Berlin Art Week: The numerous counterparts to the institution.

In Berlin, art can be encountered in backyards, shop windows, and pavilions, on billboards, or as audio streams. Artistic project spaces and initiatives bring life to the city’s cultural infrastructure with their spontaneous exhibitions and unconventional actions. These physical, virtual, or nomadic places are where ideas are further developed, discussions are initiated, and friendships are formed.

Zur Art Week laden nun sieben Projekträume, die mit dem seit 2012 jährlich vom Senat vergebenen Project Space Award honoriert wurden, zum Kunst-Parcours ein. Preisträger und Teil des Rundgangs sind: alpha nova & galerie futura, Centrum, DOOM SPA, Horse & Pony/Xanadu, Kotti-Shop, Kreuzberg Pavillon und NEW FEARS.

Der Besuch dieser Projekträume verspricht ein facettenreiches Programm: Kuratiert von Antonie Angerer zusammen mit Heiko Pfreundt und Lisa Schorm zeigt der Kreuzberg Pavillon eine Arbeit der Künstlerin Jing Y: Mit begründete diese ein Projekt, das unter anderen Arbeitsmigrantinnen dabei unterstützt, ihre Erfahrungen in visuelle Erzählungen zu übersetzen. Nicht allzu weit entfernt, am Kottbusser Tor, sind im Kotti-Shop Videoarbeiten in der Schau zu sehen sowie installative Eingriffe im urbanen Umfeld.

In Berlin-Neukölln’s Projektraum Centrum, one of the two operators and curators is presenting her own work for the first time. Rachel Monosov collaborated with opera singer Julia Shelkovskaia and dancers Camilla Brogaard and Rachell Clark for this project. Through her performative installation, Monosov sheds light on how geopolitical power struggles are fought through control over land and resources.

Mit der Schau widmet sich der Weddinger Projektraum NEW FEARS toten Hypes. Entgegen der heutigen Schnelllebigkeit werden Themen, die einmal für viel Begeisterung gesorgt haben, in dieser Gruppenausstellung erneut zum Material. Auch die Besucher:innen sind eingeladen, eine Manifestation eines persönlichen Hypes aus der Vergangenheit für eine performative Beerdigung am Donnerstag, 14. September um 20 Uhr mitzubringen. July Weber und Emilio Cordero Checa zeigen dort außerdem eine gemeinsam gestaltete Installation.

In the alpha nova & galerie futura in Alt-Treptow, there is an exhibition curated by Li Yang featuring works by Cai Yaling, Zhou Yujie, and Magdalena Kallenberger, which explore the theme of feminist motherhood.

Die Jury – bestehend aus Chan Sook Choi, Pauline Doutreluingne, Judith Laub, Max Pitegoff und Steffi Weismann – hat für die Vergabe des Preises Projekträume ausgewählt, die sich nicht nur in ihren thematischen und medialen Schwerpunkten, sondern auch in ihren Arbeitsweisen stark unterscheiden:

Carrick Bell is in charge of the Neuköllner Projektraum Horse & Pony/Xanadu and focuses on moving images. July Weber, on the other hand, brings together artistic voices from dance and performance as part of NEW FEARS. DOOM SPA, initiated by Roseline Rannoch, develops aesthetic and discursive considerations at the intersection of societal politics and technology. In Kreuzberg Pavillon, Heiko Pfreundt and Lisa Schorm challenge mechanisms of conventional exhibitions and provide a space for discussing class issues in visual arts. Rachel Monosov and Jorgina Stamogianni equally give established and young positions a platform at Centrum, allowing their artistic contributions to engage in a dialogue with long-term research projects. The exhibitions at alpha nova & galerie futura, under the direction of Sylvia Sadzinski and Katharina Koch, focus on artistic questions from an emancipatory and feminist perspective.

Definition zwecklos

The two leaders are interested in the combination of art and political engagement. Therefore, they also offer advice on topics such as concept development, application processes, portfolio creation, and regularly organize networking events for women working in the artistic field. Stefan Endewardt and Julia Brunner, along with the Kotti-Shop named after the neighborhood, also strive for interaction with the urban environment and frequently invite people to exhibitions, „stay formats,“ and workshops.

All of these projects demonstrate a variety of organizational and conceptual diversity, once again illustrating how the phenomenon of project spaces defies a definitive definition. As flexible structures for temporary exhibitions, events, and interdisciplinary work, project spaces offer the opportunity to quickly respond to current developments and themes. The flexibility of these places, which evade rigid bureaucratic procedures, establishes their uniqueness compared to galleries and institutions. Positioned consciously apart from the commercial logic of exploitation and hierarchical structures of the art industry, these spaces provide artists and cultural producers with flexible platforms to unfold and experiment without pressure.

July Weber continues this approach and opens NEW FEARS for various artists and theorists as part of a residency program. Weber’s aim is to intertwine theory, reflection, and artistic practice. Additionally, he creates a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community within the space. This integration into local infrastructures and communities distinguishes project spaces.

The operators of Centrum, Stamogianni and Monosov, also emphasize the importance of being part of the social fabric in the airport neighborhood in Berlin-Neukölln. They not only want to establish artistic networks, but also engage in conversations with their immediate community and become even more accessible in the future. However, implementing this plan requires being present on site and dedicating time – time that is often not available due to the necessary paid work alongside the unpaid commitment to the project.

The reality faced by the programmatically independent and ideologically aligned places is one characterized by precarious working conditions, financial insecurity, and gentrification. While the Senate’s recognition of the project space operators‘ activities and initiative is valuable, the future of these spaces remains uncertain. The team at Kreuzberg Pavillon reports on the displacement processes they observe in their immediate neighborhood on Naunynstraße in Kreuzberg.

Unsichere Zukunft

Auch dort werden zunehmend Häuser an große Immobilienkonzerne verkauft. Die immer angespanntere Lage stellt sie vor die Frage, ob und wie sie inhaltlich auf die Situation im Kiez reagieren. Auch July Weber erzählt, dass er NEW FEARS aufgrund fehlender Förderungen und einer sich mittlerweile verdoppelten Miete neu denken muss.

How can long-term and sustainable planning security be ensured without simultaneously restricting the free orientation of project spaces and institutionalizing them? „These issues cannot only be discussed within a single project space, but must also be negotiated on a broader level,“ say Lisa Schorm and Heike Pfreundt, who jointly operate the Kreuzberg Pavilion founded in 2011. Therefore, they are involved in the network of independent Berlin project spaces and initiatives. Since 2019, they have also been organizing the Project Space Festival, which, with its program, provides insights into the artistic and curatorial work of self-organized spaces for over a month each year for a decade.

It is clear that in order for project spaces to continue enriching the (art) discourse as a counterpart to the traditional art scene, there is a need for greater visibility of their achievements and better funding mechanisms. The substantial role of project spaces as autonomous production and negotiation sites for artistic and socio-political issues within the independent art scene is still underestimated. These places directly represent Berlin’s art production and are still open to dreams and experiments. It is important to pay more attention to these small utopias outside of the major art institutions.

Ausstellungsparcours der mit dem Project Space Award 2023 ausgezeichneten Projekträume Eröffnung am 14. September 2023, unterschiedliche Laufzeiten