Jupiter Woods

Subtle gestures + peripheries: stimulating a pleasant conversation with Fabio Santacroce of 63rd-77th STEPS art staircase

3 April 2017

The residency gave me the opportunity to experience this neighbourhood, which is interesting because it has many connections with the context I’m used to working in,” says Fabio Santacroce, speaking on a cold, sunny Sunday afternoon in Bermondsey, South London, chatting between steamy cups of tea and a bag of muffins. We’re here to discuss the exhibition Il Cielo a Calci (intro) at London’s Jupiter Woods, a one night event concluding his ten day residency at the space and co-organised with curator Rosana Puyol on March 24. The presentation also featured sound works by Kareem Lofty and Atièna alongside sculptural elements by Olu David Ogunnaike and Santacroce himself.

Il Cielo a Calci (intro) (2017). Installation view. Courtesy the artists + Jupiter Woods, London.

Santacroce is perhaps best known for his project 63rd-77th STEPS; a platform for contemporary art he created on a section of a stairway in his flat in Bari, where he invites artists from all over the world to exhibit in the space. And despite, or because of, the incongruity of the situation, many artists, including Amalia Ulman and Daniel Keller, have accepted, turning the staircase into a thriving display space and complicating the boundaries between private and public space, creating a forum for the experience of art that escapes the often self-imposed strictures of traditional exhibitions. Since its inception, the 63rd-77th STEPS project has grown considerably, and Santacroce has curated exhibitions on beaches and other spaces in Bari, as well as at Art-o-Rama in Marseille.

Santacroce’s own practice treads a number of aesthetic lines between installation and sculpture, found objects and handmade ones, as well as themes of universality, marginality, disposability and endurance. Jupiter Woods is located at the end of a long street in South Bermondsey populated by council flats, repurposed warehouses, and bustling churches. Just beyond the gallery lies the storied football stadium known as The Den, home to Millwall FC—whose fans bequeathed to the world perhaps the most notorious chant in the history of football: “No one likes us! We don’t care!” Such a social environment could seem an incongruous spot for such a robustly outward-looking practice as Santacroce’s, but he takes pains frequently as we speak to highlight the sense of connection to the local communities in which he found himself situated. He stresses the fact that, often, networks of economic solidarity develop where possible forms of identity might not necessarily promote connection. Sport and music specifically, Santacroce notes, bring communities across social and cultural divides together, however fleeting, and these moments of contact can become the basis for new modes of thinking, experience and self-definition. With these themes in mind, I want to explore his perspective on the roots of the exhibition and the ideas it seeks to present. I began by asking about the Italian phrase he selected for the shows’ title:

Fabio Santacroce: Il Cielo a Calci; it’s an Italian sentence that means when you kick someone or hurt someone, but in this case, you do it to the sky. This includes an impossible but subtle gesture of rebellion, not at any specific target necessarily, but rebellion more generally, and this approach, this feeling imbues 63rd-77th STEPS project. This expression brings this romantic violence, in a way. It comes from a letter that a friend of mine wrote some months ago expressing in such a beautiful way the huge pain coming from her awareness that she was going to lose her daughter. I was totally impressed by her words. I found this sentence so eloquent, and also, it seemed to connect to a larger dimension.

Fabio Santacroce, ‘Mothers’ (2017). Installation view. Courtesy the artist + Jupiter Woods, London.

** I’m interested in the notion of interiority. There’s a different kind of interiority to a gallery space than there is to a stairway in a block of flats. Did these different forms of interiority play a role in the construction of this exhibition?

FS: I always found it a bit frustrating, associating the programme with being in a strange or odd location. That was never, for me, the main point. There was always the particular — or specific — space of the staircase being in a domestic environment, and the sense of feeling comfortable in the same way as when you invite people to your place. This encouraged me to focus on an ethical approach. Every time I was doing a show there, it was like inviting people to my place. I was very strict; I never wanted to introduce anything I don’t believe in or anything I don’t like. Also, it was about reflecting on peripheries, not just geographical ones, but also economic or cultural ones, and to trace a sort of generational mood, trying to find, in a specific local context, connections with different areas of the world where certain economic and political dynamics are the same. Being site-specific provides an occasion to reflect on the fact that in this specific period, we cannot be fully site-specific. We are really connected in many ways. So it was also interesting to trace these global geographies starting from a specific context.

** This connectivity you mention is obviously pervasive, not least with regard to market forces, which you’ve examined in other projects you’ve undertaken. Do you feel this form of connectivity, economic connectivity, is a major part of Il Cielo a Calci?

FB: I didn’t want to address these issues in this specific exhibition, but the reference to the market comes spontaneously with a programme, mainly because most of the artists I’ve been working with are now well-established. And this is interesting because reflecting on these marginal positions but also wearing a sort of mainstream dress creates a short circuit that I find interesting. as a way of experiencing and reflecting on market dynamics — which I tend to not demonize because I think there is no way of negating the importance of the market for the artist and for the circulation of art generally.

Personally, I didn’t consider the commercial aspect with 63rd-77 STEPS because I want to feel able to establish a relationship with the artist I’m inviting in a different way, as well as allowing for the artist to make something that could be limited through the market. Conceiving a work for being sold is different from considering a work just to create a cultural experience. Sometimes they can overlap, but I think in this specific case, I’ve found that most of the artists are able to deviate from commercial structures, and they were giving something to me that I found to be totally great.

** This exhibition feels quite topical. In terms of the imagery, was this specific set of images something you’d planned beforehand or did it emerge from working in the space and the city?

Fabio Santacroce, ’63rd-77th STEPS’. Promo image. Courtesy the artist.

FB: For the exhibition, I’m presenting this piece using the image of George Michael from the album, Older, and these canvases were wrapped using these zip ties, so it’s a very subtle gesture referencing suffocation. Why George Michael? George Michael is obviously a pop music icon, but also he was a way for me to gently and ironically address a UK audience, and his recent passing. In the districts where I work, when his death was announced, people played his music every day, so it became the soundtrack for almost two weeks. Music plays an important social function in this district, as does football, and it was also curious that behind Jupiter Woods there is also this football stadium. But I don’t really do planning, I don’t consider my works planned, I create a kind of overlay that comes from everyday life. Also, being here gave me this impetus to focus on these details — trying to recreate these overlapping sensations that comes from experiencing the city, experiencing the context. This is one of the reasons we left the space untouched. This ceiling, for example, really worked well with the idea of the sky being kicked. And the footballs themselves are not fixed, so, during the opening, people were just kicking them around, and this was creating an interactive element that was also interesting to me. They were also creating a bit of danger too, subtle danger. Obviously, we didn’t want to hurt anyone but it was like the low frequency, subtle violence.

** Though this exhibition concentrates on your artistic practice, there are also elements of curation, particularly the inclusion of the work of your collaborators. Could you speak about why these works resonated with you or fit in with the themes of the show?

FB:  For example, Olu constructs these stratifications of different wood from different parts of the world. He overlaps them and creates the panels, he constructs the layers. That was very interesting for me because it was a subtle reference to the many cultural and racial identities of peoples around the world, compressed into one place as one experiences in London. The reference to humanity compressed into one meter square has many layers of meaning, and the wood from the trees is one of the features of the terrestrial world that gets closest to the sky, naturally incorporating different oxygen spaces and different skies. Another interesting element is that this could be taken for a normal, commercially-produced panel.

** Regarding this specificity, did you notice any difference in the way London audience engaged with works as opposed to the way people in Bari have with previous exhibitions?

FB: No, actually. I didn’t notice any major difference, but the main difference was that English people were more able than other nationalities that came to the opening to recognise these images. So, for me, it was a success because the use of George Michael is a way of putting an element, or an image, between myself and the audience to stimulate a pleasant conversation.

** To speak about some of the broader themes in your practice, your work often addresses the hyper-circulation of capital, hyper-circulation of imagery, but at this moment in history, we’re seeing a crackdown on the free movement of people and the determination to re-erect borders. In using mass-produced images, are you attempting to touch on these political dimensions?

FB: Yes, sure this political dimension is totally present in my programme, but also in terms of my personal works. Also, one of the most exciting details of this show that — it wasn’t planned, it came spontaneously, but it was also a chance to proclaim the necessity of reflecting on specific issues like immigration, which is really strong at the moment — but three artists from this show are of African background, Olu, Atiena, and Kareem Lofty. I’m actually the only white person involved. For me, I don’t think in terms of these categories, but it came up. One of the artists realized this and she expressed her happiness to be in a show weighted in this way. So taking this element as a chance to confirm the necessity and importance of being collaborative, of being open, and not negating the access to anyone.**

The Il Cielo a Calci (intro) group exhibition was on at London’s Jupiter Woods, March 24, 2017. 

  share news item

Holly White @ Jupiter Woods, Oct 21 – Nov 5

20 October 2016

Holly White is presenting solo exhibition I need your love is that true at London’s Jupiter Woods, opening October 21 and running to November 5.

The London-based artist works across a number of platforms including video, performance, installation and sculpture. Collections and fragments of the personal cumulate, and explore the space of memory and re-imagining of both past and present.

The press release includes a short written paragraph, a fleeting moment: “I made some noodles with apricots and went to sleep too early on the grass out front of the house with the whole road left light up.”

See the Jupiter Woods website for details.**

  share news item

Lisa Radon Wholeness Engine (2016) exhibition photos

7 October 2016
Lisa Radon, 'Wholeness Engine' (2016). Exhibition view. Photo courtesy the artist + Jupiter Woods.
Lisa Radon, Wholeness Engine (2016). Exhibition view. Photo courtesy the artist + Jupiter Woods.

Lisa Radon‘s solo exhibition Wholeness Engine at London’s Jupiter Woods opened on September 6 and is running until October 8, 2016.

The Portland-based artist has created an installation using white oak wood (‘Quaercus alba’), salt, flowers, soil, glass, nylon ropes and gold leaves; a sculptural displacement of objects that follow cardinal direction points, creating a physical mandala. Her practice is multi-faceted, weaving words and objects together to explore what she calls “‘speculative frictions,’ instances of ‘weird touching’ between previously disparate elements and ideas, which are surfaced as matrices of objects and poems, traversing physical and digital space.”

A reading will take place on October 8 to accompany the launch of Radon’s new book, also titled Wholeness Engine, available for purchase at Jupiter Woods.**

  share news item

An interview with Rianna Jade Parker

27 September 2016

Rianna Jade Parker is an expansive character who can’t stop learning. Taking from other people and planting seeds — metaphorically speaking — the London-based curator and writer lets these seeds grow over time. Parker unites with collaborators at specific times, in specific spaces and then continues on her own path, while still connected to an international network of peers through the internet. Visits to extended family in New York City as a teenager triggered an ever-growing interest in contemporary art, a field which remained foreign to her until then. For that reason, the idea of studying art never actually crossed the artist’s mind, studying psychology and international development instead. Landing in the art world by chance, this same knowledge contributed to a varied current practice, where Parker is determined to challenge standards that for her feel unfair and exclusive.

Interning at institutions like Black Cultural Archives enabled Parker access to valuable research material, collaborating with other people becoming the modus operandi within contemporary art contexts, like as recent pop up project ‘Queenies, Fades, and Blunts‘. Working with a handful of artists, this one night event at Freedman Space in Brooklyn brought together ideas of social, political and cultural beautification illustrated in the form of posters.

Right now, Parker is also preparing a contribution to the 3hd Festival, a project by event organisers and label Creamcake in Berlin, where she will be travelling for the first time to present an essay around the gendered and racialised body, as well as a candid panel discussion called ‘Body in Context‘ in order to include more voices into a larger discourse.

Caspar Jade Heinemann, ‘Gentle Dust’ (2016). Performance view. Photo by John Henry Newton. Courtesy the artists + Jupiter Woods, London

Parker is also co-running collaborative platform Lonely Londoners, along with Pelin Keskin and formerly Kareem Reid, explicitly devoted to building visibility for artists of colour and their practices, particularly if they remain underrepresented by the mainstream. Exhibition projects prompting transnational POC connections, such as Crossing The Black Atlantic, have happened through this platform, as well as external collaborations with organisations like Tate Modern or MoCADA (Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts) in the form of conversations and an Instagram takeover, respectively.

Gentle Dust, which took place on August 25 at London’s Jupiter Woods, is part of a long-term project created to address urgent structural issues of exclusion in major art institutions. Artists and writers Isaac Kariuki, Imani Robinson and Caspar Jade Heinemann reflected on the current canons in major cultural organisations and on what they lack. The spoken word ran over the top of Sami El-Enany’s musical composition. The moving imagery was conceived by artist Dorine van Meel and acted as trigger for the poetic, yet political responses of the invited artists to the question of what (or who) is missing in mainstream artistic narratives.

In order to expand on all those projects and future ones, I met Rianna at a Costa Café across from Brixton station. The South London neighbourhood is where Parker was born, raised and currently lives. I find her immersed in the music coming out of her headphones, before beginning a concise and passionate chat about her projects and her role, in art and in life.

Dorine van Meel, 'Gentle Dust' (2016). Film still. Photo by John Henry Newton. Courtesy the artists and Jupiter Woods, London
Dorine van Meel, ‘Gentle Dust’ (2016). Film still. Photo by John Henry Newton. Courtesy the artists and Jupiter Woods, London

Tell me about your background… because you studied psychology and international development.

Rianna Jade Parker: Psychology was the compromise I made with my parents for not staying on the Medicine route but I got to the second year and then I thought: ‘I can’t do this’. I found it very boring, I just was not stimulated in any real way.


RJP: The way in which undergraduate Psychology is taught in the UK is particular… essentially you study under their logic of the psyche because you have to and deriving from that doesn’t win you points with your lecturers. So I thought, maybe I can find a degree that I can enjoy regardless so I made the change to international development because, why would I not want to learn about the structure of the the world as we know it and how we got there? For a few different reasons, studying art was never an option for me. In my home art was treated as a hobby at best, so it was very difficult as a teen to justify doing something different and funnily enough, as an adult it’s even harder to explain to them what I do now.

I had to figure out art and creativity by myself, more specifically what ‘art’ even means to whom, where and why. Spending so much time in New York helped, the intensity and the pace of output exhibited by my over-worked family and friends helped to develop the work ethic I have now. Every time I returned to London it was as if I had new Duracell battery in my back and I just started pushing out these ideas via whatever medium I had. But in the past two years I have been blessed to work collaboratively on The Lonely Londoners and parallel to that I’ve grown up independently and artistically.

Isaac Kariuki, 'Gentle Dust' (2016). Performance view. Photo by John Henry Newton. Courtesy the artists and Jupiter Woods, London
Isaac Kariuki, ‘Gentle Dust’ (2016). Performance view. Photo by John Henry Newton. Courtesy the artists and Jupiter Woods, London

Is this when you started with the Lonely Londoners, while doing this internship?

RJP: Yes, during that year in the summer, Pelin (Keskin) and I met on Tumblr and started going to see the art that London had to offer together. We were mainly friends having conversations about where we went and we always had a (valid) complaint about something fabricated or simply overlooked. We started The Lonely Londoners (LL) trying to address those gaps and misconceptions with no tangible or fiscal resources and without a recognised background in art. Relying on a community of friends we also met online, artists we knew and whose work we admired as well as the older people we were meeting and became our mentors.

Rather than hold an exhibition every two or three months, which is not impossible but rather unnecessary, with LL we want to make sure the kind of conversations that challenge the dominant narratives in art continue to happen and that we remain mobile, flexible and ever changing.

How does this interaction with the online community work, how is this conversation?

RJP: We all live in or are based in different cities and continents so we rely on the internet, a lot. We’re very accessible online via our social media pages and we’ve been working like this for years. We’ve always found new artists and collaborators this way. The best feeling is knowing that our artists trust and believe that we genuinely are here for them. These are artists of colour, immigrants and other marginalised people trying to work in an industry that will happily take and not compensate or credit.

I am not checking blogs or other trend forecasters, rather I take much more joy in finding content creators and creative people organically… we’ve done this by relying on a very good mixture of people who we respect and value. And, in turn, we do the same for them. That’s how we do it, so far.

You always work collectively, including other people in your multifaceted practice.

RJP: We started the collective because we wanted to work together to do something for everyone. We are all able to work individually and have done so before but I don’t like any variant degree of attention to be on me as a singular person, as I’m not here just by myself. I don’t think I am shy or inwards in that way but for me it’s a weird position to take when I feel influenced by so many people and so many things. I like to reference everything I can, as it has been a lot of people on the internet and IRL who for many years have been a silent teacher to me, maybe not even actively or intentionally. Some have no idea they’ve impacted me in this way, others I had to reach out to just to say:  ‘This is the role you played in my life’.

I would like us to remain flexible, honest and adaptable; the world is reforming so how could we not? We are trying to figure out what that change is going to be and at the core of our practice is to represent narratives and artists that are not often seen in main or ‘contemporary’ galleries and art spaces.

I see your practice as very platform-like. You say that you want to have your voice heard before you are given the chance.

RJP: Yes, we have to do it. Now it’s easier, after two years, to find spaces. Most of the artists are coming from outside academia and/or the white cube as we know it, where there is little to no support. We learned very quickly that it is not just about the physical space but what is done in the space and who feels welcome to enter that space. It’s easier, for instance, when it’s a one time event, it’s easy to be radical and different. But a sustainable art practice requires a lot more action with real intention behind it to create this kind of bridge.

Rianna Jade Parker, 'Gentle Dust' (2016). Performance view. Photo by John Henry Newton. Courtesy the artists and Jupiter Woods, London
Rianna Jade Parker, ‘Gentle Dust’ (2016). Performance view. Photo by John Henry Newton. Courtesy the artists and Jupiter Woods, London

In terms of a relationship with music, I have the feeling you are very connected with it.

RJP: My relationship with music has changed dramatically in the last three years or so. I always felt an affinity with music but never explored it further than my iPod and my mum’s vinyl player. Recently, I’ve been surrounded by more musicians and DJs who have infiltrated my understanding and uses of music in the best way.

These days I’m actively thinking about new ways to incorporate music and other sound into the art spaces I curate. Sami El-Enany was actually the first artist Dorine and I commissioned for Gentle Dust. Many musicians, old and new, have definitely changed my world. People constantly assume I’ve worked in music before working in art but its definitely not me, I don’t have that talent, it’s my friends! 

Yes, I thought it was surprising and inspiring when I saw in an article you wrote featuring five contemporary digital artists and you mentioned NON Records as one of them.

RJP:  I was introduced to Chino Amobi and NON some months prior to that article, through mutual friends. In that piece, I spoke about the art I care about the most. It’s not that I don’t care about visual art or art that you can hang on the wall but digital art allows certain freedoms and removes parameters in a way that doesn’t require as much time as traditional media, nor does it have as big of strain on finances.

How do you make art when you don’t have money? As art making becomes more convenient and cost effective, does the value of the work automatically decrease? Where does the ‘value’ come from and how do we measure it? Someone making art via their computer and software doesn’t mean it should be given away for free. There should be a balance, of course, but how?

If art is not sustainable generally and in your own life, then I don’t see the point of it, honestly. If you wake up everyday and you’re stressing out about new materials, hoping a curator somewhere pays attention, hoping you will garner a crowd at your opening, hoping the gallery doesn’t take too large of a commission fee, hoping for lack of any other option, then that is not the kind of art anyone needs to be making. But a community of supporters that includes locals, patrons, curators and space holders who truly engage with your work… these people can help to generate this sustainability.

Right now, I continue to work in the arts anticipating that something or someone along the way is saved, like I was. We can maybe even change the whole structure of the world! But that would take much more than art. So for now, I’m happy for us to use it as and when we can, however we can. That’s the kind of power you find in a people’s art.

I wonder whether art has the power to change things, to shift ideas?

RJP: Art has done that, and art can do that but I don’t think we can rely on it, at all times, in every instance. I think, with art having this potential power, we need more now than before, artists who believe that as well, and actually care about that tapping into that potential.**

Rianna Jade Parker’s ‘Body in Context’ panel is on at Berlin’s 3hd Festival on October 15, 2016.

  share news item

Gentle Dust @ Jupiter Woods, Aug 25

24 August 2016

Dorine van Meel and Rianna Jade Parker are presenting the first instalment of collective project Gentle Dust at London’s Jupiter Woods on August 25.

The evening will include spoken contributions by curator and co-founder of The Lonely Londoners Parker, as well as Isaac Kariuki, Imani Robinson and Caspar Jade Heinemann. There will also be a new video by artist van Meel and original music by Sami El-Enany.

The event has invited artists, writers and musicians to “come together to poetically imagine and stage the desertion of the ‘museum of modern art’ through performative readings and live music.” Questioning the way the institution presents itself as ‘global’, the live performances respond to the disillusion with the narratives being sold to us through the museum and the event plants itself within a time of special urgency to have voices heard in the here and now.

Visit the FB event page for more details.**

Dorine van Meel ‘Disobedient Children (excerpt)’ (2015). HD Video, 14’56”. Music, sounds + produced and performed by Jesse Osborne-Lanthier + Olle Holmberg. Courtesy of the artist.

  share news item

Consensus Reality: Diagnosis @ Jupiter Woods, Aug 4

1 August 2016

A workshop called Consensus Reality: Diagnosis is on at London’s Jupiter Woods on August 4.

Diagnosis is the first of three workshops under the Consensus Reality title led by artist Leah Clements, exploring  the “potential for communal sharing of realities”. The group discussion will consider the term ‘diagnosis’ as “that which frames an individual or group experience”. Where it can be “physical, psychological, social, political, or take any other form”.

The conversation is formed around ideas about “help and hurt” and what that “diagnosis may generate, alongside the realities it can induce”. This includes but is not limited to “the identity it produces, its usefulness and subsequent performance”.

The workshops act as research for Clements and will result in a performance at Jupiter Woods later this year.

See the FB event page for more details.**

Consensus Reality: Diagnosis @ Jupiter Woods, Aug 4

Leah Clements, Research Image of a heart experiencing Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (2015). Courtesy of the artist.

  share news item

U:L:O II @ Interstate Projects, Jul 14 – 31

11 July 2016

The  U:L:O group exhibition is on at New York’s Interstate Projects, opening July 14 and running to July 31.

The gathering sees Interstate invite three curators or curatorial project spaces to organise individual shows in the ‘Upper’, ‘Lower’, and ‘Outside’ of their space.

For U:L:O II, invited curators are London/ Vienna project space, Jupiter Woods who bring artists Corinna HelenelundLydia Ourahmane and Harry Sanderson with the title that a body knows regardless; Nichole Caruso and artists Kristen Jensen and Alina Tenser for Something Bright, Then Holes, and Young Adults, introduced by Al Bedell and featuring several artists including Clark Filo and Borna Sammak whose Town Crier solo exhibition at American Medium aqnb reviewed last month.

Each section comes with its own text —one a Dear Diary story and the other two more conventional press releases, suggesting that there is a looser structure within the tighter plan and that each curator/s will respond to the specificity of their allotted part and its architecture.

See the Interstate Projects website for further details.**

Corinna Helenelund, 'Walls and Waves part 2' (2016). Courtesy the artist.
Corinna Helenelund, ‘Walls and Waves part 2’ (2016). Courtesy the artist.
  share news item

An interview Sanna Helena Berger

20 June 2016

Sanna Helena Berger’s work is difficult to define. You could call it ‘performance’ but that doesn’t quite do it justice. Hovering between institutional critique and a dissection of the intimate, the Swedish artist takes these two apparently antonymic subjects and makes them meet inside the white cube. For a solo at Oslo’s Diorama called The edge must be scalloped Berger built a room in the exhibition space guarded by invigilators. Upon entering, the public was presented with a minimal dining room with a mirror on one wall. On closer examination, it reveals itself as mirrored glass with a replica of the settings in which the viewer is standing on the other side, making them acutely aware of their context; of viewing themselves inside an installation. 

“I was always really interested in behaviour”, Berger explains while walking through Liverpool Street, the heart of London’s financial district, where the artist has been scouting for film locations. “This is true especially since I started working in a gallery context —which is fairly new to me —not someone’s house or a project space, but in an actual gallery. This is such a clear arena for art; the standards are already set before you put anything in this room.”

Sanna Helena Berger, The edge must be scalloped (2015). Courtesy the artist + Jupiter Woods, London.
Sanna Helena Berger, The edge must be scalloped (2015). Courtesy the artist + Diorama, Oslo.

Berger’s solo project, curated by Rosanna Puyol running at London’s Union Gallery from the May 14 to June 25, A sequence which corresponds, is approaching and, while she’s relaxed, one can sense her focus is firmly on what is still to be done. As we walk, we’re commenting on the neighbourhood; how different the area is to what we are used to walking around. Berger tells me she’s been enjoying watching businesspeople going by their daily lives all morning. Soon we’re away from the skyscrapers of the city, looking for a park, and before we know it we’re in Shoreditch —flamboyant symbol of London’s rampant gentrification —enjoying the sun in the backyard of a coffee shop.

Berger seems always in movement, traveling across Europe from residency to residency, like Residencia El Roquissar a private program in Majorca and Rupert in Vilnius among others. London is a recurrent stop between places. It’s as if Berger is always being drawn back. Despite the constant motion, she wears her status as an art vagabond well. The lack of stability doesn’t appear to affect her. It looks more like a natural state that echoes back to the variety of her interests. Berger is a prolific artist, she collaborates regularly, organizes workshops, writes texts; her route is strewn with manifestations of her research and its influence of the people she meets.

When looking at Berger’s work it makes sense. Her practice often deploys an administrative-like mechanism with very minimal physical production; it needs to be whole to function. There is construction during her shows, instructions are being given, habits turned upside down and performers execute tasks; you, the public, are entering a well-planned ballet. Working in parallel with her work, she unfolds her thought process in her writings, where she directly challenges the reader to escape the tyranny of extraordinary life.

Sanna Helena Berger, A Sequence which corresponds (2016). Courtesy the artist + Union Gallery, London.
Sanna Helena Berger, A Sequence which corresponds (2016). Courtesy the artist + Union Gallery, London.

Your work makes me think of Jean-Paul Sartre describing a waiter performing being a waiter in Existentialism and Humanism; a state where you’re not aware that you perform, yet you perform. What is your relationship to this idea of performativity of life?

Sanna Helena Berger: When I started working with performance I thought it was a very difficult to define. I had such a classic view of a performative element. It was more of a hindrance to me. Of course, you can have a performative quality without engaging in a performance. At the opposite my earlier work was very much a clearly defined ‘performance’, structured and choreographed. I think my work has developed away from that starting point. I tried to remove this very evident aspect and blend it as an element within an installation rather than ‘a performance’.

Before it was a set sequence, with a clear starting and stopping point, it became almost theatrical which is something I really wanted to step away from. The first work that I exhibited with live performance was by far the most clearly choreographed. Since then I definitely moved more into working with performance where you don’t have the clear definition of, ‘what is a found moment’, ‘who is an actor’, ‘what I placed in this situation’, ‘what is not naturally occurring in the space?’

I’m intrigued with this balance between knowing and not knowing because that makes you question what performance is, and I do that all the time. I don’t really know. My original idea of performance was, let’s say, very classic. But I find working with this element the most giving when it is unclear. That poses the question of ‘why’, ‘how’, ‘when’, ‘where’, and also ‘who’. That leads to more questions, something I really like; when you don’t have a clear discourse with your work, you have something that makes you question it.

You talked about theatre being an absolute ‘no-no’. But I am interested in how your work sometimes operates similarly. So what is the difference for you between theatre and the white cube?

SHB: The standards are already set before you put anything in this room. There are certain behaviours we expect, certain things we expect to see and hear. Especially when it comes to its most socially exploratory situation; the opening.

It can be quite limiting to be in a space where whatever you house is defined as art. I always question where the art is within my work, because I don’t have those clear boundaries. I don’t shy away from the most basic questions about art. Not all of my work is necessarily art to me. Maybe it is a bit the same with performance, I am not sure how I am defining this yet. But, of course, once you place it in this white room, it’s art. Maybe for me the art came before that. For example, with what I’m doing for my upcoming show at Union Gallery is moving its storage into their gallery space. It is confusing for me to work with a commercial gallery. So it was very important to tackle this question: ‘How do I go about it?’ What I did was take what they already own, artworks housed in their storage and re-allocate it in their gallery space. In the storage it’s essentially a passive artwork, it’s wrapped up and who knows how long it is going to be in there; waiting, in resting mode…

Sanna Helena Berger ‘Lease of Poem Number 4’ (2016) @ Longshore Drift. Courtesy the artist, Jupiter Woods, London + Sorbus, Helsinki.
Sanna Helena Berger ‘Lease of Poem “Number 4″’ (2016) @ Longshore Drift. Courtesy the artist, Jupiter Woods, London + Sorbus, Helsinki.

With doing that I am also freeing up new space, I’m diverting people into a space they would not see otherwise. It’s storage. This question of how to divert movement comes into play a lot when I see a gallery. For me I already did the ‘art’. It was an action. I did it a week ago, I moved it carefully and placed it back in the gallery, the new storage. That fascinates me, that action of moving, the decision-making, the process of it.

Situations often feel pre-scripted in your work. You write about the ‘pretence to be at ease’, and at the same time you’re calling your public to misbehave. But there is a structure clearly outlined. So isn’t it also a confirmation of these norms?

SHB: I love that you say that because actually, you posing this question back to me is somehow a validation that what I’m trying to do is working. This reflection that you have is something I’m looking to place within you, a chance to question the system.

I think you’re completely right, I definitely have an approach that you could call a script, a predetermined composition. Yet in that composition there is room for movement, for people to interpret that situation. It shouldn’t have this ‘aha! This is what she means!’ moment. I’m not looking for that, I’m looking for you to individuate yourself, pose questions to yourself and maybe to others. It could grow into a discussion -that would be wonderful, in fact. It shouldn’t be depending on some kind of basic understanding of Fine Art. I would love it if it could be a situation where people who are not usually situated in this kind of environment came in and start to question it, it would inevitably lead to a new way of seeing the work.

There was a guy who walked into my show in Norway. He came in with his fluorescent yellow work suit. Eventually I asked what he thought of the work. It was an installation with two rooms that you could enter only one by one; inside was a domestic scene, a table setting with two knives and two forks. He said he really liked it, he felt really comfortable, but he couldn’t understand why two knives and two forks. It seemed to have very little importance to the installation but, at the same time, of course it had a huge importance. It is a completely valid question. ‘Why would you have two knives and two forks?’ It is a question I didn’t pose myself when I laid out the table-setting. Yet, that is the first thing he thought about. I love that completely different point-of-view, which comes from a social background. It’s something I didn’t think of myself, and now I have this new aspect of the work; something that has nothing to do with ‘the art’, but more with the social-setting and what that meant to someone else. Even though he came from a very different context, he still had a thought, a question. He had something to refer back to me.

Sanna Helena Berger, A Range (2015). Courtesy the artist + Jupiter Woods, London.
Sanna Helena Berger, A Range (2015). Courtesy the artist + Jupiter Woods, London.

In your Domestic Manifesto text you talk about resisting the extraordinary and savour the pleasure of banality. I was wondering where that would place extreme feelings. In this spectrum, you’re expected to cry, to laugh, to feel rage. What if all these feelings were also being codified?

SHB: It’s interesting, I think my fascination with mundanity, – the ordinary, the everyday life – is because I have a lot of ups and downs, a lot of extreme highs, and extreme lows. I have very little of these in-between moments. Emotionally I have difficulties with these. The Manifesto is not only a manifesto to inspire others but also definitely an encouragement to myself. It’s almost autobiographical in the sense that it relates directly back to how, a lot of the time I forget to find quality in these bland moments. I travel a lot, I spend brief amounts of time in places, making it almost impossible to develop a routine. I find it very difficult to stop working. I don’t know if I’m stressed because I can’t quantify the stress anymore. I don’t know what the other state is. I do yoga to relax, but even those moments are more the illusion of having those qualities present in my life.

I think I have such an attentive view of these everyday mundane things, because it’s actually a rarer occurrence for me. I find myself going through those motions, like washing clothes and shopping for an entire week as something that is quite extraordinary. It is this moment that I have to stop and contemplate what it is I’m doing. When you say those extreme feelings, like rage, or love, hate, I quite often find those feelings in the moment most people find extremely bland. When I’m forced to be still, reflect, put my feet up, not work, then I get those feelings. They encourage those feelings because the other states have become so normal to me that I don’t think about them in this extreme sense anymore. They are my mundanity now. I find bland moments very beautiful in the simple sense that it is something that I don’t do all the time. It’s a bit like holidays.**

Sanna Helena Berger’s A sequence which corresponds is on at London’s Union Gallery, running from May 13 to June 25, 2016.

Header image: Sanna Helena Berger, The edge must be scalloped (2015). Courtesy the artist + Jupiter Woods, London.


  share news item

Viktor Timofeev @ Jupiter Woods, May 7- 28

5 May 2016

Viktor Timofeev is presenting SAZARUS I, a solo exhibition at Vienna’s Jupiter Woods, opening May 7 and running to May 28.

The exhibition will be the third at the Austrian-based extension of the artist-run space, first founded in London, and it will comprise two distinct components. In the main gallery space will be Timofeev’s site-specific installation, which —like his earlier Proxyah series of exhibitions —will most likely evolve into different iterations in the future.

Timofeev’s practice spans across vinyls, zines, cassettes, self-published graphic books and has contributed to publications like The Limited Collection and B-Pigs BerlinHe is also currently showing work in the Jupiter Woods-organised Longshore Drift group exhibition in Helsinki that looks at geological processes and sediment transportation, project as a bridge.

In addition to Timofeev’s solo show there will also be a film installation featuring a collaborative video work by Georgie Nettell and Morag Keil showing called ‘The Facism of Everyday Life’.

See the FB event for details. **

Viktor Timofeev, Proxyah v2 (2015) @ Jupiter Woods. Exhibition view. Courtesy the artist.
Viktor Timofeev, Proxyah v2 (2015) @ Jupiter Woods. Exhibition view. Courtesy the artist.
  share news item

Jupiter Woods @ Sorbus-galleria, Apr 22 – May 1

22 April 2016

Jupiter Woods is presenting Longshore Drift at Helsinki’s Sorbus gallery, opening April 22 and running to May 21.

The London and Vienna-based space will take up residence in the Finnish capital for ten days, as a collective off-site project by four of Jupiter Woods’ six founding members: Hanna Laura Kaljo, Lucy Lopez, Carolina Ongaro and Cory Scozzari. The time-based exhibition and events programme will include artists Sanna Helena Berger,  Rob Chavasse,  Maria Gorodeckaya,  Emily Jones,  Josip Novosel and S E I D among others and draw on the titular geographical process involving the movement of sediments along a coast at an angle to the shoreline: “swash and backwash”.

The aim of Longshore Drift, opening on the Friday April 22, will evolve over the following weekend with a series of commissioned objects, gestures and acts by the 10 participating artists —also including Viktor Timofeev,  The Mycological Twist, Matilda Tjäder, and Holly White —and focus on the “embodied experience” of curators and visitors within the installation that draws on “the physical infrastructure of Jupiter Woods’ London and Vienna locations.”

See the Sorbus-galleria website for the full programme.**

Emily Jones, The Hudson River (2014) @ Lima Zulu. Courtesy the artist.
Emily Jones, The Hudson River (2014) @ Lima Zulu. Courtesy the artist.
  share news item