, als Schutzwall manchmal. Oder als sicherer Ort. Read More

WHATAWEEK TWO: 08. – 14.08.16

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Project Space Festival Day 8: mp43
Between the stark concrete housing blocks and weedy open spaces of Hellersdorf, a model example of East German housing infrastructure built on the peripheries of Berlin in the 1980s, capitalism still often feels like an intruder. Instead, “shopfront” spaces facing the shadowy concrete promenades of this area and its neighbor, Marzahn, are of late often occupied by community-oriented studios and art spaces, as is the case for mp43.
Carola Rümper and Marnie Müller, the “two-stroke engine” behind mp43, gave their one-day event the unassuming title Topflappen (oven cloth) for the simple reason that this is an object everyone and anybody can identify with. Certainly, those PSF regulars who made it out to the far end of the U5 that hot Monday afternoon were met by another public from the very center of Hellersdorf.
Regardless of our differences, everybody has had a home of sorts, and everybody knows nostalgia. Babel was a participatory project by Sandra Schmidt consisting of an installation and collection of stories around small, hand-made paper houses produced by exhibition visitors themselves – adults, children, and everybody in-between. It was surely the artist’s aesthetic decision that the houses were strictly to be made without a floor – the resulting hanging display formed pleasing shadows on the walls of the space. At the same time, I could not help thinking that, in a contemporary do-it-yourself world, fabricating one’s own provisional infrastructure is often a lonely business.

mp43_02kleinerSandra Schmidt, Babel, participatory work, 2016
Photo: Why Alix

Outside, in the sun, a game for exhibition visitors designed by Kirsten Wechslberger thematized questions surrounding age, sexual orientation, skin color, health and other issues touching on marginalization. My participation was limited to an animated conversation about tattoos and whether it is possible to feel marginalized when wearing a T-shirt printed with the image of a naked woman in a suggestive pose. The question, I felt, was not so relevant to the wearer of said T-shirt, a softly-spoken man with Down’s Syndrome. For a moment, I envied the white-haired citizen who kept watch on us from the safety of her balcony umbrella above.

Project Space Festival Day 9: Galerie BRD
Moabit’s Stromstraße runs along a construction site, its fencing draped with wine-red banners announcing a new shopping-mall and “studios in heritage-listed buildings designed for artists and creatives”. Shortly before Stromstraße turns off to the next shopping mall and runs in the form of an elevated bridge to Westhafen, the Berlin project space Å+ can be found. Temporarily taken over by Galerie BRD, an initiative invited to Berlin for the Project Space Festival, Å+ hosted second co-operation between two parties who negotiate whether and how they might use one another: Cosmin Covacju and Jasmina Ferouca, both from a Leipzig-based Sinti and Roma community, and Uwe Greiner, who runs a trade in scrap metals with Covacju and accompanies him in his dealings with German authorities. In return, Greiner was the recipient of a letter of recommendation, written by Ferouca, which grants him the hospitality of the Roma community. In every element of this exhibition, cost was weighed up against use – even the scrap metal was carefully sorted and arranged by Covacju and Greiner according to type. The handwritten price and weight of each collection of metal beside each collection was a reminder that the elements of the exhibition had nothing to do with art. They were stored in the project space, to be collected and sold on at a later date. Covacju and Greiner themselves are nowhere to be seen – it wouldn’t have been worth it.

Galerie_BRD_Foto_Why_AlixGalerie BRD with Cosmin Covacju, Jasmina Ferouca & Uwe Greiner, Zwei verhandeln, ob und wie sie einander nützen können, installation view, 2016
Photo: Why Alix

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KONTINUITÄTEN & BRÜCHE: Interview mit alpha nova & galerie futura


Die Geschichte der galerie futura beschreibt eine, sich seit Mitte der 1980er Jahre entwickelnde, Entstehung ihres Futuristan. In unserem Interview berichten Katharina Koch und Dorothea Nold, wie sich Erfolg mit produktivem Scheitern verbinden lässt und welche Rolle Projekträume damit in der Öffentlichkeit einnehmen.

PSF: Futura wurde 1986 in der Folge der Reaktorkatastrophe von Tschernobyl gegründet. Wer waren die Gründerinnen? Was war deren Anlass?
Katharina Koch und Dorothea Nold: Die Gründerinnen des Projektes FUTURA in Zehlendorf waren Frauen – meist aus dem akademischen Umfeld – die sich aus ihrem Engagement für die Frauenfriedensbewegung her seit Jahren kannten. Die Frauenfriedensbewegung um Eva Quistorp in Berlin charakterisiert von Beginn an ihr internationales Selbstverständnis – in Berlin insbesondere ihr enges Netzwerk mit Frauen aus der DDR-Widerstandsbewegung um Bärbel Bohley. Der Reaktorunfall in Tschernobyl bot durch sein existentielles Bedrohungsszenario den endgültigen Anstoß, einen eigenen Ort der Begegnung und Vernetzung von und für Frauen zu gründen.

Plantation Memories, Performance von Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro, 2016, Foto: alpha nova & galerie futuraNathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro, Plantation Memories, Performance, 2016
Foto: alpha nova

PSF: Lag der Schwerpunkt vom Anfang an auf Kunst und Kultur? Welche Aktionen, Veranstaltungen oder Konstellationen gab es in den späten 1980er Jahren?
KK & DN: Der erste Ort am Mexikoplatz warb mit dem Namen FUTURA Frauen Culture Cafe und legte seit Beginn den konzeptionellen Schwerpunkt auf Kunst und Kultur. Es war die Zeit der Frauensommeruniversitäten, an denen mit Leidenschaft weibliche Geschichte in allen kulturellen Bereichen aufgearbeitet wurde und in der z.B.1986 in der Frankfurter Oper das große Opernfest “Mit Mut und Phantasie – Frauen suchen ihre verlorene Geschichte” mit hunderten Frauen in historischen Kostümen gefeiert wurde. Read More

WHATAWEEK ONE: 1. – 7. 8.2016

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Project Space Festival Day 1: Apartment Project
Channeling the uncertainly caused by an increasingly unclear political era, seven Turkish artists (Borga Kantürk, Evrim Kavcar, Gökce Süvari, Gümüs Özdes, Merve Ünsal, Sevgi Ortac and Apartment Project organizer Selda Asal) lived and worked together for one full month. The artists exhibited fragments of their shared artistic practice and conversation in the exhibition WHO KNOWS WHERE WE ARE at Apartment Project.
A series of drawings arising from this process were printed and presented on a table, one from each artist, showing the group repositioning themselves in various formations of being-together: drafts for a Fanzine. A lecture-performance by Merve Ünsal questioned the role of the artist as image-maker in a world already cluttered by an economy of violent and banal images. A small, hanging talisman by Evrim Kavcar pulled together hidden scraps of paper and other material gathered from the group over the month. Equally dense, the windows of the exhibition space were made opaque and turned into a surface for the projection of a film from Selda Asal, entitled writing in the air. Passers-by were arrested by fleeting impressions of members of the group silently tracing illegible letters in the air.
Being surrounded by fog means not being able to clearly see – but in fog, it is also possible to hide and, from this position, to seek out means of translating one’s understanding of things. In November, 2016 and May, 2017 the artists will again come together in order to continue their artistic practice.

"WHO KNOWS WHERE WE ARE" im Projektraum "Apartment Project" von Aykan Safoglu, Borga Kantürk, Evrim Kavcar, Gökce Süvari, Gümüs Özdes, Merve Ünsal, Selda Asal, Sevgi Ortac. Apartment Project, Hertzbergstrasse 13, 12055 Berlin Neukölln. Asal, writing in the air, video projected onto window, looped, duration: 7min, 2016
Photo: Ozge Topcu

Project Space Festival Day 2: Tacho
The state of exception was approached in a different way at Tacho, where missing icons (Andrea Knoblauch und Ute Vorkoerper) raised a new flag for Europe, accompanied by the ironic strains of a recording of the European Anthem – Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ode to Joy – set this time in a nostalgic minor key and played by a xylophone.
The site, a children’s traffic circuit in the center of Kreuzberg, shares this nostalgic aura. Tacho works with the site by curating a series of public inverventions. Because the public infrastructure of the site was built for children, everything is slightly too small – from the miniature streetsigns to the traffic lights and small bikes scattered about. On the day of the performance, entitled Europe. A visit to the enclosure, the visitors themselves, as well as the beer, the artists and the flag itself appeared too large, too awkward: misfits for this strange place. A little like the projected imaginary of Europe, here, it was also not clear whether an imagined ideal shapes the reality of things or vice-versa…

Europa. Besuch im GehegeKomposition aus VerkehrsŸbungsplatz, Bildobjekt und SoundProjekt von missing iconsDer VerkehrsŸbungsplatz Oase ist eine aus der Zeit gefallene, unwirkliche, in Teilen verkleinerte und um sich selbst kreisende Welt, die durch einen Zaun vom umgebenden Stadtraum abgetrennt ist. Die Oase wird durch die Aufstellung einer dekonstruierten Europafahne des KŸnstlerinneduo missing icons und dem Abspielen ihrer manipulierten, minimalisierten Version der Europa-Hymne zu einer begehbaren, surrealen Allegorie fŸr Europa.Europa. Besuch im GehegeDATUM2. August 2016UHRZEIT19:00ORTTACHO KreuzbergOase VerkehrsgartenAm Wassertorplatz 110999 Berlinmissing icons, Europa. Besuch im Gehege, Komposition aus VerkehrsŸbungsplatz, Bildobjekt und Soundprojekt, 2016
Photo: Joanna Kosowska

Project Space Festival Day 3: insitu
Is it possible to meditate without letting go of critical or political thought? Or more precisely, how might it be possible to embody thought? Two performative contributions – a meditation led by Deborah Ligorio and a sound intervention by Franziska Lantz – accompanied the opening of the exhibition Soon Enough at insitu on Wednesday. Curated by Matilde Cerruti Quara und Sorana Serban, the exhibition contained traces of the borders between the technological and the organic, between the living and the dead. Read More

LOW VISIBILITY & HIGH PRESENCE: Interview with Selda Asal


Apartman Projesi or Apartment Project is a street-level space in the heart of Neukölln. It was also the first project space to open in Istanbul, initiated by Selda Asal in 1999. WHO KNOWS WHERE WE ARE is the name of its most recent collaborative project, in which artists Borga Kantürk, Evrim Kavcar, Gökce Süvari, Gümüs Özdes, Merve Ünsal and Sevgi Ortac lived together with Selda Asal for one turbulent month. Selda Asal explains the background of Apartman Projesi and the process of the current project, titled Mist: low visibility and high presence, which will continue in two further phases of communal living in November 2016 and May 2017.

photo-c-berk-asal1-1-1024x439Merve Ünsal, Short, unpolished, and hard-to-classify lecture-performance (2016). The lecture-performance is a part of a series of talks Merve does at exhibitions or sites of collaborationsin which she tries to reconsider her position as an image-maker in the ever-changing world of representation and presentation.
Photo: Berk Asal

PSF: How would you define a project space?
SA: A project space must be a platform that provides artists with a location where they can spend time, do research, experiment, and produce—especially collaborative projects.
Project spaces also need to be able to relate to the passers-by, appealing to people from different backgrounds and professions. Project spaces need to be able to interact with the public. It is possible to do exchange projects with other collectives, working on different production models. Project spaces need to take on things that other art institutions do not.
So this is how we function. The space is street level and we have four large windows. We are able to project films onto the windows, forcing the passers-by to somehow interact with the works. A lot of people from the neighborhood are quite hesitant to enter the space.
Apartman Projesi Berlin is different from Apartman Projesi Istanbul – the projects here are based more on communal living and producing together. It is important not to have an annual program and not to be fully institutionalized. Apartman Projesi does not have a weekly screening or openings on a certain day of the month.
The most defining aspects of Apartman Projesi are a process based on communal living and the fact that most of the projects question and analyze the nature of “today.”

PSF: Apartment Project started out in Istanbul. What was the reason for starting the space?
SA: In order to talk about why Apartman Projesi was initiated, it is important to know about the Istanbul of the 90s. It was a period in time when a lot of people worked with producers from different disciplines, leading to very fruitful discussions. Actors, musicians, writers, philosophers, and journalists were coming together and spending time together as a common, daily thing. Read More