Dating Service Oslo/Berlin
Hand in Hand
A month ago I saw a group show at Autocenter in Berlin.
I had been asked to write a review of it for a Norwegian journal, and returned home from travels one day earlier than planned to catch the show on its last day. Since the show was called “Dating Service” I invited a companion to come along with me. I would not say that the two of us have ever been dating, but one time we did listen to records together, and when going for a walk afterwards he stopped and asked me to look at the moon. We were crossing a bridge. The moon was full, and shining very bright up in the sky. Another time he complimented my nail polish while holding my hand.
While riding my bike across the city, I stopped to send him an SMS saying that I would be late. The second I pressed send, a message from him ticked into my phone. He had chosen the exact same words as the ones I had sent him. Slightly late. Still, he was there before me. I spotted him from across the room, leaning over a sculpture. Touching his back I said ‘Hi’, and asked him how he were. He did not answer. I did not repeat the question. After a while he sighed. ‘You know life’. Before we left I asked him which one of the works he liked the best. He pointed at a concrete fountain. ‘The heaviest one,’ he answered. I would later learn that it weighed two tons.
When writing the review I came in contact with the curator.
I was looking for the correct spelling of the names of the artists, as the information from Autocenter had the names spelled in a series of different ways, ranging from the correct spelling via shuffling the letters in the names, to mixing up the name of the artist with the title of the work. I wanted to know if this was intentional. The answer I got was lengthy. The short version of this answer was ‘no’. Then, to make another long story short, I met up with the curator.
The curator wanted me to write another text about the show. I was rather dubious if I was the right person to do so. But the curator was charming. I should have been expecting it. And to be honest, I had been expecting it. The charm and wit it takes to bring people together is one of the most important skills for a curator. Even more so for one who for a show chooses to wear the hat of a matchmaker.
We talked for a while. He talked more than I did. Later, he wrote an e-mail to apologize about this. The conversation drifted from ideas about art, to experiences of connection. We talked about knowing people and scenes over time. We talked about the stories that surround an exhibition. We talked about things getting lost. Once, or maybe twice, we mentioned things being found.
In the review I wrote of the exhibition, I wrote that shows like these are more for the artists involved than the audience that comes to see it. When I met with the curator I had only suspicions that there was more to this exhibition than what one could see. When we said our goodbyes I knew a few stories. Some of these stories deserve a larger audience.
7 Stories about connecting people and displacing things
Written down after a conversation with Andreas Schlaegel, in the garden of the Literature House in Fasanenstraße, Berlin.
As with any story written down based on memory, inaccuracies might occur. Other versions of these stories might also be in circulation. They are just as likely to be true.
One day the curator of the show heard from someone else that one artist had moved into the garden house of another artist. He was surprised.
Another day the curator was called up by the artist who was now living in the garden house. She told him that she, together with the artist whose garden house she was living in, had made a sculpture that weighed two tons. This sculpture now needed to be moved.
Another one of the artists and her husband slept in my apartment during the installation period. I was out of town. This artist is an old friend of mine. It was me who had offered them my place. I had also told them, that if they had the time, they should wash the sheets they slept in at the local laundromat before leaving. I do not have a washing machine. While still away, I received an e-mail. It said thank you. It also said that they had ended up with no time to wash the sheets. Instead, they had left me a bottle of whiskey, 10 euros for the laundromat and a rubber keychain made by the curators daughter.
One artist sent 3 postcards to the show. At Autocenter, they were well informed that these postcards would arrive, and should be cared for.
One of the postcards arrived Autocenter on the opening night of the show that found place before the show in question. In the daily pile of commercials and enveloped mail, the postcard stood out. In shared excitement it was passed around to the guests of the show. It made people happy. They laughed. They enjoyed themselves. And they all wondered why anyone would send a postcard to Autocenter.
It was not before the next day that the people running Autocenter remembered that they had been told this postcard would arrive. By that time, it was gone. One of the gallerists picked up his phone, and called the last person he remembered seeing holding the postcard.
‘I do not have it.’
‘But I did pass it on to a friend. I will give you her number.’
The gallerist called this friend. Then he called a friend of this friend. And a friend of that friend, who might know the number of another friend, wearing a blue jacket, whom she had given the card to. And the man in the blue jacket remembered giving the post card to a colleague, an artist, who in his turn gave it to his ex-partner, a curator. From there the gallerist kept on calling strangers until the track went cold. The card was gone. No one knew where.
The previous story described just one of a series of unfortunate events, the curator told me. The artist who had sent the postcard was on a residency in Ireland. It very often rains there, and the day she arrived was no exception. Not only was it raining, but no one met her at the airport. She had to make her way to the residency herself. And upon arrival, she found herself alone. Standing with suitcase in hand, the rain fell in her hair and on her shoulders. Soon, her feet were also wet. By the time someone arrived to let her into the studio she would be living in, she was so tired that all she wanted to do was go to sleep. So she did.
The next morning she woke with the sensation that someone were looking at her. First she ignored the feeling. She was on the 3rd floor. There could not possibly be anyone outside the window, and she had locked the door. It felt way to early to get up. She turned around in her bed, but the feeling would not let go. Slowly she opened her eyes and looked out the window. Expecting to see a grey sky above her, she instead met another pair of eyes. A uniformed man was standing on her windowsill, holding a gun.
The way I was told this story, she did not get scared. I know that I would have. Then the curator carefully explained to me how an important person was visiting the art center. I cannot remember who it was, but it might have been the prime minister of Ireland. The man outside the window was a sniper. He was keeping guard. And as most days, nothing was happening. The sniper had gotten bored, and turned his head the other way. Instead of looking at the person he was supposed to look at, he looked at the artist, sleeping alone in her bed.
It might sound like I am making things up, but the bad luck did not end in the previous story either. Even though the artist in question had a blooming career in recent years, she was quite exited about participating in this specific show. She sent the curator several e-mails, asking when she would get to meet the young artist she had been paired up with. In the end, this meeting never happened. For reasons I do not know, the other artist ended up withdrawing from the show, and of the 36 artists exhibiting, the artist with the bad luck was the only one doing so alone.
At this time of the conversation I was longing for a story with a happy ending. Days had been rough. As most people, I sometimes need some reassurance that some things turn out ok. I know that I phrased the question slightly more discretely in the conversation I had with the curator, but in retrospect the closest I can get to remembering what I said would be the following.
‘Did anyone hook up?’
The curator laughed. I laughed. Then I added something in the order of this not really being any of my business. Which it really wasn’t. The curator said that after the exhibition there was a party. At the party people got along. He left the party somewhat early. He found it most appropriate.
‘Dating Service Oslo/Berlin’ was an exhibition which took place at Autocenter in Berlin. For the exhibition curator Andreas Schlaegel had paired recently graduated students from the art academy in Oslo with more established Berlin based artists.
„Dating Service Oslo/Berlin“, Autocenter, Leipziger Straße 56,
10117 Berlin, 30.8.2014–13.9.2014
„Dating Service Berlin/Oslo“, kuratiert von Andreas Schlaegel, Foto und Courtesy: Autocenter, Berlin