Now that the floorboards are back...
Tom Smith talks space with Airgarten's Daniel Lima and Yukihiro Taguchi and pays a visit to Wilde Gallery in an attempt to discover the rules of performance in gallery spaces whose own space is essential to the art produced there. Yukihiro Taguchi is an integral part of Airgarten, one of Berlin's most exciting galleries, having exhibited what can most concisely be described as installation and film projects, for 2 years. His work is hard to define - I am here to talk about Moment, performatives, installation and Moment, performatives, spazieren, two projects where the gallery's floorboards were taken up and used in lengthly installations. Every movement was captured and used to create stop-frame films which were shown at the finissages. Is Yukihiro an installation artist? a video artist? Daniel describes his methodology as "almost painting" as well as playful, narrative and precise.
Whitehot Magazine: What first strikes you about the two Moment installations is how site-specific they are. What are the differences between the two?
Daniel Lima: The first Moment used the floorboards to create different shapes, structure or games, such as a badminton "net" or a film projection night, for the public to interract with and the second took the boards outside to interract with the surrounding area of Kreuzberg before coming back to the gallery.
WM: Now that the floorboards are back, could you imagine these projects elsewhere? It would be possible to recreate the installation for another gallery or museum but with their materials. It wouldn't be with your floor!
DL: Exactly. Let me tell you how Yuki works. When he arrives in a place he likes to keep everything. Old furniture, junk even. He worked with another space prior to Moment I or II where on arrival he insisted that the old fridges, rubbish and so on were kept. Ordnung, german for order or for ordering, was the name of the project. He spent hours moving around and gradually clearing away the objects, again producing a stop-frame film. He is very methodical in a naive and spontaneous way which has something almost cultural about it. His principle is to arrive in a place and to use what is there. He has been developing this over several years.
WM: So whereas the term site-specific is usually applied to art made for a space, Yuki's art is not only site-specific in terms of the dimensions but also in terms of the materials.
DL: Yes and there is something to do with chance or coincidence in this. If the floor of Airgarten was made of concrete and not slats, Yuki would have played differently with the space.
WM: It would have been a different performance.
DL: Yes but the rules of performance would have remained the same. Yuki would have used the space and what was within the space. He would have put in long hours and worked during the gallery's opening hours so not only does the installation change, but you can see it change too. Yuki's work reveals the space but always in a different way as it is highly dependent on the space itself.
WM: In Moment I and also in Moment II there are recognizable objects or pieces of furniture, things with functionality.
DL: The objects, such as the badminton net or the benches in Moment II are more to do with interaction than function.Interaction is a relation with people, an invitation to play and as such it makes Yuki's art generous. He makes sure people get involved. For the first Moment installation he produced a grid-map with different forms in each square. We would announce in advance which square corresponded to which night so people knew what would happen. You just have to find the right place on the map. C7 was a film night and so on.
WM: A little like a treasure hunt.
DL: Yes! I never though of it like that. His art is conducive to a relationship with people where people participate.
WM: So are the people part of the project. They come in during the changes of the installation, they take part. Are they allowed to help in the construction?
DL: Ah no! They do not make the art.
WM: But what is really pushed to the forefront by these installations is the performativity of the gallery. It would work well as the product of a collective of the visitors.
DL: I think we are considering here the relation between art and interaction. Not every gallery visitor in an artist or should be expected to make art here.
Yukihiro Taguchi enters, an artist who is expected to make art in airgarten, and joins the conversation.
YT: Spatial interaction is more important than people's involvement. In this respect Moment II is more refined than Moment I. The public are like visitors to an information office. We value their interaction.
DL: For this reason we do not usually produce press releases; we prefer to talk directly with them.
WM: Is it the interaction which makes it a performance?
DL: What is performance? It is moving something, working, and being watched by people. Interaction is the relation to the performance, to the installation or whatever you want to call it.
WM: People watch, everything is recorded and yet at the end the floorboards are back. Has anything actually changed?
DL: Yuki's work is ephemeral and yet at the same time it is repetitive, minutely worked. It is quite architectural and yet it is like painting insofar as it can rebrush, reshape and refine. Yuki's work has an end, like all art it is ephemeral and not monumental. Of course, that depends on your conception of art. But Yuki is not out to make a monument. He doesn't even talk about art, he talks about playing!
WM: Could you say that taking the floorboards taken outside is a visual metaphor for the relationship between a cultural space and its relationship with the surrounding area, a metaphor for the cultural industry?
YT: Yes you could. It plays with external space. Berlin is very important for this. Not only is there lots of space, but you don't need to ask permission for anything! Of course people ask what is going on when they see floorboards going down the steps of a U-Bahn entrance or over bus shelters but they let you get on with things here more than in any other big city.
WM: By taking the gallery outside you are redefining Berlin and allowing Berlin to redefine the gallery. You are putting the footprint of the gallery on Berlin and bringing Berlin's footprint back into the gallery.
DL: Yes it is a way of opening up the gallery, of externalising it.
WM: We are speaking about Moment II. Moment I is more akin to what is currently being shown at the Wilde Gallery - paintings by Michael Luther of the gallery's walls, corners and so on. It is very reflective, internalised, concentrating on the relationship with itself. A mise en abyme of the gallery that does not focus on the outside world. You could say that Moment I and II and Michael Luther's paintings are a way of showing another plane or mode of the gallery's existence. At Wilde Gallery for example, you see a painting hanging of paintings waiting to be hung. Time is being played with. You're are not just seeing the gallery as it is but as it could be. Michael Luther's hyper-real paintings don't quite match reality. They speak more about the instability of perception of the subject and the subsequent different modes or dimensions of the gallery rather than being centred around playful ordering. However, both you and Michael Luther respect gallery space in terms of materials and dimensions (through actual usage or "faithful" representation) and therefore could be considered to respect the same rules of performance. Even though in terms of interaction you are very different, the basic formula of performance=space+materials is the same.
YT: This is true but for me spatial interaction is more important than modes of space or pure performance of space. I am interested in stories of space. Without the planks it was another place or landscape or even a different story. Very soon after the floorboards were taken up Daniel and I got used to it and it felt strange when the boards were back again! People seemed to be happy however, saying "ah it's a floor". Not everyone knew what it was when it was in planks.
WM: So it was a story that challenged them. I'm glad you said story. I wanted to ask you to what extent do you see the gallery's performance as narrative.
YT: Very much so. The installations and the films are very narrative. That is why they are called Moment. Each moment is once scene which is cut but nevertheless all the scenes are connected. For me, living is duration of this kind, everything as connected and linear. It is cinematographic.
Michael Luther's show continues until September 20 and Yuki's next airgarten show will begin at the end of September. He also is planning a wall installation at Tape in Berlin which will follow his principles of performance.
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Thomas Smith is a writer in Berlin