into the pill - Issue 11

Sparwasser HQ
[scroll down for the interview]

video by Hadley+Maxwell
1+1-1 Shortcut 5:30, 2007

Jean-Luc Godard’s film titled 1+1 (commercially released in 1970 as Sympathy for the Devil ) features the Rolling Stones in the studio recording the famous song of the same name, inter-cut with political vignettes. Godard fought with the producers of the film because they changed the ending to give it a resolution against his wishes. 1+1-1 Shortcut (5:30, 2007) is a video sketch toward un-finishing Godard's original work, combining a literal re-shooting of a projection of Godard’s footage of the the recording studio, with footage of three amateur musicians jamming in a rented rehearsal space. The informal jam is not directed toward any kind of final production, representing the first time the musicians have ever played together, and reinvesting the musical space with a politics of aimlessness.

For Sparwasser HQ answered Lise Nellemann. Interview  by Vassiliea Stylianidou for Ιnto the pill.

1.When was your space founded? Tell me about its goals, direction, and character.
Sparwasser HQ was founded in 2000 and over eight years the space has held ten exhibitions per year, organized numerous events including artist talks, performances, concerts and video screenings, and has been invited to travel to institutions abroad for collaborative projects. This already says something about the organization, which has given the space its particular character. Shared and collaborative organizational structures have been the only way to maintain the speed and standard. Curating has come together as a process of constant recommendations and artists bringing in works from elsewhere. Research projects have been developed individually, but the creating groups share responsibilities and invest time and resources in projects well worth the effort. The aim has been to accumulate the best projects we know, to learn about each other’s work, to formulate issues we deem important.

2.What are your areas of focus and research?
Sparwasser HQ always preferred to be able to react critically to conditions of art production and life in general. Exhibition contents have dealt with histories and politics of identity, such as in A Complete Guide to Re-writing Your History, The Harder They Come, Soft Guys for Hard Times, Let’s Crystallize. Focus has also been on the intentions of art funding, as in citysellingcitytelling, or on the condition of the artist’s existence in Dying To Make A Living or The Gift. Sparwasser HQ has preferred to react to artists’ production and research in the making, and short-term planning has long been an important condition in realizing interesting exhibitions. Unfortunately, this has meant poor fundraising and low-budget exhibitions, which has exhausted artists, the Sparwasser HQ group, relationships and production conditions in general. It cannot be recommended.

3.How would you describe the artistic reality in Berlin? How would you integrate your space within it?
Sparwasser HQ is integrated into the artistic reality in Berlin, I would say. People here are still curious about smaller experimental activities. In Berlin these small structures develop and become part of the establishment. Sparwasser HQ is a product of the international coming and going in Berlin. Foreign artists who moved to Berlin have held first exhibitions in spaces like Sparwasser HQ, and networks develop easily through this practice, even extending beyond Berlin.

4.What would you change about the artistic reality of the city?
Sparwasser HQ certainly wishes that funding were easier to obtain and that small, flexible and cheap platforms with programs comparable to that of institutions would be appreciated on a practical level. We approach the same funding bodies that finance museum exhibitions and festivals like the Berlin Biennale and transmediale and competition is stiff. Funding for projects initiated only a half-year before realization would be appreciated. But these complaints are trivial, as many institutions and small platforms encounter the same problems. Funding bodies in Germany work relatively well, in my opinion. All the same, considering the size and fame of Berlin, exhibitions and event programs could still be better! Successful artists, collectors and their galleries in Berlin could engage for a higher quality of public services within the arts. The city, with all its undeveloped physical space, and the lack of an ingrained art world infrastructure still seems endlessly accessible to artists and their communities.

5.Do you pursue collaboration with local state institutions? What is your experience in that area?
Sparwasser HQ has received funding from Hauptstadtkulturfonds and the Berlin Senat for the production of projects. Sparwasser HQ participates regularly in panel and conferences in or about Berlin, invited by a variety of diverse hosts. Over the years we have contacted international embassies in Berlin for funding, but mostly without result. In 2004 for example, Sparwasser HQ participated as the project of artist Lise Nellemann in an exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhof, a contemporary art museum in Berlin. For the occasion, Sparwasser HQ proposed to open an external “HB museum project room”, at least for the duration of the exhibition, but the museum rejected the idea.

6.Do you pursue other local or international collaborations and joint projects?
Sparwasser HQ and exhibiting artists have also received funding from abroad including from their own national art councils, which are aware of Sparwasser HQ's position in Berlin and are glad of the possibility for collaboration. Over the years, Sparwasser HQ has established close relationships with other institutions and individual collaborators. Some projects have continued over years. It would take too much space here to mention all collaborations; these are documented in the Sparwasser HQ online archive. External collaborations continue to play a major role for Sparwasser HQ. One project I’d like to mention is Old Habits Die Hard, started in 2003, in which Sparwasser HQ made a connection to Greece. Participants included Fournos, the Deste Foundation, and artists Nikos Giavropoulos and Vassiliea Stylianidou.

7.What form of curatorial action do you propose? 
Sparwasser HQ prefers working with curators who are participating artists and also supports self-curated collaborative projects. We usually expect artists to bring the work back to the state of research and its initial motivation and to extract the discursive element of the work. Artists are offered to test their work outside the studio – but not necessarily in a traditional exhibition situation – while still providing the discourse of an exhibition. Exhibitions have thus evolved from artist talks and other public plenary sessions. It was and it is Sparwasser HQ’s role to combine and support projects and people who have great work as well as the energy and vision to engage in the creative process of creating an exhibition. Sparwasser HQ has also developed plenty of exhibitions, events and small conferences using other methods, and many guest curators have taken the role of host at Sparwasser HQ.

8.What form of cooperation between artist and curator do you investigate?
Sparwasser HQ exhibitions are organized by groups where organization itself is part of the creative process. Roles and responsibilities are defined anew each time. We assume a “logic of exchange”, in which recommendations, networks and knowledge are shared and developed collaboratively as well as individually and that an exchange of information can take place. See also "rules of the game" here: <>

9.How do you fund your space?
Sparwasser HQ's administrative costs were covered over a period of three years by the Danish Arts Council. Today, Sparwasser HQ is a non-commercial art association; administration is paid for from our own pocket. A complex combination of social and institutional fellowships pay the staff. Exhibition projects are funded by foreign arts councils, public funding structures of states or regions and private sponsors.

Sparwasser HQ November 6, 2009


issues : #1|#2|#3|#4|#5|#6|#7|#8|#9|#10|#11


Anette Rose

Christine Woditschka Wilhelm Hein Elaine W. Ho and Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga
  Fake Or Feint