Berlin’s Tape Club closed its doors last month on the Heide Strasse location it has occupied for several years – an area that the club, together with a number of galleries, helped liven up. Though still somewhat of a no man’s land largely referred to as “the area behind Hauptbahnhof,” rumour has it that the vacant lot will soon be turned into a luxury residential area. It was therefore only fitting that Tape Club’s final exhibition in their series of legendary one night art shows ensued by arty parties, Tape Modern, was centered on the theme of maturity, the city’s very own coming of age serving as a backdrop. As the club already left its Heide Strasse premises, the show was held at an off-location on Moll Strasse 1 – an address that also symbolizes the city’s changing landscape and histories, as it used to be the headquarters of the GDR’s only news agency, the ADN. Located diagonally across from Soho House, the building will soon house Berlin’s first Standard Hotel. Sleek talked to co-curator Ana Finel Honigman inside the former ADN Newsroom turned club.
Sleek: Why did you decide on “maturity” as your exhibition theme?
AFH: I’ve been ruminating on the definition of adulthood for a while lately. It seems that people and communities experience the same transitional tensions between growing old and growing up. For individuals and communities, there is a real authority and power to being perceived as cool, sexy and youthful. Exchanging that for the stability, security and structure of conventional adulthood can be difficult. It can also be fraught with real self-doubt. Berlin is still internationally perceived as the perfect prelapsarian playground but it is changing. Actually, the gentrification is already so deeply entrenched that it’s nostalgic to keep commenting on the new manifestations of it. Personally, I’m a little heart-broken seeing the graffiti get covered in peachy paint on Torstrasse. So, I decided to curate a show that asked a group of my and Amir’s favorite artists to comment on their personal definition of “maturity” and its meaning.
Sleek: How does the temporary TAPE space relate to your theme?
AFH: It relates perfectly by embodying a cautionary caveat to everything Berlin’s youthful freedom represents. We hung all the work in completely typical offices. The fluorescent lighting, textured milky white ceiling panels, white walls and dull carpet represent oppressive, numbing, stultifying office environments throughout the world. Those banal rooms could be located in Ohio, Seoul or Slough, where the UK’s “The Office” is based. Placing the art there makes the offices themselves almost become like a set for the work to act against. In a city with Berlin’s accessible standard of living, few artists can survive without day-jobs. Many work in similar offices during their workweek and scramble to create when they can. Those types of offices are also the locations associated with the worst, repressive aspects of “growing up.”
Sleek: So, is the art rebelliously squatting in the offices’ space?
AFH: In a sense, it is. It’s occupying it before offices like it occupy the artists’ lives.
Sleek: Were you surprised by the artists’ takes on the theme?
AFH: Actually, I was enormously surprised and excited by the variety of responses. I assumed that most people would address universal milestones, like parenthood or even a move abroad. But most of the artists responded more abstractly. All the work was rich and wonderful but the piece that moved me most was a trio of sculptures by the extraordinary Latvian artist, Kristine Alksne. She created subtly captivating topographical peaks from the carved pages of books placed on concrete and metal plinths. These haunting, understated sculptures will be shown in the Moscow Biennial and have already been at Riga’s leading arts festival. At TAPE, I think they poetically represented the value of personal scholarship or education in shaping our identities and ability to transcend drab, alienating, depersonalized urban routines. Angela Liosi’s enchanting drawing and midnight-colored velvet sculpture express a similar sense of accumulated personal depth. The drawing is one in an extended Surrealist series, in which Liosi depicts the exposed, oddly-shaped surface of a rock located in the ocean near Greece. Each work in the series has the same beginning portrait of the rock structure but the depths beneath the water are all different. Some are whimsical, whereas others are dark and sinister. The series represents the wealth of potential psychological depth supporting our superficial selves. Both artists do a really beautiful job of representing maturity, not as a rupture between youth and age, but as a gradual and profound evolutionary process. It’s the most exciting and rewarding image of maturity and its potential to keep the best aspects of ourselves fresh, while developing into interesting new identities.
Tape Modern No. 26 RIPE – the final exhibition
Curated by Ana Finel Honigman and Amir Fattal
Participating artists: Kristine Alksne | Awst-Walther | Bram Braam | Maxime Ballesteros | Cecile B Evans | Amir Fattal | Carly Fischer | Thea Gregorius | Alison Jackson | Michelle Jezierski | Angela Liosi | Liav Mizrahi | Matthew Cyr Morrocco | Jennifer Oellerich | Leila Pazooki | Javier Peres | Jen Ray | Hannes Ribarits | Sameer reddy | Judy Ross | Victoria Roth | Maya Schweizer | Emmy Skensved | Philipp Topolovac