Jonas Burgert, Ich Sticht, 2011
© Jonas Burgert, Ich Sticht, 2011.

Today is the opening of the exhibition “Play – The Frivolous and the Serious“ at the me Collectors Room in Berlin. Curated by Philippa O’Driscoll and Anna-Antonia Stausberg. The exhibition is about the phenomenon of “playing” and is thus, the result of a collaboration between the Stiftung Olbricht and with two students of the MA programme Curating the Contemporary from the London Metropolitan University. Its the second time that the foundation invited young curators to let them curate a show with their works. This exhibition is part of Antonia Stausberg’s MA thesis. We interviewed her about the making of !

Can you introduce yourself, explaining where you are from, what brought you to London and what inspired you to pursue the career that you are in right now.

My name is Anna-Antonia Stausberg, im 24 years old and I was born in Mexico-City. Having moved to Germany at a young age, I grew up in both Cologne and Berlin. Albert Camus once so fittingly remarked, “a work of art is a confession,” as the human condition is being reworked and echoed through art. I have always felt this to be true, from my earliest childhood. The fascination for the plethora of creative ways, in which art is used to mirror our society, has intensified during my undergraduate studies of art history at Goldsmiths University in London. I then decided to continue my studies in London and was accepted for a Masters programme at the London Metropolitan University taught jointly with the Whitechapel Gallery – MA Curating the Contemporary. Its a two-years Master, and I am about to finish.

How many shows have you curated so far, is this your dream for the future?

I curated a show at the Cass Gallery in London in 2012, with three artists from the Royal College of Art in Battersea – Chris Succo, Ed Fornieles and Jack Lavender. The show ESL_Your Face Looks Great dealt around the themes of abstraction, trying to explore the definition and relationship around surface, abstraction, appearance and culture. All of these artists are represented internationally – by Carlos Ishikawa, Rod Barton, and the Approach Gallery in London and DUVE Galerie in Berlin, and two were exhibiting on a show at last years London Frieze Art Fair. With a tight budget, I planned and organized the show from scratch. This including the whole execution, from, writing the catalogue and press essays and texts, up to organizing the smallest administrative issues before the official opening.

How did you get into the Arts?

It is difficult so say how exactly I ended up in the art world. There has always been a creative field around me, art at home and simply incredible people that have inspired me and encouraged me to do what I do now. Simply walking through the Mercado de Sabado in Mexico, with all its beautifully crafted pieces, pottery, masks, and the like has aroused a deep feeling of passion for anything to do with an inspiring and artistic environment to it, especially the process in which different things are created, made and displayed. One of my aims is to continue the profession of curating. I would like to learn how to work with different displays, what ways there are to realize them, to learn about the technical knowledge involved, or for example how to use and comprehend an interesting historic archive into an actual exhibition.

What especially drives your passion? Do you aim for a specific medium that you are interested in or is it mere visual appreciation?

My drive is to develop a connoisseur as well as a curious eye for everything which is visual and around me. To see beauty in something which is rather hidden, subtle or ´ugly´. I am very open, and seek inspiration from different mediums such as theatre, photography, or literature. London in return offers you an incredible and diverse programme of museum shows, smaller or larger gallery exhibitions, installations, talks, concerts, or off-site programmes. It’s simply on you to take this offer and work with it.

!TALEN-19 B021
© Esther-Judith Hinz. untitled #21 from und mittendrin ich, 2005. / © VG-Bildkunst.

Tell us a little bit about your exhibition at the Me Collectors Room – “Play – The Frivolous and the Serious.“ Why “play”, how did you come up with it?

The exhibition at the Me Collectors Room – “Play – The Frivolous and the Serious“, is about the idea and various notions of play and how play is a basic human instinct which is present in all cultures and different aspects of life. The idea is that play arises through and within culture. That play is not only an educative and recreational aspect, by which we learn everyday, as an activity for pleasure and enjoyment. But it can in return be an incredibly serious thing as well, for example in the sense of a chess-game and of competition, rules, and of winning or losing. Concentrating on two manners throughout; paidia – spontaneous play and ludus – controlled play. The show came along, as its part of my Masters course. Meaning it is the second time the Whitechapel Gallery and in relation to the London Metropolitan University and the me Collectors Room have allowed for a team of young curators to set up and fully organise and run a show at this particular space in Berlin. So it is part of my assessment to curate this show, and an alumni student was picked to co-curate this show with me – in this case Philippa O´Driscoll. The Stiftung Olbricht has been incredibly kind and generous, supporting us with all our ideas throughout the project. Of course also working with a larger institution or as in this case an important private collection, it puts you under a protective umbrella and for example enables you to positively contact a variety of people in the art world. For two young curators to do this show has been a great and unique opportunity, and we hope to continue a good relationship with the whole me Collectors Room team.

Have Philippa and you curated a show together before, or is it your first time? How is it to work together on one show, are there many conflicts in perception? Or did you harmoniously come along?

To work with Philippa was a great experience. She is a competent and hard working girl, with a fine art practice background. Plus, she has already curated a show at the Government Art Collection in London. Our work went fairly smoothly, and as we both live in London we were able to meet up regularly for further discussions on the project. All in all, we shared a similar positive dialogue and had a good vibe going.

PLAY – how do you connect “the art of playing” or “toys” with the Arts? 

With toys one immediately thinks of play and in particular with the realm of childhood and happiness. Every generation plays with its own toys. Be it simply with marble and shells, up to ´famous´ toys which accompany our lives and make up history – popular figures such as Snoopy, Benjamin Blümchen, Harry Potter or even protagonists from the Marvel Comic series such as Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, or Hulk. It feels good to be able to associate toys with one’s childhood and upbringing. Linking it back to the characteristic of play as a free activity, that can capture and transform us into another world.

The artists that you represent in the show do they normally focus on the “act of playing” or from which background are they from?

All the different artists we chose follow unique artistic practices. Some of the selected artists use a distinct and ´playful´ technique in their works, for example Jorinde Voigt, whose algorithms, figures, shapes, and spirals create order and disorder. Or the Chapman Brothers work, which imply notions of rivalry and of childish war games, with their tiny plastic models showing scenes of torture and disfigurement, making clear reference to Goya’s series of prints from ´The Disasters of War´. The fact of choosing as well some older and more historic artworks, such an old chess board game, incorporates distinct mediums to the show, as much as trying to link it partly to the Olbricht Wunderkammer, which is on permanent display in the upper gallery levels. I think it always gives an interesting flow to an exhibition if you successfully mix contemporary work with some selected and antique objects.

The Curator, Anna-Antonia Stausberg

How do YOU play?

We all play everyday. I love playing with thoughts and work processes on a regular basis. I play with my surrounding, and for me play in particular means a certain tension between the seriousness and lightness of life. Like life itself, play is in a way bittersweet.

Please visit this definitely fun exhibition at the me Collectors Room in Auguststraße 68, 10117 Berlin. The Opening is tonight at 7pm. The exhibition runs until the 25th August 2013. For more information, have a look at the website of the gallery.

Collectors Room

by Gabrielle Berlin