Nothing better than starting a New Year looking back at the previous one, to learn from our successes and our mistakes.
Here’s a very good review of last year by Frieze that has published a 6-parts series of highlights of 2012 and reasons to be cheerful in 2013, as chosen by its editors and contributors. A very good reading for a very good start.
New York, New Blog
It has been 5 months since we left Berlin and 3 months since Mazen moved its core operations to the US. Three months of radio-silence. But also three months in which we’ve been working hard to give Mazen a new structure, still keen to pursuit our only goal – that is, to produce, curate and support artistic projects around the world.
The fronts we are currently working on are growing in number, scale and international reach (from Milan – where our Partner Francesca is working on projects for kids - to Singapore, where Mazen’s artistic director Lorenzo settled down to take care of Asian opportunities), but New York City is becoming more and more the new hot front of all our operations.
It took a while to familiarize with the new environment, but now Mazen’s Chief Curator Nicola has found a stable working space and the projects on his schedule are piling up (including an art drive-in in Chelsea, a symposium at the ICP and a charity event that might end up at the Louvre). In order to tell the story of all the meetings, the projects and the exhibitions that Nicola and Mazen are working on in the Big Apple, we decided to create a new blog on purpose, called Mazen Atlantic. Keep following us there!
A new home, but in the same spirit. We keep on building bridges (now even over the Atlantic Ocean).
After three intensive and exciting months, it’s time for us to leave Berlin and go back working from Milan, where Mazen’s HQ is. A blog post is definitely not enough to thank all the people - the friends, the professionals - that we’ve met along the way in this beautiful incredible city.
But for sure the biggest “thank you” goes to the Node Center that allowed us to conceive and create several art projects in many different contexts. We’re sure that we are going to find ways to collaborate again in the near future with many of our new friends. And we’re pretty sure that we’re going to fly back to Berlin very often: there’s energy along the Spree that we haven’t found in any other place in the world.
In the meantime, here’s a picture of us with some of the artists and the curators that we met, posing in front of the entrance of the Fichte-Bunker, where one of our major exhibition in town took place (it was also part of the official program of the 7th Berlin Biennale!).
We are not good at goodbyes, but – once again – thank you ALL from the deep of our heart. And see you soon…
Faraway, So Close!
“Seven days is a long time”, used to sing the Uriah Heep. But here at Berlin’s Node Center, next Wednesday seems so close right now… Yes, because our forthcoming exhibition at Ficthebunker is opening on April 25th!
Funny thing: “Faraway, So Close!” is also the title of the exhibition itself. Not just as a reference to Wim Wenders’ delicate film on two angels walking the streets of Berlin (or to the beautiful song that U2 wrote for the film), but mainly as a metaphor for the gap between external and internal experience and for the journey that visitors will be invited to undertake in the bunker – from the faraway outside reality to the deep and very close internal experience of our inner self (or the other way round, depending on where you enter the space).
Yesterday, most of the artists included in the exhibition joined us for a “field trip” to the bunker, to start reasoning on the setting up that will take place this Sunday. Here, the curators had the chance to discuss more in depth the concept of the exhibition with the artists, and to reason about the artworks that we’ve chose to embody the discourse. There were good vibes running all around and a general excitement for what has been a challenging adventure that is now getting tangible.
We strongly believe that this is going to be a great exhibition. Almost everything is in its right place, even if there’s still a lot of work to do, in a very short time. But as Willem Dafoe aka Emit Flesti says in Wenders’ Faraway, so close!, “if you’re gentle, your time is gentle”. Because in the end, “we are the creators of time, the victims of time and the killers of time”.
Assignment Berlin - Introducing The Bunker
Back from Paris and back to work. As promised, it’s now time to take a first, quick look at the theme and the location of our final exhibition with the Node Center!
First of all, some details: it’s going to be a group exhibition, developed in association with Grimmuseum, and it will occur between April 25th and May 2nd inside the gorgeous Kreuzberg’s Ficthebunker, a beautiful nineteenth-century gasometer turned into air-raid shelter in WWII and now “vacant”.
For this unique space, the whole team of resident curators at Node, including Mazen’s Nicola Ricciardi, has developed a concept around the question: “Why would we, living in a contemporary world, need a bunker?”
The curators started reasoning about the information bombardment that we’re all under and about how, as human beings, we attempt to consume as much of this information as possible with the fear of being left behind, but fail to pause and grasp the gravity of things. Therefore, if we want to unwrap for a moment the “shiny package” of routine, and question the meaning of it, we would face the need for a space, secluded enough to allow ourselves to focus on the deeper questions of our habitat: a bunker, precisely.
The Fichte Bunker, in this sense, becomes a space where to explore the gap between external reality and internal experience, a place juxtaposed but not separated from the world around. In the idea of the curators, the intimacy of the bunker provides a moment of seclusion, an opportunity to meet with particular questions, and slow down to take the time to think them over - before going back to interact with the outside world.
Over the last week, Node’s curators have been brainstorming intensively on the artworks that could address this topic and fit the unique space in a meaningful way. Now we are all working closely with many artists resident in Berlin and we willl keep you posted on all the developments.
For the time being, just circle with a red pencil this day in your caldendar: Wednesday, April 25th – Opening day!
Assignment Berlin - Day 50
It has been a really intensive couple of weeks, first with the interview for the “Conversation with Alice” project, then with the opening of the first exhibition in Berlin curated by Mazen’s Chief Curator Nicola Ricciardi (together with our close friend Roberta Pagani) and then with an intensive brainstorm about our final show with Node Center (…that will take place in a bunker)!
For the outcome of the interview, you’ll have to wait till May 8th (we will present it at Altes Finanzamt, in Schönstedtstraße 7, Berlin), but about the exhibition that opened last Friday at GlogauAIR you can find a lot of pictures and a beautiful video on our facebook page and on Mazen’s updated website.
We’ve decided to dedicate to the brainstorm on the bunker a whole post, that we’ll draft over the weekend. In the meantime, it’s time for us to take a little break and grasp a refreshing pause in a very refreshing city: Paris!! And maybe, if we’re lucky enough and in the mood, right after midnight we might have a close encounter with Picasso, Dali or one of their friends, because, in Woody Allen’s word, “can you imagine this town in the ’20s? Paris in the ’20s, in the rain. The artists and writers!”.
So, au revoir mes amis! See you again on Monday…
Assignment Berlin - Another wrap-up
The last 5 days here in Berlin has been dedicated to a special curatorial project that Nicola is developing together with another resident curator at Node Center – Carolina Jimenez, from Spain. Scope of the project is to research on site-specific art, public interventions and the way artists deal with space.
To do so, the two curators decided to leverage an unique space (the ‘greenhouse’ we blogged about a month or so ago) to stimulate a debate, asking artists to held a conversation/interview on this topic with or within the greenhouse itself. Thanks to the priceless help of two professional filmmakers - Alessandro Pinferetti and Mattia Dal Bello - these conversations have been filmed, and the final, edited video will be presented during a public talk at Altes Finanzamt, in Neukolln, on May 8th (we think that the engagement of the public is fundamental to enrich this dialogue).
Since every artist deals with space and with commissioned art in a different way, there have be no fixed scheme for the conversations, and the curators really left the freedom to every artist to choose the way they want to dialogue. It was also a good way to capture a glimpse of the “creative momentum” that leads an artist to conceive and create a site specific intervention and to reason about artistic approaches and researches regarding space.
The artists invited to join the conversation include Riccardo Previdi, who - speaking on behalf of his collective Super! - told us its experience with commissioned and public art; Mario Asef, pictured above, who used the space to reason about important and urgent social issues; Tinka Bechert, that preciously helped us in focusing on what doing public interventions in a city like Berlin means; Felix & Mumford, that approached the assignment in a very particular (and powerful) way (‘the Felix & Mumford way’ – you’ll have to wait for the final cut to see this).
It was hard work but also a lot of fun, and the team ‘played ball’ perfectly! Maybe also because is part of Node’s (and Mazen’s) spirit to mix serious work and serious fun. Like we did on Friday, when Node’s director Perla Montelongo prepared both for the resident curators and the visiting filmmakers a gorgeous ‘Mexican Night’ featuring tons of tortillas and hyper-spice sauces. !Qué deliciosa!
Assignment Berlin - Day 33
The day started with another brunch (yes, another..), this time in good company with the artists currently in residence at GlogauAIR. This is a beautiful, modernist-style building that was designed to be a school and that today is an art hub - thanks to the work of Spanish artist Chema Alvargonzález that in 2006 turned the old classrooms into 10 studios where artists from diverse social and geographical backgrounds can find a place to develop their works in an environment of coexistence, exchange of ideas and internationalization. All set in a very comfortable and familiar setting.
After breakfast, this big and friendly “family of artists” took us upstairs, in their own studios, where we had the opportunity to see the playful and colorful analog collages by Chilean artist Virginia Echeverria; the paintings by Caetlynn J. Booth inspired by the work of German artist Adam Elsheimer; the engaging illustrated journey of Belgian artis Stefaan Van Hyfte; the captivating photographs and visual works- inspired by Oriental philosophies -made by American artist Grace Kim; the intriguing drawing by Patricia March that “turns the flash of time into the representation of a life”; the delicate image projections of Korean artist Yi Kyung Cho; the small sculptures and the paper creations of GlogauAIR’s only “permanent resident” Kuno Ebert; the smart and sagacious analysis of human behaviors and present history emerging from Diamantis Sotiropoulos’ drawings.
The best way to get a taste of this rainbow of arts, practices and messages is to come here for the Open Studios party that takes place at GlogauAIR every three months. And you’re very lucky because the next one is due in less than two weeks: March 30 and 31.
It would be also a good opportunity to take a look at the work of two of the most interesting artists currently in residence (that were absent today) – Samantha Donnely and Leo Basky – whose artworks will also take part in a special exhibition supported by Mazen and curated by Nicola that is opening at GlogauAIR on Friday, 31st. We’ll be sending out the official invitations for the opening party soon!
Assignment Berlin - Weekend wrap-up 4
It has been a looong weekend with a peculiar focus: abstractionism. It all started on Friday morning (I told you it was a “looong” weekend), when Nicola and another fellow curator from Node Center – Kordula Fritze – had a really pleasant breakfast with artist Mario Asef (we blogged about him a couple of days ago and we are already sure that we’re gonna blog about him again in the near future..).
We sat in the sun (yes, the sun! It’s almost spring here in Berlin) at a very nice Weinerei in Mitte and just talked about abstract art – a topic that have interested Mario for a long time (above you can see one of his “intervention” on the subject, currently on the ceiling of his own studio). We started with Duchamp’s fountain and ended discussing about the finacial crisis – touching a variety of crucial arguments such as the social role of the artist today, the influence of the gallery business on independent creativity and the eternal struggle between forms and codes in art. This mind-opening discussion really laid the foundations for a project that might see the light this summer in Berlin. Nothing is sure yet, but we’ll keep you posted on that as usual.
But as previously said, abstractionism was the main theme not only for Friday morning but for the whole weekend: as a matter of fact, spending some time catching up on the art magazines that are piling up on our desks, we found this very interesting piece featured on Frieze that asks: “What does the term ‘abstraction’ mean to non-figurative painters working today?” . To answer the question, Christopher Bedford, Chief Curator of Exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts, has spoken to five different artists: Tomma Abts, Tauba Auerbach, Matt Connors (pictured above), Charline von Heyl and Bernd Ribbeck (pictured below). “There is a dissonance between the directness of their work and the fuzzier set of interests and objectives that ‘abstraction’ suggests”, writes Bedford. “None of these painters seem interested in spirituality as a social idea or abstraction as a historical category, but they share a real belief in the metaphysical properties of work, materials, process and practice, a kind of secular faith in the possibilities of non-objective image-making. “
We concluded this “abstract weekend” by reading some excerpt form one of Nicola’s favorite book on the subject (actually, it is not a book on abstraction or abstract art, but it touches some key points on the evolution of this practice): “Conceptual Art” by Tony Godfrey. Conversations like the one we’ve had and books and articles like the one we’ve this weekend read really underline that, today, abstractionism is not anachronistic as many critics argue – but its forms and codes must be rethought to fit in our times.
Assignment Berlin - Day 28
The day started with a pleasant surprise: when I walked through the door of Node this morning, I wasn’t expecting to find the studio literally crowded with people drinking coffee, flipping pancakes, frying eggs and having bread with jelly. It took me a couple of minutes to remember that a “networking breakfast” was scheduled for the day.
It was all thanks to ArtConnect Berlin, that once a month gathers artists, designers and other creative people to share their ideas and expand their networks. The breakfast has also been an opportunity to hear two interesting stories. First comes the tale of Finding Berlin, a project that – in the words of its founders – “started out as a one-man project and grew over the time within a circle of friends” and that now works as “a personal tour guide, a visual diary, an actual tourism business and a network of people who love travelling within Berlin and outside.” The best way to get the sens of what they’re doing is really to listen them speaking about this city and its hidden treausers or untold stories. If you don’t have the luck to meet Sara, Maria, Thomas, Matze and the rest of the team in person, the best way to get a taste of Finding Berlin is simply by exploring their catchy blog (or by booking one of their alternative “Finding Berlin Tours”).
The second interesting story we heard this morning is the story of four Canadian artists that came to Berlin with a particular dream: to create the first public access hot glass studio in Berlin. Founded in August 2009, Berlin Glas e.V. is a non-profit association open to give artists (and non) the opportunity to work with hot glass – and this include classes, rentals, kids projects and much more. Their space at the Parkhaus on Strassburger Strasse is equipped with a melt-furnace and re-heating station and many more glassmaking equipment. At the moment I’m blogging their website is down – probably due to too many access after the networking breakfast… - but you can get a lot of info and pics on the project on their indiegogo page (btw, they managed to collect over $17,000 with that - congrats!).
After this HUGE brunch, in the afternoon we walked down Kreuzberg to visit a studio shared by two very interesting artist from Northern Europe. Let’s start with Kim Westerström. After having earned a MFA in photography at the University of Goteborg, Sweden, Kim moved to Berlin partly due a residency at GlogauAIR (Yes, our friends! Btw, quick reminder: Nicola is curating an exhibition there on March 30, don’t miss it!). His delicate artworks really captivated us: his sculpture, stills, audio installations evoke faded memories, create interesting loops with the past and generally emanate the homely sense of time of a childhood Polaroid. We really liked his work and the stories beneath each pieces – and we’ll write again about him on this blog in the forthcoming weeks.
In the meantime, let’s talk about another talented artists from Scandinavia: Ingvild Kaldal. Kim and Ingvild not only share the same studio, but they also share an interest in the past: family memories are, for example, a sub-trace of her interest in museums (as you can also get from this interview), which constitute one of the main source of inspiration of her work. This almost tender attention to the sense of history is also shaping some of her next pieces, and the evidences of this feeling are scattered all around her studio in the form of found metal objects that have been somehow remodeled by their own rust. Funny story about this: to continue her pursuit for “hidden treasure” Ingvild is joining a “metal detecting club”. We didn’t know they existed, but after some google research we discover there’s even a National Council of Metal Detecting in the UK… And if you’re interested in joining one, we even found a list of the top 50 clubs in the world. As we’ve already said in a previous post, sometimes a dive into the past can be inspiring.