Ben Livne Weitzman: Alke, Sarah, thank you so much for taking the time to sit down and talk to me so close to the opening of your first show as the new co-artistic directors of the Göttingen Kunstverein. Before we dive deeper into your upcoming program, I thought it would be nice to look back at where your collaboration began –– the iconic fashion show you two organised at the Städelschule in 2019.
Sarah Crowe: Ah yes, the infamous fashion show was indeed the beginning of our curatorial relationship. It was quite the experience. There was an alignment of background interests but we also both wanted to explore where artistic practice can go when it is removed from a process that dictates a very concrete result. The idea was to give these artists, who often create in high-pressured environments like Rundgang or Absolventen, a setting to freely experiment with the body as a canvas. This is also the starting point for our program for the Kunstverein Göttingen, which draws on material and material practices that come from and originate within the body.
Alke Heykes: It is nice to look back at the fashion show, where it all began. I had studied fashion design beforehand, and the encounter with Sarah brought me back to look at textile practices from a different angle. That said, the fashion show's driving force was the students' desire to expand their practices into different channels, thinking through or with their bodies. I think it’s also interesting to think of fashion as adding another layer to a body. For Göttingen, we’ve been thinking of craft practices that dissolve such layers so the body’s separation from the environment becomes semi-transparent or porous. We began thinking through two angles — the absence of the body in textiles and material practices and, on the other hand, anthropomorphised gestures.
BLW: One of the exciting things about your program is that most artists are at an early stage of developing their practice. It also seems like your approach is very collaborative, not just amongst yourselves but with the artists themselves.
AH: Looking at the history of the Kunstverein Göttingen, also in relation to the rest of Lower Saxony, there is a determined focus on young international artists, which is not to be taken for granted, especially for the size of the Kunstverein itself. For all of the artists, their show at the Kunstverein Göttingen will be their first institutional solo exhibition in Germany, which we look forward to developing closely together with them.
SC: This really speaks to the power and unbridled potential of collaboration, which is super important for Alke and I. This program could not have come together without the two of us being there as sounding boards for ideas and a support network for each other.
AH: Exactly. And to this network, we are also inviting the artists. For us, being in this process with an artist means starting a directed path of discovery together, which sets the stage for this kind of collaborative environment.
SC: All the artists were also born in the 1980s or early 1990s, so they are of a generation that grew up parallel to technology. However, their practices are very much analogue. We asked ourselves how come these very young, savvy artists are returning to practices embedded in the use of natural materials and hand-based practice. Rasmus Myrup for example, whose show is about to open, literally forages and finds his materials in the forest. The act of being in nature forms an essential part of his artistic process. In this sense, we can think of the artistic process as something cathartic and healing, which connects to notions of learning through and from the body. I think this connection is something a lot of young artists and people, at least in this Western context, are looking to reignite in themselves or re-discover.
BLW: The connection to the fashion show becomes even clearer now –– this interesting relation between the body and its, let’s say, add-ons. Technology, as you mentioned, fashion. Perhaps you could talk a bit more about the upcoming shows?
SC. After Rasmus we’ll have a show by Jonathan Baldock. Jonathan is a UK-based artist who primarily works with ceramics and textiles in a very, let's say, autobiographical, diaristic practice, whereby his process is a way of working through existence and relationships, creating a sonography for the unexplainable nature of being. And obviously, there's something in this idea of world-making that craft has been historically linked with, especially when considering marginalised voices.
AH: Then we are working on an exhibition with Hannah Fitz, whom Sarah and I have been following for a while. Particularly their sculptures of distorted bodies. Recently their practice has taken somewhat of a turn, and the body appears differently in these new works through absence or through objects, which also expand the perimeters of our conceptual framing.
SC: Later in the year, we are very happy to work with Mercedes Azpilicueta, who is from Argentina and has been based in Amsterdam for over a decade. She has a craft and performance-based practice, and in my eyes, extremely conceptual, connected to themes like domestic or women’s labour. Mercedes also picks up on historical themes where she shows, mostly in her tapestries which are mechanically woven by a Jacquard Loom and depict historical scenes. She then couples these works with back-bending-like sculptures, bringing forth the idea of the pliability of a body or what weight a body can bear as a collective body as well.
AH: Thinking again here of the city itself, this program also has its specific connection to Gottingen, which as a university city, is well known for its focus on the humanities and therefore for a mind-oriented, analytic understanding of the world. Western thought has traditionally disregarded the body as part of our knowledge production, and I think all these artists have this contrary understanding of world-making through the body. We chose the title “The Body as a Material Mind” for this year’s program, as it holds this dualistic perspective. The visitor's body and experience in the space are also essential. Especially in Ramus’s upcoming show, the installation plays with this object-subject-art object separation, also with relation to evidence of mind. It is also very much about how we experience art.
BLW: Here, we also find ourselves circling back to fashion again, as we talked about in the beginning, with this lens of subject-object separation.
SC: Yes, these circles always spiral back somehow. Of course, there's absolutely no finality to what we're doing. It is the idea of a collaborative process. We are exploring processes, and there’s no end to that.
BLW: On that note, congratulations, you two, for what seems to be a beautiful program. I cannot wait to see it all expand and come to life throughout the year in the Kunstverein Göttingen!
28/01 - 26/02/2023