Contributed by Loren Britton / When artist�Melanie Vogel opened Warte f�r Kunst (Waiting for Art) in 2010 in Kassel, Germany, Vogel�wanted�to�challenge the notion of what �good art” was. Located in a�shabby�red-walled tattoo studio�that had been given a fresh coat of white paint,�Warte f�r Kunst was a platform�where Vogel�envisioned an�exchange between art and artists would take place. It was a�waiting room,�and they waited to see what would�happen in the in-between.�I discovered�the Warte f�r Kunst in August, 2017, when they were well into their summer project “We + The Others,� which was the inaugural project after the�gallery�had moved into in�a�new space.
�We� comprised�four artists:�Romina Abate, Anja K�hne, Melanie Vogel, and Johannes Peter; the 16 artists who made up �The Others� included Frederike Vidal & Judith Groth, Moritz Unger, Artur Niestroj, Lars Rosenbohm, Tobias B�hm, Thomas Reymann, Bernhard Prinz, Romina Abate, Anja K�hne, Hanna Ben-Haim Yulzari, Brendon Ehinger, Lisa Wood, Michel Gockel, Linda Jasmin Mayer & Sebastian Kulbaka.
The exhibition explored the questions�the questions: What does it mean to make an exhibition? What does it mean to break it? Can an artist�make something new with things that are already there?
The rules�of this 16-week project were as follows:
1) Each week one of the artists in “We & The Others” was to be invited to have a solo exhibition � with the caveat that the artist�must engage with the detritus and artwork left from the previous�exhibition.
2) Over the duration of this series of exhibitions, the gallery was to grow�increasingly�more crowded as�objects accumulated�from each exhibition.
3) Nothing was allowed to leave the gallery.
As the guardian of the Warte, Vogel�oversaw�the process�discreetly, touching and moving small bits of the work around, adding some objects of her own, and watching�how�the�process manifested an exhibition.
�It didn�t work like we thought it would,� Vogel told me. “People didn�t initially touch or engage the others’ artwork.� It was as if it was�a series of solo exhibitions with�something else happening on the side. �We had to really nudge and give permission to the Others�not to be shy.� Vogel�noticed that there were a lot of respectful actions,�but that�artists seemed�fearful of�destroying.
Authorship, ownership, and collectivity questions arose.�How brave do you have to be to cut into someone else�s work? What does it mean to work with another artist�s objects? What is yours and what is not? How does ownership make meaning for the artist who is invited to destroy? What IS property? What does it mean to �have� something?
The exhibition provoked thoughts about�ownership, conjuring�Robert Rauschenberg�s 1953 action,�Erased de Kooning,�and�the Greifers of Bandung, a novella�written by 14 students at�the Dutch Art Institute. Both are�instances of uncollaborative�collaboration, and in each, the idea of authorship troubles�in intriguing ways. With �Erased de Kooning, Rauschenberg famously eliminated�one of his forefather�s works by erasing,�with various kinds of erasers, a densely drawn work comprising�crayon, ink, charcoal and pencil,�over the course of two months. In this case, Rauschenberg�s erasure of the other was the express goal of this work; through erasure the ownership of this drawing shifted from one man to the other. Greifers of Bandung is�a “romantic fantasy” in which the story shifted between “characters and voices, perspectives, and plotlines” as each artist�took a turn writing. Struggling to find a narrative arc in the structure of the book becomes a�substitute�for an illegible textual story. Similarly, “We & The Others” privileges�collaboration over�aesthetic unity�by exploring�the space between the artists rather than�focusing on the artwork produced.
By the conclusion of the exhibition, the�project�produced�more questions�than�answers. I�wondered if the political climate as it relates to boundaries might be the reason why many of the artists treaded so lightly. Can we think of�authorship as a way to dissolve boundaries of practice and praxis and�effectively imagine a transformative future in the arts that has to do with undoing hierarchy and fruitfully engaging with the Other? Perhaps, as Vogel asks�with Warte f�r Kunst, the space of crossover can be found in�the waiting room.
“We &�The Others,� Warte f�r Kunst,�Kassel, Germany. Summer 2017. With�Romina Abate, Anja K�hne, Melanie Vogel, Johannes Peter,�Frederike Vidal & Judith Groth, Moritz Unger, Artur Niestroj, Lars Rosenbohm, Tobias B�hm, Thomas Reymann, Bernhard Prinz, Romina Abate, Anja K�hne, Hanna Ben-Haim Yulzari, Brendon Ehinger, Lisa Wood, Michel Gockel, Linda Jasmin Mayer & Sebastian Kulbaka.
About the author:�A recent grad of Yale�s�MFA program,�Loren Britton� is a co-founder of the curatorial projects �Improvised Showboat�(with Zachary Keeting),�lcqueryprojects�(with Christie DeNizio), and�Queering Space. Britton�has a��solo�exhibition, �Second Date,� on view at Field Projects in Chelsea through December 16, 2017.