The Flux of Space: Berlin’s Project Space Festival

Ally Bisshop

When I made my annual pilgrimage to Sydney earlier this year, it coincided with Art Month Sydney – of course a celebration of, and chance for visceral engagement with, the Sydney art scene, but also, for me, a reconnoiter of sorts, an opportunity to redraw the map of Sydney gallery and exhibition spaces.

What that cartographic exercise pointed to, of course, is the fluidity and dynamism of the Sydney art scene. Some of the familiar galleries had fallen off the map, others (Firstdraft, Chalk Horse) had moved, a shifting of the physical architecture of space, which in turn, feeds back in some way upon the art that it exhibits. Exciting new spaces had popped up, like 107 Projects in Redfern. Given the changes, I felt at first like an outsider, until I took the time to pause and recognise that the same dynamism of exhibition spaces is true of my home city, Berlin, and likely duplicated in cities across the globe – prompted in turns by opportunity, growth, retraction, and (financial) precocity.

die raum 2011 0007 henriette heise: darkness machines — dormant (photography by Jan Windszus)

die raum 2011 0007 henriette heise: darkness machines — dormant (photography by Jan Windszus)

In August of this year, Berlin is hosting the inaugural, month-long Project Space Festival, a celebration and slow revealing of the geography and rich diversity of the project space landscape. In a month when the city is often abandoned to summer vacationers -or at least has a paucity of art events, this festival will give the opportunity to 30 selected project spaces in Berlin to showcase their unique and idiosyncratic approaches, and highlight their contribution to the Berlin art scene. Participants include the spatially economic 5metre2 die raum exhibition space, the nomadic Note On which temporarily parasitizes different sites for its exhibitions, and NuN, which requires you to enter by climbing through a ground floor window.

Within the scope of this festival, it is the spaces themselves which are foregrounded, as a way of attending to their impact on the way that art is received and attended to, within the broader context of the larger galleries and museum spaces in Berlin. Each of the participating project spaces is given a 24-hour period in which to stage an ‘event’ of sorts which speaks to their particular creative vision, and which draws out their personal face. The festival directors encouraged a light approach from the project spaces, and they have responded in kind, with a range of events planned, including performances, community dinners and cooking experiments, and walking tours.

NuN Feburary 2013 Matthew Murphy and Jens Nippert (Photography by Pierre-Etienne Morelle)

NuN Feburary 2013 Matthew Murphy and Jens Nippert (Photography by Pierre-Etienne Morelle)

When I chatted with one of the festival Co-Directors—ex-Sydney curator Lauren Reid—she also spoke to the process of identifying spaces for participation in the festival as having revealed that shift and flux in the landscape; discovering that spaces they had sought to include no longer existed, and in turns uncovering new, emergent spaces. Neither does the festival intend to disguise this dynamism (and potential precarity) of the project space scene, recognising that it perhaps gives something of the energy and vibrancy to these spaces, and is a potential force for innovation and creative approaches.

As an inaugural exercise, it’s one that the Project Space Festival directors hope will continue, and which will, by necessity, showcase a different set of spaces in each of its subsequent iterations. It feels like an important mission – and I’m looking forward to seeing how it unfolds.

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