Berlin's Künstlerhaus Bethanien Attracts Nomadic Artists

Jan 29, 2013

For nearly 40 years, Künstlerhaus Bethanien has been an important fixture in Berlin's artistic and cultural community. 

Located in Kreuzberg, Künstlerhaus Bethanien takes its name from the 19th century former hospital that it originally occupied. In 2010, it relocated to a renovated factory space adjacent to the Landwehrkanal.

 "Künstlerhaus Bethanien is an international artist-in-residence center, and it's clear that we've changed our program every decade because the artists are not following us, but we are following the artists," says Christoph Tannert, the artistic director of Künstlerhaus Bethanien.

"The artists come from all over the world, but we try to understand in which way the artists as modern nomads are going from center to center."

One of these nomadic artists is Aiko Tezuka from Japan, who spent time in London before joining the artist-in-residence program in Berlin. Her works are part of an exhibition that accompanied the Open Studios event. Twice a year, the artists open their studios to the public at Künstlerhaus Bethanien.

The 36-year- old Tezuka deconstructs fabrics to explore issues of painting and the process involved. 

"So I was thinking how to show, how to feel the layers that we cannot see. So fabric- you can untie it. Painting is fixed with glue already, but if I use fabric, or embroidery I can reverse the material and time, I can undo."

Aiko Tezuka holds a PhD in painting. For her large-format works, she extracted warp threads from ready-made fabric until they form a large pile on the floor. 

Across from Aiko's artworks, Sharon Houkema asks the question, "Why tidy my exhibition space when the whole world is in a mess?"

The Dutch artist collected donations from environmental organizations and purchased items from so-called "green stores" to create "her" mess. A reconstruction of a living space filled with furniture, clothes, records, stickers, buttons and posters - all in someway attached to environmental causes.

"I was wondering if maybe all of the environmental actions is not in fact symbolic, a matter of form, and that's how I started approaching it," Houkema says. "I didn't approach it like an activist but like an artist. So I am looking at the images and the narratives, putting them together. I collected loads of these materials, making a composition that is reflecting on these narratives and images, and I try to get a little bit of sense what they are about."

Aiko and Houkema's residencies are coming to an end; their exhibitions at the Bethanian will be open until February 10th. In the meantime, Christoph Tannert is off to engage with international artistic communities.

"Next week I am in Israel, then I am going to Australia, then I am in New York, then I am coming back, then I am in the Netherlands and London, so I am part of this nomad system."