The name of the previous project in that space was untiednationsplaza - a subversively glamorous translation of a street (square) name, Platz der Vereinten Nationen. That was the name for Anton Vidokle's "exhibition as school", which he had conceived after Manifesta 6, where he was appointed a curator, was cancelled. Restless as a revolutionist should be, instead of curating he created. In collaboration with over a hundred of artists, writers and theorists unitednationsplaza existed as an informal, open, and free arena for thought exchange, available to all.
Linguistically, the building is a more humble, if not direct approach to the architectural structure of the present project, located in that same indescript cube attached to the back of a supermarket. Keep in mind too, that Platz der Vereinten Nationen is just a square of land in the midst of East Berlin's typical residential architecture. When I first arrived at the door, I stayed at the door. For about an hour nobody was answering the buzzer or the telephone. Do not be discouraged: it could only mean that the place is free of institutional rigor.
Once inside I was welcomed warmly and told that I could basically do whatever I wanted, that is rent the videos, or watch them on site, as well as grab some publications to read. The current function of the building is e-flux video rental, an extensive archive of freely available video art selected by curators and artists, and a reading room filled with art publications and art magazines from all over the world. In other words, a continuation of unitednationsplaza in the form of a database.
What we are witnessing is a unique initiative for self-fueled discourse, backed by visual and written material available on site. Importance of such gesture is more than critical. The sole purpose of making art is to communicate. With ever changing trends and market driven strategies of commercial art venues it becomes hard to follow artistic practices from all over the world. Another case lies in the roots of video art itself – many artists turn to it for low cost and easy access, but copyrights and distribution procedures prevent a broader audience from accessing the source material. Even with some material available online the building remains an unprecedented act.
Exhibition without discussion is all but worthless, but it seems to be the status quo of most events in the art world. Anton Vidokle goes further, turning an exhibition into a school one more time and giving up the role of a mentor. What matters most – especially in digitized reality – is the space itself. With a friendly, unpretentious and deinstitutionalized atmosphere the building provides a venue for unexpected meetings, spontaneous discussion and most importantly free education.
Appreciated or not, manufacturing of new artworks will remain futile until they are self-sustainable and able to provide fruitful and unrestricted conversation. The artist as producer must yield to those able to utilize available and still unexploited resources, rich in potential and ready to use. Now is the time.
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Bartek Kraciuk is a freelance writer in New York.