Text and photgraphs by Maria Santos
I'm almost sure that you have met her before. In fact you probably took part in a project that she curated.
Prior to that and Bibliothekswohnung, Anna-Catharina completed studies in philosophy, german language and literature, sociology and psychology. She worked for six years at Produzenten Galerie in her hometown, Hamburg, before definitely moving to Berlin and getting involved in a handful of projects. Her practice is in fact very varying. She seems to be quite skilled in multitasking: she occupies herself with plenty of curatorial work: Zabludowicz Collection London, Forgotten Bar and several international galleries and institutions, including names such as Milica Tomic, Thomas Schütte or Santiago Sierra. While she's also a free writer, editor for Polar Magazine, a member of the Institut für Wissenschaft und Kultur and administrative and council member at Neuer Berliner Kunstverein.
Bibliothekswohnung (literal: “library apartment”) has been serving as a library, workspace, archive, project and interdisciplinary exhibiting space since 2004.
Placed in a luxus plattenbau in the heart of Friedrichstraße, it claims to be a non-profit space. It also works as a discourse platform and regularly hosts a series of seminars from initiatives like Akademie c/o, where she is also a board member.
Friedrichststraße it's been a rather inspiring area and undeniable epicenter of Berlin's cultural scene since the twenties: think of Berliner Ensemble, Max Rheindhardt, Friedrichstadtspalast... whose dancers, by the way, used to inhabit this building in Ziegelstr., something that clearly amuses our director/curator, who believes that there is always some inspiring story to discover on every street corner of the city
What was the main concept and your goals behind your project before starting?
I own an insane and growing amount of books, and at some point I decided to find a home for them. Besides the fact that I've been always eager to host exhibitions and events. In the former DDR it was normal to organize exhibitions in private homes, something that would be unthinkable in Hamburg!.
There was also the tradition of the romantic salon, hosted in Berlin by ladies like Rachel Varnhagen, Bettina von Arnim and later Anna von Helmholtz, or the Salon Nicolaus Sombart, hosted until his death in 2008.
Bibliothekswohnung seeks to incorporate that spirit by promoting public seminars where to discuss texts and come up with new ideas.
In my practice an exhibition doesn't serve as the culminating manifestation of my work: it's merely one element of broader process of research, and I'm always interested in expanding both the notion of what constitutes an exhibition and the curatorial practice -e.g. towards relational aesthetics, by inventing alternatives modes of curatorial activity and most important: by examining a possible impact on cultural and social change
What were your initial goals?
My intention was to make something personal, to provide a more intensive experience, to set a debate within the space. Visitors come in and stay here for a while, so a situation can be generated. Nothing to do with the regular openings' evenings: rushing from a gallery to another.
An opening here is a performance in itself: a four-hour event staged in an apartment, in a building where people live. You have to take the elevator to the sixth floor, probably see some neighbors, then ring at the door. When entering such a private space, you stay longer
How do you feel the concept has changed/developed over the time?
Quicker than I expected. My books are now crammed in a room!.
But the concept it's been always the same: to focus on what's going on in society, politics, urban situations, architectonical surroundings... and that's what I'm still doing
Any remarkable turning point, rewarding experience?
In 2008 I displayed an archive of writings on art by Berlin-based theoreticians, curators and artists: Art World Lovers. They offered me those writings which I classified and arranged, and they can be browsed here like in any reference library.
It's something really interesting because many different disciplines meld here: art, critics, theory... there is a lot of people working in these fields and not much recognition. My aim is to create more awareness for theoritical works in Berlin
How do you finance yourself?
Since this space is motivated by my personal interest, I'm its patron, the main sponsor. Bibliothekswohnung is conceived to be free, not subjected to funding deadlines or restrictions of any kind. Funding money is completely out of question, it could only be considered for specific projects, but this space is meant to be financially self-sufficient.
I never considered to make money by selling stuff here. The artists agree with the fact that there is no budget.
Reflecting upon the years you have been working, what would you say you have learned from your practice?
To someone who comes from the field of literature and theory like me, visual art seems to be often facile and empty of content, not really concerned with its social, political or historical circumstances. The visual art market is inmense: visual art works seem to have more value and be more value-stable than stocks.The art world is flooded with collectors and even artists who know nothing about art and do not care for it. They deal with the investment or social distinction. Many artists might better be designers. They sell good, but that's irrelevant. Since I got involved in visual art I became more and more interested in the kind that is concerned about society and is created in relation to social and political contexts. Artists like Christoph Schlingensief or Olaf Metzel go a step ahead, they're relevant for society
What has been a main source of inspiration for your practice?
Literature, philosophy, the city and its daily life, society and its context. There are so many inspiring things going on out there, like the pope who when visiting Berlin spoke in his usual style of the rhetorical program of dignity, which sounded so monotone because of the lack of the theatrical performance in the catholic church or the Vatican. In the same week the Turkish president Gül, the Christopher Street Day and the marathon one after the other were taking over the main streets...
What are your favourite galleries and institutions in Berlin?
Susanne Pfeffer is doing a remarkable work at Kunst-Werke. Martin Kwade offers a very interesting program at Kwadrat. There is also n.b.k., Sprüth Magers, Esther Schipper and Thomas Fischer, they are just great. Now I also recall that Gregor Hildebrandt is currently having a solo show at Wentrup Gallery, a very nice place where they are remarkably friendly and supportive with curators …
...in the world?
The Tate Galleries, Raven Row and the Camden Arts Centre in London are fantastic. The New Museum, MoMA and PS1 in New York of course. But there's also a couple of great places in Japan, for instance whose merit it is to bring contemporary art to Japan at all: Tomio Koyama in Tokyo and Kyoto, Nanzuka Underground, Mori Art Museum Tokyo and Benesse Art Site at Naoshima
Do you have any favourite curators?
Susanne Pfeffer (KW), Marius Babias (n.b.k.), Jelle Bouwhuis (SMBA) and the team of the Berlin Biennale 2006: Maurizio Cattelan, Massimiliano Gioni and Ali Subotnick. Often artists playing the role of curators are rather interesting
Where will you and your space be in 5 years?
I don't know. In fact, that's exactly what I don't want to know. Because that's basically the nature of this space: I know that I'll be hosting a lecture next week, but I've no idea about what I'll be doing in November 2012