Boaz Levin: What is it that makes Germany so different for art so different, so appealing? – Farewell Photography, Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie / non-proof-read
- Farewell Photography
1 What comes to mind when reading „Germany as a site and a space for art?“ How do you experience working here? Are there any benefits or drawbacks, or other peculiarities?
I’ve lived in Berlin for nearly seven years now, its were I studied and started showing and producing work. Part of what attracts me in this city is the fact (and I’m afraid I’ll sound a little cliche here) that it’s so diverse.
Having grown up in Jerusalem—a wonderful but somewhat tragic city, moored by cultural tensionand political strife—moving to Berlin also felt liberating, a place once divided by a wall, that has now become nearly synonymous with notions of cultural exchange and porous borders. Many of my closest collaborators in recent years have moved to and from Germany during this time. Berlin is a revolving door, this can be exhausting sometimes, but it’s also quite special. Of course, tension exists here too, and changes that the city has been going through have created new questions, such as growing levels of inequality.
But I see I’m digressing from the point… maybe because I find it difficult to answer this question of “Germany” as a site and a space for art. Of course, the fact that Germany is still somewhat of a welfare state, takes federal support of the arts seriously and has such impressive and ambitious funding institutions, is incredibly important, and allows for much more independent and critical artistic creation. And the state system seems to enable many of the most important, and most interesting, cultural institutions to survive outside of the big cities (not only large events such as Documenta and Skulptur Projekte, but also important Kunstvereins and Kunsthallen).
2 Which factors are important when developing works, from both the intellectual and the operational point of view? Examples?
Maybe: community, and support. I think having a community with which one can have a lively critical, but also supportive, discourse is incredibly important. People you can have a drink with and talk about the last books you’ve read, shows you’ve seen. And then having the support, both material, but also discursive (feedback, attendance, ideas, tips), to realize projects and feel that their realisation is meaningful. And the fact that this community is fluid, that it changes, there are new voices from different places, is important too.
3 How important are educational systems, discursive platforms or spaces and/or institutions in your own professional career?
Education and discursive platforms have played a really important role in the development of my practice here. I studied at the Universität der Künste, Berlin, in the Lensbased class with Hito Steyerl, and once I graduated, three years ago, I started, together with Vera Tollmann and under the auspices of Hito’s class, the Research Centre for Proxy Politics. RCPP has been an educational platform at the University (supported by the Ministry of Culture) exploring reflecting upon the nature of medial networks and their actors, machines and things as well as humans. Our meetings, like Hito’s classes, are open to whoever might be interested, and we’ve had great exchanges and collaborations. Currently, for instance, we’re working on a publication with the wonderful Berlin publishers Archive Books, which will be the result of our work during the past years, and the outcome of a conference we organised at HKW during the summer. And the people at HKW too, producing the Technosphere program, have been terrific partners in dialog. Apart from that I’m working on a PhD in Leuphana University which has a great interdisciplinary research cluster titled Cultures of Critique”…so yes, educational systems and platforms have been incredibly important, and I see the work with them as an essential part cultural production, and of my life.
4 To which extent have the conditions and mechanisms of production changed over the last years and how have any recent changes influenced or changed your practice?
Well, I feel I don’t really have the perspective to answer this…yet, maybe in ten years. Things have been very digital when I started, and they still are. Things are constantly changing, but they’re also very much the same. The sun rises, the sun sets. Berlin has this tendency of talking itself to death about the changes the city has gone through — and it’s true, the city has gone through massive and rapid change, and that also will have, or perhaps already has, long-term cultural effects. But at the moment I don’t feel like I can evaluate these changes, perhaps there are too many other variables for me to really tell.