Berlin, Germany | by Isabel Manalo
September 1, 2012
Artists collaborating with one another is somewhat thought of as an amusing prospect if not a seemingly incongruous concept to a prevailing status quo of the singular artist’s voice. Collaborating amongst anyone in any field is truthfully, difficult and in reality, one of the hardest things to do especially when it comes to making art. This challenge was presented to Sam Scharf and Megan Mueller of Washington D.C. to come together as an artist duo for the first time and jointly respond to TSV’s new space by utilizing only locally sourced material.
Earlier this summer Sam and Megan informed me of their upcoming trip to Berlin from Washington, D.C. I know their work individually via American University where Sam just received his MFA and through the Arlington Arts Center where Megan is an Artist in Residence and where TSV has a partnership with our Critique Series. I have seen their installations in many forms from art critiques to solo and group exhibitions. It’s always remarkable to me when a young artist can address a given space that they’re confronted with and manages to create an experience for the viewer or participant that actually lasts beyond the ten or fifteen minutes one spends there. Sam and Megan have both respectively activated spaces in ways that are surprising, thoughtful, imaginative and evidence of really knowing the space: creating history where there never was; imbuing conceptual meaning that is genuinely experiential and not theoretical. Prior to their departure, Sam just de-installed a room constructed out of pink Styrofoam bricks that he built within a project space at the Artisphere in Arlington, VA. Occupying the majority of the small space, it recalled Philip Guston’s pink anti-aesthetic paintings of the 1970’s that were intentionally meant to be ‘bad paintings’. Sam’s pink Styrofoam house had the same effect to our five senses. It was an ‘anti-structure’ that was frankly, quite ugly and exuded an odor and audio of utter discomfort.
Megan’s recent solo show at Flashpoint Gallery in Washington D.C. was an experience that reminded me of walking on a balance beam. Hundreds of painted thinly cut parallelogram slats of wood lined the floor in a pattern that led the viewer through it in narrow paths that required almost balletic abilities to make it through without disturbing any of the pieces. It’s temporal nature was refreshing as were the repetition of the brightly colored shapes, yet the interaction was akin to accidentally stepping on a bed of flowers feeling like you needed to go back and fix it. It required effort, it created guilt.
One day after their arrival here to Berlin, Sam and Megan visited the TSV space and immediately started brainstorming. I heard them uttering words such as “planes, points, angles, light” as they both moved about the space in a choreographed and yes, very inspired way. Yet in true collaborative process – and all the beauty of the bumps that occur in this process, there were dissenting conversations that proved to be, in the end, enlightening.
Outside In is an installation that is responding to their collaborative vision of bringing what they’ve briefly encountered here in Berlin from the exterior environment, and making some kind of order and connection with their experiences from within this new space. Taking advantage of the light from the windows, ceiling lights and the white of the floor, ceiling and walls, Sam chose a material called raffia to redirect the light from a lamp post on the street to the window and then to anchored points on the floor. Raffia is a thin plastic string that is reflective and strong that glistens when pulled taut. Drawn from one light source to another, it literally creates the illusion of the light coursing through its sinewy veins that recalls the strength of a real light beam. Megan’s process involved grabbing and ripping out old wheat pasted posters from the walls of the streets of Berlin that became an action opposite of tagging – a pervasive and iconic form of expression that many associate with Berlin. From these posters, Megan has carefully cut out triangles and thoughtfully recomposed them into an organized dynamic two dimensional collage drawing that is at once meditative, funky and cold. As with the triangular light beams of raffia intersecting the space like some kind of cosmic landing, Megan’s black, yellow and red triangular quilt constructions ring out Deutschland, or more specifically, the colors of the German flag. Intentional or not, it seems to be a rational decision — something that German culture values immensely. There is a dual confidence in their individual choice to choose the crisp line and focus on the geometry of the space to express their connection within and with it. It mimics the asymmetry of the room itself and heralds its sterile nature.
I am thrilled to present this collaborative site-specific installation to celebrate the launching of The Studio Visit’s presence in Berlin.
A site-specific installation by Megan Mueller and Sam Scharf
Sept. 1 – 20, 2012. Hours by appointment. Contact Isabel: 015 211 3636 03
Linienstrasse 161, Berlin 10115, www.thestudiovisit.com