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September 30, 2022
YOUTH is Anne Imhof’s first solo exhibition in The Netherlands; a co-presentation between Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Hartwig Art Foundation. The exhibition was originally planned for Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow until they suspended their programming in response to the war in Ukraine. In this conversation, Stedelijk Curator of Photography Vincent van Velsen goes behind the scenes, and discusses the lead-up to the exhibition with Katya Inozemtseva, Garage’s Chief Curator, and architecture studio sub founder Andrea Faragauna. How do the two exhibitions relate to one another, in both a practical and conceptual sense?
The YOUTH installation intersects architectural, sonic, and visual arts elements to shape a dystopic labyrinthine installation. If you would like to read more about labyrinthine exhibitions, we would like to recommend Stedelijk Studies Journal #07 – Lose Yourself.
You can experience Anne Imhof’s disorienting installation at the Stedelijk until January 29, 2023.
Vincent van Velsen: Rein Wolfs first spoke with Anne Imhof about a show in 2017 I think, just after her presentation at the German Pavilion for the 57th Venice Biennale. He wanted to do a show with her at the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn where he was director at the time. Then, when he moved to Amsterdam, he took the pledge to work on the project with Anne Imhof with him. Because of the situation at the Stedelijk at the time, it was possible to do it relatively quickly. On my first day here, almost one-and-a-half years ago, it was basically on my desk. “So do you want to do the show?”, he asked me.
How did the show with Anne Imhof start for you?
Katya Inozemtseva: There are a few beginnings, one is rather symbolic.
I followed Anne’s practice well before Venice, at Hamburger Bahnhof in 2015, what she did at Portikus in Frankfurt in 2013, her interviews, and at that time rare appearances in the media. The complexity of the German Pavilion was an exceptional experience for many, many professionals.
Eliza Douglas and Franziska Aigner in ANNE IMHOF, FAUST (2017), German Pavilion at the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Photo: © Nadine Fraczkowski
Beatrix Ruf, who joined the Garage team as a strategic advisor, made this exhibition possible. Her long term relationship with Anne opened the possibility of this collaboration. I had also already become Chief Curator at Garage. It was key to create something with Anne that resonates with different localities—not only social or political, but artistic, architectonic. I consciously do not use architectural because it is something different.
Calculated 3D model of HEXAGON executed in preparation of Anne Imhof’s initial exhibition plans at Garage Museum, December 2021. Courtesy of Katya Inozemtseva.
When Anne first came to Moscow, we were building something called the Hexagon, restoring a ruined 1920s pavilion, near the main Garage building. This was before the war in Ukraine, when we were thinking about the last days of a romantic Roman state. It’s not very Romanic, just a romantic concept of the ruin as a beautiful ruin and which in the end remains a ruin. We had to freeze all construction projects. I think this is the other beginning for Anne’s creative process, and it’s another important point from which many ideas for this hypothetical show at Garage derived. I think we’ll continue talking about this nomadism, because we constantly used it without being really precise.
Anne also sent me a playlist that was not directly associated with the show; she’s a great music connoisseur. This connoisseurship is key for her because she has a music background. The playlist was so intimate, not for my generation, but for a group of people who were listening to that music. It is quite radical with no obvious tracks. Her sensitivity and sensibility toward the culture realm is really touching.
Then we started to work with Andrea and his team. It’s always a situation, it’s not even stable. And then February 21 happened. We were thinking about Anne’s appearance as a total experience for Garage, including all branches and departments, publications, and merch. We gave her basically two thirds of the exhibition spaces to have this needed coherency and complexity. Perhaps Andrea could explain more of the definition of nomadism in relation to what was planned at the Hexagon.
Image 1: Installation view of ANNE IMHOF, NATURES MORTES at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2021. Photo: Andrea Rossetti. Image 2: Installation view of ANNE IMHOF, NATURES MORTES at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2021. Photo: Andrea Rossetti. Image 3: Installation view of ANNE IMHOF, NATURES MORTES at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2021. Photo: Andrea Rossetti. Image 4: Performances at ANNE IMHOF, NATURES MORTES at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2021. Photo: © Nadine Fraczkowski.
V: Andrea, you’ve been involved with Anne for quite a while. How did you start working on the project, and how you were involved?
Andrea Faraguna: When I saw the German Pavilion in Venice, it was a shocking moment in the sense that, it was the first time that I felt specific emotions that I had only felt in architecture. My idea of architectural practice, by someone that is not specifically an architect, but who was able to produce something so powerful with decisions taken in space and perception, made me very interested. I started working with Anne for the show at Tate in 2019, and then Castello di Rivoli in 2021, Palais de Tokyo in Paris also in 2021, Garage and then NMK, the Art Institute of Chicago, and now in Amsterdam.
To chime in with Katya and why we arrived at the Hexagon: after Anne’s exhibition at Palais de Tokyo in Paris I spoke to Anne, and it became clear that the intention was to reuse elements of this exhibition and to give them a second life. All these elements that were produced or found or taken, extracted from other buildings, and we wanted to transport them and use them at Garage. But it was a completely different space. It took us a lot of time to understand the space because it’s huge and sort of an indoor ruin—an extension of the city. The idea of the scenography was to not add things, but somehow build an infrastructure made of architectonic elements that could guide visitors.
A museum normally contains a display. This is the main activity. I think the idea was to make something uncontainable and not focused on things to display. We started playing, conceptualising new elements against the building. That’s why we jumped out of the building and explored how far we could go within Gorky Park or the surroundings of the museum. And we arrived, of course, at the Hexagon because it was one of the first things that caught our attention.
We decided to play with the façade of Garage, blocking the doors, trying to somehow sabotage the machine of the building. In the interior I think the approach was different. I think we decided to treat it as a generic non-space without qualities. And, within this space was a sort of a field, and trying to inhabit it by developing a dwelling system inside the building.
Top: Exhibition render (axonometric view) of Garage arena, January 2022. Courtesy of the artist. Image from sub (Exhibition Architecture and Supervision).
Center: Exhibition render (axonometric view) of Garage arena and entrance hall, January 2022. Courtesy of Andrea Faraguna. Image from sub (Exhibition Architecture and Supervision).
Bottom: Exhibition render (axonometric view) of the first level at Garage, January 2022. Courtesy of artist. Image from sub (Exhibition Architecture and Supervision).
This is the connection to the utopian architecture of the 1960s and 1970s. One example in particular is No-Stop City by Archizoom Associati, which uses a mathematical form in which a number of elements that are or are not architectonic are selected as assets that can be distributed with different rules around the globe. It allows people to live across the entire planet and move freely. The punctual infrastructure helps them to survive.
This link was a revelation. We were doing something similar.
Yet, what we do is also very different from the work of studios such as Archizoom, Superstudio, Archigram, or artists and architects such as Constant Nieuwenhuijs and Yona Friedman. where there’s always an idea of treating the globe as a unique whole, on which on idea is imposed. Sometimes this can be quite heavy, like when a political agenda is suggested, but even when there’s not, there’s always some notion of treating the globe as unique, as one. In the exhibition at Garage we worked from a different idea, from starting a modularity that could be extended to the entire planet, as ritual rather than an idea of the future. It’s more about playing with an understanding of what’s inside and what’s outside of these enclosures. The idea of labyrinth connected to this ceremony as metaphor for storytelling: you travel inside a labyrinth and find different things. Then it ended up in a different way at the Stedelijk.
Image 1: Exhibition render of the ground view at Garage’s arena, January 2022. Courtesy of the artist. Image from sub (Exhibition Architecture and Supervision). Image 2: Exhibition render of the entrance hall at Garage, January 2022. Courtesy of the artist. Image from sub (Exhibition Architecture and Supervision). Image 3: Exhibition render of the view from stairs to access the first level at Garage, January 2022. Courtesy of the artist. Image from sub (Exhibition Architecture and Supervision).
V: Thank you, Andrea. Katya, you said something about the architecture and how that functioned in Garage, but then how would the films function within that space? Were they supposed to be here?
K: They were supposed to be there. In Anne’s practice you cannot divide films or objects or props. Continuing what Andrea said about this labyrinth, it is curled. It’s not a Cartesian labyrinth, when you take decisions: should I go left, or should I go right? It’s not something that you like consciously—you take a decision. The quality of this labyrinth is in its anxiety…
K: Yeah… Basically, it’s wandering. And it’s disorientation rather than orientation. You clearly will not reach an end point. It’s about feeling anxiety and disorientation. What Andrea and Anne were trying to create at Garage, was about this total space, where also the films, which are like separate paintings or drawings with a completely different rhythm. But they work together with the entire situation that was created.
The filming process was quite epic. We had three locations.
The first was a zone that is quite remote called Severnoye Chertanovo, built in the late 1960s as a first experiment in mass housing after the Stalinist era. It’s a quarter, so there is a kind of ecosystem and now ordinary people live there. We brought horses into the heart of it—you can imagine all the complications that followed. But it was absolutely astonishing, even being there on the set, the contrast Anne created in a quarter that is not contemporary anymore, a contemporary archaeology. Also, the glaciers, marks of a different state. It’s not like nature came into the city; it’s about contamination of two very different states of things.
The second location was like really on the outskirts of Moscow in the snow, again, mass housing but very contemporary and situated on the horizon.
The third was the studio and Hexagon, where we filmed during the winter, in the snow, part of the same realm that horses belong to. I wouldn’t describe it as nature, but presence of the body; something of different origin made this magical contact with the environment. Either mass housing or the Hexagon. Architecture somehow stopped being architecture so that you didn’t perceive the Hexagon, as a matter of architecture. Through the inclusion of the human or animal body, an important paradigmatical shift happened. Something started to work differently.
We had another filming point in the studio where we reproduced some of the props to use in the exhibitions. A horse was present in the studio, and Eliza Douglas was riding it. It was a kind of epic triptychon, but not a narrative—a very nuanced and radical experience of something, almost tactile. But there are no direct connections to this. It was a real film set with a huge crew and cinema wagons, two cameramen and one guy with a lamp, everyone was freezing. Can you imagine staying six, eight hours outside?
I didn’t see it until now, I haven’t seen the final. In my head it’s a saga, with a kind of archaic form because there is a space, figure, and contamination of both in some really weird circumstances. It can’t be a narrative, because narrative is hardly possible; a Cartesian labyrinth is not valid either. The story of disorientation is relevant – for me at least.
Top: Exhibition view concept of Horses room for YOUTH. Anne Imhof, June 2022. Courtesy of artist. Image from sub (Exhibition Architecture and Supervision).
Bottom: Anne Imhof, 2022. Video, colour, sound. Featuring Eliza Douglas. Directed by Jean-René Étienne and Lola Raban-Oliva. Courtesy of the artist, Galerie Buchholz & Sprüth Magers. Produced with the support of Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Hartwig Art Foundation and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. This new work, that will premiere at the Stedelijk Museum in October 2022, does not have a title yet.
A: Another important thing is that the films have this post-human condition of sorts. And you don’t see anybody. Like, humans are not there. You see the horses. I think the only time that you see a human is in the reflection of a pupil. You understand after watching them that no people are there. And then, when you see the others moving with Eliza, there is a strange feeling that she looks like an avatar, not really human, like a ghost. There is a presence of the body, but also the absence of it. To add to what Katya was saying about the disorientation of people inside of the spaces in Anne’s exhibition, there is a sense that you are there, but somehow, when you enter the space, you are somehow off, you don’t understand exactly. Or you start thinking about where you are, physically, where you see your body, and the routes that guide you inside of this labyrinthic space. It’s all about the proportions and position of the elements of this ritualistic labyrinth. This is also our role in the studio to tailor these systems around different spaces and the flows between them.
There is another link with the utopian systems or baroque ephemeral architecture, the labyrinths of fake gardens in the baroque era. Dance notation from the baroque era is basically doing a Louis IV system of annotating the movement of each dancer in complex choreography. Thinking about this in combination with Paris and the Palais de Tokyo, the space does not define the position of the body; it’s the opposite. The movement of bodies defines the space. You could draw the exhibition plan following the movement of visitors or performers. I see a bridge to this type of idealism.
K: Displacement, as well as disorientation, is a characteristic of this labyrinth. The text you sent me Vincent, said that every study of a labyrinth starts with a dance. Normally a labyrinth is about a movement. We all know the legendary Dylaby (1962) exhibition, transforming the Stedelijk into a labyrinth and with the energy of a game. But Anne’s labyrinth doesn’t, predefine the movement or push you to move. You can stay there. There is no dynamic. It’s a type of movement that is not related to the body. It’s not about a direct physical gesture of walking, touching, how you interact with the space. It doesn’t have much in common with the actual movement. And that’s why you realize why the props should be used there. Why not walls? The height of these props is very particular. It’s not comfortable. Rem Koolhaas designed Garage, where this transparent glass starts exactly here so that you don’t have this beautiful view of the park. You need to make a physical movement to. This conscious physical movement is cognitive.
Anne caught this from the building probably. Or Andrea. This not conventional height and width and pathos defined the cognitive movement you feel differently than physical movement.
V: In the film you see Eliza, it’s almost a videogame, the way she does the same movement over and over, starting again the same way, in almost the same spot, searching for where to go, until the game over moment and she starts again.
A: Which is a labyrinth also, no?
V: Yeah, exactly. But now they’re quite generated and way more open. Back in the day, as with Doom or something, it would be quite strict, and every step would be basic. I was thinking that the Koolhaas structure in a strange way is Garage and the space here as well.
K: This is perfect synchronization. Often artists who enter Garage are like “Oh wow, is it a museum?” Because basically this is a preservation project. We kept the restaurant from 1968 as it was with the white rafters, concrete structures, wall textures. The ceiling height is 3.20, so it’s not enough for something spectacular. Many artists struggled with the space. It’s not about the physicality of the space anymore. The artistic practice is quite far away from the physical boundaries of the institution. The artist setting the communication with the space is the key to a good exhibition. Not only at Garage. Anne and Andrea had this perfect feeling of accepting the space, and in this there was synchronization with Koolhaas’s idea. It’s not the problem of the building, of the space. It’s one of our abilities, to reshape ourselves as curators, and to find the right artist to talk with. Do you remember, Andrea, we wanted to cover our symbolic mosaic? It was not an act of violence toward the building. It’s a deeper going to zero. It’s not the neutrality that modernist architects imagined, it’s still not neutral. Modernist building, modernist boxes, are still not neutral. This drive toward absolute neutrality, almost architectural limbo, was a key moment. But Andrea might have another impression.
A: It’s a good example, the idea of covering the mosaic. We decided at some point to cover it with our curtain. But as you would do at home, when at some point you decide that you have seen it enough. This was the act, not to obliterate anything, but just to use the space as if it was other space. With Garage going quickly, then starting quickly with the Stedelijk, we had a sense of déjà vu with the presence of Koolhaas again.
I agree with Katya saying that we interact with the building and try not to act in a violent way. In both projects I started with an attitude to play with the building, but also to start a conversation with it in a humorous way. This was more in the Stedelijk than in Garage, because it was more contained, the exhibition. When we started thinking what we would do with the walls in the basement, the first idea was that they are there, we cannot move them, we just extend them. All the walls have this specific geometry, and we said we would expand them to the end, touching the perimetral wall and see what happens. What was happening is that basically this free, also again, labyrinthic space, was blocking everything. You couldn’t walk inside. And then we changed the idea. I think the approach of the entire exhibition changed. At some point we said OK, look, we don’t do a design here. We don’t propose anything. All these elements are coming from different cities and exhibitions, they have traveled enough, and they need to rest a little bit, to be there, to have a break. We started placing them in this system. But still you see that they somehow suffocate, the walls of colors. And not suffocate, but block them and they are not active anymore. This idea of activation is really unique.
Top: YOUTH exhibition render (axonometric view) of the lower-level gallery main space at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, June 2022. Courtesy of Andrea Faraguna. Image from sub (Exhibition Architecture and Supervision).
Center: YOUTH exhibition render of the lower-level gallery floor plan at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, June 2022. Courtesy of the artist. Image from sub (Exhibition Architecture and Supervision).
Bottom: YOUTH exhibition render of the “Sound Rail” at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, June 2022. Courtesy of the artist. Image from sub (Exhibition Architecture and Supervision).
K: This activation that becomes an existential state.
A: Yeah, quite.
K: We had other elements that moved. Going back to these nomadic elements, we extracted fragments from Hexagon, literally extracted the existing walls, and were ready to bring them in. It was an engineering operation. What does this gesture mean? There was graffiti on them, this ruin was standing as a ruin for like, more than 20 years and a lot of stuff happened there. What is the system of values? I think it’s almost Duchampian when you completely change the context. It’s very playful in a way, very problematic for an institution. But it’s a very beautiful gesture. These fragments of walls, columns, acquire exactly what Andrea was describing, this existential meaning. It’s avoiding the connotations deriving from romanticism, like the beauty of ruins, long-life ruins, a self-love among ruins, like Bruce Chatwin once put it. It’s the only appreciation of a ruin that is possible somehow. The only elements that have this dynamic, this really physical movement, are the architectural elements.
A: There is something monumental in the sense of feeling the weight in the movement of this element. A lot of effort has been spent. This was not the first time that we extracted a piece of building. The glass that is in Amsterdam comes from a bank in Turin that was about to be demolished, and all this glass has been extracted and then put in crates and sent. All the elements somehow look like they have a function, but in the end the function is suspended. They don’t serve anything specifically, and in this way become sort of characters. They perform, they do things. They are not used for anything.
K: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. They are not cultural elements. We made cages for them, supportive, metal constructions in order to have them.
K: But they are not like antique Greek or Roman sculptures where you have this visible metal element that guarantees stability. They were acting. Something really awkward happens because they become kind of acting elements.
A: Like animated…
K: Yeah, animated and animating elements. In a very free talk we discussed remembering examples when architecture was moved, something that shouldn’t be moved ever. Why was something moved to somewhere? We remember obviously this as the absolute expression of colonialism, of present European and American museums. When the Egyptian temple was brought into the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was a big deal, also technical, but it’s a pure expression of an aggressive colonial approach. What we did was quite the opposite. We were also trying to recall some more examples of moving the unmovable, like the library of Alexandria that was moved with camels in alphabetical order. The role of camels was predefined by the alphabet. These kind of things were our agenda.
A: Here in Berlin the Pergamonmuseum has a couple of these examples.
V: Exactly. Greece and the Met of course have some.
Talking about the labyrinth and how these objects function, and in a way putting them to rest, is interesting. Probably not an endpoint, but a temporary point. And what they do within the space when they’re resting and then becoming objects with Duchampian notions.
Is there anything that you would like to add before we finish?
K: I’m still a big, big fan of the title of the show. In Russian there are versions of “youth”. And the one for our show should’ve been very similar to the English one. It’s almost a hope. For a lot of people at Garage and in Moscow, it was one of the most awaited shows. I think it’s a very important gesture toward the community that is there.
V: That’s very important indeed, this idea of anticipation, but also the possibilities for the future.
K: Yeah, there is a reality, you know? It’s not a speculative reality we played with, but it’s something that has physical form and I’m super happy that it’s happening at the Stedelijk.
V: It’s quite impressive, I think. Seeing the build-up is quite an amazing thing.
K: Yeah. I need to have my moment of reality as well.
Katya Inozemtseva is an art curator, and a graduate from Moscow State University. She worked in the Department of Experimental Programs at the National Center for Contemporary Arts (2003-2004), Gary Tatintsian Gallery (2004-2005), and as a Curator, Chief Curator, and then Deputy Director at the Multimedia Art Museum (2011 to 2014). From 2011-2016 she also worked as Deputy Art Director at Proun Gallery. At Garage Museum of Contemporary Art she was appointed Chief Curator in 2020 after working as a curator there since 2014.
Andrea Faraguna is an architect, and a graduate of the University of Venice and TU Berlin. A close collaborator of the studio E2A, he taught alongside Piet and Wim Eckert from 2011 and 2018. In 2017, he co-founded the studio sub in Berlin, and has since regularly collaborated with Anne Imhof, most recently designing the spaces of the exhibition Natures Mortes.
Vincent van Velsen is Curator of Photography at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. He has an academic background in art and architecture history, which he also applies in writing practice. He has written on several artists, institutions and for a plethora of magazines, including Volume, Tubelight, Archined, Frieze, Flash Art, and Metropolis M – where he also holds a position as contributing editor. He is also a member of the Stadscuratorium Amsterdam (SCA) and a board member of De Appel.