More often than not, an art event asks us to attend to the artworks on display, and notice the particular inflection, ideas and language of the exhibiting artist. Within this fairly normative viewing relationship, the unique style and perspective that the exhibition space contributes tends to rest, almost invisibly, in the background.
The inaugural Project Space Festival taking place in Berlin this summer is an attempt to foreground the idiosyncratic, experimental and innovative approaches of individual project spaces in Berlin, and highlight their contribution to the circulation and reception of art.
I spoke about the ideas behind the event with one of the festival’s Co-Directors, Lauren Reid, who – along with the other festival directors Nora Mayr and Marie Graftieaux – is also involved with a relatively new project space on Kurfürstenstraße called insitu, from which the concept of the Project Space Festival grew.
The festival concept came out of an observation of the inventiveness and vibrancy of the project space landscape in Berlin, and a desire to build relationships and creative networks between the different spaces. Importantly – and perhaps what sets this festival apart – is its ambition to provide a mechanism for making visible the many and varied approaches these spaces take to their curatorial programs, within the particular geography of the city of Berlin itself.
The desire of the festival is not to curate or thematize the content of each of the participating spaces, rather to provide a platform for the celebration of their differences, and for each of the spaces to communicate their unique and idiosyncratic profiles, outlooks, architecture, and approach.
The 2014 Project Space Festival will run for the entire month of August, which is often short on art events, as everyone takes a summer pause. For the festival, thirty different project spaces in Berlin will each be allocated a 24-hour period in which to curate and stage an event that expresses their unique voice. Each of the project spaces is entirely free to use and direct this time in a way that best fits their particular profile, architecture, and ideology. In the interests of maintaining a focus on the spaces themselves, the content or form of each event will only be released one week prior to the event. The festival will culminate on the final day of the month with a joint celebration among the participating spaces.
The project spaces participating in the festival are a mix of younger, more formative spaces, and larger, established ones, with a variety of curatorial approaches and considerations. In 2014, these will include insitu, the 5m2 die raum space on Oderberger Strasse, NuN‘s window-accessible space in Neukölln, the diasporic Note On, and the SOX vitrine in Kreuzberg. The process of identifying spaces for inclusion proved interesting, as the festival organisers uncovered both the closure of spaces they had sought to include, and exciting new spaces they hadn’t yet heard of. This only points to the dynamism, fluidity, and perhaps even precarity of the project space landscape. The Project Space Festival does not intend to mask this precarity. Indeed, it can often serve as a motivating force which pushes spaces and exhibition methods into new and surprising directions.
In keeping with the easy summer vibe, the festival organisers are encouraging light approaches from the participating project spaces, which reflect the ambit and particular bias of each space. The spaces have responded in kind with a range of playful ideas, including (but not limited to!) dinners, food projects, and community walking tours.
Certainly, the Project Space Festival is not asking us to discard the content of what is being presented at each site, but is asking that within the act of attending to the works, we allow a parallel consideration of the inventiveness or approach of the exhibition space itself.
The insitu team hopes that this year’s festival will be the start of a continuing project, with a view to staging the festival every year, and each time showcasing a different set of project spaces. The Project Space Festival website, in turn, will become an archive of sorts, or at least a reference point for understanding and mapping the changing landscape of project spaces in Berlin, and championing their independent voices.
More information about the Project Space Festival:
Participating Project Spaces:
after the butcher, Agora, Apartment Projec, Archive Kabinett, Autocenter, Berlin-Weekly, Center, Centrum, die raum, District, Espace Surplus, General Public, Grimmuseum, Import Projects, insitu, Kinderhook & Caracas, Kleine Humboldt Galerie, Kreuzberg Pavillon, LAGE EGAL, L40, LEAP, NOTE ON, NuN, OZEAN, Secondary Narratives, Sonntag, SOX, tête, uqbar, ZK/U