August is over and the festival has come to a close. For those who didn’t get a chance to see everything, festival intern Elvira Garcia opens her personal festival diary to take a look back on a month packed with art and a city full of impressions.
Apartment Project – 02.08.2018
Between the first and third performance of this evening at Apartment Project, the audience gathers quietly in the room, facing the electronic duo FezayaFirar – sitting behind their computer, synthesizers and other devices. As they begin to perform, a pointer starts to move across the wall behind them, leaving a white trail: The Turkish artist Ceren Oykut sits in front of the musicians, drawing in communication with FezayaFirar’s improvisation. Her drawings are projected live: White lines advance across the black surface with the same fluidity as the sounds impregnating the room. Oykut’s drawings never start from an empty surface, and through adding and erasing, she transforms figures seamlessly. The joint improvisation of the artists and disciplines invites the audience to draw connections between the three performing minds, between lines and sound. The performance has the visitors guessing whether the pen strokes follow or disobey the musical rhythms. This spontaneity is stimulating, and makes me search sounds in the drawings and images in the sounds. FezayaFirar’s and Ceren Oykut’s performance transforms this exercise of connection into a pleasurable synesthetic illusion.
11m2 – 03.08.2018
On my way to the space, I could not stop looking at the ornamented and luxurious facades of the buildings. It’s something that would influence my later surprise upon encountering the space: An eleven square meter former lodge with a same-sized garage below it. This alteration of proportions gifts the project space with a phantasy-like, interesting atmosphere, as if you would have suddenly been transported to Lilliput. This evening, the garage is covered with painted linen – with varied colours and silhouettes such as trees, rocks and water – while the room above displays canvasses with painted classic vases or mosaics. The garage, which faces the street, serves as scenery to the dancer Shelley Lasica, who reproduces the poses and imagined movements of the figures on a Roman vase.
x-embassy – 04.08.2018
Since June 2017, the former GDR’s Australian embassy in Pankow has been utilised as a collectively run off-space, where workshops, performances and exhibitions take place. Seeing the exhibition within the modernist rooms designed for diplomatic meetings makes me feel like a privileged intruder. Later, the gathering in the garden – where people talk, eat, drink, and even play tennis – removes the exclusive and secretive nature of an embassy, turning it into a place where anyone is invited.
uqbar – 05.08.2018
Pieces of Faust, intertwined with news and personal notes on murdered Argentinian supporters of the Mapuche community, are read out. This reading connects forms of oppression, which originate from differing understandings of the relationship between earth and humanity. Some people believe in the possibility of owning the land – and therefore in their right to dispossess other humans from it. Other people perceive the earth as a place to be shared. The reading at uqbar evokes the oppression and violence that results from the imposition of the first perspective over the second one.
CNTRM – 06.08.2018
Inside an old GDR guardhouse, a video message recorded during the Yugoslav Wars is screened. In the video, the protagonists imagine that they have invented a time-machine – a fantasy that evokes hope and ingenuity within desperation. Each time the video has finished, a performer steps into the guardhouse and reads the video’s script in their own language – Spanish, English, Chinese, Russian, and many more. As the languages change, I begin to understand the script as a universal narrative. For instance, the man who reads in Spanish has an Argentinian accent that reminds me of the Mapuche community that was discussed at uqbar yesterday – and how they could also be fantasising about an escape. This evening at CNTRM makes me feel the qualities of hope and imagination as something detached from geographies, but rather more inherent to humans.
Schneeeule – 07.08.2018
I enter the white room and look at the walls. Colourful or monochrome, framed and unframed pieces of paper are unevenly distributed on them. Following the light-hearted rhythm that the room transmits, I decide neither to look at the floor plan, nor at the press release. Without focussing on who made what, I look at how the room is illuminated conjointly by the drawings. I do not have the feeling to have fathomed any of the displayed works, however, the choir that they constitute leaves me in a joyful state.
mp43 – projekraum für das periphere – 08.08.2018
The project space mp43 tried to point out things that are normally left unnoticed, by showing photographs of living rooms from the local area. In a similar way, the space itself points to the overlooked, in that it is located in a peripheral area of the city. Its location on the outskirts distances the visitor from the central, gentrified areas. The 16-stop-journey from Alexanderplatz is already an interesting experience for most of us, who often end up staying in their little parts of the city all day, leaving aside vast areas of the metropolis. With its project, mp43 invites you to look twice at places of the city as overlooked as the exhibited living rooms.
Kreuzberg Pavillon – 09.08.2018
The role play game at Kreuzberg Pavillon sounded like an active and challenging alternative to other festival events. Sadly, to attend it, booking was necessary – and by the time I applied for it, it was too late. The open entrance policy of the rest of the festival made me forget about the RSVP!
NON Berlin – 10.08.2018
Outside this exhibition about the demilitarised zone (DMZ) that divides North and South Korea, a talk takes place. It discusses the conservation plan for the green belt (the area along the line of the former iron curtain) and whether there are similar possibilities for the DMZ. The courtyard of NON Berlin envelops the audience, as do the ideas for a preservation of recent history and nature. The exhibition and conversation ignite the beautiful idea of erasing borders, without losing the memory of what made them exist once.
grüntaler9 – 11.08.2018
The project space grüntaler9 hosts a succession of performances over a period of nine hours. One narrative stops and another one begins: from a couple that is exchanging sand, to performers that are speaking to another through balloons. The audience drifts in and out of the room, seeing different human perspectives and experiences that are disconnected and brief, making it impossible to weave a coherent tale. These nine hours offer a glimpse into the heads of others, without projecting the pressure to figure out a further logic.
LAGE EGAL – 12.08.2018
Today, this former factory at Herzbergstraße displays pieces that mix natural materials such as rind, leaves, or food, with synthetic ones such as plastics and glass. Their sophisticated and angular forms, however, transmit a completely artificial impression. The exhibition also invites visitors to try and guess the parts of the work that can be eaten. The unfamiliar form, colour and taste of the edible parts increase the tension between the natural and the artificial, and our own position between both conditions.
FK-Kollektiv – 13.08.2018
Over the course of ten hours, different artists and visitors have gathered in the room at Kiehlufer to explore the idea of the self-portrait, and notions of identity. I arrive during the last two hours. A discussion about our digital identity is taking place but, to me, the most interesting part is seeing how the relatively small room has been modified – through pictures and writing – by the many people who have worked here throughout the day. Looking at the gestures or clothes that each speaker has chosen while speaking on the subject of identity is also an entertaining thing to do when thinking about the topic. I enjoyed observing the speakers just as much as listening to them.
Kabinetas – 14.08.2018
It is Tuesday at noon, and people of all ages and from all walks of life stroll through the Turkish Market on Maybachufer. As it has been for centuries, items from diverse origins and for a myriad of purposes are brought to be sold here: fruits, accessories, fish, plants, and meats. Though Kabinetas’ stand is a nod to this simple form of encounter, its aim is to review the historical and present ethics behind the act of trade. Focusing on tea and its complex history, Kabinetas proposes a market that gets rid of exploitation and focuses on the idea of exchange.
SCHAU FENSTER – 15.08.2018
When entering this long room with glazed frontage, I encounter the screening of Die unheimlichen Frauen by Birgit Hein, surrounded by an exhibition of four other female artists. The film compiles old and new scenes from diverse sources such as documentaries or novelty films, and builds a rich mosaic about women, in which no room is left for strict classification. Women appear in a myriad of roles: exercising violence, accomplishing their jobs with rigour, showing love, expressing rage, masturbating, having their clitoris mutilated, giving birth, committing crimes. The succession of changing images constructs a varied portrait, which rejects the classification of half of the global population.
Netzwerk freier Berliner Projekträume und – initiativen – 16.08.2018
An evening panel discussion, dealing with the differentiation between commercial galleries and project spaces. The immediate answer is that the project space offers a place in which people can accomplish their ideas, without receiving pressure for developing a particular or sellable result – that is to say, without speculating. However, as the discussion moves forward, it gets lost in a game of words, in avoiding unattractive terms such as “commercial” and sticking to more appealing ones. At a certain point, I start reflecting on what are the speakers are really trying to detach themselves from, when choosing so carefully the words they want to be connected with – and whether that is not, yet again, a form of speculation.
Farbvision – 17.08.2018
At the project space Farbvision, three artists run three bars for one evening. This evening works as a parody of other openings, where the real event is not the exhibited work but the socializing that goes on between it. Tonight, the audience stays on the street, drinking and chatting – and in doing so becomes part of the work.
Untergrundmuseum U 144 – 18.08.2018
The tour through the subterranean chambers – put together by artists Rainer Görß and Ania Rudolph by connecting objects from many different eras and backgrounds – builds a narrative on social shifts and systems within the city of Berlin. One of the most interesting moments of the evening takes place at the end, where Görß and Rudolph encourage a conversation with the visitors in the bar. At the top of the room, I see a little skylight – which is the only point of encounter with the outside. And it makes me think of political underground movements, and what it must feel like to have to act secretly below the surface.
rosalux – 20.08.2018
The artist Ghita Skali sits behind a desk and a lamp, reading out the stories of people inhabiting a district in Cairo. Skali traces stories of real people who have been highly fictionalised, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy – from a 1950s cinema star who opens her own cabaret, to a blind man who earns a living by guiding other blind people. Mixing research, fiction and rumours, Skali builds a new story, and in doing so evokes the Kit Kat district in front of our eyes. And its streets invite you to get lost in the web of its narratives.
Scharaun – 21.08.2018
I enter an industrial building in Charlottenburg–Nord, looking for any hint of the festival, but at the beginning I only see stored cooking utensils. When I go up to the second floor of this huge warehouse, I’m suddenly surrounded by blue classical sculptures, extravagant pianos, writings from Fluxus artists and rare vinyl editions. This is Archivio Conz, the collection of more than 3000 items relating to Fluxus, Lettrism and other artistic streams that was moved to this warehouse in Charlottenburg after Francesco Conz’ death. Today it is opening its doors to the festival visitors, and I feel deeply lucky to be able to read a Fluxus musician’s diary, which I could not look at anywhere else. However, it makes me think about the strange fact that these 3000 items belonged to a single person. I begin to reflect about the influence of property status on the scope and conditions of their public presentation. This is a question that returns to me during the second part of the afternoon, in which Scharaun’s curator guides a walk through the area nearby, where the celebrated architect Hans Scharoun designed several buildings. The discussion of the tour and the exhibition concentrates on the interesting fact that many of these buildings are blurred on Google Maps by request of their owners, although they are widely considered of public interest. I reflect on our earlier visit to Archivio Conz. I ask myself what it would mean for the world if the owner had decided to hide these 3000 items forever, and whether, now that they are displayed in an archive, they belong to the public. I find myself very lucky to be surrounded by this selection of items, and I appreciate the work of choosing objects and their classification. However, I keep thinking about how these objects of great public interest are subject to a single person’s decisions. That makes me remember the value of the curator’s role, whose care for the selection of works is detached from a personal property, but deeply related with its public accessibility.
East of Elsewhere – 22.08.2018
The group exhibition shadow “play” is divided into two parts. During the afternoon, each of the artists exhibited a piece at the project space on Büschingstraße, and in the evening the same artists presented a second one on the Bunkerberg’s hill in the nearby Volkspark Friedrichshain. As I arrived, a map at the door of the space indicated that the second part of the exhibition was already underway in the park. I noticed that we were already at the end of August when, at eight in the evening, the sun had completely disappeared. Neither natural nor artificial light illuminated the park, and very few people could be seen inside. Following the map’s instructions, I went along the winding and slightly overgrown path that lead to the hilltop. At one point, I started to become scared as I was walking alone on the secluded path, and so I quickly decided to rush back to the illuminated streets. The darkness, vegetation, and open air instilled a fear in me that the four white walls of a gallery would not have, and this experience made me explore in my own way the question that was proposed by the exhibition: “What are our conscious and subconscious associations with space?” Maybe the shadows had played a trick on me…
Netzwerk freier Berliner Projekträume und –initiativen – 23.08.2018
Although many topics were discussed, the questions that caught most of my attention concerned the role of art projects in the gentrification process of the city. One of the speakers suggested to look closely at the term “speculation” – and whether cultural producers and property developers are perhaps engaged in a similar processes.
SPEKTRUM – 24.08.2018
The audience is sitting in a circle, surrounding Olga Kozmanidze who wears a wristband, which is connected to the device that Marcello Lussana controls, and that both of them have built. Members of the audience have the opportunity to wear another wristband and enter into a performance, either with Kozmanidze, or later with whomever they want. These wristbands transform the two participants into opposite poles that produce sound, the rhythm and texture of which varies immensely, depending on the movements of the two performers. Through the different levels of closeness between the participants, diverse melodies are produced. Sound results from a dance, inverting the traditional idea of a dance following the music.
CAVE3000 – 25.08.2018
Today’s exhibition takes place in the ground floor of an apartment building in Neukölln. The main room of the flat is devoted to the display of objects such as pictures, busts, and photographs of Angelina Jolie. In the corridor, several hangers hold t-shirts with a printed face of Jolie. Just like the main part of the audience, I spend most of the time in the courtyard, although I pay attention to my shoes each time I enter the exhibition – taking the same kind of care as I would entering someone’s home. The private atmosphere of the house enhances the feeling that the viewer is accessing the artist’s (or her persona’s) private space.
nationalmuseum – 26.08.2018
Following the idea behind the game ‘Telephone’, today’s exhibition gathers works from ten artists who have each reacted to the “previous” work. The lack of hints about the order in which the works were interpreted and produced encourages the viewer to observe and imagine, making them figure out links between the artworks. I identify the natural exchange, closeness, and communication between living beings as the core of tonight’s proposition. This manifested through a video in which birds hold a dialogue, through the title of a photograph which claims that Parrots need to socialize, a gesture between two nude figures on a painting, or the socialising capacity of sunflowers discussed by a neurobiologist and interviewer.
GRIMMUSEUM – 27.08.2018
Taking a fabric from the wall and covering his face and body with it, Sebastián Romo signals that he is going to stage a performance. Emitting guttural sounds and covering himself and the audience with symbols, as a shaman would do, Romo prompts the public to follow his rhythms. He takes the sticks that are leaning against the walls, and distributes them within the audience. The more people are provided with the sticks, the emptier the walls become, since the wood sticks also serve to prop up the canvases on the walls. Romo transforms the exhibition room, in which hanging objects alone are normally the focus of our attention, into a place where the objects (such as stones, wood, or fabrics) are just extensions of our bodies, to be worn and used to produce sounds with. The canvases are taken down while the audience is in the middle of the room wearing and producing the new work – that is to say the mutual exchange of rhythms, movements, and guttural sounds. The evening finishes with everyone around a fire, roasting and eating the sausages and marshmallows that emerged from the belly of an animal sculpture, after many poked holes in it with their wood sticks. Like a good shaman, Romo knows the adequate amount of symbolism, jubilation, and food to please the crowd.
SPOR KLÜBÜ – 28.08.2018
Once inside SPOR KLÜBÜ, long dark blue curtains divide the Wedding streets from Ira Schneider’s work. A two-and-a-half hour screening gathers part of his life-long work: from an afternoon by the sea with Jean-Luc Godard, Wim Wenders and others, to water-like, sinuous, and colourful abstract forms, to the recording of 1969 and 1994 Woodstock festivals. The succession of different videos transports me to a comfortable place where no script-imposed narrative has to be followed. These recordings show what other eyes have seen, while letting space for your own inner, quiet monologue to unfold. I step through the blue curtains onto the street with an imagined conversation between two Woodstock lovers in mind.
tête – 29.08.2018
During this evening, we are presented neither with finished works, nor fixed answers. Far from that, the five participating artists have been asked to select objects that have in some ways been an inspiration to their work. The selection varies from tools, to a torn out page from a calendar. Importantly, the objects are accompanied by texts, which make sense of this obscure treasure chest. For example, they transform a simple pencil holder into a memory about a grandfather who saw value in the smallest of things – even a tiny pencil, too used up to be held by fingers anymore.
meantime projects – 30.08.2018
The last trip of this one-month journey of the Project Space Festival takes place inside a bus, which drives us through the streets of Berlin. A short story, a video, and a performance are hosted in this double-decker, while the rain pours down on the city. It makes me think of childhood days, of driving in the car, being protected from the rain, while someone in the driver’s seat is in charge of everything. This warm space in motion offers a view of the city through its windows, a constant moving image onto which each passenger can project their own stories and fantasies.