What are you working on at the moment?
Dennis Brzek and Junia Thiede: At the moment we are both working on two things: one is the group exhibition ›Time Without End‹, which will open during Berlin Art Week and also marks the start of our programme series at Fluentum; the second is the first book in a new, parallel series of publications. Titled ›In Medias Res #1: Histories Read Across‹, it will be published in time for the exhibition opening.
Who or what has influenced you in your work?
JT: Oh, so many things! The exhibition ›TIES, TALES, TRACES‹ at KW Institute for Contemporary Art a couple of years back (the show dedicated to Berlin-based curator Frank Wagner, who died in 2016) was ground-breaking for me in terms of showing how personal narratives are communicated and how voices can retain a certain agency today. The exhibition felt like an archiving process laid bare, a smattering of artworks, documents, but also many personal treasures. The approach was in keeping with Wagner’s hallmark way of turning internal circumstances outward and politicising them. It also impressively showed how much life can be found even in the most banal-seeming details.
DB: I suppose many people who make exhibitions have specific, but often vaguely remembered experiences that led them (and subconsciously still lead them) to want to curate themselves. I was very much inspired by the ability of curatorial situations to show objects and the discourse around them in such a way that the aesthetic experience of them generates knowledge—as it does in essay exhibitions by Anselm Franke, for example, or the curatorial-artistic projects of Alice Creischer and Andreas Siekmann. Siekmann actually hails from the same Westphalian town where I am from and attended the same school. He also made the first exhibition I ever saw.
Which artwork do you return to again and again?
DB: Not one artwork in particular, more of an overall body of work: that of Harun Farocki. No one has shed more light on the document and its staging than he has, and to such a profound degree. The documentary vocabulary employed in his film works is absolutely trailblazing and pointed the way forward in the work to curate our programme series, because Farocki makes it so compellingly clear that showing and display are inevitably linked to politics. It isn’t just the subject matter he tackles; the production mechanisms behind his works—always part of the forming-finding process—stand forcefully and essentially for critical, solidary community.
JT: I love the way Moyra Davey takes everyday objects and (literary) encounters as a starting point and occasion to look at familiar things in an unfamiliar way; and the way she embeds these things in a dense web of references. Photography, film practice, and writing often go hand in hand in the sense of continuing engagement with a topic or subject matter in another medium, through other visual and narrative means. I appreciate her insanely clear, coherent language, especially in times when my own work seems monotonous and static. Her work instantly sets my thinking on a new track.
What would you do if you didn’t work in the arts?
JT: I would definitely be a relationship therapist.
DB: I wanted to be a film director when I was a teenager—though I guess that’s not so different from art. But I didn’t really know where to start.
What are you reading or listening to at the moment?
DB: Besides archival work for our publication series, for which we regularly rummage through old documents from the Bauaktenarchiv Zehlendorf building files archive, we are also reading books that the artists in our ›Time Without End‹ show are preoccupied with, for example the novels ›Timequake‹ and ›Cat’s Cradle‹ by Kurt Vonnegut, which D’Ette Nogle is reading for her new work. Another thing on my desk right now is ›Critique of Architecture‹ by Douglas Spencer, recommended to me by the artist Noah Barker. In it, Spencer very skilfully shows how certain, presumed political discourses now circulate with virtually no trace of their original, critical impetus.
JT: During one of these typical wormhole-like forays through the internet, I stumbled across Vaginal Davis’s blog, a great discovery. Her writing style is utterly unique: a mixture of less-than-super-serious cultural criticism, gossip, and desire, coupled with a genuine openness towards her subjects and topics. The blog also offers unparalleled insight into many facets of the Berlin art world in the 2000s. Anyone interested in eccentric local stories should definitely check out the archive!
What should art today be able to do, in your opinion?
JT: To put it the other way around: I think the days of big jokes and grand gestures are numbered (please, hopefully).
DB: I think art should always show an interest in where it is being created and shown and under what conditions. I also think we all need to be a little less afraid of doing ›too little‹.
What aspect of the pre-pandemic world do you grieve—and what things do you not miss at all?
DB: This may sound a bit strange, but I miss having a sense of smell when shopping or visiting exhibitions. Think about it! On the other hand, I am quite happy that shaking hands and hopping on planes have become less of a matter of course.
JT: Spontaneity worked better before the pandemic. So did crowded spaces. That said, I don’t think the relative calm you see nowadays is such a bad thing.
If you had to sum up your work in one word, what would it be?
JT: Thinking about it unfortunately gives me a headache.
Do you have a daily ritual?
DB: I can’t do without a green tea at around twelve o’clock sharp.
JT: Coffee and news in the morning, that’s all I’ve got. But still very reliably and helpful in virtually any situation.
What art or culture-related events do you look forward to in the near future?
DB and JT: After a busy and work-filled summer we are of course looking forward to everything going on in Berlin in September: at top of the list are the exhibitions ›Illiberal Arts‹ at Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) and ›Henrike Naumann: Einstürzende Reichsbauten‹ at Kunsthaus Dahlem. We will also definitely swing down to Munich to see Bea Schlingelhoff’s solo exhibition at Kunstverein München.