Postcard from... Rüdenhof, Moritzburg

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By Paul Scraton:

In 1943 the artist Käthe Kollwitz left her apartment in the Berlin district of Prenzlauer Berg for the final time. The war, which she had campaigned against through her art long before it even began, had forced her out of the city she’d called home for 52 years. Her first destination was Nordhausen, but that soon became a target too, and so in July of 1944 she arrived at the Rüdenhof, a manor house on the edge of Moritzburg in Saxony. There she was given two rooms, and a balcony from which she could look out across the fields and the rolling landscape of this town a few miles north of Dresden. There were many refugees, both in the Rüdenhof and elsewhere in town, and hardly any of them knew that they had the famous artist in their midst. It was to be her final stop. She would not experience the end of the war, dying just a couple of weeks before the German surrender, in her room in Moritzburg on the 22 April 1945.

Today, the town of Moritzburg draws visitors from Dresden to wander the castle grounds or the only lighthouse in landlocked Saxony. On a July morning there are plenty of people strolling in the sunshine, crossing the bridge to the castle where it stands on an island, eating ice cream or drinking an early beer on the cafe terraces. At the Rüdenhof, it is quieter. One small group explores the rooms of the house, now turned into a museum devoted to the life and work of Käthe Kollwitz. We follow them through, tracing the story of the artist from her beginnings in Königsburg in East Prussia and the move to Berlin, her early illustrations and woodcuts, the tragic death of her son during World War I and the pacifism that inspired her work through the 1920s and 1930s, most clearly in her epic War cycle of 1921-23.

Es ist genug gestorben! Keiner darf mehr fallen!

Enough had died during that war to end all wars, and yet Kollwitz would live to see many more fall, including her grandson who was killed in 1942. War had taken a son and a grandson from her. It had changed the boundaries of her world. The only house she ever lived in to survive the second war was the Rüdenhof. Her childhood home in Königsburg was rubble. What would be built in its place was now in Kaliningrad, USSR. Her apartment block in Prenzlauer Berg was destroyed. What was built in its place would look out across a square that would take her name. Kollwitz was gone. Most of the places she called home were gone. But her art and message would live on. 

Summer sunlight shines in despite the blinds in the windows as we walk among her work, so dark and painful yet full of compassion for those who are suffering. When she reached Moritzburg at the end of her long journey, Käthe Kollwitz had left all her art behind. She came only with her diary and a few personal bits and pieces. The group ahead of us ask questions of the guide. Gentle, respectful questions, about a woman, her life and her work. There are not many of us in these rooms today, but it is clear that all of us who are here have been touched by her genius. She speaks to us, all these years on, whether we encounter her in Cologne or Berlin, in an old manor house in Moritzburg or in the pages of a book. She speaks to us and she inspires us. Our job is to make sure we continue to listen. 

***

Paul Scraton is the editor in chief of Elsewhere: A Journal of Place. His latest book is Built on Sand, a novel of Berlin and Brandenburg, published by Influx Press. He also wrote about the places of Käthe Kollwitz in Berlin on his website Under a Grey Sky.

The Käthe-Kollwitz Haus, Moritzburg.

Home Where Home Is Not, at Glasgow Women's Library and Platform

Interregnum n.1 , laser cut puzzle bricks, cork and wood, by Sogol Mabadi, 2018 / Photo Credit: Iman Tajik

Interregnum n.1, laser cut puzzle bricks, cork and wood, by Sogol Mabadi, 2018 / Photo Credit: Iman Tajik

By Sara Bellini:

Home Where Home Is Not is the brilliant title of an exhibition that combines the works of two Glasgow-based artists, jointly organised by the Glasgow Women’s Library and Platform. Sogol Mabadi and Birthe Jorgensen, both born outside the UK, explore the concept of ‘home’ in a context where people move freely and their identities are shaped by their multiple homes. 

Both Platform and Glasgow Women’s Library are arts centres involved with the local community and aiming at fostering creativity and making art accessible to everyone. The exhibition includes wood sculptures, sound art and installations and will be open until 3rd August in both locations. Admittance is free. 

As part of the exhibition, on Thursday 18th the artists will talk about Languages of Belonging with Amanda Thomson, visual artist and author of A Scots Dictionary of Nature. On Sunday 21st writer and director Julia Lee Barclay-Morton will give a performative tour of the exhibition in both locations. Check the websites about opening times and event tickets:

Glasgow Women's Library
Platform


Edgework Artist Profile #2: Peter Cusack

Aral Sea, Peter Cusack

Aral Sea, Peter Cusack

As part of our collaboration with Edgework an artist-led cross-disciplinary journal and store with an emphasis on place, we are running a series of monthly profiles of the artists here on Elsewhere. The second in the series is of Peter Cusack, sound artist and musician:

Sounds from Dangerous Places, Peter Cusack

Sounds from Dangerous Places, Peter Cusack

As a field recordist, sound artist and musician, Peter Cusack has long had an interest in the environment. A member of CRiSAP (Creative Research into Sound Arts Practice) at the University of the Arts, London, Cusack initiated the Favourite Sounds Project to discover what people find positive about soundscapes where they live, and Sounds From Dangerous Places (sonic journalism) to investigate major environmental damage in areas such as the Chernobyl exclusion zone, the Azerbaijan oil fields, brown coal mining in Germany and the Czech Republic and the Bialowieza Forest in Poland. 

Berlin Sonic Places, Peter Cusack

Berlin Sonic Places, Peter Cusack

He also produced Vermilion Sounds - the environmental sound program - for ResonanceFM Radio, and was DAAD artist-in-residence in Berlin 2011/12, initiating Berlin Sonic Places that examines relationships between soundscape and urban development. He is currently working on Aral Sea Stories, concerning the disappearance and restoration of the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan and the uses and abuses of water along its vast Central Asian watershed. As well as teaching in Berlin, Peter has also been organising a series of soundwalks in the neighbourhood of Pankow. If you’d like to learn more about Peter and his work, follow the various links below.

Peter Cusack on Edgework
Twitter
Favourite Sounds website




See the Light: James Turrell in Berlin

James Turrell, Ganzfeld Aural, 2018; © Jewish Museum Berlin, gift of Dieter and Si Rosenkranz, photo: Florian Holzherr

James Turrell, Ganzfeld Aural, 2018; © Jewish Museum Berlin, gift of Dieter and Si Rosenkranz, photo: Florian Holzherr

By Sara Bellini:

The way we experience space is connected with the way we perceive light. A thick fog, complete darkness, disco lights give a different depth to a place, which in turn influences the way we exist in it and our internal space. Our perception of space and light is what James Turrell has been exploring in his art for the past five decades.

This summer Berlin has the privilege to host two of his site-specific installations, among the many dispersed all over the globe (Roden Crater deserves a read). The first opened at the Jewish Museum in April 2018 and will be open until 30 September this year. “Aural” is part of the Ganzfeld series and consists of a room infused with homogeneous, coloured light. The eye needs time to adjust and the lack of walls or any other object can be disorientating. James Turrell wants to leave you alone with your looking and your awareness of yourself taking in the light. In a space without landmarks, perception is all.

The second installation is located inside a burial chapel in the Dorotheenstädtischer cemetery, in itself a place of significance in Berlin. Located next to Bertolt Brecht’s house, this graveyard is the burial place of the poet and playwright and of other famous Germans, such as Christa Wolf, Helene Weigel, Hegel and Fichte. It is hidden from the main entrance on the Chausseestraße behind the older Huguenot cemetery, and the bricks of the Humboldt University’s north campus are visible beyond the back wall. The church itself was built at the beginning of the 20th century and was renovated several times before the 2015 reopening. The studio of the architect Nedelykov Moreira has worked with James Turrell to come up with a modern minimal design that wouldn’t distract from the light show.

With ten light programmes that change according to the liturgical calendar and fifteen light moods, James Turrell’s installation works closely with the shades of the sunset. For this reason, and because of the late summer sunsets, the light show has different entry times during the year and is closed in July and August. You find yourself sitting in a place that looks like an anonymous church, gazing at the complementary colours of the lights positioned in the aps, transept, nave, narthex and walls, convincing yourself that the glass of the windows themselves must be stained this or that colour, only to change your mind a light mood later. Then you go out in the fading daylight, you look at the sky and for a moment you have the illusion that the neon have permeated your retina. Subjective perception is all.

***

Both shows have limited access so check tickets availability and opening times:
James Turrell at the Jewish Museum
James Turrell at the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof

Njideka Akunyili Crosby: painting the ‘contact zone’

Njideka Akunyili Crosby   "The Beautyful Ones" Series #6 , 2018Acrylic, colour pencil and transfers on paper 151.8 x 108 cm 59 3/4 x 42 1/2 in © Njideka Akunyili Crosby Courtesy the artist, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner

Njideka Akunyili Crosby
"The Beautyful Ones" Series #6, 2018Acrylic, colour pencil and transfers on paper
151.8 x 108 cm
59 3/4 x 42 1/2 in
© Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Courtesy the artist, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner

By Rachel Kevern:

During her studies at Yale University School of Art, Njideka Akunyili Crosby encountered Mary Louise Pratt’s ‘Arts of the Contact Zone’ (1990), which identifies ‘social spaces where cultures meet, clash and grapple with each other’. This idea of a ‘contact zone’ is present in all Akunyili Crosby’s work, reflecting the artist’s own experience of feeling a sense of belonging to two distinct cultures. Having left Nigeria in 1999, at the age of 16, to study in the United States, Akunyili Crosby’s work is often autobiographical, depicting domestic scenes of herself, her Nigerian family, and her American husband. The universe depicted in her compositions is, according to her, neither Nigeria nor America, but some other space, the space that every immigrant occupies.

Her pieces are large-scale depictions of domestic life, and combine painting, drawing and photo-transfer techniques. Often, Akunyili Crosby will merge very personal, intimate images with cut-outs from magazines and favourite designers; images that she has collected and stored over the years. In an interview with arts journal The White Review, the artist explained that she usually chooses “pictures that tap into Nigerian culture in the eighties and nineties – popular musicians, iconic album covers, movie stars.” She searches for images that give her “a feeling of recognition”, that will connect her with other people of her generation who grew up in Nigeria through their shared memories. The depth and richness of her compositions defies simple classification and forces the viewer to take a closer look.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby   "The Beautyful Ones" Series #7 , 2018 Acrylic, colour pencil and transfers on paper 152.1 x 108 cm 59 7/8 x 42 1/2 in © Njideka Akunyili Crosby Courtesy the artist, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner

Njideka Akunyili Crosby
"The Beautyful Ones" Series #7, 2018
Acrylic, colour pencil and transfers on paper
152.1 x 108 cm
59 7/8 x 42 1/2 in
© Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Courtesy the artist, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner

Collecting picture became a way for Akunyili Crosby to stay connected to the Nigeria of her childhood, Nigeria as she knew it, which “wasn’t the same Nigeria that [she] was experiencing in the US, in terms of the questions people asked [her].” Speaking to The White Review, she explains that she “became aware that people had no clue, not just about Nigeria but about Africa as a continent”. Her pieces stem from a deep desire to share the Nigeria that she knew with other people, “in a way that felt real or sincere”: “I wanted to give people a glimpse of this other space that they weren’t familiar with.” The paintings are both deeply personal and reflect wider issues of identity, belonging, immigration, and Nigerian culture. Her compositions themselves act as personal, cultural and political ‘contact zones’, forming a space in which different cultures mingle to become one image.

Her first solo exhibition in Europe, which took place in 2016 and was entitled Portals, featured a multitude of doors, windows and screens. In the description of the exhibition, the Victoria Miro gallery notes that these portals in her work function as “physical, conceptual and emotional points of arrival and departure, while in a broader sense the work itself is a portal through which mutable ideas about transcultural identity flow back and forth.” The doors and windows, - as much of Akunyili Crosby’s work - function as gateways to new ways of thinking about multicultural identity and what it means to forge your own space and place in the world.

***
Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s website

Rachel Kevern is an undergraduate at the University of Oxford, studying English literature and French. In her spare time she writes, acts, paints (but not as much as she'd like to), drinks a lot of coffee and reads any book or magazine that she can get her hands on. She has previously been published in The Liverpool Echo, The Warrington Guardian and online magazines such as Flux and The F-Word, as well as running her own blog and being Arts and Travel editor for The Oxford Student, her university's biggest newspaper.



Edgework Artist Profile #1: Layla Curtis

Newcastle Gateshead, 2005 by Layla Curtis

Newcastle Gateshead, 2005 by Layla Curtis

As part of our collaboration with Edgework an artist-led cross-disciplinary journal and store with an emphasis on place, we are running a series of monthly profiles of the artists here on Elsewhere. Where better to start than with Layla Curtis, founder of Edgework and previous contributor to our blog:

Layla Curtis’ practice has a focus on place, landscape and mapping and often examines the attempts we make to chart the earth, how we locate ourselves, navigate space and represent terrain. 

Polar Wandering, 2006 by Layla Curtis

Polar Wandering, 2006 by Layla Curtis

 Layla’s works include Trespass, an app for iphone which maps an oral history of a northern English edgeland and tempts the user to trespass in order to access the work (and which we featured here on the Elsewhere blog); Polar Wandering, a 27,856 mile long interactive online drawing charting her journey to Antarctica with the British Antarctic Survey, exhibited in solo shows at New Art Gallery Walsall, and Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast; and Tong Tana, a moving image work made while trekking with nomadic hunter-gathers in the Borneo Rainforest and exhibited at Matt's Gallery, London. 

 As well as featuring in international collections including the Tate Collection and Government Art Collection forthcoming projects and exhibitions include the collaged map The United Kingdom, currently on display in Ideas Depot at Tate Liverpool, UK (until 21 July).

Tong Tana production still, 2012.

Tong Tana production still, 2012.

A documentation of Trespass will also be included in the forthcoming exhibition This Land is Our Land at PAPER, Manchester, UK (curated by Edgework contributor, and PAPER curator Simon Woolham) from 29 June - 3 August 2019. Curtis is currently working on a series of new commissions for Tate shop to be launched later this year.

Layla Curtis on Edgework
Twitter
Instagram

The People's Forest

The Peoples Forest with type-small.jpg

We’ve been following The People’s Forest project with interest, rooted as it is in place and what it inspires. Co-curated by Kirsteen McNish and Luke Turner, The People’s Forest includes a programme of events, talks, gigs and artistic collaborations, and continues the history of great writers drawing inspiration from nature and the outdoors to present a literary programme designed to seek out new writing related to Epping Forest – London’s strange and wonderful woodland, and its unique history that has been shaped and maintained by man.

As part of the project,  Faber New Poet and Caught by the River poet-in-residence Will Burns will create a series of new works inspired by Epping Forest. Over the year Burns will pen a collection of poems, one per season, in part reflecting on the unique nature of Epping intertwined with his own experience of the forest real and imagined, and we are extremely pleased and proud to announce that we will be publishing one of the forthcoming poems here on the Elsewhere: A Journal of Place blog.

Burns has proposed a long walk from Wendover Woods to Epping Forest, revisiting the physical act that his mother made in her lifetime, and as a family unit twenty years ago. This journey will in part shape the latter part of the series and will revisit family history, memory and these two forests many miles apart. This journey will cross the rivers and chalk streams and hillsides of this odd and lost middle land between the capital and the bulk of the country. He will also be exploring what this strip of lush, wooded country means - this dividing line, in this divided time.

Will’s first poem “The Word For Wood” appeared in Caught By The River’s online journal in March that conjures up themes of isolation, crisis and crossroads:

The fertility symbols of other, older cultures
harass me through the cold wood.
The sounds of jackdaws going berserk
(though the sound is not their name…).
I might as well come clean—
all this is to impress somebody else
though they have long given up interest.
First I read they had left the conversation,
then I watched them leave the house,
finally I heard they left town

Speaking about the project and his connection to the location, Burns said:

“Epping Forest has loomed strange in my imagination since childhood. I grew up just outside its shadow, in Enfield, and my mother was born in Epping itself without ever knowing the place. Since moving out of London at 10, I have always loved woods – either 'my own’ out here in Wendover, or others that I’ve visited. They are places unlike any other in our imaginations and I feel as if there is a whole chapter of my memory linked to that part of London but somehow missing. I hope to recover it through a year of walking and thinking and writing in the forest.”

We are really excited to read more from Will as the project continues and we hope to bring more from The People’s Forest to our readers in the coming months. For the full programme of events taking place, click here.

In Profile: Edgework – Journal & Store

TJENTISTE – Andy Day

TJENTISTE – Andy Day

Here at Elsewhere we have long been proud of our collaboration with Edgework, an artist-led, cross-disciplinary journal and online store with a focus on place founded by the artist (and Elsewhere contributor) Layla Curtis. The journal gives space for artists and professionals from a range of disciplines and allows them to give readers an insight into their extended research, fieldwork and working methods. The online store then promotes their work, specialising in editional artworks on paper, publications, posters, postcards and also the work of independent publishers who share their ethos and emphasis on place… including us!

WORLD POLITICAL (Detail) – Layla Curtis

WORLD POLITICAL (Detail) – Layla Curtis

‘Edgework contributors take risks; conduct deep explorations of our cities' overlooked, forgotten and forbidden spaces; misuse, reclaim or appropriate architecture; test the boundaries of access; subvert surveillance technologies and pick apart cartography. They explore the margins of our urban spaces examining how we inhabit them, move through them and establish a sense of place. They are overland wanderers or remote viewers who reflect upon our relationship with nature and landscape.’ – Layla Curtis, founder of Edgework

Artists whose editioned work can be found in the Edgework online shop include Susan Collins, Layla Curtis, Andy Day, Alec Finlay, Joy Gerrard, Lucinda Grange, Graham Gussin, Nicky Hirst, Lee Maelzer, Simon Woolham and George Shaw, and over the coming months we will be profiling them here on the Elsewhere blog. At the same time, we would encourage our readers to explore the different posts, essays and articles on the Edgework journal pages. Recent articles we have enjoyed include ‘The Walking Library for a Wild City’ by Dee Heddon & Misha Myers, and ‘Mapping the Wild City, Fiadh-Bhaile, Orasul Salbatic’ by Alec Finlay.

PROTEST CROWD (NO BREXIT PEOPLE’S VOTE MARCH PARLIAMENT SQUARE, LONDON, 2018) – Joy Gerrard

PROTEST CROWD (NO BREXIT PEOPLE’S VOTE MARCH PARLIAMENT SQUARE, LONDON, 2018) – Joy Gerrard

Another aspect of the project that we have especially enjoyed over recent months is the series of Instagram Takeovers on the Edgework feed. Here, they have invited artists to post images onto the Edgework account over a period of time, highlighting a specific project or body of work and it is well worth checking out. We are really looking forward to showcasing the talents of the artists involved in the Edgework project, and we especially like the opportunity that Edgework offers to connect directly with artists, purchase their work and support what they do.

Edgework artists whose work appears in this post:
Andy Day
Layla Curtis
Joy Gerrard


The Fabric of Place: Yinka Shonibare's The British Library

The British Library, 2014, by Yinka Shonibare, Tate Modern 2019 © Yinka Shonibare. Photograph Oliver Cowling, Tate. Purchased with Art Fund support and funds provided by the Tate International Council, the Africa Acquisitions Committee, Wendy Fisher and THE EKARD COLLECTION, 2019

The British Library, 2014, by Yinka Shonibare, Tate Modern 2019 © Yinka Shonibare. Photograph Oliver Cowling, Tate. Purchased with Art Fund support and funds provided by the Tate International Council, the Africa Acquisitions Committee, Wendy Fisher and THE EKARD COLLECTION, 2019

By Sara Bellini

It was 2014, during what ended up being my final months in England before leaving for good. In my attempts to deal with work-related stress I started taking day trips to escape central London, and it was thanks to two of these trips I came to know the work of Yinka Shonibare.

Without knowing it at the time, my first encounter with his art dated back to my very first week in the country in 2011. His work Nelson's Ship in a Bottle was on display on Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth, with its colourful sails made of the artist's signature Dutch wax fabric. The fabric (and the meanings behind it) would be the detail that stuck with me during the years, while the photos I took got lost in my poorly managed digital memory.

Dutch wax fabric visually identifies West Africa, including Shonibare's parents' native Nigeria, where he also lived as a child before moving back to the UK to study. What I didn't know about this textile is how complex its ties with colonisation, globalisation and identity are.

Dutch wax fabric takes one of its names from the Dutch merchants that started mass-producing it in the late 19th century, when it was first introduced to Africa through naval commercial routes. Their model was batik, a wax-resist dyed cloth from Indonesia, a Dutch colony until 1949. The initial purpose of the merchants was to break into the batik market with cheaper fabrics, but they couldn't compete with the original hand-made prints. Meanwhile the African market was prospering, driven by ex members of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army in Indonesia who had returned to the Dutch Gold Coast in West Africa. Other European countries started making Dutch wax fabric and eventually local companies developed more African-inspired patterns. When African countries gained independence from their former oppressors after WWII, African wax print had interwoven its role into various African communities, especially in the West, enriched with local meanings and customs.

This is how we get to a British contemporary artist, born from Nigerian parents who had moved to the UK in post-colonial times. Shonibare explores all these themes in his works: (post-)colonialism, multiculturalism, history, identity.

The two exhibitions I saw when I was still living in London were at Royal Museums Greenwich and the installation The British Library at Brighton Museum. The British Library is a room lined up with bookcases where each book is covered in Dutch wax print and their spines carry the names of immigrants and children of immigrants that had made contributions to British culture. A computer was available to explore the library and find out about Zaha Hadid, Hans Holbein, Noel Gallagher and more famous and less famous names.

At the beginning of April 2019, Yinka Shonibare's work The British Library was purchased by Tate Modern. Another work from the same series, The African Library, is on display in the exhibition Trade Winds at the Norval Foundation in Cape Town until August 2019.


100 Years Bauhaus: Bauhaus Museum in Weimar

Foto: Andrew Alberts, © heike hanada laboratory of art and architecture 2019

Foto: Andrew Alberts, © heike hanada laboratory of art and architecture 2019

This year marks the centenary of the Bauhaus, and there are celebrations taking place all around the world – anywhere, in fact, that the design school’s influence can be felt. In Weimar, the city where it all began back in 1919, a new museum has opened in a building designed by Heike Hanada and inaugurated earlier this month.

The intention of the Bauhaus Museum in Weimar is to be both a dialogue with the past and an interrogation of the future, and developed around the fundamental question: “How do we want to live together?”* In an echo of the founders of the Bauhaus, questions of how we build a society and where art and technology, architecture and everyday life function together, are key themes of the new space.

As a reflection on the past, present and future, the location of the Bauhaus Museum itself, close to the Nazi Gauform and the Jakobsplan student accommodation from the GDR, is a reminder of how the political-economic landscape, architecture and community life are always intertwined.

Bauhaus Museum, Weimar (Google Maps)
From April 2019
Museum website

*Wie wollen wir zusammenleben?