whitehot | May 2010, Interview with Amir Fattal, Tape Modern
Interview with Amir Fattal by Zitong Wu
Born in Ramat Gan in Israel (1978)
Lives and works in Berlin in Germany
Amir Fattal is an artist and a curator. He is the director of Tape Modern and has curated numerous shows there, as well as for other events. As an artist, photography was his first major medium. Now he works more with videos and installations. His work involves many Berlin elements; he is intrigued by the various physical, political and social landscapes within the city, and incorporates people around him to reflect his interactions with them.
This interview was conducted at Fattal’s studio in Berlin.
Zitong Wu: What do you think about your dual identity as artist and curator?
Amir Fattal: I identify myself more as an artist than a curator. I kind of created Tape Modern when, in the beginning, no one wanted to curate events - so I started to curate them myself. As Tape Modern became more successful professional curators started to approach me. I let them curate shows however they wanted. Now, as the director of Tape Modern, sometimes I curate shows myself; sometimes I invite external curators to do them. And I show my own works whenever they are appropriate. I didn’t really consider becoming a curator at first but I really enjoy it.
ZW: Do you think you are altering a piece of work when you arrange it in a show?
AF: It’s collaboration between the artists and me. Mostly I like to let the artists do whatever they want. That’s the whole deal of the thing: the artists can use our space without feeling the pressure to comply with the commercial art world. But of course one artist’s work has to coordinate with the others’. The major concern is always about placing. And I think for many artists that we’ve had in our shows, Tape is one of the places where their works look best.
ZW: Yeah, I really like the middle wall that separates the exhibition space.
AF: It’s a particularly raw space. It’s industrial. Yet at the same time, it doesn’t have so much character that it takes over the exhibition. Sometimes the character of the space can compete with the artworks, but Tape has just good amount. It’s very versatile.
ZW: How do you find artists for a show?
AF: I studied at Universität der Künste for six years, through which I made a lot of friends since a large percentage of artists in Berlin study there. And I get to know artists through friends and exhibitions. Sometimes I ask friends to recommend people.
ZW: How big a role do you think social networking plays here?
AF: I would say a big one for a gallery like Tape. For museums it doesn’t play as much of one, but here it’s more about showing young artists.
ZW: As a curator, you are primarily interested in young artists?
AF: Right. It’s important to have a showcase for young artists on Heidestrasse, where most galleries are somewhat established and their artists often established too. There are thirteen commercial galleries around Tape Modern, which is the center of that area. Six times of a year the galleries open their shows together and hold opening nights. This is when we do our events. We expect those who come to those galleries would also come to our shows.
ZW: What do you suggest for those young artists that don’t have much network to begin with? How should they kick-start their career?
AF: Go to galleries, go to openings, go meet people. And be creative, try to do your own thing. Get a space and show your work, put it on Facebook as an event and bring people over. And also be persistent.
ZW: Can you talk more about the first Tape show?
AF: At the time I was working for a gallery and we were organizing all the openings on Heidestrasse together. And I saw this club on the other side of the street. I went over to see if we could collaborate on some openings or after-parties. They showed me the hall, and at that instant I knew I would have exhibitions there. If there was already an art world around Heidestrasse why not we take advantage of it?
ZW: What do you think is the difference between small, informal shows like Tape and large exhibitions in museums and in biennales?
AF: First of all, artists here have more freedom to do what they want. Second, we don’t have the kind of budget that museums have, and we aren’t able to support our artists as the museums could. Also, our shows are weekend events. It’s not like the exhibitions in museums that run for three months. Mostly our shows are at night, so you have to come in the evening. They are exhibitions, but they are also social events. The openings and the people there constitute the events. People have a different set of mind when they go to museums. Exhibitions are the only things that matter there.
ZW: Can you talk about the show for Haiti?
AF: Sure. We had two curators for this show. One was Cecile Evans. She was in Haiti shooting her film when the earthquake hit. So she decided to do a benefit instead. She is in charge of the artworks that are directly shot in Haiti. The other one, Antje Engelmann, curated more abstract video works from Berlin-based artists that have to do with deconstruction, climate change, and emergency, etc.
ZW: What’s your role in this show?
AF: I’m the director. I invited Cecile and Antje and we developed the concept together.
ZW: Does Tape feel much pressure from the commercial art world?
AF: No. We don’t sell; we don’t care. Our sponsorship for the shows comes from Tape, which is not a gallery. We don’t rely on sale; we just make shows.
Zitong Wu is pursuing her BFA at New York University. Her work is extremely varied in media from painting, photography to installations. She is currently studying in Berlin through NYU.
Whitehot Magazine's Berlin Editor, Ana Finel Honigman, is pleased present a series of reviews and interviews by studio art students of the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. The students are spending a semester abroad in Berlin and contributing to Ana Finel Honigman’s contemporary art course “Intro to Reality: Art World Institutions in Context.” The articles are written as part of Ms. Finel Honigman’s class and selected for publication based on their excellence.
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