Affects between Architecture and Art
Vanessa Enríquez and J.MAYER.H
Artist Talk: Saturday, 30. April 2016
Exhibition: 2. April - 1. May 2016
Venue: aquabitArt gallery, Auguststrasse 35, 10119 Berlin-Mitte
We were both interested in creating this space, where perception would be an important component.
Irina Ilieva: Welcome to everybody, I am happy to see all these happy faces around. Today we will talk with Vanessa Enriquez and Jürgen Mayer H. They are the artists who created the exhibition, called PLAZEBO. The pavilion was built here April 2th, when we opened the exhibition. Everybody could come in and enjoy it. Especially it is very interesting to see how people are reacting on this subtle action, which is part of the idea of the project. We will talk today about some of the themes of the exhibition, but also shortly about the projects in general of Jürgen and Vanessa - about how they are thinking, how they are feeling. And I would like to encourage every one of you to put questions, just give me a sign in between and I will give you the word.
Vanessa is an artist, born in Mexico, based in Berlin for several years. Her artistic work is connected with revealing hidden patterns, which is very exciting for me, that's why I invited her to make this exhibition.
Jürgen is a very well known architect, who is also working in the field of art and that's why it is very interesting for me to work with him. Two days ago, in Haus am Waldsee a spacious exhibition opened, presenting his works of 20 years. This is a big recognition.
Vanessa Enríquez: Well, we were discussing ideas of what to do and we've been throwing out interesting titles and concepts we could use. There was this idea of GAZEBO, thinking about a pavilion, and Jürgen just threw PLAZEBO, like a play on the word. And we really liked the connection to the placebo effects, because it was all about perception. I think we were both interested in creating this space, where perception would be an important component.
Jürgen Mayer H: Testing placebos, feedback to your body, happens with a real or implied medication - you take something and you feel like it is doing something to you, but actually it might not be what you think it is. So, the question of input and output was triggered with this title. Especially when you are coming into the space here, you enter an environment, that puts questions on how you look at the wall, what is the space defining element. And what I think is really interesting in Vanessa's installation here, is that it talks about dematerialisation of an environment through materials. It starts to blur our understanding where the limits of the space are, how a certain animation of the space can happen through a very simple technique, this visual effect of the Moiré, that happens when you move in the space. And that's how we then responded with our installation, this small frame over there, which is also about dematerialisation of space, but in a different form of a representation and media.
It is a digital model of a prototype, a spatial study, that turned into a building, which is here in Berlin on Johannisstrasse, next to Kalkscheune. But it is also a kind of prototype space like this pavilion which can be seen as a prototype for a larger build environment.
Photo: Ludger Paffrath
Irina Ilieva: You have been working already together, before you came here to do this project. You made together the book object, called "WIRRWARR", in English called "Huddle". This book is very interesting, because it shows the data protection patterns, which Jürgen collects for a very long time. They've been put together in this big book, which is out of print now. You both, independently from each other, are interested in patterns. Your work, Jürgen, has so many connections with these patterns, overlapping, movement. Your architecture can be seen as huge sculptures. Vanessa is also working with overlapping of different hidden patterns, exposingthem to the visitors or to our senses.
Jürgen Mayer H: I am collecting these patterns since 1994 and they come with your mail every day. The strategic moment I find so interesting with these patterns, is (now I go back a little bit) a strategic tool, that comes from printing technology. If you remember still typewriters and carbon paper - it is basically a tool to write copies of the invoice and also of the shipping slip at the same time. So, in certain areas you had to print these camouflage patterns, which are overlays of numbers and letters, if you would print a carbon paper many, many times with the typewriters. And because you have to erase certain information, so that the shipping slip might be written at the same time, when you write also the invoice, but the one, who delivers the package, doesn't need to know how expensive that object was. So, it is a kind of information, control.
We also find it on the inside of envelopes, if you receive an envelope of somebody else and hold it against the light, you might be able to read what was written in the letter. But with this camouflage pattern, that's printed on the inside of the envelopes, it's becoming neutralised, blurry.
... when you are coming into the space here, you enter an environment, that puts questions on how you look at the wall, what is the space defining element.
As architects, we also deal with envelopes. The building has a facade, so we talk about similar conditions like the envelopes. There is an inside, there is an outside. There is a private space and a public side. There is a division between discrete and indiscreet, of concealed and exposed. And that's why, I think, data protection patterns are, on one hand, a source material to talk about conditions that we are dealing with, when we construct our environment or our cities. And also it becomes the last visible moment, before all these topics about data accessibility, data control, move into the virtual. And we are now, in the years of Snowden, getting more sensitive about the idea of what information is available to whom.
That layer of negotiation, of management of these data or these conditions, is what becomes a starting point for our work. We take this found patterns, enlarge them, make them in a scale 1:1 to a human body, thicken them, read them 3-dimensionaly, and therefore creating a space, an ambivalent space, for conditions that I mentioned before.
To come back to the book. I am collecting these patterns for the last 20 years or so, and I felt at one moment, that I would like to make a book to show the collection. But to make not just the 1:1 representation of this patterns, but to enlarge them also, see how they create a different kind of visual possibility by just taking parts of them, confronting them with other patterns. That's how Vanessa came into this project with her sensibility of looking into visual conditions.
Jürgen Mayer H. / WIRRWARR. Texts by Philip Ursprung, graphic design by Vanessa Enríquez, Jürgen Mayer H.
Vanessa Enríquez: Jürgen invited me and I was really happy, because by coincidence I was also collecting, not in such a large scale, but particularly one pattern, that looks like this Moiré effect. I call it a contour-line pattern. And I had a few envelops of my own, when I was living in New York. When he invited me I really loved the process of going through this whole collection of 500 or so envelopes, categorizing them by different shapes, by different qualities and then to do the process together - designing the layout, focus on the different elements of the envelopes. Not only on graphical matter, but also to keep the pace interesting.
Jürgen Mayer H: It is also interesting to do this book or make this collection here in Berlin, because, the oldest source I found, where this patterns came from, is a printing house, called Berthold, who went bankrupt in 1986. They have been on the forefront of type and font development in the world. In their catalogue of 1913 they already offered this stamps with camouflage pattern. So "WIRRWARR" is also a book about the history of printing technology here in Berlin.
Irina Ilieva: Very interesting! Now, coming back to our PLAZEBO. Having this background about the patterns, which you both, independently from each other, have been collecting and are interested in.
Photo: Ludger Paffrath
Vanessa Enríquez: I wanted to explore the materiality of this Moiré effect I had seen recently on a trip to Mexico. It was a shading canopy they have been using in the museum to cover the sculptures and I was very interested in its aesthetic quality. Of course it was used to protect, so, in a way it is similar to the data protection pattern, that is protecting information and Jürgen finds it beautiful and interesting. I also found, that this had a beautiful effect. So I did some images and I showed them to you, I told you I wanted to use this material and that's how it started to develop into doing a pavilion. Then came the video, as a response to it. In the video, I think, are the same patterns. They are created just by the rotation of these lines that are exposed to each other.
Vanessa Enríquez: Yes, in this case it is a mosquito net in two layers. With one layer you don't have anything, but as soon as you put two layers together, it creates an interference pattern.
Vanessa Enríquez: In particular the mosquito net, because it was available. I was interested in how it is when you move in the space, I wanted the audience to be part of the work. I am interested in drawing in my artistic practice and in this case I wanted that a person, who is walking through the gallery, completes the drawing. When you stay static, the image is basically static, unless somebody is moving it. But otherwise you have to move in order to see the drawing appear and animate.
I wanted the audience to be part of the work.
Irina Ilieva: So, to be able to experience the pavilion, you should move. Or maybe you are already moving naturally a little bit, because its blurriness is acting on our subconscious. But if you want to experience the video of Jürgen, then you should concentrate and keep calm. These are the two different ways to experience the installation/pavilion. But we also have noises, which I would like to talk shortly about. Here in the background we hear the so called "pink noise". This "pink noise" is a long compilation of 60 min, which was created by Jurgen's office. What is the difference to "white noise", because everybody here knows "white noise".
Jürgen Mayer H: When we create an atmosphere, an environment, sound is a very important part of it. It complements and enhances the experience. The visual noise that we have in the exhibition is also a pattern, blurring sound. The pink noise has a lower frequency, than the white noise. White noise is technologically based on a very high pitch of sounds, which we use to cover sound information. Pink noise is a bit lower and it's similar to sounds or frequencies that we know from leaves on trees, or waterfalls, sound that comes from nature. There are also lower frequencies, as brown noise or red noise. They are all varying in different kinds of frequencies levels. And the pink noise is something that is considered soothing or helping to fall asleep, calming down. It doesn't sound like it, when you hear it first, but we did once a sleep chamber on the design biennial in Istanbul, where first it is irritating, but after your body gets in-tuned with the sound, it helps to relax. At PLAZEBO, by having the visual noise effect: that takes you into different state of perception, the sound bounces back. That's why it is a perfect addition to PLAZEBO.
When we create an atmosphere, an environment, sound is a very important part of it.
Irina Ilieva: Well, and we have also other noises here. They are so called "binaural beats" which are coming out of hanging headphones. This is the contribution by Vanessa.
Vanessa Enríquez: Binaural beats are two tone frequencies that are different in each ear. So you are receiving one tone in the right ear and one different in the left ear and what magically happens, is that your brain actually creates the differences between those tones. So let's say you are hearing 300Hz and 305Hz, in your brain a 5 Hz frequency would be created. That creates a synchronisation of your whole brain. They are used by people to induce meditation states, also to induce joy. Some people say that they work like endorphins, help to be happy, to be relaxed. The faster the brainwave, the more active and the more concentration you have for study for example. The lower frequency is more for the mediation states. I have been very interested in these binaural beats for a few years now. I have been actually using them to explore meditation and I thought it was a very interesting thing, because when I was reading about the Moiré effect and the interference, it's actually the same thing, but sonically. So what's happening there is like an interference, but of sound. The same phenomenon, but with sound.
Some people say that binaural beats work like endorphins, help to be happy, to be relaxed.
Irina Ilieva: So, in the whole installation we have several ways to reach our subconscious through visual, sound. That's one of the "affects" and then the "effects" of the installation. As a subtitle we called the installation "Affects between Architecture and Art". I have to note, that this is the third exhibition that takes place here under this title "Architecture and Art". As architect and owner of the gallery, I am very interested in these questions: how far Architecture and Art are connected, how far they interact and how far they have differences? Or where are the differences? Where starts Architecture, where finishes Architecture? Where starts Art, where finishes Art? Are there boundaries between both of them at all?
Vanessa Enríquez: It was play of the placebo effects that we were talking about, and that added meaning of instinctual response, which people have to stimuli. So I thought, that this is exactly like to "face the interface" on your visual centres and also in your ears. I was interested in what "affect" it would have in people, in terms of a positive or a negative. How is changing the "affect", when they are visiting the space.
Irina Ilieva: It would be also very interesting for me personally, to hear how our audience experiences the sitting andstanding in this environment.
But, let's switch to Jürgen's works. In general the intersection between Architecture and Art is very important for me and he is active in both fields. Sometimes more as an architect, but in such kind of "off-installations", also as an artist. In your architecture we can experience the art very strong.
Jürgen Mayer H: Our work looks at the relationship of our body to space and that happens in different media. There is an interest in how new technologies, especially the digital world, changes the way how we design and how we produce space. What are new technologies and materialities and what is the architectural language of today. It is a discourse of our current moment. That happens sometimes on a small scale, in more abstract ways, and in buildings and urban interventions. We don't make this difference of the disciplines, but we always get confronted with that question. We do show our work in art galleries, in art museums, in design biennials, in architecture museums. It is mostly the context that makes the discipline of our work.It is the same, that is showing in different contents. And the discourse in each discipline is completely different. To get different feedback, different views on projects or objects is a valuable input from different angles.
Some objects have less functionality, so they might be considered art, but I don't see thesedivisions really. These are artists, who are building houses and architects, who are building virtual spaces and installations.
What are new technologies and materialities and what is the architectural language of today.
The question of program or function is not an important question to define a discipline. We are interested in a spatial explorations, how these spaces become our place for communication, how we create society, how we interfere with each other. In a way it's about form, but also form in terms of formalities, conformations, norms, which are defining certain rituals, how we behave, how we construct our setting. Andsometimes it is also a form of a building.
Jürgen Mayer H: That's our secret. We have to go back to Niklas Luhmann: "Form is exactly between two conditions". You find that form in an object, between containing and not containing, you find it in formalities, in ways how we construct protocols. There is always something about inside and outside, are you invited, are you not invited, are you involved, are you a visitor or spectator. These are questions we address with architectural speculations.
Irina Ilieva: I have to mention that until now Jürgen realized only few buildings in Berlin, but near Alexa, Alexanderplatz, is rising a new one, called VOLT BERLIN.
Jürgen Mayer H: We can define it as a shopping mall with integrated activities. There is a surf wave, indoor skydiving and a hotel and it is a contemporary way of looking at public space. The public space in the history was the market place. The exchange of ideas, exchange of goods, dealing, this is how public space started. Shopping malls are public spaces in this aspect. But with these activity parts, like surfing and indoor skydiving, you also actively participate in that space. And it is situated in a location - we have the subway underground, we have the S-Bahn on eye level passing by, of course we can see the TV tower on Alexanderplatz. Here you can experience the different dynamics of the city, the infrastructure. The surf wave, for example, is on the height of the S-Bahn, from the S-Bahn you can look into the surf wave, from the surf wave, you can look into the S-Bahn, a higher level of the city.
METROPOL PARASOL - Redevelopment of Plaza de la Encarnacion, Seville, Spain. Foto: J. MAYER H.
Feel rather than think
Irina Ilieva: It looks like two blocks, which are coming together in a very strong energy layer. When we are talking about public space I have to mention maybe the most favourite architectural work of Jürgen. It is in Sevilla, called "Metropol Parasol", this is a real public space sculpture, which has more functions.
We are almost coming to the end, but I would like to ask Vanessa something. I know already several works of yours, some of them are in Berlin. One of my favourite ones was built in the Cemetery’s Glasshouse in Kreuzberg. You made a very poetic floating construction, like a big cloud, out of empty plant pots. This is so called re-used material - all these pots, which people bring there, take the plant out, put it in the cemetery and then throw these pots away. Vanessa gathered some of these pots and made a wonderful installation, which was giving us a very poetic view to the space, to the world in general, to us. Last year, also part of the "Architecture and Art" exhibition here, Vanessa showed a re-use of plastic pallets, which normally are designed to carry tons of weight, and for that reason they have special static structure. This static structure nobody sees normally, they are used by the "Gabelstapler / fork-lift trucks". With this pallets Vanessa made beautiful colourful prints.
Vanessa Enríquez: I am fascinated by everyday materials, my interest is in geometry and pattern (we come again to the idea of patterns) and how they are now used. In the pallets, it was a great surprise to see the variety of geometries and layouts that are used to give a solid structure, so they can carry the weight. There is a very big diversity of patterns. So I was exploring all these differences. And in the cemetery I just saw this material, while I was walking there. I take almost daily walks either in the park or in the cemetery around my house and they started calling me to be used. So I've been reaching out for materials that are free or are gifted in e-bay, and explore their geometries or sculptural qualities, when they are repeated and amassed. That was the effect in the cemetery.
Vanessa Enríquez: Not always, but especially recently and they are more sculptural.
Jürgen Mayer H: Does anybody feel dizzy now?
Irina Ilieva: How do you feel, is somebody ready to fall down? We have water, we have wine ..Coming back to the WIRRWARR, last question. What would you like to give on the way to our attentive audience in this WIRRWARR, huddle of the Gallery Weekend? It is not only here and now, there is also a lot of every day input in our lives.
Jürgen Mayer H: Please come to "Haus am Wannsee", beautiful show that is running until end of June. You don't have to hurry this weekend. But you see some of what you have experienced here, and what you see on the screen, also in a larger projections space. You can see our work with my two partners Andre Santer and Hans Schneider. And of course the whole team, we developed over the last 20 years, as you said..
Jürgen Mayer H: Well, actually I started in 1996 with teaching, doing competitions and installation work, also here on Auguststrasse, Eigen+Art ...
Irina Ilieva: ... yes, you made already exhibitions in one of the most important galleries on this street, Eigen+Art, which was here long before my gallery, also in galerie magnus müller. I am very thankful and very proud, that we are here now.
Vanessa Enríquez: Just enjoy the WIRRWARR. Just walk around, see everything. Feel rather than think. A lot of times it is more about thinking: "What did you think about that exhibition?" Perhaps "What do you feel about that exhibition?" would be a better question.