In conversation with insitu
17 mar 2014 by art:i:curate team
Ashton Chandler interviews the founders of insitu, a non-profit space for contemporary art in the middle of Berlin’s new gallery district of Schöneberg.
AC: In what ways does insitu's programming position itself with cultural, social, and geographical spaces - as the name "insitu" suggests?
NM: For its first year of programming, insitu concentrated on showcasing the actual spaces we as curators come from. This meant a focus on our geographical space- Berlin, on our cultural spaces- the context of our origins in Austria, France and Luxembourg, and on our social spaces in the art world- a young scene of emerging artists and curators.
The name “insitu” reflects our curatorial belief that each individual constantly creates or deconstructs various spaces. In the realm of sociology, space is no longer just defined by parameters of length, height and width, but also by the active relations that we create daily between social commodities and people. In that sense, our curatorial work is always influenced by our individual realities of spaces. The places we've been born in, the spaces we´ve been educated in, the social spaces we’ve created with friends, family and colleagues, as well as the places we would still like to go to.
For our second year we plan on creating new in situ situations ourselves. Our goal is to generate new social spaces and open up to new geographical spaces that are outside of Berlin and which we would love to visit and work with.
Exhibition view, Episode 0: introducing insitu, 2013, Left: Sinta Werner, Measure of Measuring (2013); Right: Ulrich Vogl, Fenster / Rund (2013). Image courtesy of Markus Georg.
AC: Describe insitu's context of Berlin's Schöneberg gallery district. How does its physical position in this district influence the environment at insitu and how do you feel insitu contributes to this district?
GN: In the past several years the area around Potsdamer Straße has developed into a flourishing art gallery district. Art lovers but also art interested passers-by use this opportunity to see as many shows as possible while in that area. However, the concept of a non-profit project space is definitely very different from that of a commercial gallery, which makes us stand out in the neighborhood. Our curated shows have a very conceptual and reflective approach focusing on realities of artists as well as mostly featuring emerging artists. In that sense we believe that we can contribute a younger and probably more discourse oriented program to the gallery district. The artistic positions we present are not meant to be sold but are instead meant to open the audience’s perspective on a certain topic. This is a difference our audience definitely recognises and appreciates.
Exhibition view, Episode 1: rules of attraction, 2013 Left: Pauline Bastard, Sunset (2009); Right: Julian Charrière, Panorama 52° 29' 50.88" N 13° 22' 19.37" E (2011). Image courtesy of insitu.
AC: How does insitu's souterrain space affect curatorial decisions and audience response?
MG: insitu’s souterrain structure, which imposes a slight physical implication upon entering and features protruding pipes and visible heaters, does not quite fit the mold of a typical white cube gallery. For our first exhibition, we decided to highlight these distinguishing elements by selecting three artists, whose practice related to in situ installations, to subtly transform the seeming ‘faults’ of the space into strengths. Our space consists of three rooms with walls of varied lengths, which allows us to tailor our hanging techniques to highlight the potential of each individual artwork. The long white walls of the largest room serve as a sort of vitrine while the compact walls of the smallest room create an intimate viewing chamber. Similarly, the even sized walls of the spacious second room make it ideal for video projections or voluminous individual pieces.
Exhibition view, Episode 2: sabotage, 2013. Left: Mickaël Marchand, One thousand kilos of concrete, four meter long edges and you standing on it (ailleurs les falaises s'effritent)(2013); Right: Panayiotis Michael, Balloon (2013). Image courtesy of insitu.
AC: Can you discuss more in-depth about your six episode exhibition cycle that deal with fundamental questions surrounding the production of art? Will you share highlights from the past shows and current show and what you're planning for episode 6 and beyond for your next exhibition cycle?
MG: Our aim was to analyse some of the questions that artists themselves are confronted with when producing their work as well as highlighting some artistic practices we found specifically interesting. Questions artists deal with could be for example what context the work will be viewed in, who the audience will be, who the other artists they’ll be connected with are, and which realities exist to be integrated into the competitive art market.
Thinking on questions artists deal with we presented "Episode 3: cézanne beats pollocks", which was focused on a crucial part of art production; the reception of the work: on the market, meaning the financial viability as well as the trace a work will leave behind, or in others words how an artwork enters history. Very conscious of those concerns, the artists we picked were playing in the art works with the hierarchical steps of the professional's ascension: bypassing the usually necessary access through gallery or questioning in a self-ironic way the sustainability of art works including their own.
Furthermore we focused on artistic practices that involved specific strategies. “Episode 4: tireless workers” therefore summarised artworks that are devoted to fulfilling absurd, maybe even senseless tasks. Metaphorically these artworks can be described as Sisyphean actions, impressive by their strength to tirelessly continue a task, which most others would probably consider useless: Within the exhibition “Episode 5: in the beginning” we presented artistic positions that use narrative techniques to convey their own interpretation of an existing story or invent a totally new storyline. The exhibition showcased different ways a narrative can be constructed as well as how factors like expectations and curiosity influence our inner need to imagine a possible story.
For our upcoming show "Episode 6: blank page", we will focus on those special moments where the production is not premeditated, when art works are developed from periods of inactivity or boredom. The outcome can be surprising, driven by factors like humor, intuition and unpredictability.
In June 2014 cycle I and the concept of our 6 Episodes will come to an end and with cycle II we will introduce a very new way of curatorial working for us. We plan to curate what we call "frameworks" which means that rather than conceiving exhibitions out of topics, we aim to generate space and time for meetings, collaborations, interactions and to highlight what networking and relationships can produce in their global senses.
Exhibition view, Episode 3: cézanne beats pollock, 2013. Maria Anwander, Untitled (Not All Art Will Go Down In History) (2012). Image courtesy of insitu.
AC: As you just mentioned, your program 'Frameworks' will include exhibitions that will respond directly to each other and will be invited exchanges between different project spaces or curators, or artists' responses to specific situations. Can you tell us more about this program and particular exchanges/situations you are planning?
LR: For our upcoming program cycle II (May 2014 - May 2015) we are taking a new format and planning for insitu to be a catalyst in forming relationships, networks and connections. We are hoping to engage collaboratively to delve deep into both artists’ and our fellow cultural producers’ practice with the aim of discovering what new revelations come out of different perspectives. We will therefore be setting up a series of ‘Frameworks’ that allow for more fluid exchange.
Our introduction to cycle II will be an exhibition firstly of non-art related items such as objects, narratives and case studies that reflect on the nature of network-building and interrelationships. This will act as a prologue to the cycle itself. We will then be exhibiting in the following Framework, artists who also respond to or work within this theme.
Some examples of the types of Frameworks will include a ‘3x3 format’ where we will have three artists and three separate curated exhibitions by different cultural producers of these same artists. For other Frameworks we will be teaming up with project or gallery spaces from diverse locations including Cambodia, France and Singapore for long-distance simultaneous events via, for example, skype. Furthermore, in August we will launch the first Project Space Festival Berlin. For the 31 days of August, 31 project spaces will open their doors to present a new event to the public.
We don’t want to give everything away but for this cycle we are very much hoping to keep an open structure that forms a multi-directional dialogue between artists, curators, audiences, countries, ideas and spaces.
Exhibition view, Episode 3: cézanne beats pollock, 2013. Kimberly Clark, Give me change, Performance, Image courtesy of insitu.
Exhibition view, Episode 4: tireless workers, 2013. Moritz Frei, Divide et impera (2011-13), Image courtesy of insitu.
Exhibition view, Episode 5: in the beginning, 2014. Alexandra Baumgarner, Entreakt (2013), Image courtesy of insitu.
insitu team. Image courtesy of Schall & Schnabel.