Tuesday, December 27, 2011

CO-LAB Editions 5 with Andrés Galeano and Maurice Block

Co-Lab Editions 5: Andrés Galeano (ESP/DE) and Maurice Block (NL/FIN) performing at SAVVY Contemporary
Curator: Marcio Carvalho
Sunday, the 6th of November 2011

Co-Lab Editions No. 5 brought together two performance artists whose different approaches created a space for intellectual dialogue and artistic collaboration. Throughout their performance Andrés Galeano and Maurice Block explored the theme of flight and its potential meanings and usages: the ideal of leaving the ground, the consciousness of falling, and the poetics and politics at stake when seeing the world from above.

Andrés Galeano explored and displayed the transformations and variations taken by a particular shape, specifically a cone-shaped paper form used for drinking water. Galeano's performance dealt with this form through a collection of images, playing with their placement and selection. Visual associations, mixed with the artist's precise selection of material are offered to the public as modes of contemplation.

In contrast to the more subtle nuances of Galeano's images, Maurice Block's performance sought out a more straight forward, unmediated contact within the same theme. The artist's use of both his own physicality and the limited physicality of objects lent a sense of risk and humour to the evening. Block reminded us that one has to embrace falling, breaking, and failing when fully exploring themes of flying.

The performance also played with recording and documenting in real time. A small video camera acted as an umbilical chord between the two artists and allowed the viewer to follow their actions without necessarily being in the same room with them. A sense of connection and at the same time, a meditation upon the processes involved were taking shape.

To view the online collaboration between the 2 artists, please follow the link:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fall to Call with Alastair McLennan and Essi Kausaleinen

Co-Lab Editions No.4
Curator: Marcio Carvalho

Sunday, the 9th of October 2011

"Time we have is not so vital as time we make" (Alastair MacLennan in Rain, Rein, Reign)

Through their collaborative performance Alastair MacLennan and Essi Kausaleinen brought in a different pace of walking, of touching things around them, of breathing and thinking about the place and the time they spent there. Bringing installation art and performance together, using a rhythm reminiscent of rituals and a patience dilating not only time but also space, Essi Kausaleinen and Alastair MacLennan's Fall to Call created a fruitful harvest time.

MacLennan and Kausaleinen first met in Berlin where they began their collaboration. They wanted to meet each other in a free state of mind, to bring with them no expectations about the place or about each other. They wanted to discover common ground and common ideas at the actual place, together, without any kind of previous mediation. It's what they call “actuality”, being present in a specific place, dealing with the here and now, sharing time and space, and developing trust. Both artists move within the field of visual poetics, where words are not necessary to establish communication and spaces, regardless of size, begin to function as landscapes. They believe in the power of details, their artistic interventions are gentle, almost economical, yet at the same time radical.

While in Berlin, they also chose not to share images taken during their trips to the Botanical Garden on the Co-Lab-Editions website. For some previous Co-Lab-Editions partnerships it was essential that the artists’ collaboration was made public along the way. This time, the documentation of Essi Kausaleinen and Alastair MacLennan’s work would come to light only after their performance, not before it.

Working in the Botanical Garden Essi and Alastair shared time and space together in a process of looking for inspiration. And their performance at SAVVY was, according to their own words, a process of “sharing creation” with the public.

To find out more about the performance please also have a look here:

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dance at SAVVY Contemporary

Dance Performance by Henrik Kaalund and Team
Curators: Cilgia Gadola and Raisa Kröger
1st of October 2011

On Saturday the SAVVY gallery once again animated our weekend in a very intense way. The Finissage of the GhostBusters exhibition was paired with a dance performance. A group of no more than seven dancers choreographed by Henrik Kaalund filled the space of the gallery and made the air vibrate with their energetic movements. The dance was based on the performers' attention and strong physical response to each other and to the change of sound during their action.

The dramaturgy and choreography of the show were very engaging for the public, right from the very beginning: it was fun to watch the dancers change turns in conducting their colleagues' gestures and movements. The dynamics of the whole piece were based on having each dancer enter the role of conductor/leader at one moment and then leaving it for somebody else to take over. It was a game which displayed not necessarily power relations, but rather the tension, alternation and playfulness involved in group communication. There was a particular scene which focused on the group's reactions to specific gestures and to various "leading" temperaments portrayed during the dancing. The public was also invited to join in the game at a certain moment, to become mobile and experience how it is to move according to somebody else's instructions. To read these instructions also.
The performance was funny, involving, sensitive.

During the last part of it recorded sound gave way to live singing, and the voice of a dancer accompanied her colleagues while they were resuming their performance in the narrow corridor. The minimal lightning built a charged and intimate atmosphere: members of the public were handed in a small lantern to hold during the dancing; at specific moments, the dancers who were keeping still would put the spotlight on their performing colleague.

In the context of this performance, contact dancing didn't mean dancers reacting to touch and physical contact only, but also to different kinds of sound. These varied from simple vocal signals that brought in alternation to different rhythms that switched the dancing pace completely. This alternation between soft and sportly, between group- and solo-dances, between speed and slow motion also made us wonder about the secret ingredients of the performance: improvisation and planning. A question we were glad to entertain at Savvy and then take home with us.

Practicing before the dance-performance

Monday, October 24, 2011

Video-sound-voice Performance at SAVVY Contemporary

Balz Isler at the SAVVY Contemporary Gallery
Saturday, the 15th of October 2011
Curators: Cilgia Gadola and Raisa Kröger

The setting was rather pop: a neon light was hanging vertically from the ceiling and resting on the floor. On one wall there's a big poster-like image of the artist himself photographed in front of a photo of some overgrown vegetables (if I got this one right); the artist's eyes are covered by tape, so you can only watch his colourful outfit next to huge tomatoes (or the like). On the opposite wall there is a huge, cheap but golden looking necklace; the pendant has the word "sex" written on it. A glass or plastic frame has been placed in front of the necklace, turning the whole thing into a painting-like object of contemplation. Irony, playfulness, kitsch... you name it!

In the next room a 10 Euro bill has been stuck into the wall. Behind a glass frame, placed on a golden background there is an army suit which bears the labels "facebook" and "twitter" on it. The ghost of a soldier of everyday routine and conquered friendships...

Two small plastic rabbits placed on pedestals (one black and one white) are engaged in conversation.
A white wooden frame houses a small video.

The smallest room in the gallery has the word "Machthaber" (the one who has power) hanging from the ceiling.

This is just to let you picture the setting and my expectations about Balz Isler's performance to come. I thought it's going to be critical, political, kitschy, superficial, even not comprehensible...
I didn't expect it to be poetical and intimate.

Balz Isler stood on a chair in the corner of the room, laptop in his lap. People were sitting on the floor, their gazes pointed towards the screen. He made a short introduction, then proceeded to screen several very short videos. Sound-videos. He superimposed them, layered their images and their sounds on the screen. He sang accompanying the videos (with a high, soft voice from the 80`s), and he accompanied his spoken words with the projection of short word definitions from a dictionary. At the end he literally said "sorry" and "thanks"...
The atmosphere was cosy, with a hint of self consciousness and fun in the background that weren't disturbing.
At a certain moment his singing got accompanied by a woman's voice from the public (his performance partner) and that was, besides his own voice, another live surprise that added warmth to this edited and well-commanded piece of video& sound installation.

The intro I mentioned he made at the beginning brought in the question of genuine experience when you know somebody else has seen or been to the same place as you. Despite this announced danger of not being able to enjoy something on your own because of the influences of previous accounts about "the same" experience, the audience shared the sound of a fire camp
the squeaking of a gate
the rhythm build out of several audio-cuts
an African landscape (that's what it looked like to me)
the flying above ground and the abrupt landing
a beautiful woman talking (maybe a conversation between friends, artists or/and lovers)
and a few more images and sounds...

During the screening the images would travel from the projector, meet the chord of the thin neon in the middle of the room and make it flickr. A bit of a magic was in the air...

Link to savvy contemporary

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Short notes on "Beyond Football - shifting interests and identity". Part I

Beyond Football - shifting interests and identity
Curator: Emeka Udemba
25 June-8 July 2011 at SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin
in collaboration with Goethe-Institut Nigeria

In this series Uche James Iroha takes frontal photographs of chic women in front of football gates, wearing strong coloured clothes while holding a ball and giving the viewer a straightforward look. Due to the artist's handling of perspective the models dominate the background and sometimes even appear bigger than the gates: just leaf through the catalogue to see the reclining woman. The nets of the football gates appear torn and would need to be rewoven.

Uche James Iroha's photos at SAVVY: Bukez and Gele

elegantly dressed women in high heels are goalkeeping torn football gates.
Divas with balls! this is the image that stuck with me from the "Beyond Football..." exhibition.

This larger than life woman and her two balls (whose pink has been smartly accentuated by the photographer, I guess); earrings and watch in place, lipstick matching the balls on the ground, arms crossed, head on one side with an inescapable look. irresistible! ironic, strong, playful.

Her game mates: the woman keeping her right foot on the ball, wearing black-rimmed glasses, golden jewels and red high heels; her posture seems to signal: I'm ready to play. I sense a playful tension in these photos: does the pink on the balls instigate the viewer (the player) like the red in a corrida does?

and when I looked closer I realized my diva with 2 balls is actually standing behind the old, broken football gate. From this privileged spot, from beyond the football ground, she is facing us, self-assertive.
The photographer did shift our interest: the woman is standing, the gate is broken, the frame is old, the game needs renewal.

P.S. The strong characters photographed by Uche James Iroha are in good company at SAVVY:
Andrew Esiebo's Grannys on the opposite wall: double portraits of African women photographed once as football players and then as grandmas surrounded by kids. What's a grandma's role, if not teaching her grandsons how to play (football)?
Katrin Ströbel's Installation on a nearby wall: a coloured photograph placed over the enlarged portrait of two African football players.
A matter of perspective: small "desperate wives" in the foreground and black&white, life-size "handsome daughters" behind them. Traveling images of femininity, ideals going global, football going local?
suggestive choice of media: the photograph is heavily framed while the b&w "handsome daughters" are a light wall-paper.

Press release

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Here and now...

Here and now... amnesia
Curated by Katia Hermann
SAVVY Contemporary, May 2011

You approach the SAVVY contemporary gallery and your eyes encounter a small TV-set, placed in the front window. You see a lot of green, tropical vegetation, people strolling through it, you hear silence and every now and then birds chirping. This paradisiac corner welcomes you, spreads its sounds on the street and into the gallery (Paradies by Francesco Rozas). But if you watch and listen long enough, the loop-sound reveals to you the staged nature of this paradise. And you start questioning your need for this kind of oasis. Do you want more authenticity now? Where will you go look for it?

An old man swims in place thanks to his harnessing device (Harnessed swimmer, video projection by Dominik Lejman).
Amnesia, Maryna Markova's installation and performance displays a type-writer and a pile of birth certificates waiting to be filled with names: the visitors' names, our names. No matter where we come from, we are being confronted with a Russian-Jewish identity and its bureaucratic embodiment: the birth certificate.

The first exhibition space literally ties you to the memory of war, of old age, of citizenship and racial discrimination.

On the walls Dalila Bouzar's drawings on paper and canvas deal with the theme of war in Algeria. Although untitled, their visual innuendo is one of casualties, death, shootings and blood. In the second exhibition room the titles will reveal the work's message more overtly: Fraternite, Freiheitskämpfer.

Also in the second room, the artist's larger works (Flesh 2 and Flesh 3) will offer a change: both in technique (oil on canvas instead of pencil) and in their topic: the body and, maybe, love. This abstract display of large, light-coloured stripes matches the overall sobriety of her works.

Francesco Rozas not only inserts paradisiac images into the exhibition; he also literally lifts the exhibition space. A piece of the wooden floor has been raised a few centimeters above the ground, so that it now presents itself as a coffee table. The floor becomes a table, changes its function and reveals a bit of SAVVY's underground... The surface of the underground!

The gnome in front of the viaduct
by Maryna Markova:
A blurry image, almost a shadow projected on a framed white surface.
The ambiguity of this work offers enough space for imagination, projection and… remembrance. While leafing through the exhibition catalogue (a very consistent little book encompassing a variety of texts: analyses, essays, interviews and reviews) I find out this work actually deals with a very material thing: the erasure of soviet memorials.

Another important element of this rather minimalist installation is the pile of big hard-covered books supporting the projector, hence the projection of the contourless image. Books as symbols of knowledge, these huge books as the basis of such a blurry image? I sense a mixture of irony and melancholy in this and I wonder if it's the same feeling that makes the other visitors linger around the work for while, looking at it, leaving and than coming back to it again.
And there is also the question: what kind of work is this? A photo? A dia-projection, an installation?

Memory I, II, III, IV:
Rebecca Loyche's 4 sound-video installations address the rhetorics of desire and loss, of memory and forgetting. Some discourses are longing and evocative, other wooing and provocative. A sense of incantation mixed with a feeling of protest fills this small exhibition space where speech is king: “Thank you, persistence”, “Thank you open windows and unlocked doors”, “constant consciousness and carnal craving”, “female perfection” and “intensity”, “thank you anxiety for keeping us all in check”... These are some of the words that accompany me home after visiting the exhibition.

the artist's hand: table on/off the floor
sunlight's hand: window on the floor

For a couple of days now Francisco Rozas' table sits upside down, topsy-turvy: its broken, fragile legs are waiting for the glue to bring them back to the ground. I must confess: it's very inspiring seeing things off the ground (and underground) at SAVVY... Here and now...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Co-Lab Editions 2 at SAVVY Contemporary

Pants Konzepte
An event tailored by Ruth Feukoua and Serge Olivier Fokoua (Cameroon)
Curated by Marcio Carvalho
Wednesday, the 27th of April 2011

Have you ever been to an art performance and had your underwear tailored for you in the same time?
On Wednesday, the 27th of April 2011 the SAVVY Contemporary gallery in Berlin was pleased to offer its visitors this unique experience.
The performance conducted by the 2 Cameroonian artists was funny, playful and intimate: under the eyes of a simultaneously amused and shy public, they took their time and wrapped visitors' butts and waists in vividly coloured tape, thus tailoring individual pieces of underwear. Separated from their initial model, the emerging objects were placed in all their size and form on high pedestals and raised to the status of sculptures. Later that evening, driven by curiosity, some of us dared to touch the exhibited underwear. The electric colour of the tape added to their almost surreal appearance. Each pair of underwear, unique and lavishly resting on display, also brought a smile to the people passing by the gallery, who didn't witness the process of their creation and had no idea how the objects showed up there.

This performance has its roots in a long time collaboration between the curator and the 2 artists. At first there was an exchange of images and cityscapes from Berlin to Cameroon and the beginning of an inspired, creative process. Seeing people walk the streets of Berlin made the artists want to do the same... but in their own way. This is how they got the idea of walking through Berlin wearing an unusual outfit. Imagine two grown-ups wearing funny-looking, over-sized underwear walk through the city together with their daughter. The documentation of the whole process took the form of a video, which the visitors could watch at the gallery on the day of the performance.
Their daughter's presence brought a feeling of casualness to their strolling through Berlin. And it also fits the artistic credo of Ruth Feukoua and Serge Olivier Fokoua who like to work together as a family. This also goes back to another one of their performances, the one called Sharing love. This time the two partners washed each other's body and fed each other a special dish, as a sign of their mutual recognition and shared love in the creation of their daughter. During this performance Ruth Feukoua was actually pregnant, which brings real life and performance on the same level of experience. In an invisible manner, the child was also taking part in her parents' performance. And the viewer became a privileged witness of a very intimate moment that deals with creation, recognition and sharing.
This sense of intimacy, sometimes sensual, like in Sharing love, sometimes funny, like in Pants
Konzepte at SAVVY Contemporary is characteristic of their work. And also the idea of giving form to things that deeply inform our lives while remaining unseen.

The evening unfolded itself in 3 parts: the video-screening and the performance itself were complemented by a round discussion in the presence of the performers and the curator. The atmosphere was friendly and the topics ranged from performance art in Africa, its tradition and founding needs, the interference of the political regimes in the cultural life... The flow of the discussion originated in the fact that performance art is still new in Cameroon, with the invited artists being among the very few ones who choose it as a form of artistic expression. Their endeavour also materialized in a group of Cameroonian artists (Palettes of Kamer) who share the same interest in contemporary art and who value performance as one of its most powerful manifestations.



Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Kafa princesses

She came by, a grass straw in her mouth. I found her cool from the beginning, I must confess. Stage-friendly she was, carrying about the attitude of a born music performer.
Self-assertive, fresh and free, just like the grass she was playing with between her teeth. A bit nomadic, also, like an artist on the road, moving freely around the world. But I guess the genuine attitude of a child it's not to be so much analyzed. She caught my eye from the very first moment, which makes it a love-at-first sight encounter.

and there she was, all smiles and suns.
She attached to you immediately, trustfully and unconditionally. She was warm and bright, making her name real, being what she was called: Branesh=brightness.
She liked to strim the guitar, to look her guitar teacher in the eye and her gentle touch of the strings filled you with music.

She was the 3rd in line in their family and the shiest. Maybe that is why she quietly enjoyed being photographed. Not being used to the camera and to attention focused on her alone, she would pose.

She and Branesh would slid under your clothes (huge socks and shoes, heavy boots, large caps), cheerfully playing around in your room. I always thought that carrying somebody's clothes is a sign of love. So I rejoiced in receiving their declaration, in knowing their love fits me like the best of clothes.

She was the defender of the family; the smallest, and therefore, the strongest. At the beginning she checked on us with such frowned eyes that we thought she were a boy, the only boy in the family, and therefore, their protector. At our next visit her face brightened up and her smile showed she now accepted and recognized us as friends. We were happy to know she gave us her accord to be there, in her home, with her family. From that day on she was no longer against us, but with us: feeding us, claping her hands, drumming on our songs, rejoicing in our presence. We were not tolerated in the sisters' home, we were loved.

We do not know how they could feel (sense) our presence when we would approach their house. Maybe it simply works like this with the persons you like. Fact is they would run to welcome us and, pulling us by the hands, draw us into their garden. Burtican, the strongest, would happilly climb down the ditch in front of the house, just to land in our arms. We then gloriously belonged to the Negatu girls.

It is said that if you carry a guitar with you, you will be king where ever you go. But what is a king without a kingdom? Our princesses would share their home, their kingdom with us.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

At Home

the lady was a discreet but strong presence... no way you could pass her by
Photo ©Ioana Muntenescu/NABU

The first photographic proof (2009) of lions living in the afromontane rainforest in the Kafa region, Ethiopia!

Mild & Wild

Intermezzo/ Respite
At sunset you sink in on the Guest House veranda after a day’s work and the landscape unfolds itself in front of your eyes. In the evening light clouds become prolongations of the mountains. The sinking sun crossed the boundaries between the creations of the earth and those of the sky. In mellow times like these the eye and the mind wander freely.

New Horizons
Driving south from Bonga, the afro-mountain cloud forest gradually makes way to the savannah vegetation. The dry marks on the road show us we are the only travellers in this region in the last 2 months, since the last rainfall. We feel privileged, maybe even a bit nervous, but we want to go as far as possible into the new land. We curiously look around hoping to spot some gazelles or even a lion. Our car cuts its way through high grass and we feel like explorers, breaking new paths… It is, after all, a child’s dream. The wilderness we dreamed about is not fighting the lion, but discovering the way, going as far as you can, seeing as much as the landscape offers you. And imagining the lion nearby.

Where lions hide by Jan Schormann

After a 110 km-drive and a drop of 1800 m in altitude we get 10 km close to the Omo river. We know that beyond this river there is another world, another language, different people. But soon we are faced with some road obstruction. We indulge in spending a bit more time at this natural border that makes us head back. We are happy, free and still curious. It is one of the best mixtures of feelings.
On the way back we stop and take photos of the flowers growing in the middle of the road, actually, everywhere on the road. Small, blue flowers that match the yellow grass of the savannah and the dark brown earth.
PHOTO to come: by Jan Schormann

We are winding our way through the savannah. The early afternoon clouds cast their shadows over the mountains: wide shadows resting calmly in the mountains’ lap and intensifying their green.

Caress from above by Ioana Muntenescu

This landscape is both wild and mellow: wild by contrast with the populated, fruitful, agricultural Kafa; wild because we don’t meet anybody and we don’t know what to expect; and mellow thanks to the travelling clouds above.

Clouds & Roots

The white cloth people in Kafa wear around their neck, on their shoulders is rooted in the milky texture of the local fog...

During our travellings we also encountered the mountainous cloudy fog from Wacha town and its happy, proud wearers.