Inger Wold Lund is a writer who uses both written format and oral narration, often told in the form of short stories, written in both English and Norwegian. Recent books include ‘Leaving Leaving Behind Behind‘ (2015) published by Ugly Duckling Presse, ‘Erotika’ (2017) published by Cappelen Damm and ‘Ingenting skjedde‘ (2015) published by Flamme Forlag.
Natasja Loutchko is an artist and curator who runs art space Cave3000 out of her apartment. Recent exhibitions include Sophie Serber’s Gravity Sucks Again, which ran during Berlin Art Week 2017 and doubled as the first show to release an online game version of the area. This original plan of the electronic interface of the Cave3000 will expand with additional rooms over the next half a year.
The night before interviewing Natasja Loutchko, I run into a common friend of ours. With such a soft voice, I find myself having to lean in close to hear what he says. We talk a bit about life, about the rain that had been falling lately, and about the upcoming art week in Berlin. I tell him that I will be interviewing Natasja the following day. He looks puzzled, and asks how I will manage that. “What do you mean?” I answer. He brings up the fact that Natasja often starts a sentence, leaves it in the middle, before finishing it the next day, or the day after, or some other time, if at all.
In many ways our friend is right. Reading through my transcript, what had felt perfectly coherent when sitting side by side with Natasja, now seems like abstract scrambles. It is easy to forget how much of communication moves beyond simply words. Touching on the shoulders, on the knees, at the right time; making a point. Re-assembling pink hair in a knot on the top of the head, stretching to have a look at a book laying close by, getting up to make a pot of tea, offering distraction: Natasja’s presence is an assemblage of moments for others to do what they do with more ease. One of the most important aspect of her practice, aside from the strength of her works and films, is Natasja’s ability to create possibilities for those around her.
Cave3000 (the cave) is what she and others call her one bedroom apartment in Weserstrasse, one of the hippest streets in Berlin these days. Parallel to her and other artists periodically living in the space, she has, for the last two years, used it to host sporadic exhibitions. The exhibitors have been artists she has come to know during her years at Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main, while living in Berlin and growing up in Stockholm.
Sitting curled up on my sofa, I have a cold, so we meet at my place instead of somewhere else. I begin recording.
Inger Wold Lund: Could you explain Cave3000?
NL: Maybe it is a dialogue between two people. Or a reason to be in someone else’s process. Which I think is a beautiful place to be. To not always be stuck alone in your head. But maybe it is just a bad social club.
NL: In some ways, running a space is emotional labour. The same can be said of all the bars I have worked in. But that is what I am good at. For being a very socially uncomfortable person, I am amazed that I can be part of creating spaces for other people in such a way. And I think part of it actually is that I am very unfocused.
As if she is intentionally illustrating a point, Natasja’s sentence breaks off in four different directions before she picks it up again.
NL: Cave3000 is about being present. About what is going on at a specific time. I am not so focused on documenting any of the shows for the future. Or all that other stuff that usually comes with running a space. I am just not. I mean, it is great that people come and see the shows. But that is also it.
Yesterday someone said, ‘Oh, you are the only space that doesn’t have the art week sticker.’ I am not even in the program. I want the experience of coming here to be more like coming to someone’s house. A friend’s party. You know, like the bigger parties where you come with people, and you are standing there in groups, and you get introduced. Maybe even a birthday party. That is how I like to think of the cave.
IWL: Is it about friendship?
NL: It creates friendships. And on the topic of friendship, I am also starting a horse girl club with Josefin Arnell. It will be another extended network. But instead of networking you will just join in — joining in, also meaning that you will have to care for others. If someone asks you something…
Without finishing the thought, she moves onto another one.
NL: …Who would not want to be in a horse girl club? Why be alone when we can be together? I think this idea of the strong solo artist as an idea we need to get rid of. Surrounding every artist who makes it are so many other artists who have been doing so much of the actual work. Sometimes I think of these old men still dominating the art scene, and I think it is time for them to let it go. You can’t just have crazy dudes doing crazy sculptures, and cute girls doing cute paintings. I mean, we need to step up our game and help each other.
One thing I learned when studying at Städelschule is that anything is possible. If you wanna have a sauna, you just build a sauna. If you wanna have a big crazy show, then you just do a big crazy show. Anything is possible. If you feel like you want to publish a book, then just start a publishing house. Even if no one else knows that your stories need to be out there, you know, and you knowing might be enough.
Natasja shifts topic and starts talking about installing the last show, Sophie Serber’s Gravity Sucks Again
NL: There is hardness. And things can be dirty. When Sophie came here for her show, she was having her period. And you know how you don’t talk about your period. But for so many of us it leaves us unable to go to work. Anyways, she was staying in the cave. Her underwear had gotten dirty, and she had cleaned them, but they were still stained. And as I was drilling holes in the wall for her work to hang on, I stepped back and into this dirty underwear just laying on the floor. And she was like, ‘do you think the stain will go away?’ And I was like: ‘no sweetie, those are done…’ And then we did an Instagram post of them.
IWL: I saw that one.
NL: You are supposed to clean up everything. Galleries are like the pads in the commercials where blue liquid is being poured onto them and then it just disappears. They are supposed to be these spaces where dirt just sinks in and vanishes. But art can be a lot of stuff. It can be two people laying in a bed for three days watching films.
NL: And you can join them. Or you can sit in a tent and drink tea.
Now she is referring to another exhibition in the cave where Andreas Bülow Cosmus gently asked the visitors to give him something, either a coin, a hug, before he offered them something else in return; a palm reading, a temporary tattoo.
NL: Sometimes people freak out, and ask to be let out of the space. It is too intimate. And I have to tell them not to panic. Tell them that they will be happy afterwards.
I do not think of my work as relational aesthetics, or social sculpture, in that sense. I see my work as a bit more motherly. Somebody was recently asking me if the cave is like the womb. And I was just like, ‘oh my god, that is crazy! Seeing this white box like a womb!’ But mothers are very present in my practice. And mothers are very tricky.
IWL: You have made a film with your own mother?
NL: The film I made with my mother was in many ways just the two of us going on a spiritual trip to heal. Heal our relationship. Trying to get off drugs. But it was also about me, for the first time, trying to help my mother. Really help her. And not just being like, ‘Why don’t you just go to the doctor? Why don’t you just get yourself fixed?’ I stayed with her for two weeks when she was puking and not getting out of bed. And I was going crazy. But afterwards, this summer, I was laying on my mother’s sofa eating chocolate mousse and being a kid for the first time since I can remember. Just because we made that crazy film.
We are so disoriented when it comes to reaching out to one another. It is very Northern European to just trust the state. To have this idea that someone else will come and fix your problem. The state is good for you but you have to create your own social network.
I pour both of us more tea, and tell Natasja a secret that she promises to keep.
NL: I was looking through some old work yesterday, and found this poster that says: ‘I HAVE YOUR BACK.’ I did not realize it back then, but my practice is very political. There is a contradiction between the idea of the artist as a strong personality. Someone who can do everything themselves. And then the society where other things need to be done. Taking care of elders — which can be a shitty job. Too many see these tasks as something that should be left to women who have no education. Caring is not cool. That is part of why I am doing this whole thing with the cave. It is cute to hang out, but caring? I mean, I like hangouts. We are obsessed with wasting time, and that is the beautiful part of hanging out. But the caring? That part of it? Caring is not cool at all. I mean, let’s be clear, I really think that caring is cool.
IWL: I know you are soon being flown into Sweden to take care of a dog belonging to another artist.
NL: You can’t do the way we are living as artists on your own. You can bring your dog somewhere, but you cannot bring it everywhere. But I guess it is just another way of hanging out. It is about helping and caring. When I am not doing friendship shows I am a professional animal assistant.
We both laugh.
NL: Maybe a lot of my practice is about love.
The next night I arrive the opening of Sophie Serber’s Gravity Sucks Again exhibition early. The cold weather almost knocked me down completely. Before looking at the sculptures of bike helmets covered with peanut butter, drawings in plastic bags, speakers mounted on shaking windows, Natasja took me to the kitchen. There she gave me a special mixture of B12. The liquid changed color as she shook it, and she told me it was expensive. As another artist arrived she was given a different remedy from the same cupboard. A third artist arrived, sad from having been harassed at a club the previous night. Again, Natasja cared.**