— Cultural Sources of Newness

LoBe makes space for magnificent clicking

I had no idea what to expect of the dinner invitation at the LoBe gallery in Wedding last night. What I discovered was a “a unique working framework that encourages artists to respond to each other’s art practices across a broad range of disciplines.”  Olivia Reynolds, artist and initiator of the gallery, and her team have developed a fascinating approach to curating the space for unusual interactions, including hosting beautiful and delicious dinners with the artists. About 25 guests talked animatedly, surrounded by the artwalls which David Mabb  and Henrik Schrat had just completed together during their month-long LoBe residency.


Dinner table awaiting LoBe guests, photo Brigitte Biehl-Missal

Olivia admits that she loves to “dissolve artists’ egos,” but the task did not arise in this particular residency. She observed that Henrik and David had “clicked magnificently,” engaging in bantering back and forth “what about….?” LoBe likes to open possibilities and is comfortable with “not-knowing,” for quite a while “we didn’t know what it’s going to be.” Henrik said that never in the process did he hear “no!” and David commented that “I never, ever had to explain, he understood it right away!”

Schrat and Mabb explain their collaboration next to Schrat sculpture, photo ABA

So what was “it” in this residency? The two artists “explored their joint interest in and critique of utopian and dystopian thought,” stimulated by the work of a 19th-century English designer, writer and communist, William Morris, and a Soviet science fiction novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. The outcome of the collaboration between David and Henrik included a frieze (Mabb) composed of pages from Morris’ fantasy Wood beyond the World, and a mural (Schrat) illustrating the Strugatsky fantasy Roadside Picnic.  Two additional elements connect the worlds: Schrat’s sculpture, Memorial to Boris Strugatsky, and Mabb’s glowing neon Red Rocket–which the informed observer will recognize as a reference to Dan Flavin’s monuments to V. Tatlin.

Dining with Mabb & Schratt artwork at LoBe, photo Brigitte Biehl-Missal

The work is site-specific: David and Henrik not only connected with utopian/dystopian ideas from different centuries and political systems, they also connected with the decoration they found on the ceiling of the gallery.


Site specific connection Mabb-Schrat-LoBE, photo ABA

Being site-specific, the art we were surrounded by last night will disappear so that the walls are fresh to welcome the next residency.  It is not easy to paint over the world that these artists have created in the space, but LoBe is about stimulating new connections. The dinner conversations at LoBe are definitely part of the process of “clicking magnificently.” In addition to the pleasure of talking with people I already knew (like Henrik, who I know from various artistic interventions in organizations, and fellow researchers Brigitte Biehl-Missal and Anke Strauß), the long dinner offered the opportunity for in-depth conversations with people I had never met before.

To my right was Olaf Stüber, whose gallery represented Henrik for some years until Olaf closed it because he moved into representing video artists. His enthusiasm for the many questions that this art form poses and for the conversations he has with the collectors and artists was infectious! And his invitation to his monthly videoart-at-midnight showings at the Babylon theater is tempting .

The person who happened to be sitting at my left was a close friend of David Mabb’s, Veronica Slater, an artist who conducts workshops to stimulate creativity with drawing throughout Europe. We talked about how to assess the impact of her work with people and explored the possibility of collaborating on such evaluations in future. A key issue is how long can one expect the impacts of an artistic intervention to be sustained in an organization? What traces can one expect to find from a one-day creativity workshop one, three, or six months later? But might even a week be already a lot to ask for in an organization that does not support follow-up activities?