Festival! begins with the friendship of artists and of their two gallerists, forging a bridge across 25 years and new beginnings, across personal, formal and conceptual affinities and yet-to-be-discovered connections.
To begin: Twenty-five years ago, Esther Schipper and Mehdi Chouakri were both recent arrivals to Berlin. Schipper had opened her space in the Auguststrasse in 1995 but was still traveling back and forth to her Cologne-based gallery. Chouakri had just concluded his art theory studies in Paris and was visiting the city. When Chouakri opened his own gallery in Berlin in 1996, their friendship grew, sharing a mother tongue, the experience of being a relative outsider in the city, and also many cultural reference points. Reinforced by shared intellectual interests and similar affinities for the art emerging in the 1990s, and by the many friendships that existed among the artists in their respective programs.
Last March an exhibition by Saâdane Afif in the gallery’s series Pièce Unique especially caught Schipper’s attention: she was excited both by the work and the concept of the space and when she told Chouakri, the idea of a collaboration formed. Opened in 2017 the smaller of his two spaces in Mommsenstrasse in Berlin Charlottenburg, with its two narrow rooms and library, combines the imperfections and the charm of a distinctly non-white cube exhibition space. It is here that Chouakri has presented both his series Pièce Unique, single works by artists from his gallery, and hosted projects by other galleries.
But this is no ordinary year and the project, originally planned for later this year, has now developed into a sequence of stories about affinities that will unfold in a two-week rhythm, bringing together one artist from each gallery.
The first pair at FESTIVAL will be Angela Bulloch with Gerwald Rockenschaub. The artists, who have exhibited together in the past, could be said to share a formal vocabulary informed by both minimalism and the digital.
Known for her engagement with the history of architectural styles—especially the legacy of Modernism and 1950s–70s examples of concrete architecture—Isa Melsheimer’s works are expressions of her intense research as well as formal investigations. Her glazed ceramics some times recall the miniaturized and schema-tic appearance of architectural models, yet their material and colors add a fantas-tic, playful aspect. All her objects take a certain amount of free license, sometimes containing elements of fantastic recrea-tion, but are always infused with a deep understanding and sympathy for their architectural sources. N. Dash’s work spans painting, sculpture, drawing, and photography, and employs both natural and manmade materials, including pigments, adobe/mud, jute, graphite, fabric, string, styrofoam, and found objects. Across these media, the artist‘s principal interests lie both in recording the sensory and informational capacities of touch and revealing typically unobserved conduits of energy: ecological, architectural, and corporeal. The works unfold through what Dash terms a „bifo-cal“ approach, where two minds—under the influence of physical and extrasensory influences— are communing visions both nearby and remote.