"Shifting contexts and making them visible"
Stepken on Freisteller at the Deutsche Guggenheim
Stepken, Villa Romana 2008
Foto © Gregor Hohenberg
Stepken is the director of Villa Romana in Florence. Since 1905, the
winners of the oldest German art stipend have lived in the villa, which
was founded by the painter Max
Klinger. The Villa Romana fellows are selected each year by an
independent jury consisting of artists and curators. In an exhibition
entitled Freisteller, Angelika Stepken is now presenting works by
the 2008 Villa Romana fellows: Dani Gal, Julia Schmidt, Asli Sungu, and
Clemens von Wedemeyer.
How did you come up with the
exhibition title Freisteller?
title tries to touch upon a common denominator among the four artistic
positions. The artists – Dani
Sungu, and Clemens
von Wedemeyer – were not, of course, chosen for a specific exhibition,
but as the fellows of the Villa
Romana 2008. But the idea of freeing, approached in various different
ways, is something they all have in common: setting things free, shifting
contexts and making them visible. Asli Sungu, for instance, frees painting
from the wall; she builds a paint wall out of wall paint.
Julia Schmidt reproduces images by making particular motifs
visible through multiple layering. In Clemens von Wedemeyer’s films, the
protagonists always act like placeholders, and Dani Gal’s new works
transfer the texts’ authority to the user: leaving him or her free to
How will you present such different artists in
the Deutsche Guggenheim?
also approached the room as a kind of placeholder. The works will be seen
here for a temporary length of time. This temporary use frees us from
having to adopt certain conventions of the exhibition space, for instance
closing the window wall or a wall to separate the space from the visitors’
counter. The walls of the exhibition space almost remain unused by the
works: Julia Schmidt’s painting is hanging on a lightweight leaning mobile
wall. Von Wedemeyer’s “Probe” (Rehearsal) transplants an artificial
backstage box into the space. Dani Gal’s sound work only turns on when
visitors’ movements set two record players into motion that play sound
documents of important 20th-century architects. Asli Sungu’s works are
freestanding in any case: the paint wall and a new multiple-part video
work shown on monitors.
The show presents a subjective excerpt
of the contemporary German scene. What does it seek to convey to the
What do you mean by “subjective excerpt”? It
introduces works by four artists awarded the Villa Romana Prize for their
excellence, works for the most part made for this exhibition. These works
examine questions of image production today: this includes reflections on
the relationship between fiction and reality, value and product, the
writing of history and authorship, as well as biographical experience. In
the work of Asli Sungu, the experience between cultures plays an important
role, the experience of home and distance and a stubborn resistance
As director of the Villa Romana, an
interconnectedness with the international art scene is very important to
you, particularly in that Florence is not one of the leading centers of
contemporary art. What do you wish for the future?
I would like
the Villa to work on both levels, as an artists’ residence and as an
exhibition location that establishes the Villa both internally and to the
outside world as a communicative forum of artistic exchange.