Place of Origin

Berlin doesn’t have to be your birthplace to become the inspiration and sounding board for what you want to do. The Forumist meets four artists who have made the city their home to find out how it fuels their creative fire.

Aline Schwibbe

Tell us about your artistic practice.
“I studied painting, but my approach to it was always more conceptual. I usually start with a drawing and I like to use different surfaces to draw on. My artistic language is much influenced by multiple- exposure photography. I do layering and I combine things that usually don’t go together, such as abstract and figurative elements. I like clashing of contradictory elements. “In my artistic practice I like to envision and make visible the experiences that aren’t easy to envision or articulate, such as memories and mental processes. I am also very interested in identity, fragmented states of identity and relationships within oneself.”

You also work with photography, right?
“Yes, I use a camera that is capable of making multiple exposed images. It’s a Minolta xD5. In 2014 I also made a series of double-exposed Polaroids. Unfortunately, the camera broke because it wasn’t supposed to do double exposure and I basically forced it [Laughs.]. I also scanned the negatives myself and I loved the process of it. I am not a professional photographer but I know as much about photography as I need to in order to produce my artworks.”

Some of your work features different items of clothing. Why?
“I am interested in clothes as tools of expression of one’s identity. It’s like a language. I’ve always been interested in clothing and dressed up a lot as a kid. This past summer, while I was doing a residency in New York, I worked with white women’s blazers. A blazer as a piece of clothing has a meaning, which can differ depending on the person. “Clothing in general can indicate a person’s social status, and thus show what spaces the person has access to and in what ways. I’m thinking here of workers’ uniforms and business suits, but also certain brands and styles as signifiers of a person’s heritage, class, or even a movement or group they belong to.”

Does living in Berlin influence your work?
“I lived here from 2009 until 2012. Then I took off and lived in many places for a while. After being in San Francisco, it felt very natural to me to come back and live in Berlin again. It had changed a lot. It’s harder to survive as an artist than it used to be.“What I like about Berlin is that it’s big and has many different areas. You can take a tram and in 30 minutes find yourself in a completely different area that is not necessarily reflected in the art scene. The art that is shown across the galleries is quite homogenous and not as multicultural as Berlin actually is. A lot has to change in terms of gender equality – female artists are still underrepresented. “My work is always influenced by where I live, so Berlin has been quite influential lately. I have been feeling quite settled here, more than I used to before, so I guess my work radiates a certain level of comfort and confidence.”

What is your take on social media? Do you use Instagram to promote your artwork?
“It’s quite a complicated relationship. As an artist I think it’s great to use Instagram to promote one’s work, but I also think it’s important to disengage from it sometimes. I hear about artists who change their practice in order to make their artworks more Instagrammable. That is absolutely unimaginable. This summer I did a series of white paintings on white, and they didn’t photograph well, but I wouldn’t change my artwork for the sake of getting a perfect Instagram picture. In general, I’m trying to get a healthy balance between images of work and personal pictures.”


Jorinde Voigt

Does living in Berlin influence your work?
“As an artist you are always influenced by your surroundings, the people you meet, your daily routine, and on the greater scale by the society you are living in. In that sense, Berlin does influence my work. I strongly identify with the city. This identification creates a certain energy and opens up potential for creation. When you identify with the city you automatically have a positive starting point.”

Please tell us about your artistic practice.
“In my practice I am looking for ways of notation and artistic expression of the topics I am interested in at a particular moment in my life. My working process includes the identification of different topics of interest, decision-making regarding materials, and creating the actual piece, which means arranging the topics in a non-hierarchical structure in order to create stability. My work explores the ways of expression of different layers of perception and communication.”

Can you take me through your creative process?
“First of all I dye white paper with colour in order to create a a starting point. I spread the paper on the floor, walk over it, find the centre and mark my scope. I have to see how far I can reach. It’s important for me to get in the right mood, find the right sensitivity and to get in contact with the paper space from different angles. When it’s done I mark my positions. What follows is the reflective process. I cover the paper with foil. Based on previous marks and positions I cut out shapes and cover them with pigment powder. The next step is sketching, where I employ the typographic model of the torus, a known model of perception that is used across disciplines like cosmology but also topography. I also use the element of rotation and movement in my sketches, which refers to movement and change as an integral parameter of the world.”

I really like your Immersion series. The pieces look very similar to one another without being identical. When I look at the series as a whole I think of frames of a film.
“Immersion is a time-based series. Each piece has been created one after another and it represents a different moment in time. When you look at the series as a whole you can see the exact connection between those moments. In real life you focus on each moment at a time and you can’t stop and zoom out in order to see the bigger picture. “The Immersion series is a multilayered work. There is a layer of colours, where each one evokes a certain emotion or experience and creates a specific atmosphere. Another layer is created through application of gold. As a top layer it waves through the previous layers and creates nonstop new hierarchy. The series is structured in a musical way. It displays rhythmic actions and motifs that are interconnected.”

What significance does colour have in your artwork?
“I choose colours depending on whatever colour I worked with in my previous piece. If I used blue before I might feel like using yellow. This way my artworks are interconnected as parts of an ongoing colour-based dialogue. I also think of colour in terms of how it makes me feel and what the psychological and physical effects of each colour are. The blue colour is calming. The yellow has the opposite effect. It’s awakening. These are parameters that influence the choice of the colour palette.”

When and why did you start to work with gold?
“In 2010. At the time I had been delving into the work of Arthur Schopenhauer – The Art of Being Happy. I wanted to find a material that could represent philosophical thoughts on the abstract level of visual art. I chose gold because it’s a hermetic yet reflective material. These parameters are also characteristic of Schopenhauer’s philosophy.”

How do you choose what you wear?
“I choose clothes that allow me to move freely when I work. I don’t follow fashion but I like to watch what people wear. For me, the work of a designer is similar to that of an artist – the designer starts with a drawing, then makes a pattern. They have to re-envision it in 3D as an actual piece of clothing. In my work every created piece is part of a visual vocabulary that can be reimagined, restructured and reused in a different way, bringing a shift in the context or delivering a comment on whatever is going on in society.”

What’s coming up for you?
“Three exhibitions – at McNamara Art Projects, Hong Kong, Klosterfelde Editionen in Berlin, and the Hive Centre for Contemporary Art in Beijing – and a solo presentation at The Armory Show in New York by David Nolan. Each will have a different concept.”


Constance Tenvik

Fashion and costumes seem to play quite an important role in your work. Looking at your drawings and paintings, your characters often wear certain colours or brands, such as Fila or Chloé. Why is this important for you?
“I often draw portraits of my friends, so whatever they are wearing becomes part of the artwork as much as little details, like Ritter Sport chocolate on the table. Such details are connected to certain places and memories, and they place the artwork in a specific context in terms of space and time. “This series of portraits is part of my practice that also includes other artistic forms, such as costumes, music, scenography and film. My other work revolves around certain shapes and colours. My drawings can become costumes and more… I’ve always been interested in tableaux vivant – the tradition of making paintings come alive through dressing up and posing. “I don’t come from a fashion background and I never studied pattern making, but I am becoming increasingly interested in these aspects of making costumes. I like the extension-of-the-body aspect of fashion. I save all the costumes that I have designed for my exhibitions so they are part of my personal archive. Whether I ever design a clothing line remains to be seen… But if I do, it will definitely be art for art’s sake and the clothes would have to relate to ideas and memories as much as the rest of my work does.”

What topics are you exploring in your artistic practice?
“I am a curious person and I’m interested in a range of disciplines and topics, such as history, literature and art. For past shows I decided to go into quite specific stories, such as the tale of Tristan und Isolde. My work [for the show] Soft Armour was based on a very specific historical event, a disastrous attempt to restage a medieval joust at a Scottish castle in 1839. “My current show is inspired by xavier de Maistre’s A Journey Around My Room, which is about a guy who loses a duel and is put under house arrest and stuck in a room for three weeks or so. He decides to make a big grand journey but he can’t leave the room. The boundaries between his own imagination and a room he is locked in become very blurry. “I also looked at Joris-Karl Huysmans’ À rebours, which also tells of being trapped in a house and in your own thoughts. For years I’ve been making mind maps, which to me is like walking into someone’s head. Making mind maps, reading and thinking are part of my baseline activities and my artistic practice. I’m also interested in the complexities of humanity, such as how you say one thing and feel another, and looking at yourself and your shadow self… ”

What’s coming up?
“Until the beginning of May, I have an exhibition with five other artists at Astrup Fearnley Museum in Oslo [where she was born], called Sun and Spring in January. My installation is called Voyage Autour de Ma Chambre. I feel very happy and honoured to be part of this exhibition. I have a big space just for my work. And the organisers even hired a fantastic writer to follow me for a whole year in order to write the catalogue for the exhibition. They really want to give young artists the chance to make their artistic dreams come true.
“For this exhibition I made a whole installation with a big woven piece and wallpaper. People can buy the wallpaper, which means they can take a part of the exhibition home. “I will also be having a solo show in London and releasing a publication in Paris.”

What is your take on social media, especially Instagram?
“I would say I use it as a visual diary. Sometimes it’s a bit of a burden. It can be a bit addictive and exhausting, but it can also be very inspiring. I also use it to show behind the scenes of my working process. For example, for the Soft Armour show I went to Scotland and tried to make a video, which kind of failed but then my followers could see me there and the castle where the tournament took place, which also then became part of the journey and thus part of the artwork.”

Does living in Berlin influence your work?
“Yes it does, as it’s my base now. I experience things here that I don’t experience in any other city. For example, I find that in Berlin you can meet a lot of people who are interested in spirituality or ways of coming together and collectivity.”


Ana Lessing Menjibar

Tell us about your artistic practice.
“It combines contemporary dance, performance and visual arts. I am working with photography, video, installation and live performance as means of expression. I studied flamenco from an early age, so I am using it as a source of inspiration and as a language in my art. The body serves as a starting point for confrontations with social and emotional topics in relation to space, time or society. “Another big part of my artistic practice is the music. I am creating sound with my own body – not only with my voice, but also with my feet or even based on my heartbeat… I am using digital technology and my body to create a multisensory experience that explores society’s relationship to virtual identity and self-presentation, alienation from nature, and the hyper-realities in which we live. Technology versus human experience is therefore one of the topics I am very interested in.”


I was very lucky to witness one of your rehearsals at your studio. How important is sound for your artistic practice?
“I was born in Berlin and grew up listening to good, deep electronic music that makes your body vibrate. I also know this sort of electricity that suddenly emerges in your body while you’re dancing. The music creates its own language inside your body by making it vibrate and shake. It’s very physical. I think about music in a physical way. I also like to work with extreme oppositions, like silence versus explosion of sound. I like to push the comfort zone.”

You also work with spoken words.
“I have always been interested in the Dada movement. I love the typography they developed and the way they worked with words. For a long time I was only interested in how they visualised the language, but recently I started to think about it more in terms of speaking like how spoken words stimulate your body in a certain way. I feel a strong connection to my native language, which is German. This is why I decided to work with German literature/poetry in my performances. When I speak English the words don’t affect me as much as they do when I speak German.”

Video and photography are also part of your artistic practice…
“My performances are always the base for my photography and video art. I film them and work with them further in postproduction. This production process works like palimpsest in analogy to an old document that shows different layers superimposed on top of one another that affect each other, thus creating a new reality. An actual performance is the first layer, or ‘the past’. The photography or the capturing of the performance on camera is the new layer, ‘the present’. The latter can be turned into a new narrative through postproduction. For my video art pieces I work both in nature and indoors but it’s always about creating body sculptures in space.”

Do you use social media?
“No, I I feel healthier when I don’t use them. The constant flow of information creates too much noise that affects my mind.”

What’s coming up?
“Currently I am participating in the performanceart master’s programme Solo/Dance/Authorship at [Berlin University of the Arts] Inter-University Centre for Dance, so I am entirely focusing on my research at the moment. I will have my first public performance that I am developing within this program in July at Uferstudios. The final performance will be in December.”


Team Credits:

Words and styling by Veronika Dorosheva
Portraits by Julia Grossi

Picture Credits:

Aline Schwibbe
#1 Julia Grossi
#2 Artwork by Aline Schwibbe
#3 Installation views of A Thousand Names of Something Else (2019), solo exhibition curated by Katharina Wendler, DZIALDOV, Berlin, Germany; photographs by Carlos Noriega
#4 Fearless Flowers (I Move Through Chicago Like Honey) (2018), solo exhibition curated by Magdalena J. Härtelova, White Pearl Gallery Prague, Czech Republic; photographs by Eva Malúšová
Jorinde Voigt
#1 Julia Grossi
#2 Jorinde Voigt, Immer sive Integral– Firm Radiance IV (2018/19)
#3  Jorinde Voigt, Immersive Integral – Zenith XII (2018)
#4 Jorinde Voigt, Synchronicity (2) (2015)
#5 Jorinde Voigt, Immersive Integral II (2018)
Constance Tenvik
#1 Julia Grossi
#2-5 Installation views of Voyage Autour de Ma Chambre (2019), Sun and spring in january exhibition, Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo; photographs by Christian Øen
Ana Lessing Menjibar
#1-2 Ana Lessing Menjibar , SOMAT OWAAG E (2016)
#3 Ana Lessing Menjibar, Tientos (2015)
#4 Julia Grossi
#5 Ana Lessing Menjibar, Buleria (2015)

#6 Ana Lessing Menjibar, KÖRPERNOTATION (2014)

Fashion Credits:

#1 Aline wears Jumpsuit by Belize
#10 Constance wears Top & Trousers by Kenzo, Sunglasses by Gentle Monster, Earrings by Julia Seemann
#18 Ana wears Jacket by Jil Sander, Top by Balenciaga