Volkunsthalle / People’s Art Space
Radical alienation in Berlin
Artist Romeo Gongora spent one year in the artist-in-residence program at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien, and created this project in specific relation to the Kreuzberg neighborhood of Berlin in which it is located. Volkskunsthalle reacts to the processes of transition and renewal that have taken place in the city of Berlin, and Kreuzberg in particular – an historically immigrant area which has undergone major gentrification since the fall of the wall. This project explores the relations of submission and domination that underlie social interactions, and asks whether violence is the ultimate way to reject an experience of subjugation. It engages in a Brechtian discourse about radical alienation, while also embracing various concepts of violence from the theories of Walter Benjamin to Melanie Klein. Incompletion, chaos, and confusion are key components of the project’s production strategy. Mutability is thus more important than the aesthetic of the work; process is more important than the finished product.
The installations which make up Volkskunsthalle consist of a trailer, a medieval military tool (quintain), and a modified bike. These elements function as a kind of theater backdrop, echoing and reinforcing the emotional tension of the daily performances. The performative element of this project includes “demonstrations” by people who are all struggling for their personal freedom in one way or another: a musician, an unemployed person, a squatter, a protester, an activist, an artist, a racist, an anti-racist… Each of these individuals spend one day in the exhibition space – in a clearly demarcated circle traced on the floor – variously expressing how their social roles are in conflict with their individual needs. These daylong performances emphasize the tensions and sense of alienation that individuals face on a regular basis. As part of each demonstration, the performers are instructed to leave behind some material evidence of their expression in the exhibition space; these items end up as a kind of documentation of what has happened in the gallery, while also modifying and contributing to the (re)creation of the exhibition over the course of its run.
A series of solo demonstrations (performances) taking place from September 17-October 4, 2009 in Künstlerhaus Bethanien.
Nine participants were invited to inhabit the exhibition space for a day, where they performed their own “fight” inside a circle traced on the floor of the gallery. At the end of each performance, participants were asked to leave behind an artifact relevant to their performance; the art space evolved organically in the process.
September 18 - An institution.
An institution that fights the limitation of its freedom
September 19, 25 - A jobless person.
A jobless person that fights social exclusion
September 20, 26 - An anti-racist.
An anti-racist that fights xenophobia
September 23 - A protester.
A protester that fights oppression
September 24, 30 - An activist.
An activist that fights injustice
September 27, October 01 - A musician.
A musician that fights unemployment
September 30 - A racist.
A racist that fights an "uncritical attitude"
October 02 - An artist.
An artist that fights normality
September 17 - Opening performance.
October 03 - Artist's Talk.
An artist as a squatter.
An artist as a squatter that fights discrimination
October 04 - People's Art Space.
Bikewar, Wargame and a Trailer
Three installation that were continuously present in the exhibition space
A publication documenting the exhibition is available from argobooks (Berlin, Germany, 2011), and includes essays by art historian Dr. Bernhart Schwenk (Chief Curator of Contemporary Art, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich) and sociologist Prof. Dr. Gökce Yurdakul (Georg Simmel Professor, Humboldt University, Berlin), as well as a conversation between Gongora and the artist Aernout Mik.
Title: Volkskunsthalle / People’s Art Space
Designer: aroma berlin
16cm × 21cm
Volkskunsthalle / People’s Art Space was presented at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien (Berlin) from September 17 to October 4, 2009, and produced in the context of Künstlerhaus Bethanien’s International Studio Programme, with the support of the Künstlerhaus Bethanien (Berlin), the Canada Council for the Arts (Ottawa), and the Embassy of Canada (Berlin). A catalogue documenting the project was produced for the exhibition.
Personal assistants: Rowena Waack, Fee Regier, and Viktoria Mosin
Production assistant coordinator – Trailer: Toni Lebkücher
Production assistant coordinator – Quintaine: Thomas Dittrich (NAZ)
Production assistant coordinator – Bike: Severin N.
Production assistant coordinator – Graffiti: T. P. Overkill (Kreuzberg)
Production assistant coordinator – Squatter: Koepi (Kreuzberg)
Flyers, posters, t-shirts and buttons design: aroma berlin
Photographers: Dirceu Maués, Romeo Gongora
Translation: Annette Schemmel, Fee Rieger, Catherine Girard
Acknowledgements: thank you to the participants for their generosity, Mariana Calo, Birgit Criegern, Cynthia Girard, Gerardo Mosquera, Lucia Nimcova, Andre Sousa, Ilka Tödt, argobooks, aroma berlin, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Canada Council for the Arts and the Embassy of Canada (Berlin).
Table of Contents
Romeo Gongora is a Canadian-Guatemalan visual artist and PhD researcher in Fine Art at Goldsmiths, University of London (UK). Since 2008, he has conducted major collaborative projects that interact with the social sphere, integrating politics and pedagogy in the practice of performance. He is the recipient of several grants and has shown his work at, amongst others, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (Canada), HISK (Belgium), Centre of Art Torun (Poland), Centre Makan (Jordan) and Leonard&Bina Ellen Gallery (Canada). He has been an artist-in-residence at, among others, the Rijksakademie (Netherlands, 2007-08), the Künstlerhaus Bethanien (Germany, 2009) and Acme Studios (UK, 2016).
Goldsmiths, University of London, London, UK, 2017- (PhD)
Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, CA, 2002-2005 (MA)
Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, CA, 1995-1998 (BA)
Solo exhibitions/projects (selected)
2018 Bromley by Bow Center, London, UK, community-making project, 2017-18
2017 Truck, Calgary, CA
2016 Acme studio, London, UK
2015 3e Imperial, Granby, CA (exh. website)
2014 Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Montreal, CA (exh. website)
2013 Laura Mars GRP, Berlin, DE
2012 Museu de Arte de Goiania, Goiania, BR
2009 Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, DE, (exh. cat.)
2009 Pari Nadimi Gallery, Toronto, CA
2007 Dazibao, Centre de photographies actuelles, Montréal, CA, ‘Sincère’
2006 Gallery 44, Center for Contemporary Photography, Toronto, CA, ‘Recovery’, (exh. cat.)
2006 Optica, Contemporary art center, Montréal, CA, ‘Logiques de l’arrachement’
Group exhibitions/performance (selected)
2018 Sur, Toronto, CA
2018 Goldsmiths, University of London, London, UK, “Communities and Commonalities”, performance, in collaboration with Sue Mayo
2016 Open School East, London, UK, lecture-performance, with cur. Juliette Desorgues (ICA)
2016 articule, Montreal, CA, exhibition, cur. Dominique Fontaine
2015 Rencontres de Bamako – Biennale Africaine de la Photographie, cur. Bisi Silva
2014 Festival Belluard, Fribourg, CH, performance
2013 Kas Kin ArtStudio, Kinshasa, CD
2012 Centro Cultural Chola Bravas, Lima, PE, performance
2011 Teatro Libre, Grado Cero: teatralidades expandidas, Bogota, CO, performance
2010 Contemporary Art Center, Lagos, NG, performance/workshop
2010 The Office, Berlin, GE, ‘Perform a lecture’, cur. Ellen Blumenstein (in coll. with Olivia Plender)
2010 Makan art center, Amman, JO, “Shatana hill”
2009 The Higher Institute of Fine Arts (HISK), Ghent, BE, ‘Time-Challenger’, cur. Adnan Yildiz
2009 Center of contemporary art, Torun, PL, cur. Joanka Zielinska
2008 Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Montréal, CA, ‘Rien ne se perd…’ , (exh. cat.)
2008 Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, Amsterdam, NL, ‘Open Ateliers’, (exh. cat.)
2008 MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, CA, ‘Double space’, cur. Timothy Long (exh. cat.)
2008 Dazibao, Montréal, CA, ‘Exposition portative’, 2007-2008
2007 Centre Culturel de Rencontre Abbaye de Neumünster, Luxembourg, LU,
2006 VU Centre de diffusion de la photographie, Quebec, CA, ‘Habiter’, (exh. cat.)
Film/video screenings (selected)
2015 Kunstraum Walcheturm, Zurich, CH, “From the intangible…”, cur. Anne Brand Galvez
2012 Vidéo Portative – Dazibao, Montreal, CA
2009 Temporare Kunsthalle, Berlin, GE
2007 Big Family Business, Istanbul, TR, ‘Some of us try so hard to be somebody’, as part of the 10th Istanbul Biennial, cur. Adnan Yildiz&Ovul Durmusoglu
Despina residency, Largo Das Artes, Rio de Janeiro, BR, 2016
Acme Studios, London, UK, 2016
Aux Recollets, Paris, FR, 2013
Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogota, CO, 2011
Centre for Contemporary Art, Torun, PO, 2009
Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, DE, 2008-2009
Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, NL, 2007-08
2018 Graduate School Fund, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK
2017 Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture, CA, PhD scholarship, 2017-
2015 Canada Council for the Arts, CA, grant for artist-in-residence programs
2012 Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, CA, research and creation grant
2009 Canada Council for the Arts, CA, grant for artist-in-residence programs, 2008-2009
2008 Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, research and creation grant, 2007-08
Lectures, debates and seminars (selected)
2018 University of Bergen, Faculty of Art, Bergen, NO, “Rethinking Participation”, artist talk
2017 The Alberta College of Art + Design, Calgary, CA, artist talk, invitation Alana Bartol
2016 Média@McGill, Montreal, CA, international colloquium, Aisthesis and the Common
2015 Concordia University, Montreal, CA, artist talk, invitation Felicity Taylor
2014 Festival Belluard, Fribourg, CH, invited artist, 2013-14
2013 Centre PHI, Montreal, CA, talk with artist Steve Bates and cur. Dominique Fontaine
2012 Universidad Federal de Goias, Goiania, BR, artist’s talk
2011 Universidad Nacional de Cordoba, Cordoba, AR, talk in coll. with cur. Soledad Sanchez
2011 Faculdades Artes Visuales, Goiania, BR, talk in collaboration with Edgar Fonsas
2010 Kunstnernes Hus – W17 Studio, Oslo, NO, talk in collaboration with Anawana Haloba
2009 Centre of Contemporary Art, Torun, PL, artist-talk with cur. Kamila Wielebska
2009 e.mobility, Nicosia, CY, invited member for ‘Pépinière pour jeunes artistes’
Catalogues, articles and reviews (selected)
2017 Calgary Herald, “An interview with Romeo Gongora”, Jon Roe, March 22, 2017
2015 ESSE, “Just Watch Me”, Ariane De Blois, dans ‘Religion’, v.83, p. 56-59
2014 Le Devoir, ‘Entre la discorde et la crise sociale’, Jerome Delgado
2013 Taz Tageszeitun, ‘Zwischen Religion und Soap Opera: Lebende Bilder des Kolonialismus” MJ, August 22, 2013
2010 argosbook, ‘Volkskunsthalle/People’s Art Space’, collaboration with Aernout Mik (artist), Prof. Gökce Yurdakul (Georg Simmel Professor, Humboldt University) and Dr. Bernhart Schwenk (Chief curator, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich)
2010 VISUALIDADES, ‘Binding the viewer’, Romeo Gongora, Rosana Horio Monteiro ed.,
Published by UFG-FAV, V.7, n.3, 304 p. Goiania (BR)
2009 Intertekst, ‘I am the Other. In conversation with Romeo Gongora’, Kamila Wielebska,
Laznia Center of Contemporary Art publisher (PL), 132 p.
2009 Gallery 44, ‘Expanded Photography’, Marie Fraser, 145 p.
2009 BE Magazine, ‘Logic of alienation’, Veronika Schoene, no. 16
2009 Mackenzie art catalogue, ‘Theatroclasm: Mirrors, Mimesis and the Place of the Viewer’,
Elizabeth Matheson and Nancy Tousley, 154 p..
2008 Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, ‘The Quebec Triennial: Nothing is lost…’, 220 p.
2008 Blackflash, ‘Scene as Space Across Time: Presence’, Katy McCormick, vol. 25, no. 3
2008 Canada art, ‘Double Space/Douglas Gordon: Double and Elephant Tricks’, Fall 2008
2007 NOA (Not Only Arabic), ‘Treason’, curator Mounira Al Solh: invited artist for newspaper
2007 Parachute, ‘Habiter et Les Convertibles’, Nathalie Côté, issue 25, p. 6
2006 ESSE, ‘Habiter le quartier baroque’, Lisanne Nadeau, issue 59, p. 47-51
Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (Montréal, CA), Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten (Amsterdam, NL), Sommerakademie Zentrum Paul Klee (Zurich, CH) (nominated), Kunstzeitraum (Munich, DE) (nominated), Küntlerhaus Büchsenhausen (Innsbruck, AT) (nominated), Smithsonian Institut (Washington, US) (nominated)
Teaching Experience (selected)
2018 Université de Québec à Montréal, Montréal, CA, part-time teacher, AVM2000
2018 University of Bergen, Faculty of Fine Art, Bergen, NO, visiting teacher, workshop in collaboration with Anawana Haloba
2017 Goldsmiths, University of London, UK, Graduate tutor, “Radical pedagogy and participation”, BA Fine Art Extension Degree, 2017-18
2016 Bromley by Bow Center, London, UK, participatory appraisal workshop
2014 Université de Québec à Montréal, Montréal, CA, visiting teacher, “Les nous identitaires”, FAM4010-J
2013 Universidad Nacional de Cordoba, Cordoba, AR, teaching, performance
2013 Kin ArtStudio, Kinshasa, CD, facilitator for a workshop
2012 Universidad Federal de Goias, Goiania, BR, teaching, vidéo
2011 Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Medellin, CO, teaching, performance
2010 Contemporary Art Center/Triangle Arts Workshop, Lagos, NG, facilitator
2015 Conseil des arts de Montréal, evaluation committee’s member, 2014-2018
2012 Dazibao, internal board member, 2012-2015
2010 TV-Poland, ‘Panorama’, interview, 07-08-2010
2009 e-mobility, board member, European union survey on artistic mobility
2006 Centro de la Imagen, Mexico City, MX, teaching, Video department
I consider myself a researcher, my purpose is not an art object, but a research project that materializes in a transdisciplinary manner (installations, performance, photography, collaboration, meeting, writing, etc..). This emphasis on the process/experience rather than the final product. My work use dialogue, empathy and trust as a production strategy. This procedure usually involves a period of research in which I collaborate closely with different communities. The result is a collaborative work with a deep emotional intensity that aims to analyze the socio-psychological constructs of an environment.
Since 2008, I have conducted major projects collectively that have acquired a social dimension, integrating politics, activism and marginality in the practice of performance. Such as Movimiento Social del Cuerpo, a series of laboratories in collaboration with Latin American universities (Bogotá, Lima, Cordoba, Goiania, etc.) inspired by Paulo Freire, Augusto Boal and Orlando Fals Borda, on social and political questions. In 2014, I started the project Just watch me, event, social club, meeting space focused on dialogue and collective creation, presented at the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery in Montreal.