January 2010, In Conversation with Johannes Weiss

Work by Patrick Fabian Panetta (left); Installation view of Thomas Chapmann (right)

Heidestrasse 46-52, Berlin

I meet Johannes Weiss of Infernoesque at his studio on Heidestrasse, Berlin.

Ariel Reichman: What is Infernoesque?

Johannes Weiss: This is what I am processing at the moment. It started in 2007. I curated a group exhibition in a rented space, on one floor in the building connected to my studio. It was a great experience. A big room, and we showed mostly sculptures. The idea is always about process and time. I try to think what a process brings into the space. It is a way and a form of thinking. After the group exhibition we started to use the studio's storage space as a project space for exhibitions. Normally there are six to seven exhibitions a year, mostly solo exhibitions. The openings are always connected to the openings of the galleries here on the Heidestrasse. Sometimes I also curate group exhibitions. They are usually on show for two or three

AR: Are you working alone?

JW: I started with Sonja Gerdes. She is currently in LA and very enthusiastic. We are thinking of opening a space in LA.

AR: Why have you chosen LA?

JW: Sonja was there ten years ago through her university exchange program. She knows the city and is in contact with some people. It makes it easier.

AR: Why the name 'Infernoesque' ?

JW: Many people ask me about this name. It is a song title from a band I like. I thought the name was pretty cool. Two years ago I didn't think the space would last so long. It doesn't stand for a certain attitude or concept.

AR: I like this idea that when the space started, you didnt know if it would continue. There is something temporary and very un-institutional about it. Is this the same time this street became a hot spot for galleries?

JW: We started working here in the studio ( an old car workshop ) five years ago. Our studio was full of junk, the whole floor was covered with car oil. There were no galleries yet. It was just a pretty industrial area. The project space developed from our studio. It used to be our storage. After some years with the studio, we decided to clean out the storage space and make an exhibition. That was the time when the galleries in the neighbourhood opened ( such as Morisson and Haunch of Venison ). Now we enjoy the larger crowd walking around.

AR: Do you concentrate on exhibiting mainly sculpture?

JW: We are mainly focussing on sculpture, but the concept is totally open. The idea is how the piece is installed in relation with the space. We are showing a video installation at the moment. I am interested in all media. My basic instinct is sculpture as this is where I come from. But an invited artist can do whatever he/she likes.

Opening at Infernoesque

AR: How do you see your position? Do you work as a curator or as an artist to an artist? Artist, curator, room, gallery.

JW: This is an interesting topic. I am an artist. I am not an artist/curator. I am interested in the process of the space as I am in my own art. It is exciting to install exhibitions from the idea resulting with the object lying in the space. How can one bring numerous artists together and create something new? It is important to give the freedom to experiment with something new, without necessarily knowing the outcome. Right now we are planning a group show with all the artists that have exhibited at Infernoesque in the last two years, including myself. Around 10-15 artists. Each artist curates his/her individual work but we will all work together. It becomes a discussion. This is not an artist collective, rather a collective of thoughts. The exhibition will take place next year at the two gallery spaces of Galerie Gebrüder Lehmann. In February we will show in Dresden, and in April in Berlin.

AR: Do you take on a position having a project room in between larger established galleries?

JW: As I mentioned before, when we first had the idea of doing a project space, there were no galleries at Heidestrasse yet, Then It all happened simultaneously. It was not part of our original concept.

AR: Have the 'rules' changed since the established galleries moved in?

JW: The situation has definitely changed. That is a question I have been concerned with a lot and I am still thinking about it. To define why I am here and what "Infernoesque" is about. I find this very important. I see the project space as a serious alternative to gallery or institutional structures. Everything is open. A gallery has a defined structure, our space is about the process. About not being sure. There are constantly new people getting involved in this process, bringing in new ideas. I am interested in this process and not only in creating an exhibition. To get to know new people and new ways of communication. New inspiration. It will never get to a point where everything is harmonious. We do not really know what the exhibition will look like until it opens. There are no clear plans. I want to connect people who normally wouldn't meet each other. I meet people who I probably I wouldn’t meet without the project. For me, when things get too harmonious, or when I am too satisfied, I have a problem. I always need to go farther. I enjoy problems. In my own work as an artist , I go through the same process, but alone. The project space it is a collective process. I would never tell an artist what he/she should create in the space. I am always excited to see the result. I don't want to have any control. The space is open and the people working in the space have their own intelligence. Other structures are closed and elitist. I search for diversity.

AR: How do you feel towards the fact that there are so many project spaces in Berlin? Do you agree with the position of some people that the situation is an inflation of shit?

I find this situation incredibly positive! In the world we are living in, we need to know each other. Society is very complex, and I think the network is very important. Its easy to work with a lot of people, the difficulty is to create something deeper and more concentrated. Not the quantity, but the quality counts. A project space is always a reflection of the people who run it. When things are made on the ground level, they will stay there. I want to think about how to create something deeper that will last
longer. Something totally transparent.

AR: How long have you lived in Berlin?

JW: Nine years. I started my studies here at the UDK. That time was a very intimate self reflected period in my life. I was working alone. Since I started with the project space, I have opened up to many people.

AR: Is there a similar ground connecting the artists exhibiting in the space?

JW: Absolutely not. My main passion is sculpture, but there is no label to the space. The artists come from different cities in Germany and abroad. The more the merrier. The ideas come as the artists bring their own intelligence into the space. This is like a magazine. You have intelligent people working together, sharing information.

AR: Where is your personal ego as an artist seeking to exhibit your own work?

JW: I exhibited some watercolours during the first exhibition. I could imagine exhibiting here in the future. I see myself as part of the network, and I find myself also good. Johannes Weiß was born in 1979, Germany. He has exhibited in several exhibitions and is represented by Galerie Lena Brüning. I would like to thank Johannes for sharing his thoughts and two cups of coffee with me on a cold winter day in Berlin.

Ariel Reichman

Ariel Reichman Lives and works in Berlin/Jerusalem. He was born in 1979.

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