Almost everyone has more than one job ...
Eva Scharrer im Gespräch mit Emiliano Pistacchi vom Ausstellungsraum „Frankfurt am Main“
Eva Scharrer / Can you say something about how “Frankfurt am Main” came into life?
Emiliano Pistacchi / The idea started back in the summer of 2013. I already lived in that building on Wildenbruchstrasse 15 for several years. When I had to clear my studio in Wedding I noted that the shop underneath my apartment was standing empty. I contacted the landlord and was luckily able to rent it as a studio. It turned out that recently there had been plans to transform it into a sex club, but that plan had been stopped midway. It used to be an ice cream shop before it was standing empty for twelve years. I cleaned it and renovated it myself. I divided the front space so I could share it with other artists as a shared studio space. But then I didn’t really use it as a studio as I was working full time in a gallery at that time. The space was also much smaller than my former studio, which didn’t allow for the same work processes I was used to. So in the summer of 2013, the idea emerged to do something else there…to create a space for meeting and exchange. During discussions with friends we had always brought up different ideas, thoughts, and projects, but after every talk we left without actually leaving something behind. When I got the space I realized that this could be the place to transform those proposals into something more substantial. It was always important to me to integrate new ideas into my own art practice. With “Frankfurt am Main”, I wanted to provide a structure where such an exchange could happen – and from where it could shift from solitary production to collective presentation.
Scharrer / What about the name “Frankfurt am Main”? It has a specific sound to it that automatically triggers associations, especially in the art world. But I assume the concept is not to only present artists from the Städelschule? Even though with Stephen Suckale and Christian Tonner, two artists you showed were in fact Städel-absolvents.
Pistacchi / No, that happened by chance. The name was not chosen to link to a specific place or school. It started as an anecdote, but the more it sunk in, the more I liked it. The idea was to dislocate, to indicate a kind of heterotopia, a “somewhere else”… a conflation of spaces as well as of different practices. What I refer to with the geographical name is actually more linked to the idea of a skyline, the skyline of another imaginary big city… The documentation of the works online is also part of that creation of a virtual skyline. I like the idea that through Google Search one day images of Wildenbruchstrasse 15 will show up next to images of the Alpha-City that is the commercial capital.
Scharrer / You are an artist yourself, but as a day job you work freelance for a high profile commercial gallery and for a renowned contemporary art institution. Now you also run a gallery. How do you balance between these different positions?
Pistacchi / Nowadays it is a common condition to occupy several roles instead of one lifetime job, especially in the field in which we are working. The work market has changed; in my generation almost everyone has more than one job, and like me, most work as freelancers. We have to juggle the challenges and advantages that this multi-tasking brings with it. My own work as an artist may fall a bit behind at the moment. But it also adds another layer onto my own artistic practice. “Frankfurt am Main” became a part of my artistic self. The balance I guess comes when I return to my own work, when I can apply the experiences gained through working with other artists work.
Scharrer / How do you find the artists that you are showing, what are your criteria, and what is your programming for the next shows?
Pistacchi / I am interested in confrontations – confrontations in terms of materials, techniques, but also of languages. In the beginning, the idea was to create a visibility within the group of artist-friends that I felt related to. But this then lead to a bigger vision independent from our own practices. A series of shows will focus on the idea of construction, or “Handwerk” – literally but also conceptually, in the sense of how to construct an imaginary. This attitude links the individual positions with each other and over the time creates a red line within the different approaches to the space. The next show in July, after Anthony Salvador, will be Mia Goyette. In August I will show Tore Wallert, and in September Gianluca Concialdi.
Scharrer / Berlin is a city that already has a lot of galleries, off-spaces, project spaces and so on – how do you situate or distinguish yourself within that landscape? Especially in Neukölln, which became a hub for a new generation, a very young and mostly expat (art) community? At the same time, the area is also changing dramatically and becomes subject of speculation.
Pistacchi / Berlin in the last 20 years has been more or less a construction site where everything was at work and changing. Now in the last couple of years space got more rare and more expensive. But there is still a lot of opening and closing, and I find the multitude here rather encouraging. It keeps on creating new networks and scenes…one can spot several mappings of the so-called off-spaces of Berlin. I follow this development with curiosity. My intent with “Frankfurt” is to look into the notion of space, of that particular space, and to give the “opening event” a statement approach.
Scharrer / And what about the ubiquitous term “gentrification”? Do you see yourself a part of it?
Pistacchi / That’s a complex topic. There is so much speculation going on everywhere in this city – recently a part of the Berlin wall has been demolished to make space for new luxury loft apartments. This is only one example of the low profile of most of those changes. As you say, rents have risen dramatically, especially in formerly “cheap” areas like Neukölln, where night-shops and dubious bars are replaced by fancy coffee shops etc. as the result of the invasion of mostly young people from all over the world. So of course, all of us who move to this city are part of that problematic, but at the same we can be critical about it. People have always moved, and usually artists are the first ones to “develop” new areas, but this is also about moving ideas, and changes are often coming in at a larger scale.
Scharrer / Are there any galleries or gallerists, historical or contemporary, who have influenced you, who you would name as role models?
Pistacchi / I am interested in the beginnings – of big galleries or small spaces – and how in a certain location at a certain time something emerged. For instance Claes Oldenburgs “The Store” where he was selling objects from his studio like in a shop. Or I can imagine Sadie Coles and Sarah Lucas in the beginning of the gallery, when there was still a lot of spontaneity. I am looking for this special moment: the myth of the beginning of something. This is also what I am doing with “Frankfurt”.
Scharrer / In five or ten years from now, do you see yourself rather as an artist or gallerist, or something else?
Pistacchi / It is a big time frame, from my current perspective. For now, I would like to position my practice open within these different roles that you mentioned, and to keep “Frankfurt am Main” as a hybrid entity. This open status where everything seems possible inspires my fantasy and creates desires. It is is probably an attitude more than a projected point of arrival, but it’s the direction I would like to take.
„Frankfurt am Main“, Wildenbruchstraße 15, 12045 Berlin
Zuletzt Ausstellung von Anthony Salvador
„Work Performance / Performance Work“, 11.5.–8.6. 2014
Emiliano Pistacchi vor der Arbeit von Stephen Suckale „A Bomb, a Computer“, 2014 (© Frankfurt am Main)