On the occasion of one of the most exciting re-openings of this season, I met director Anne Fäser and artist Kerstin Gottschalk from the collective that comprises the artist-run space Stedefreund.
If there is something that can certainly define the spirit of this group is their passion for space-hopping. Now celebrating their fifth anniversary, they are coming back after a little break with a new group show at their brand new space, housed in a former garage from the DDR near Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz.
The group was originally founded by twenty artists, mostly students from the art school Berlin Weißensee, but the number of members disminished over the years to the current amount of eight. Right after graduating, the idea of promptly starting to exhibit triggered these eager young artists to find a place for Stedefreund.
However Anne comes from a different background. After completing studies in Art History and Art Pedagogy, she works as Kunstvermittlerin, what we could call an “art mediator”. Other artists names involved in this project would include: Stefka Ammon, Astrid Busch, Nicole Degenhardt, Anne Gathmann, Surya Gied, Kerstin Gottschalk, Marlena Kudlicka, Rebecca Michaelis, Julia Prezewowsky, Marcel Prüfert, Katja Pudor, Alexandra Schumacher and Julia Staszak, who besides of being active Stedefreunde, also carry on with their parallel works and exhibitions for other galleries.
Their address change every 2 to 2,5 years, what means that they have been already located in several places, including Rosenthaler Platz (whose grey walls were sort of a trade mark), as well as in Dorotheenstraße, and now in the courtyards of Saarbrückerstraße 6-8, where they are getting ready for the big opening of the groupshow Space Release #1 tonight at 19.00.
Picture courtesy of Stedefreund
What was the main concept behind Stedefreund?
Our main topic and interest is the space. A new space always provokes new reactions and therefore suggests new spatial concepts. We sometimes approach those changes within the space in narrative way, and some others through a more conceptual focus.
What were your initial goals?
The creation of Stedefreund responds to the artists' urge of exhibiting their own work. After graduating at the university we really wanted to get it started, to show our works, so why not starting our own venue?.
We were really interested to generate discourses by confronting works in the space. Like we did in the series of exhibitions about abstraction, where different positions were gathering around a topic, or in the current Space release.
A series of events accompanying exhibitions was also in our plans. We scheduled evening screenings, invite experts and theoreticians from a field of study related to the works that we are showing.
How do you manage as such a huge collective?
We assume all kind of roles ourselves, from investor to sales manager. That means that we take care of any kind of duties: managing the website, curating and inviting other artists, doing the networking, taking care of the press, PR...
Regular meetings are essential to discuss every important topic regarding Stedefreund. Following a democratic process, all decisions will be taken when most of us agree in the matters discussed. However it's really hard to make everybody happy.
How did your concept develop over the time?
We are in a process of continuous development. By moving to new locations, we are adopting new positions in what to comes to the idea of approaching the space.
What did you learned from your practice?
We became more active in establishing networks by inviting new artists to get involved. Also by participating in art salons or art fairs like Preview. Such experiences always generate expectations: you reflect on what you expect from yourself and your own discourse within a context. Apart from the obvious commercial expectations, of corse: sales are always welcome.
However such experiences always turn to be very rewarding, and not only due to the feedback received, but also because they make us grow.
How do you finance this project?
Rent payment and other expenses derived from organization and promotion are mostly self-financed. We sporadically received some funding or sponsoring e.g. from embassies. We work on a basis of sales percentage, as any other commercial gallery.
What has been a source of inspiration for your practice?
The space itself and the possibilities of the the artists' own works in relation with others artistic points of views, the structure of the group, and the notion of collectivity.
Julia Prezewowsky & Kym Ward, Pre-Formed, sculpture, 2010. Photograph by Astrid Busch
What are your favourite spaces, galleries or institutions in Berlin?
We are a very diverse group of people and our ideals differ but we could highlight: KW, Gisela Capitain, Max Hetzler, Pergamonmuseum, Museum Dahlem, Hamburger Bahnhof, Galerie koal, Mehdi Chouakri, Klosterfelde, Nagel, Sprüth Magers, Wien, Kienzle & Gmeiner, general public, essays and observations, Skulpturenparkngbk.
...and in the world?
David Zwirner, Peter Blum, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Prado Madrid, Victoria and Albert Museum, Metropolitan Museum, Louvre, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Marian Goodman Gallery.
Where will your space be in about five years?
Definitely somewhere else, because we are always moving. But our concept will remain the same, so we will be still bringing up new discourses, and most likely independent from any institution.