By Maria Santos
It was exactly fifty years after the construction of the wall when I got to talk with Lutz Henke (1981), the president of Kunstverein Artitude.
Growing up in a continuously developing background such as Berlin in the nineties, and influenced by its emerging music scene, he started exploring basements and other places to organize concerts, parties and exhibitions along with friends about ten years ago.
Lutz, who holds a Master degree in Cultural Studies and is in charge of all the curatorial work of Artitude, claims to be involved in many other parallel projects. For instance, being part of Olafur Eliasson's Institute for Spatial Experiments during the next winter semester.
The eclectic personality of Lutz is clearly embodied in this former secret storage for corn and apple sauce, which has been holding exhibitions, conferences, concerts, artist talks, and matinée series since November 2002.
“This is not a white cube”, insists Lutz, meaning by that, that art installations have to deal with the unique architectural nature of a 320m² exhibition space full of slides and old machines.
The successful project Planet Prozess required to open several floors of the building and got around twelve thousand visitors in only two weeks.
What were your main goals before starting:
We never defined any major objectives to be achieved. The large majority of people who have been involved in the development and program of our space also grew up in Berlin in the 90ies and therefore share a profound and natural interest in the city, its dynamic and its cultures: from electronic music to graffiti-writing or fine art.
Do you feel the concept has changed/developed with time:
The "Verein" and SRS developed naturally from a group of friends, the possibilities that Berlin offered and what we thought to be fun and necessary at the time. The space was rather our base and headquarters, it always grew together with its players. As we mostly worked at different spaces and places in the city (not only in Berlin) the shows at SRS were mostly temporary, like Planet Prozess in 2007, or rather "in-official", as in the years before. it wasn't before 2009 that we decided to run an exhibition space with a rather constant and directed program.
In what degree you think you got nearer your goals:
It's always been crucial for us to stay flexible and independent (as far as it is possible being involved in the art world). Especially since our program deals with conceptual positions drawing on topics as space, the city and the social sphere. We tried to fill some gaps with sophisticated solo-shows of young contemporary artists producing new - mostly conceptual - pieces.
I think we achieved a lot by filling gaps and supporting upcoming artists.
picture by Laura Gianetti
How did you/do you finance yourself:
We do not finance ourselves at all. Some shows and projects are partially publicly funded as the solo-series "super reactive subjects", which is supported by the Stiftung Kunstfonds. We have some small gains but the biggest part of the budget is earned by us. Mostly by jobbing for "the industry". Sadly, this seems to be the less stressful way to fund projects like ours.
What do you consider essential elements to curating a successful exhibition:
Time & Curiosity
Persistency & Friends
Reflecting upon the time you have been running the space, what would you say you have learned?
Having done every job existing in an art institution, from budgets to press work or technical set up, I guess I have become pretty pragmatic and realistic. It also helps finding out what you are not interested in exhibitions, what are crucial problems with classic exhibitions or what should be overcome. Sometimes the professional view is pretty hard to avoid the professional view on a show and not to look rather how the cables run but to focus on the art.
What is your favourite mainstream galleries/art venues in Berlin, the world:
I like the wealth of the vast institutional collections in Berlin: Staatsbibliothek, Neue Nationalgalerie, Bode Museum, Pergamon... It's a pitty that they cannot be continuously "updated". Moreover the Edition Block, especially if they are revealing treasures from their archives like in "Grafik des Kapitalistischen Realismus", or the current show with editions opening Sept. 9th. There are only few galleries which can surprise with every single show. I am glad that there are increasingly conceptual positions in commercial shows or spaces like KOW.
Where will you and the space be in 5 years:
Closed or institutionalized.
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