Rixdorf is an area that is home to plenty of artists, evident in the many exhibitions and events that take place here during the annual 48 Stunden Neukölln art festival. Just down the road from the well-known Richardplatz lies the smaller square of Böhmischer Platz, where you’ll currently find Open Gallery x.
Step inside the doors and you’re welcomed by a large, beautiful space that epitomises the look that many bars and cafés in Neukölln go for, thanks to its crumbling walls and random mismatched furniture: it’s just that in this case, it feels more authentic. Open Gallery x is more than just an exhibition space though, it’s a concept, and this is just the first of (hopefully) many. After the current exhibition — LeidenschaftFreiheit — ends, Open Gallery x will move on to a new location to host the next set of projects and events. I took some time to check out the exhibition and to speak to Rana Aminian, the curator and founder of Open Gallery x.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I studied architecture in Munich and I’m still working as an architect now, but I’ve always done photography. I also studied cultural studies as that’s something that has always interested me. I’ve always been interested in different cultures and people, and so I photograph a lot of people.
A lot of architects seem to do photography. Architecture and photography seem to go well together somehow.
Yeh I’m not sure why, of course it’s your character and you’re always thinking about spaces and looking and analysing — it really fits together. I really love it, and it’s becoming more important in my life because in architecture I learnt that I had my limits. I can’t really be myself 100%, how I want to do it, because it’s a service. With photography you have much more freedom — it’s free, it’s you, and nothing else. And I do it without anyone asking me, it’s not that you do it because you get money from it. It’s just… natural.
A lot of your photos are from Berlin, have you lived here for a while?
No I came here five weeks ago! So these pictures are some that I made in Berlin from my first two weeks here.
Oh wow really?
Yeh they’re really up to date. And of course, Berlin itself plays a big role in how I can make this exhibition. I can have this room, I can do what I want. It’s a bit scary because sometimes it feels like you’re dreaming.
Yeh I guess Berlin is very different to Munich! So what is the theme of the exhibition?
The topic is LeidenschaftFreiheit. Leidenschaft means passion, and freiheit means freedom. But in German it’s a wordplay because it can also be leiden schafft freiheit, three words, and then it means suffering brings you freedom. So this is really a personal thing that connects with what’s happening in Berlin now. Passion and freedom.
I guess Open Gallery x kind of sums that up perfectly.
Yeh. You live here, you know this area; the people are very creative and inspirational and open-minded, and I’m really happy that I can be here, where it’s quite easy to bring the public into a private place. Some people come here and say “do you live here?”, “is it a house?”, and I say yes it is! And some come and say “is it a children’s house?”, you know because the kids from the neighbourhood come in here to play table tennis and do dancing etc. Then there are some people who see it as a working space. So I say yeh come and work here, because it’s so nice to have creative people with you, who work alongside each other and who inspire each other.
Yeh that’s really nice. So could you tell us a bit more about the space?
The idea is to work with this place, with the rooms, with the walls, with the outside area, with the people who are walking past. It’s a very open space. I never saw my pictures in a classic gallery with white walls, I always saw them in a warm place. So the idea for me was thinking, why can’t they put a couch there or a table over there, make it more comfortable, so I can feel warm here. When I was given the opportunity to use this room, then I really realised where I wanted my pictures to be.
This is the first exhibition you’ve put on?
Yes this is the first time I’ve shown my photography. This is the first place where I really wanted to show my work. My friends have always seen me with my camera, and they would say “you have a nice camera but we never see any of your photos”. I never felt like showing them because I didn’t find the right place, but now I’ve found a space where everybody can see my pictures and see my world.
That’s great. So what is it that you particularly like about this space?
I like this space because it’s not only for a specific group of people. I don’t like the typical artist galleries. I mean, art is for everybody. I’m really happy because I’ve been sitting here for ten days now and there have been lots of people coming in, and everybody is seeing something different. It’s nice to see that there is a communication between the people and the photographs and that everybody has something to say about them.
I think this space must help people to open up and talk a bit more. There are a lot of galleries in Mitte, for example, which are very clinical, with bright white walls etc. When you go in you can feel a bit uncomfortable, and even if I thought to say something, I probably wouldn’t want to..
Exactly. Are you allowed to say something? Are you educated enough to say something about this picture? I think it’s really important to exhibit in a space like this because art is a medium of communication, and it’s important that you reach people, that people feel something or see something.
Could you sum up Open Gallery x in a few sentences?
Open Gallery x is a gallery with a new vision. A new concept for bringing art closer to the people, to touch their senses. It’s about giving people what they need and are looking for nowadays. It’s about using the way of communication to reach as many people as possible. It’s about giving a new room for a new world.
Apart from Rana, there are four other photographers exhibiting as part of LeidenschaftFreiheit: Lis Klein, Tino Marschner, Julia Merkel, and Florian Reischauer. All of them use analog photography to create their art, with different mediums including large format and medium format cameras.
It’s a bit hard to pin down the concept entirely, and the photos here don’t do the space justice. The best thing to do is to get down to Open Gallery x and see it for yourself, as the finissage will be taking place on Sunday the 18th of September. As well as the exhibition there are many events taking place. To keep up to date with these, as well as Open Gallery x’s next location, keep an eye on their Facebook page.
Words and photos by James Fancourt.