Have You Met... Art Laboratory Berlin

Sam Belinfante & Simon Lewandowski: The Reversing Machine (A Theatre of Kairos and Chronos), Installation, 2012

In many ways,Art Laboratory Berlin is literally a Laboratory. This non-profit art-space, located in Wedding, focuses on cross-disciplinary artworks and creating discussions on the evolution of 21st century art. The experimental part of this „laboratory“  is especially noticeable with their on-going show Fantastic Time Machines.

The first exhibition room is full of devices such as a record-player, a projector, led-lights and various other little devices all connected and run by a large reversing gear mechanism. This work The Reversing Machine (A Theatre of Chronos and Kayros), built by Sam Belinfante & Simon Lewandowski, leaves nothing to be hidden – walking into the room, it’s hard not to feel like a kid, fascinated with all the naked machinery and the connectivity between all of the machine’s compartments. A similar feeling of wonder encompasses Shlomit Lehavi’s Time Sifter in the second exhibition room – an archive of audio/visual material of the artists’ personal life displayed through an installation of wooden sieves.

Currently Art Laboratory is run by Christian de Lutz and Regine Rapp, who took the time to answer some of our questions on the origins and future of their exhibition space.

How did Art Laboratory get started? How did you come together and decide upon the concept of curating contemporary visual art that interacts with other creative areas?

In 2006 four of us (Regine Rapp, Christian de Lutz, Sandra Frimmel and Margarita Tillberg) came together and had a series of discussions about the state of exhibitions in Berlin. We agreed that a lot of interesting work wasn't being shown, especially inter- and cross-disciplinary work. From these discussions we developed Art Laboratory Berlin, founding the organisation (an e.V.) in Autumn 2006 and the exhibition space in early 2007. The goal was and is to create a space to develop and present new directions in 21st century art.

What's your curatorial angle? Are your roles in the curatorial process in unison or do you assign specific parts of the process to each other given your expertise areas?

We all had art history backgrounds, Christian de Lutz is also an artist working in photography, video and digital media. Margarita Tillberg left in late 2007, and in 2009 Sandra Frimmel moved to Switzerland. Our first three years we framed the exhibitions in interdisciplinary series – Art and Music, Art and Text, Art and Science, and Art and Law. We also had a series of guest curators from Central and Eastern Europe.

We tend to start with a framing concept and then work with artists who have a similar interest. The goal is how to help the artists realize a project or re-exhibit an existing project in a new light and also place it in a theoretical context. Then we see an important additional role in communicating with the public, by means of talks, workshops, and, of course, exhibition texts and publications (leading to publications such as the photo book VISIONS NYC by Bärbel Möllmann (2011) or Controlling_Connectivity. Art, Psychology and the Internetby Gretta Louw (2012).

Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz, directors and curators of Art Laboratory Berlin, 2012

How do you finance yourself?

We have been lucky to receive sponsorship for the space from degewo. This has allowed us to concentrate on fundraising for specific projects. We have received financial support from very diverse sources: public, state and municipal support, embassies, universities and private support. Fantastic Time Machines was sponsored by the Hauptstadt Kulturfonds and the Israeli Embassy in Germany. The artists also received aid in England and the US in producing parts of the work. Ideally we would like to have  funding that covered a whole series, but until now it has mostly been piecemeal. We have also had luck with receiving donations from individuals who support our mission. This is something we would very much like to encourage.


How do you find the current situation for non-profit spaces in Berlin?

In a word – precarious. The real-estate prices are really rising without any basis in the local economy – a result of speculation. That could prove very damaging to the social and cultural fabric of Berlin. We believe that in the next ten years there will be major changes in what defines contemporary art. I think everyone has realized that postmodernism has come to an end, and that we are in an era in between the postmodern and what will come after. Exactly at this point Berlin needs innovative spaces and points of experimentation. I think large established institutions, especially those connected with the markets or collections aren't able to fulfill this role. Supporting project spaces is vital for Berlin, if the city wants to remain an important center for contemporary art. Otherwise Berlin risks going the way of cities like Turin or Cologne that were important art centers in the 1970s and 1980s, but are no longer important international centers.


What are your favorite spaces or institutions?

Since our inception we've had a lot of contact with our neighbors in Wedding, especially Uqbar. Recently we have also been visiting Savvy Contemporary in Neukoelln a lot. Haben und Brauchen was and remains a very important institution for us and the whole visual arts community. We are also involved with a related network of non commercial spaces in Berlin.


Any successful or remarkable event?

We met Bonaventure Ndikung from Savvy Contemporary at a curators’ conference on art & science – Synapseat Haus der Kulturen der Welt in September 2011. The international connections from Synapse have proven remarkably productive for us. We were happy to see a revitalization of the transmediale this year and are looking forward to its expansion over the next few months through the project reSource.


You are currently celebrating your 5th anniversary, any special plans for the future? (or future plans generally)

We still have one exhibition left in the 'Time and Technology' series featuring works by Yasuhiro Sakamoto and Dave Hebb. In the Autumn we will start a series of exhibitions on current artistic positions on the theme of Synaesthesia from both scientific (neurological) and art historical perspectives. We also want to make these series, expecially Time & Technology, travel to venues outside Berlin and Germany as a group show to widen the circle of its reception.


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