Under the title “echoes remain forever” Law of Life (LoL) have transformed a former gatehouse into a house of artistic dialogue. Situated on the grounds of a former psychiatric clinic in Westend, Berlin, the property is now used as an accommodation for refugees and hosts several social projects such as Ulme35, a café and meeting point for residents and visitors. The original use of the space as a gatehouse (in French the gatekeeper or guard building of a castle was called a conciergerie) has been rethought and broken up. While in the original sense a concierge monitors incoming and outgoing of people or goods in an often secured building where access is only granted to some, the collective tried to make the space and the world within it accessible to everyone. In their cross-media exhibition, Law of Life (LoL) references the past of the history-heavy site and connects it to the present time and their own mental states. The exhibition focuses on aspects such as perception, shifts in reality, dreams and trauma as well as the concept of memory and its symbols. Questions about how to deal with loss and its effects play just as much a role as the potential of good memories to generate new strength in difficult times.
Text by CCCCCOMA
Can you tell us what Law of Life (LoL) is about?
First of all LoL is about how we could develop and enable sustainable relationships within the arts. It is a field highly contaminated of neoliberal dynamics which was especially enabled due to the tiring rhetoric of some powerful people that art is per se a progressive space and therefore untouched by anything “outside” of it (racism, sexism, ableism, classism, list goes on…). Of course this doesn’t make any sense and at least since a few years the voices to point out the toxic hierarchical system get louder. They always have been there but unfortunately unheard.
We see tiny changes in acts such as artists deciding to use their own power at a certain level to stop the run to the winner’s podium and to equally distribute the financial resources. We might be able to see this with the development at some art academies trying to reflect the daily abuses experienced by students between them and their professors/teachers. There are of course more examples and again it’s mostly the already precarious living artists, curators, cultural workers who take a stance and try to change something. So for us it was a necessity after experiencing abuse of power within the hierarchy but also with colleagues reproducing this system or acting as bystanders to create a space where we could feel safe. Since we do so between one another we hope to redistribute this energy to the places and people we’re working with and therefore creating a network of togetherness. It’s a tiny part but we hope to enable and develop other ways and practices how we could relate to one another and how we could support each other in the cultural field.
How would you define this artist collective in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?
Warm, caring, floating, open-ended, empathetic, interlacing, alleviate.
Could you also share some details about your group show, ‘Echoes Remain Forever’. How was the experience exhibiting your works at that space?
The project ‘echos remain forever’ developed from an invitation by the curator collective ‘CCCCCOMA’. In the fall of 2021 we were given access to a former gatehouse for 2 months to repurpose it as a work and exhibition space, but also as an experimental space. The area around the house has a long history – it is a former psychiatric facility that is now used as a social and cultural contact point, residential building and contact point for refugees.
The unique aspect was that we were not only there to show art, but also to get in touch with the people on the campus. We achieved this partly through different creative workshops with children.
The space itself was not a classic “white cube.” It was very angled with low ceilings and broken heaters in upstanding pipes. We had to adapt the work to the space, think in the space, and keep rearranging it. At the same time, we were also very visible, as we were placed along a central meeting point of residents on the campus and the gatehouse had large window fronts. This also led to exchanges that we would not have had in other places.
What were your artworks about? What’s their story and which was their relationship with the exhibition’s main topic?
Our works dealt with the question of how we remember, what memories consist of and how they are created. This was deeply influenced by the highly charged history of the campus with its various uses over time. As mentioned above the exhibition space itself was very specific. It was located in an area where it is part of people’s everyday life living at that campus. Hanging out around, passing by and doing their daily walks. So this empty gatehouse was something like an unconscious requisite on that campus. Therefore we’ve asked ourselves how the sudden change of use might be or hopefully might change at least for some the way they were looking at this house especially after we left. This is how we ended up with the title ‘echoes remain forever’.
It expresses our hope that since the project couldn’t continue on a long term basis, it might continue in some memories of the people living and working on the campus.
Rahel grote Lamber’s work “Personal and Collective Memory” revolves around various forms of memory and nostalgia and their manifestation in objects or personal archives that are both emotionally and politically charged in their fragmentation.
The series „Reminds Me of You“ by Francis Kussatz and Xiaofu Wang portrays a fictional character – the Sick Person – as they move through a number of unidentified spaces. The Sick Person becomes more visible and more experienceable, but not more tangible.
Moment of Repressed Joy touches on the human impulse to hold onto that which is transitory, by way of processing, sorting and categorizing. The private objects of the fictional character “The Sick Person” are represented by using the visual language of typology. Objects that may seem commonplace and mundane to the viewer are loaded with memories to the Sick Person.
Alexander Klaubert’s work “Memory Boards” is a collection of memories (real and fictional) that reflect the terrain. It also incorporates sensations that he experienced during the 2 months he spent there.
In your collective’s statement, it is highlighted that: ‘LoL is interested in situations of instability and topics such as the question of visibility and perspectives, narratives of “othering” and therefore structures of gender and communication as well as the interplay of body and institution’. Do you believe people are getting more and more interested in being involved with exhibitions that aim to raise questions about gender topics?
Narratives and processes of otherness are omnipresent in our everyday lives – be it in terms of gender, race, sexuality, age, disability, religion…. the list goes on. Given the rise of populism and anti-democratic politics in various parts of the world, which seek to further divide society, it would be worrying if there were no interest in these processes, which historically have been taking place for centuries and are still taking place every day. Many artists deal with their surroundings, with the contexts in which they move, analysing their structures, hierarchies, and also the violence that lies within them.
When an exhibition becomes a space in which many associations, thoughts, perspectives and meanings around the aforementioned themes are transported in a variety of ways, they harbor a subversive potential that hopefully also enables interesting lines of thought for the audience. So, yes, we would hope that there would be an increase in people’s interest in engaging with these issues, which, to reiterate, are not new at all, but have been going on for centuries. And if institutions took these issues as seriously as many artists do, the exhibitions of major institutions would look very different.
Which are LoL’s plans for the near future?
Xiaofu Wang recently joined us. Francis and she had worked together on our last project and the interpersonal skills and her work, which is between documentary and conceptual practice and moving from staged portraits through to archives and vernacular photography, suited us so well that we asked her if she would like to be part of Law of Life (LoL). So we want to give her a good start in our collective. We are currently working on a group exhibition in the Göttinger Kunstverein (26.6. – 21.8.2022) in which we are participating as a collective and are trying to plan for the next few months. We also want to take a kind of “Law of Life” short vacation in May, where we want to exchange ideas intensively and discuss the individual tasks that everyone is working on.
All images copyright and courtesy of the artists and Law of Life (LoL)