Exhibition: Home is not a place

Marlene von Carnap & Coraly von Bismarck

Home is not a Place at the Germany Embassy in London is showing contemporary art from London and Berlin. We met the curators Coraly von Bismarck and Marlene von Carnap for an interview

Coraly von Bismarck and Marlene von Carnap work in London galleries and collaborated to curate the exhibition Home is not a Place, which is on view at the German Embassy from the 2nd of June. They speak about the personal reactions to Bexit in this interview.

How did you guys get the idea for the exhibition?

Our original idea was to show an exhibition of artists from Berlin. We both lived in Berlin for a long time and there’s a lot of interest here in what’s going on over there at the moment. Then with the mood after Brexit, we thought one actually has to look in both directions and show how lively and diverse the cultural exchange between the two cities is. So then, at first, we landed on a really simple idea: Showing German artists that presently work in London, and English artists currently practicing in Berlin.

When we thought about where and how we could do that, we arrived at the Germany Embassy – more precisely, the ambassador’s attached residence on Belgrave Square.

For one thing, the residence is a representative location in a historic 19th century building with marble floors, tapestries, and old masters on the walls. What’s more, it can also offer asylum – like every embassy – an island and a place where policies are made. As we see it, a very exciting context for an exhibition. We were really lucky that the ambassador and his wife reacted very positively from the start.

What criteria did you use to put together the list of artists?

The rough framework that we put out as the first step – German artists in London and English artists in Berlin – helped somewhat in narrowing down the group. For us it was a big concern to show a variety of different approaches and media (e.g. photography, painting, video art, and sculpture) with which the artists are dealing. The exhibition should be a little snapshot of what is coming out of both cities. The title is meant to reflect this timeliness. Home is not a Place was taken from some graffiti that we saw at Oxford Circus a few days after the Brexit vote. The saying is, of course, very emotive, but it captured the mood of the moment very well.

Additionally, it refers to themes that are rediscovered the works in very different ways: the perception of space and borders, belonging, identity, traditions, language, and domesticity. We found it interesting how the environment in which one works deposits itself – or not.

What is your favorite work and why?

Each work has an important meaning for one reason or another. We’re especially happy about how the works look together and will be perceived in the context of the embassy.

In the entry hall, we’re showing two garishly colored concrete sculptures by Florian Roithmayr in front of an old master. In another room you see the video Everything and Nothing by Random International, in which there’s a steamroller rolling over debris on a continuous loop. The artists investigate the power of materials in very different ways. Simon Fujiwara takes the German obsession with garbage separation as his theme and shows different models of trashcans. Nicole Wermers arranges tableware in a dishwasher basket. There’s a gigantic pile of laundry in a photo by Wolfgang Tillmans – all the works take daily rituals as their starting point, the ones we all know, but all come to a very different end point.

The elaborately woven textile works by Daniel Sinsel and Oliver Osborne and the often humorous pictures of Cornelia Baltes again show very different approaches. We’re especially excited for the reaction to History Apparatus von Julius von Bismarck. For this piece, a 150-year-old oak tree was placed in the courtyard of the embassy especially for the exhibition.

What in your own personal view are the biggest differences between Germany (Berlin) and Great Britain (London)?

Coraly von Bismarck: In London, you sense a lot of curiosity about what you do and a positive basic attitude, even if sometimes you can’t tell the difference between genuine interest and the obligatory politeness here. Also, I love the respect for art and the self-image that it’s a part of life here. I like the elegant reserve of the English, but sometimes I wish that someone would tell me when they think I’ve done something wrong. In Germany there’s an openness to criticism that I think is good, but of course can also be annoying sometimes, especially when it’s only happening for the sake of criticism itself. Other than that, asparagus season tragically doesn’t exist in England. 

Marlene von Carnap: What I love about London is that I have the feeling here that anything is possible. In the morning I often don’t know what will be waiting for me that evening. Then should it suddenly happen, like last week, that I’m at a dinner with a Brazilian artist, a Japanese pianist, and a Turkish businessman – I think that’s wonderful. Also friends that I’ve found while traveling or made during my time in China, the USA, or Italy are always coming through the city. So you don’t lose sight of each other, even though you live in places so far away from each other. Also, I love the pub culture in England that brings everyone together, whether young or old, Londoner or transplant. The openness and tolerance here is something I really value and I hope that it stays that way.

The opening of the exhibition will take place on the 2nd of June between 8:30am and 11am at the German Embassy in London, 22 Belgrave Square. More information as well as registration for the event can be found here on the embassy’s website.

Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.