Text and pictures by Laura Bianchessi

AETHER is a new space offering a combination of art, music, and creative cocktails crafted from a selected liquor list. It is opening its very first exhibition this week, aiming to showcase “the kind of things that are not normally commercially viable in a gallery, things that take a bit of a weirdo to focus on”. The venue is located in the Hermannplatz area and is cosy and curated in every detail.

We had a chance to talk to Sarah Martinus and Mario D’Anna, the duo behind this project, to discover more about AETHER and the excitement they feel for it.


How did it all start? What was the idea you had before embarking on this project?

S: It started with Mario taking a holiday to Porto. He got inspired and came back with ideas about all the crazy fun stuff we could do.
M: I went on holiday last year, first time after 4 years. It really inspired me because of the bar culture there, it is similar to Berlin, maybe even more beautiful. So I came back and I had the strong feeling that I wanted to start something new. I wanted to open another bar. This place has been available for a long time for a new project and then one step followed the other, I think the initial idea was to open a cocktail bar and present and show art. That was the absolute initial idea.
S: My side of this is that Mario approached me and asked me if I wanted to make an art bar with him. For a while i have been thinking about independent art spaces and what kind of creativity is flowing through Berlin, in this constantly moving fashion. There are so many people coming in and out and travelling from international places, dealing with commonly shared themes, experiences and sensitivities.

How do you know each other?

M: Sarah used to work in a bar nearby. When she stopped working there we started working together in my other place, we started small music nights with Dj’s. And we were friends from the start.
S: Mario worked at a bar just next door where I used to work and he would show up with surprise shots. One for him, one for me and one for anybody else working, just appear at the bar and produce the correct amount of shots for everybody to have one … and then he would disappear.

What is your background?

S: My background is in fashion design. I was always more focused on art and interested in science, but I went into fashion design and ended up not producing anything which was clothing, I produced videos, performance and I am freelancing in lots of different fields, like graphic design and web stuff, but my heart is with conceptual art.
M: I worked in a bank, before that I was working in hospitality as a side job, while I was at school, focusing on economics.
S: … He is very made to connect people. Mario’s life skills and street smarts and the community people he knows are like an education. He manages to excite and connect people and that, I think, is the reason why the project was actually possible to happen.

What does your name mean, and what do you want to communicate with it?

S: Aether is a ancient greek word, one that has changed through the evolution of language. It has many meanings, but the base one is the space of the universe which isn’t air or matter, you can't really describe it. So it is possibly like a life energy, or what exists in dark matter and black holes.
The idea of Aether came out of love of the night and of sharing creativity and inspiration in the night. I have been sitting on the name Aether for about 2 years! I am interested in the collective unconscious and how that surfaces through creativity, with subject matter and the way people work. I feel like when we met we both needed a similar creative outlet for our excess energy… and then the concept of Aether was born, Aether being the overarching ingredient that links the art, the drinks, the interior of the space, the music and everything. We were conceptually really excited by darkness and the underlying, undercurrents connecting people and communities… not necessarily so obvious.

What is your curatorial strategy? How do you organise your show? How do you choose artists?

S: I see Aether kinda also as a container for people to do what they need to do or what they want to do. We don’t really want this space as an art space just to be an arrowing project, I would be really happy if other people took it and gave it life. In that sense, it is a vessel, we are the facilitators, but Aether is a vessel, so it needs to be filled with creativity, whether someone wants to come and make works in the space or just pass through.
We put an open call out, very, very briefly and we got a lot of responses really, really quick. Actually I still haven't managed to get through all of the applications; at the moment with have our next 2-3 months of shows blocked. It is always flexible though, that’s the beauty of starting a project, you can be pretty flexible before you have a routine. It is really an intuitional process.
We are curating in a sense of selecting artists and talking about exactly which project they are going to show, but we are not telling people how to make their work, they can decide how they want to do it, sometimes it is so much better and more exciting for us as well if we say “go”, as long as communication is good.

Can you tell us more about the gallery's main interests? Which topics do you mostly deal with?

S: This show is based on cosmos, focusing on cosmic consciousness. I think Kosmos will be a reiterated show.
The first version of is particularly about the moon, lunar reflections; I guess in this show each creator has a lunar path that crosses through them. The outcomes are all different but there are definitely common things that are related to the moon, whatever that might mean, because the concept of moon is huge. It is an archetypal figure; it controls the water, the tides, that means it also controls the coasts and the shape of our land. It is such an interesting subject matter.
The next shows coming up: there is a video artist who deals a lot with the perception of space, making animated video, and another who deals with the internet as a tool for building virtual installations. Then, a sound artist who’s got a recorder packed inside a box and it is going to ship it through the post, pressing ‘record’ from the beginning, so that the exhibition will be a playback of everything that happened inside the machine; this is what I mean about obscure stuff, the kind of things that are not normally commercially viable in a gallery, things that take a bit of a weirdo to focus on… thats what we love in Aether.

You offer a combination of art and music. How important is this mix and what does it mean to you?

Here it is kind of a lifestyle I guess; specifically the cocktail, the music, the art, the confines of the space is lifestyle. It is for the people in Berlin who really appreciate all those things mixed together. Sometimes there is not really such a difference between the creativity and inspiration that it takes to make a drink and the creativity/inspiration it takes to make sounds or paintings. The concept might be the same, the outcome changing mediums.

What differentiates you from other spaces in Berlin?

S: We like the other spaces too.
M: We created a place in which the people that make the team of Aether do exactly what they love, what they feel like they should do in their life. We somehow reinvented getting into a bar, drinking a cocktail and seeing art in a way that an art gallery and a bar couldn’t do. There will be people that don’t like it and people who are going to love it, but that doesn’t influence us that much, cause we have a clear way of thinking how we want to do things. Every single decision that we take, from every chair, every light, the way we even talk to people, we get together as a team and don’t just talk about the financial way that would be the best or how it would look the best, but we talk about how it feels to us as the best way. We have to feel it, this is why we are so confident and why we love everything in here as much it is possible to love it.

Is there anything you would like to add?

I think it is important that Berlin still has independent art spaces, the Aether is like the mature version, because it is quite luxurious and refined. It is definitely a special place for delicate things.

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Aether / Pannierstr. 56, 12047 Berlin, U Hermannplatz
Gallery & exhibition opening: 01.04 from 20 - 02 h
Exhibition open through 12.04
more info

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