Sophia Gräfe and Arkadij Koscheew

Sophia Gräfe and Arkadij Koscheew, Photo: Stephanie Neumann

Sophia Gräfe and Arkadij Koscheew are the curators of ›On Equal Terms‹, an exhibition at Uferhallen that takes place during Berlin Art Week. The team answers our questionnaire below.

What are you working on at the moment? 
We’re busy preparing ›On Equal Terms‹, an exhibition at Uferhallen in Wedding opening right in time for Berlin Art Week. Together with our team, we examined the drastic and often demoralising impact of the ongoing struggle for endangered studio locations in Berlin—the way it affects the language artists use, their self-perception, and the kinds of action they take. The result is a group exhibition featuring works by Uferhallen artists and guests, plus a film, performance, and educational programme.

What are you reading or listening to right now?
Sophia Gräfe:
Right now, I’m reading my way through a whole range of contemporary literature from the eastern part of Germany. I’m actually from there and it’s been a long time since I’ve looked at my background from the perspective of art or even literature. I’m a media and culture scholar and actually used to reading texts and theories about other cultural contexts. Now, I’m starting to enjoy looking at how people of my own generation or older generations try to find words for the experiential space that was the ›East‹. Sometimes it affects me in a very personal way, sometimes I analyse interrelated themes, and also conspicuous, enduring images – the horrendous high-rise housing estates, newly-stocked supermarkets after 1990—spectacular!—and sad school induction ceremonies. I’m still waiting for a novel set in an East German pre-war flat. I hereby order one.
Arkadij Koscheew: Whenever I find time, I pick up Carlo Ginzburg’s ›The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller‹, a wonderful micro-historical book about the inquisition of a peasant in 16th century Italy. The book came out in 1976 and is the first to put a person from the illiterate class at the centre of a history of ideas. I’m particularly intrigued by the question of value: which social strata do historians study? And which are described in terms of a ›passive mass‹?

What would you do if you didn’t work in the arts?
SG: My answer to this question has long been: I’d be an apple farmer in the south of France.
AK: I would definitely turn my hobby into a profession and open a wild bird sanctuary in the countryside, realizing a dream of my bird-loving life partner. Having it next to an apple orchard would also be nice.

Do you have a favourite building?
Oh, that’s a tough one. If I say one of those ginormous metro stations in Moscow, it might sound like an Eastern Europe fetish. The old Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris with its bewitching reading room is certainly a more elegant choice. There you’ll see composers, among others, sitting side by side at green table lamps, putting notes to paper by hand. I think I prefer moments like that to the architecture itself.
AK: I cycle past the building of the Czech Embassy in Berlin, a structure designed by Věra Machoninová and Vladimír Machonin, almost every day. A brutalist UFO in the middle of the city. Every time I do, it’s like being transported back to a bygone era’s visions of the future.

What animal would you like to be?
An animal? No way.
AK: I could well imagine myself as a sea anemone: relaxed, with deep sea water swishing through my tentacles. I’m drawn to the decelerated life at the bottom of the sea.

Who would you like to meet?
SG: My relatives before 1945.
AK: This question never crossed my mind until now. I very much value the people around me and enjoy unplanned encounters. But now that I think about it, maybe Patricia Schlesinger could teach me the fine art of compensation models over dinner.

Do you have a daily ritual?
SG: Do you have one, Arkadij?
AK: I actually fill a water bowl every morning for the feathered, buzzing visitors to my balcony and greet the hooded crow and Eurasian jay who’ve become regulars there. It helps me not to take myself too seriously as a human being.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve had to admit to yourself?
SG: Not studying in London or Basel, never doing an internship in Paris—all the lovely meanderings in my curriculum vitae I had to forgo for paid work.

What accessory or object could you not be without?
A plain black ballpoint pen with an extra thin barrel. Use: obvious. DM me if you want to know the brand.
AK: As someone who works visually, I would have to say my eyeglasses.

What do you do when the work is done?
SG: Keep going.
AK: I don’t understand the question. (laughs) But seriously, I like to take walks through Hasenheide park in Berlin’s Neukölln district.

On Equal Terms
14 SEP—25 SEP 2022

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