Clementine Butler-Gallie at Pilotenkueche – From Elsewhere to Leipzig


Clementine Butler-Gallie is the current curator of the 39th issue of the Pilotenkueche international art residency program and has the premiere of her first group show Elsewhere a Blue Line and the Absurdity of a Ghost on a Stone in the Basement of Kunstkraftwerk LeipzigA conversation about curating, the art scene in Germany compared to Great Britain and the role of women in art. 

Von Laura Gerstmann

Installation view with front work by Anabel Nájera-López, Absent Presence, 80 × 90 × 88 cm, Found fabric and plaster, 2019 and back view work by Dominga Vergara, Reflect Conversing, 135 × 380 cm, Painting on canvas, 2019 // Photo credit: Coffee Kang and Adrian Rötzscher

VASiSTAS:
You originally came from near London, studied and worked in a gallery at the capital. Most recently, you organized exhibitions in East Berlin with your collective East of Elsewhere. How did you come to Leipzig and the Pilotenkueche residency?

Clementine:
There is always push and pull when you move to a new city. It felt that Berlin was becoming over saturated and expensive, and Leipzig had space and energy. My practice was becoming more research based, and so the appeal of Leipzig’s pace and prices led me here. That said, it is also important in the art world to get to know the scene you are entering before you begin projects. Pilotenkueche offered a great opportunity to connect and experiment within a residency format, hopefully sowing the seed for what I hope is a long future in the city.

VASiSTAS:
The title of the exhibition Elsewhere a Blue Line and the Absurdity of a Ghost on a Stone is quite complex. What is the best way to understand and interpret it?

Clementine:
The exhibition responds to the question who defines a narrative? The title tries to encompass the absurdity of certain narratives in society. We are often controlled by narratives and it’s an important exercise to train our minds to step off the given line and find our own versions. The construct of a residency brings together many different artists, themes, mediums and narratives. There is no restriction on what the artists produce during their stay. From this, I see the exhibition more as an exercise for the viewer to find the hidden connections. If we can find the things that connect us in the microcosm of an exhibition then maybe, we can find them more easily in the macrocosm of society.

Jos Diegel, detail of Loose film anthology in two different states of matter (made by people gathering and armed with celluloid), scratched and painted 35mm Film installation, 2017-2019 // Photo credit: Coffee Kang and Adrian Rötzscher

VASiSTAS:
How did the concept of this exhibition come about?

Clementine:
The residency’s 15 artists come from different channels of production, cultures, and countries. The experience of curating the residency provides the challenge of connecting people and practices that are so diverse. Pilotenkueche offers a great opportunity for cultural and group exchange. Part of this exchange includes finding the exhibition titles as a group. My role was then to create the concept after the title was chosen.

 

“If we can find the things that connect us in the microcosm of an exhibition then maybe, we can find them more easily in the macrocosm of society”

 

VASiSTAS:
Completely different from how you usually work?

Clementine:
Yes, this is the reverse format to what I am used to, but as the exhibition encourages, it is always positive to step off the line and try something new.

Louis Bouvier, A Seperate Seat for One Person, 5 × 40 × 55 cm, Plaster, metal, found object, 2019 // Photo credit: Coffee Kang and Adrian Rötzcher
Izdehar Afyouni, She’s A Cult (Work in progress), 210 x 300, Oil on linen, 2019 // Photo credit: Coffee Kang and Adrian Rötzscher

VASiSTAS:
In her work, the artist Izdehar Afyouni deals with the Renaissance painter Artemisia Gentileschi. For many centuries, female artists remain rarities in art history. And even today women are still underrepresented in the art market. As a curator, what is your view of this problem like?

Clementine:
It is a sad fact that we are still having to reference figures such as Artemisia Gentileschi in the contemporary context, but it is important. The gender gap in art world representation, employment and pay, art market values and general treatment within in the sphere continues to be apparent. The underrepresentation of women artists in galleries was something I first noticed when exploring the scene in Leipzig. However, the international dialogue on such issues is strong and slowly progress is being made, in some places more than others.

VASiSTAS:
What do you think is the best way to solve this problem?

Clementine:
Well, the continued dialogue on the situation is always important, but it is also about constructive response. People in positions of selective power; gallerists, curators, directors of museums, art schools, residencies and other cultural institutions, should acknowledge this power. These individuals should see the solving of the problem as their professional duty. By automatically reassessing an exhibiting artist list or gallery program if the large majority of artists are male, a huge difference could be made. It is not that talented female artists are not out there, it just takes a little bit of extra effort to discover them. Unfortunately change often has to start at the top, the place where gender bias is most entrenched.

Clementine Butler-Gallie / Backround: Louis Bouvier, (Rail) Not So Continuous, 2019

VASiSTAS:
What are your impressions of the art scene in Germany compared to the UK?

Clementine:
I find the German art scene much more open and dispersed, in the UK it is very London centric and with that comes an embedded elitism due to the cities high costs. But my experience of the German art scene lies predominantly in Berlin and Leipzig, cities known for their accessibility and lower costs, so perhaps my scope is not totally rounded. That said, my personal experience of Germany has allowed for my projects to be much more experimental and not so commercial.

Elisabeth Kraus, detail of Selfies, diameter 4cm, silicon, wax, concrete, fluorescent epoxy, ash, 2019 // Photo credit: Taïs Bean and Louis Devereux

VASiSTAS:
But you have free entrance in London?!

Clementine:
Yes, that’s true, there are so many counterpoints. The museums are one of the things I miss most about London. But I would say the gallery scene there is much more elitist, I way prefer the open energy and beer culture of openings here.

VASiSTAS:
And Leipzig compared to Berlin?

Clementine:
The space for activity here is most prominent to me, I imagine it has a feel of what Berlin must have been 10 years ago. The scene here is more local and painting focused compared to the more international and multimedia representation in Berlin, but I’m excited to watch how that transforms.

Sabrina Jolicoeur, detail of We Share Our Blood, 200 × 200 × 900 cm, Found wire, carbon fibre, fools gold, shungite, avocado pits, patchouli & sandal, 2019 // Photo credit: Coffee Kang and Adrian Rötzscher

 

“The space for activity here is most prominent to me, I imagine it has a feel of what Berlin must have been 10 years ago”

 

VASiSTAS:
What are your next projects?

Clementine:
East of Elsewhere will be taking the exhibition ‘While You Were Sleeping’ that we first curated in London to Kuwait at the end of November. It`s a double solo of two Berlin-based artists from Syria, Hiba Al-Ansari and Fadi Al-Hamwi. For three months at the end of the year I will be based in Beirut to continue my research on the cultural exchange between the DDR and the Middle East. This is a more longterm project, that I plan to eventually present in Leipzig.

Marijn Rooslind Green, Becoming Solid, Modules 48 x 23 x14 cm, Paraffin Wax, 2019 // Photo credit: Coffee Kang and Adrian Rötzscher

VASiSTAS:
And there is also another Pilotenküche Exhibition?

Clementine:
Yes, there will be the final exhibition of this round of the residency opening on June 21st. The show is titled Wrestling with Impermanence, and will play with the concepts of renewal and return, as the artists and myself prepare to leave the residency and let it welcome the next round. It will be held both inside and outside the Pilotenküche studio on Franz-Flemming Straße.

 


Elsewhere a Blue Line and the Absurdity of a Ghost on a Stone runs until June 2nd at Kunstkraftwerk Leipzig.

If you want to know more about Clementine’s projects, we recommend this website.

Featured Image by Riccardo Cagnotto

Laura Gerstmann

written by Laura Gerstmann

author | B.A. in Art History, lives and works in Leipzig, Germany

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