It was exactly fifty years after the construction of the wall when I got to talk with Lutz Henke (1981), the president of Kunstverein Artitude. Growing up in the continuously developing background that was Berlin in the nineties, and influenced by its emerging music scene, he started exploring basements and other places to organize concerts, parties, and exhibitions along with friends about ten years ago.
Lutz, who holds a Masters degree in Cultural Studies and is in charge of all the curatorial work of Artitude, is involved in many other parallel projects. For instance, he is taking part of Olafur Eliasson's Institute for Spatial Experiments during the next winter semester.
The eclectic personality of Lutz is clearly embodied in the architecture of Artitude, a former secret storage space for corn and apple sauce, which has been holding exhibitions, conferences, concerts, artist talks, and matinée series since November 2002.
“This is not a white cube”, insists Lutz. The art installations have to deal with the unique architecture of the 320m² exhibition space full of slides and old machines. One successful example is the project Planet Prozess that required opening several floors of the building and received around twelve thousand visitors in only two weeks.
What were your main goals before starting:
We never defined any major objectives to be achieved. The large majority of people who have been involved in the development and program of our space also grew up in Berlin in the nineties and therefore share a profound and natural interest in the city, its dynamic and its culture: from electronic music to graffiti-writing to fine art.
Do you feel the concept has changed/developed with time:
The "Verein" and SRS developed naturally from a group of friends, the possibilities that Berlin offered, our thoughts what was fun and necessary at the time. The space was our base and headquarters, it always grew along with its players. As we mostly worked at different places in and out of Berlin, the shows at SRS were mostly temporary, like Planet Prozess in 2007, or rather "unofficial", as in the years before. It wasn't until 2009 that we decided to run an exhibition space with a constant and directed program.
To what degree do you think you achieved your goals:
It's always been crucial for us to stay flexible and independent (as far as it is possible being involved in the art world). [This has been important] especially since our program deals with conceptual positions that draw space, the city and the social sphere as topics. We tried to fill some gaps with sophisticated solo-shows of young contemporary artists producing new - mostly conceptual - pieces.
I think we achieved a lot by filling gaps and supporting upcoming artists.
picture by Laura Gianetti
How did you/do you finance yourself:
We do not finance ourselves at all. Some shows and projects are partially publicly funded, such as the solo series "Super Reactive Subjects" that is supported by the Stiftung Kunstfonds. We have some small gains but the biggest part of the budget is earned by us externally (mostly by jobbing for "the industry"). Sadly, this seems to be the less stressful way to fund projects like ours.
What do you consider essential elements to curating a successful exhibition:
Time & Curiosity
Persistency & Friends
Reflecting upon the time you have been running the space, what would you say you have learned?
Having done every job existing in an art institution, from budgets to press work to technical set up, I guess I have become pretty pragmatic and realistic. It also helps in finding out what does not interest you, what are crucial problems with classic exhibitions, or what should be overcome. Sometimes the professional view is pretty hard to avoid and to focus on the art rather than to look how the cables run.
What are your favourite mainstream galleries/art venues in Berlin/ the world:
I like the wealth of the vast institutional collections in Berlin: Staatsbibliothek, Neue Nationalgalerie, Bode Museum, Pergamon....It's a pity that they cannot be continuously "updated". Moreover, [I like] the Edition Block, especially if they are revealing treasures from their archives like in the exhibition "Grafik des Kapitalistischen Realismus", or the current show with editions opening September 9th. There are only few galleries that can cause surprise with every single show. I am glad that there is increasingly more conceptual positions in commercial shows or spaces like KOW.
Where will you and the space be in 5 years:
Closed or institutionalized.