Interview by Ernela Vukaj // Aug. 15, 2019
‘When We Open Every Window’ is the new solo exhibition by artist GeoVanna Gonzalez at gr_und Project Space. Gonzalez, who is based in both Miami and Berlin, is interested in producing alternative environments through her interdisciplinary practice, spanning across sculpture, painting, installation and video. Her work focuses on connecting private and public spaces through interventionist and participatory art. She is a member of feminist / queer art collective Coven Berlin and the founder of Supplement Projects, an arts space based in her own home in Miami.
‘When We Open Every Window’ explores structures and the mechanisms of the mind through the use of grids and lines. The exhibition displays a colourful representation of Gonzalez’s great grandmother’s house in Inglewood, Los Angeles, through an open cube. Gonzalez invites audiences to step inside her private space and make themselves comfortable in her home. The exhibition is personal and nostalgic, conjuring shared moments between friends and strangers. You are welcome to look through the windows and sit on the grey stoop, which is covered in the visible footprints of the dancing visitors at the block party-style opening. The white cube gallery space is transformed into a place of familiarity and sentimentality, all the while commenting on how our memories are shaped and how they would look if they were physical and tangible.
The second half of the piece is a large, grey PVC window installation opposite the house. The almost transparent material allows you to look through the window and at the house, as if you live in that community. The use of PVC alludes to homes that have been built quickly and cheaply to house lower income families, making the exhibition feel like a social commentary on the class divide in the US. Although the use of bright colours for the house adds an element of lightheartedness to the exhibition, this blurry, obtrusive window acts as a reminder that sometimes our memories are distorted and our communities aren’t always simply about colourful block parties.
The exhibition’s accompanying programme includes a poetry reading, as well as a stick & poke tattoo session, done by Gonzalez herself as well as Miami-based artist Angel Garcia and Berlin-based artist Anna Frick. This September, Gonzalez will also be hosting ‘Annex,’ an extension of the artist’s Berlin Art Week exhibition titled ‘Confined spaces.’ The event will include a live performance by a guest artist and a talk.
Ernela Vukaj: Your work is very personal and often invites viewers to experience aspects of your private life. Why is this kind of intimacy important for your practice?
GeoVanna Gonzalez: I like to think my work is like an opportunity for a collective ‘bringing,’ so starting with the personal is a way for people to connect. It is inevitable, in some way. We will all have some things in common and share those moments. We all have these memories of our families and friends; even though they can be quite different, there are also similarities within them.
Also, it’s about seeing how art can be utilised as a tool. How can we have deeper discussions? I think in a white cube structure we are always quite hesitant in a lot of ways. Not everybody feels welcomed in these spaces. So I’m really thinking about the proximity of private and public space and how they are being used, and how can I turn them on their heads.
EV: Can you tell us about your involvement with Coven Berlin?
GG: I have been a member of Coven for the last five or six years. Coven has been, in some way, a very caring and nurturing collective that has always been there specifically during my time living here in Berlin. They invite me for programs they do as well as exhibitions, so it’s more of a participatory involvement. They are like a family for me here in Berlin.
EV: You started Supplement Projects in your own backyard as a way to show that everybody should have and can have access to art. How has this had an impact on your community?
GG: It’s been an amazing journey. There have been a lot of people who have said to me personally that they have been waiting for a space like this. That’s not something that I necessarily thought about, per se. I knew that it was something that had been missing or could be utilised by my local community, but thinking of it in a wider spectrum, it’s been taken really well. It is inside my home, it’s in my backyard, so in some way it opens up a door for people who don’t feel so comfortable within a white cube space, museum space or institutionalised space to come and engage with art and meet people, learn and exchange. I think it has had a really strong impact and has been taken really well within my community in Miami.
EV: Do you think all artists have a responsibility to their communities?
GG: I think more so if you are opening up a space within a community, then yes you have some form of responsibility to know who your neighbours are, to know the people who have been a staple in the community. A lot of the people in these communities have fought quite hard to make it a safer place for their families and kids. To come in and take space and not acknowledge them is to take away from that in some way. So I do think there is some form of responsibility if you are starting a project space or artisan space to really consider the community around you. For instance, for each event that I have, I go around and personally invite all of my neighbours to come and participate or hang out.
Exhibition and Performance Info
GR_UND PROJECT SPACE
GeoVanna Gonzalez: ‘When We Open Every Window’
Exhibition: Aug. 04–24, 2019
GeoVanna Gonzalez, Angel Garcia, Anna Frick: ‘fragments and fractures of recollection’
An evening with stick and poke tattoos: Aug. 19, 2019, 6-10pm
Alizée Lenox, Coco Fitterman, Jesse Darling: ‘Finissage’
Poetry reading: Aug. 24, 2019, 6-10pm
GeoVanna Gonzalez: ‘Annex’
Performance: Sept. 12, 2019; 6-10pm
Seestraße 49, 13347 Berlin, click here for map