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.
Anri Sala’s oeuvre explores the relationships between music and narrative, architecture and film, interleaving qualities of different media in both complex and intuitive ways to produce works in which one medium takes on the qualities of another. His practice encompasses sound and video installation, film, sculpture, photographs, drawings, books, scores and, as Mark Godfrey has noted, “the exhibitions wherein individual works are arranged into ensembles.”
Saâdane Afif has pursued concepts of interdisciplinarity and participation for the past 20 years. He states that his work no longer depends on the object, but instead evolves from the “accumulation or interconnection of elements that can be more or less visible”. A synergy emerges between genres and styles, and also between disciplines and fields. The artworks should be inflected and questioned; they should produce and provoke comments, and thereby persist the exhibition context.