Anna-Lena Werner on contemporary art in Berlin
23 apr 2014 by Ashton Chandler
Ashton Chandler interviews Anna-Lena Werner, founder and editor-in-chief of Artfridge.de. Ashton speaks to the PhD candidate about her current research project, the contemporary art in Berlin, and how studying art theory has changed her perspective of viewing art.
AC: You founded the contemporary art blog Artfridge.de in 2010. Can you tell me more about the blog, starting with how it came about?
ALW: I started artfridge.de during my studies in London, after realising that I had collected a massive amount of photos and notes from the exhibitions that I had visited. So I thought I could just as well open this archive to the public. After moving back to Berlin, I continued and gathered a small, international team of writers for artfridge. At present we mostly post about exhibitions, degree shows and art fairs, and we developed a major focus on interviews with outstanding emerging artist and curators. It is important to me that we always keep a balance between the established and the up-and-coming so that younger artists can profit from this platform, too.
Julian Charriere, "We are all astronauts aboard a little spaceship called earth".
AC: I understand you are now working in a cooperative research project between Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart - Berlin, Freie Universität Berlin and Dahlem Humanities Center. Can you explain more about this project and your involvement, as well as the collaboration between these institutions?
ALW: I am co-coordinating the research project “Black Mountain – Teaching and Learning as Performative Arts”. It is dedicated to the former art school Black Mountain College – which existed from 1933-56 in North Carolina – as a possible model of contemporary creative production. The school foregrounded the education of the whole person within a community of creative people and established a very liberal idea of cooperation, interdisciplinary projects and most of all: time to be creative. Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart - Berlin will present the exhibition “Black Mountain – Explorations of Creativity” in summer 2015, and on this occasion the museum, Freie Universität Berlin and Dahlem Humanities Center develop a collaboration for a period of three years.
Gabriele Beveridge, "I'd Tell You If I Knew", 2013.
AC: You’ve curated exhibitions at Savvy Contemporary Berlin and Auf AEG in Nuremberg. What was your curatorial approach to these exhibitions and do you have any upcoming projects in which you’re curating?
ALW: It's not really possible for me to summarise a curatorial approach for different shows, as each show was based on very different processes and strategies. In the beginning of this year, Lars Bjerre, Anneli Botz and I founded the curatorial collective Point Project and did a show at a formerly abandoned high-rise building from the DDR time in Berlin-Mitte, including an old cinema. Our exhibition presented six different artistic strategies of creating, reflecting or opposing 'Illusionary Spaces' within the rational architecture. This was a great test run for us and we are certainly planning to continue our collaboration.
Fatma Bucak, "Blessed are you who come – Solida Fundamenta", 2012.
AC: Where are your go-to places for contemporary art in Berlin? You mentioned in another interview (with ArtConnect Berlin) that “Berlin is certainly not the center of the art market” - how then would you describe what is happening there in terms of art?
ALW: Berlin has many commercial galleries exhibiting fantastic contemporary art from all over the world. This is an advantage for everyone who lives here or who visits the city. But as far as I can tell, many of these galleries settled in Berlin for reasons of presence, participation and clearly low rents. The sales mostly happen at fairs or their other locations. Here, the galleries often rent prestigious, massive spaces, enabling them to present the art like in a museum, and even site-specific. Many of them are now located around Schöneberg, Kreuzberg and in-between. These are definitely to-go areas. But Berlin has, besides several contemporary art institutions, also a large and interesting scene of project- or artist-run spaces, as for example Savvy Contemporary, Insitu Berlin, Autocenter or General Public. This is where all the up-and-coming artists and curators present their work and where more radical ideas are born.
Samuel Francois, "The Joys of Man 2", 2012.
AC: How has studying art theory changed your perception of viewing art and embracing the art world?
ALW: The more we learn and see, the more biased we approach art. The brain wants to categorise, to conceptualise, to judge, to compare. I guess that's a normal mechanism. Studying the theory of art taught me that I have to forget all theory while looking at art. Theory comes afterwards or before, and sometimes it's useless.
Ulrich Vogl, "OT", 2010.
All images courtesy of the artists.