Berlin’s contemporary art scene induces a headiness not recommended for those lacking stamina. We’ve only recently moved on from the monstrously huge offerings of Berlin Art Week, Berliner Liste, and Preview Berlin. Meanwhile, with its constellation of galleries – from Prenzlauer Berg to Neukölln – it sometimes feels like Berlin bequeaths a cynical gaze of see all-seen all to the regular gallery visitor with cold curatorial formations framing the city’s famous ragtag approach to art. Conceived in Dresden, the Plural Projekt is welcome contrast to the at-times insular elite in the German capital. Spearheaded by five visiting students from the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts – Anna Grützner, Diana Welmeier, Denny Brückner, Patricia Detmering, and Benjamin Hummitzsch – and guided by painting professor Ralf Kerbach and philosophy professor Constanze Peres, the Projekt provided a month-long series of lectures, exhibitions, and performances, attracting multicultural, diverse audiences along the way.
All 2D artists from artistically conservative Dresden, the students, who had met through an exhibition, were frustrated by what they saw as intense curatorial authority in contemporary art and eager to reimagine their media. Consequently, they conceptualized, organized, and advertised Plural Projekt for a year, relocating in the meantime from Dresden to Atelierhof Kreuzberg, Scheliermacherstraße, Berlin. Members ultimately attracted to their five person core circle some forty Dresden professors, scientists, sponsors, artists, etc. and later twenty more participants from Berlin. The Projekt’s interdisciplinary topics, which coalesced into four main Berlin events last month, focused especially on an equal dialogue between science, philosophy, and art with loose prompts such as Reality, Immediacy, Nature, and Transhumanism.
Plural Projekt logo; Courtesy of Plural Projekt
Since the DISK/CTM Festival and Berlin Transmediale appear in the winter and spring, and similar interdisciplinary conferences pop up perennially, what makes Plural Projekt unique is its emphatic commitment to the organic outgrowth of ideas and art coupled with, rather than grumbling resignation, a willingness to avoid the helicopter curator mentality. Inspired by the meaning of plurality, the team wants to encourage exchange and court chance. Its events granted participants – scholars and artists alike – fair share and even vulnerability in the discourse, while reveling in other perspectives and improvisation.
After grappling with the discussed material, participating artists were given two weeks to create new work. New growth comes from fissures, founder Anna Grützner explained, “We didn’t want to create something out of nothing.” Personally putting the philosophy into practice, each founding member also stepped outside of his or her comfort zone. A painter by training, Diana Welmeier found that her work as the Projekt’s liaison to photographers and dancers during its planning led to SKINWALKER in the culminating Projekt session. This short performance piece, devised with dancer Rebecca Claridge and creative agency Schall & Schnabel, involves a chameleon figure emerging from paint. Glimpsed only in chinks of shadows and gaps, the performance created random collage and surprising mosaics in the viewer’s perception. As such, artist, work, space, and audience became inseparable.
Plural Projekt's Founders, left to right: Patricia Detmering, Denny Brückner, Diana Welmeier, Anna Grützner, and Benjamin Hummitzsch; Courtesy of Plural Projekt.
Although there were some semi-formal scheduled events – for example, a moderated primary lecture followed up by a performance and/or experimental music DJ set to anchor the reception discussion – the Plural Projekt aims to be largely a process, not result-driven creation. The spectrum of media produced by the series – video, installation, sculpture, performance, fashion (making a cameo in futuristic quilt wear), and of course, painting – manage to embody both the modern laterality and more admirably, the Berlin DIY, grassroots spirit, which some see as threatened by the city’s continuing gentrification.
If you missed it, not to worry – they are planning to do a second event soon in Dresden or perhaps Leipzig, with a possible recruit in artist-musician Martin Eder, who was recently featured in Neue Nationalgalerie’s Painting Forever!, as well as an expansion of SKINWALKER. As for the Plural Projekt members themselves, they are still busy working behind-the-scenes, reviewing the documentation and taking notes for future inspiration.
—S V Kim
(Image on top: Plural Projekt, SKINWALKER Performance, Berlin, 2013; Courtesy of Plural Projekt.)