Friday 17. March, starting at 7 p.m. Berlin will witness the premiere of the first exhibition of the newly-born art agency GREEN | GONZALEZ at Schaufenster Berlin. The show takes an intrinsic look at phenomena and chance in art, revelling a bit about how losing control affects art. Exhibiting alongside the other artists is Cornelia Renz— a Berlin staple since the early 2000s. I spoke to her about the impact of unpredictability in her life and work and how unexpected change can often be for the better…
Considering the artworks I already know from you, I feel like the themes and concepts with which you are working aren’t unpredictable, but rather they make sense in the climate of this day and age. What kind of ideas play a factor in the imagery of your ‚everyday‘ artwork?
For a long time, I’ve been engaged with puberty, the end of childhood, loss of innocence and the incurrence of guilt. Why is the idea of innocence (and with it the inherent properties such as gentleness, tenderness, defenselessness—including dependence and subservience) is so often and so willingly connected with girls? With questions about the roots of these notions, I try to dismantle—in this case– male construction of reality, which over time has become the ‘natural’ picture of reality. But why is the loss of innocence sexually connoted? And why is sexuality obviously burdened with guiltiness, when it actually gives life? Adam und Eve were naked, but were not ashamed until they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Was their nakedness suddenly evil? Similarly with the fratricide of Cain? Morals and laws are not in the nature of things. They are social settlements, usually rigidly enforced from a ruling class, which they say is from God or nature—in order to make this rhetorical detour absolute. But also our fundamental rights, as directly applicable law, bind the power of the state isn’t natural law; they, too, are the work of humans and can be unsoldered. We are currently experiencing how political keywords can again become attractive. Our quizzical and sometimes desperate attempts (with our self-imposed judgment on the grounds of a pluralistic morality in a globalized world and without mutating into unmoved and distancing-virtuosos) to succumb to the temptations of moral sirens of religious or political simplifiers, whom wish to divide the world into good and evil. And thus we counter the complexity and ambivalence that is so difficult to bear with violent morality.
Currently, because I’ve been engaged so long with these questions about the origin of moral convictions, commuting between these two countries has been a great opportunity for me to experience how much these beliefs have their own social and individual backgrounds. But it’s also about seeing how much I’m concerned with the achievements of the Enlightenment and the immutable moral settings I have, which I don’t wish to change (Democracy, Self-determination, Equality, Freedom of Art, writing, and speech– to name a few).
I was reading your interview on Freunde von Freunden (http://www.freundevonfreunden.com/interviews/cornelia-renz/). I thought it was so great—the narrative of your life and how your road had these really unexpected twists and turns. Is unpredictability something you are conscious about in your life?
Yes, absolutely. Becoming pregnant with 21 without having any education wasn’t exactly planned either (smiles). I met Bernhard Heisig, this well-known painter, especially in the GDR (former East Germany), during my studies at the University of Augsburg – I was studying art education, not art.
He persuaded me to study art in Leipzig. Without having accidentally met him I would have never come up with studying art—with the HGB Leipzig (academy of visual arts) being a possible place to do so. When moving to Berlin after having finished my master degree there, I was desperately trying to settle down professionally in Berlin. I was introduced through a friend of my then partner to the then partner of the Eigen + Art galerist Judy Lybke– Jana Franke. She just started to think about opening an artist run space, rekord. She invited me to be part of it; at the end, this is how I ended up with Goff+Rosenthal (Judy Lybke introduced them to me). Nothing but a series of coincidences. At the very moment my life became a little settled I gave it a new turn and now I am traveling between Israel and Germany; my partner is living and working there and I am in Yonderland – Siri Hustvedts’ poetical expression for the feeling of being in between and not settled.
How do you think unpredictability transcends into your artwork?
I would describe myself as a very controlled working artist. The precise lines I draw – often even with the help of rulers- on different sheets of acrylic glass, that are then put together to build the entire work, require a very thoughtful way of working and careful preparations beforehand. Still if it comes to my themes: it is nothing but Balagan (a Hebrew word for chaos or fiasco), or a huge Fauda (Arabic for chaos and title of a Israeli political thriller TV series, trying to depict the two-sided story of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict)– a carnevalesque reversal of our everyday life. In my works things are getting out of control, our unconscious desires prevail and gain the upper hand over our mindful reasoning – maybe this is how I transcend all kind of unpredictabilities into my work.
I got excited when I heard the pieces you are showing in the exhibitions were drawings you did with Scott Hunt and Joe Biel. I do really remember you as artists from Goff + Rosenthal—I was even at the opening of the first show, in like 2005 (2006?) Could you tell me about how the three of you put this drawing project together? I know the idea behind the Exquisite Corpses (I was really into them as a kid in the USA)—but how did you come to do this with them? Where did it happen? What did you three think about the outcome of the project? Also, Goff + Rosenthal was a gallery that made a pretty major impact on the Berlin art scene when it opened. (They originally started by showing German and specifically new Leipzig school painting in their space in NYC, and then they opened the space in Berlin, which marked the start of a number of New York galleries coming over to do stuff—especially around the Brunnenstrasse). I remember at the time—at their height—it felt like they would seriously be around forever. Then suddenly one day a few years later, poof! They were gone—website, too. How did this affect you? How did it affect you and your working relationship with Scott and Joe?
Scott, Joe and my common work have a lot to do with Goff+Rosenthal. When G+R very unpredictably disappeared from Berlin (although being a little closer it wasn’t SO unpredictable; there have been some hints and they also were hit by the 2008 financial crisis) a lot of their artists really were sad– not only because they lost their representation, but also because they lost their fellow artists and friends. Cassie and Robert brought some artists together who had really befriended each other while being in the same stable. I still have lasting bonds to GodsDogs Britta and Ron Helbig (one half of AA– artists anonymous) and to Joe and Scott. When I was invited by a Berlin gallery (Cream Contemporary) to do a Group show there, I asked them how they would feel about showing a combination of works of Joe, Scott and me. They liked the idea and with the group show coming up, I wanted to have something a little extra to improve our concept. Our works have a lot in common; I wanted to emphasize this by adding a specific work that was done by all of us. Scott lives in New York, Joe in L.A. and I in Berlin. We couldn’t work simultaneously on a work (unless – ‘beam me up, Scotty’ – Scott would be able to beam us around, what he failed to do). The only possibility left was to come up with something that could be done step-by-step. This is how we came up with the ‚Exquisite Corpses’. The three of us are– if it comes to the technique – controlled workers; but content-wise, we concentrate on the world of desires, hidden emotions, the abject, and the grotesque. So in a way we also could lose ourselves a little through our common work and approach to the unpredictable also through the technique. (smiles) We liked it a lot; we found a way to work together and still be the masterminds of our own parts. And we were lucky: we had the chance to be together in Berlin when we uncovered our works (we had covered what we drew with thick paper to hide it from the eyes of the next)—we got to see the entire pieces ourselves for the first time. It was a magic moment!
How did you get into collaborating with GREEN | GONZALEZ and why do you think this theme of unpredictability is important as an exhibition theme?
I know Wayra Schuebel from the artist-cooperative-gallery, Galerie LSD, where she worked as the Director—I like and respect her a lot. The Exquisite Corpse works were shown there once and Barbara Green really liked them. Ultimately, the cooperation came about. I’m happy that the two are now cooperating. I know at least from my time working together with Wayra that she’s very conscious about artists and their concerns; their worries lay close to her heart, and as well as critical questions about the art market. As an artist, I feel like she takes me seriously. She would certainly not work with Barbara– She would have a different attitude. Therefore, I’m happy that the two are cooperating with this exhibition where even in the title implies the imponderables of the art context—and that I could be a part of it!
Unpredictability is, I think, also one of the feelings that occupies the thoughts of a lot of humans. I’m currently also working on an exhibition with the title Kontrollverlust (Tailspin or Loss of Control).
Through the growing globalization that doesn’t even stop in front of our borders, many are losing the feeling of familiarity and being lifted in their lives; they feel like they can no longer cope with the external circumstances and dramatic changes. Their answer to this: simple slogans that don’t explain anything. We need to learn to live with ambivalence and uncertainties. I don’t technically work so, content wise I do. Unpredictability is for me the main reason for politicians as Erdogan, Trump, Petry etc. My upcoming Solo Show at Gallery Tore Süßbier, *it’s ok!* deals with this reaction – this turning to simple slogans- as well.
Show will run 18.03. – 02.04.2017.
UNPREDICTABLE – curated by GREEN | GONZALEZ
Artists: Susanne Kutter (video & performance), Cornelia Renz (drawing), Ulf Saupe (photography), Nikola Ukic (sculptur), Mario Weinberg (painting)
SCHAU FENSTER / Lobeckstrasse 30 – 35 / 10969 Berlin
Opening: Friday, 17.03., 7pm with Performance Live-Acts
Artist Talk: Saturday, 18.03., 3pm (w/ Cornelia Renz)
Finissage: Saturday, 01.04., 3pm
Images: Courtesy of The artist + GREEN | GONZALEZ