Interview: Rosalie Schweiker
Charlie Levine: Sluice__ aims to highlight artist led and independent galleries and practices and wants to be a platform to showcase a certain part of the art world that audiences might not understand or know how to access in innovative and unique ways. It's about working in partnership and collating ideas and then presenting them creatively. How do you think your work and its ethos also fit into this mould of working and creating alternative ways of presenting ideas?
Rosalie Schweiker: I understand where your question is coming from, but I also feel it's important to break up these binaries of alternative >< mainstream, publicly funded › ‹ independent, shared >< single authorship. From what I've learnt in the last 10 years working as an artist, we're always in a confusing mix of all of these concepts. A so-called artist led gallery can be imitating commercial structures and therefore be as bad & boring as a blue chip gallery, while a general audience often doesn't have the same irrational pressure to "understand art" than a professional audience.
CL: And how do you play with these boundaries in your work?
RS: I guess I do a lot of different things and I rarely explain what it is I'm doing - my friend Maria Guggenbichler has very aptly described this strategy as "not only talking truth to power, but talking nonsense to power." So I think a bit of confusion is always welcome. But then, somehow I also have to pay my rent, so I'm saying yes to projects that have very clear agendas, like a community love-in funded by ACE. These projects are the most frustrating ones, because they are so super clear about what they want to achieve, by when and how. So maybe the answer to your question is: If I can afford it, I play with the boundaries. If I can't, I'll at least try to sneak in some joyful moments of anarchy.
CL: What do you feel we achieve / lack by trying to give the arts boundaries and labels? It is a constant conversation in the Sluice__ team about keeping our definition open ended so that we can flow freely into different activity without feeling weighed down by conforming to a title or type of work.
RS: Time is limited, so we're all constantly putting things in boxes, we need labels, we need those catchy little lines like "my work explores relaxation as a form of institutional critique..." Because you need to fix people's gaze somehow. I actually think its important to have a good catch line, also because if you don't have one people will make one up for you. Having said that, I still don't feel I have found the one, I only get given labels that are borderline insults, like "a female version of Jeremy Deller" or "funny and unpolished." Maybe the best thing would be to have a reputation for never fitting into any boundaries or labels, my friend San Keller has mastered this very well, he's his own category. And also Maria Guggenbichler again, she's a good example of how to do it: Together with Amal Ahaag she has been running side room in Amsterdam for over a year and it does have none of the usual promo or framing of an artist’s space. There's no sexy website, there is no catch line, no reviews - there's just a total commitment to a group of people who enjoy hanging out, organising brilliant events and being a support for each other. It's got a fixed set of values, an attitude, yet it's not weighed down by conforming to a title or type of work.
CL: I totally understand that need and want to be surrounded by a group of people who want to hang out, talk about what's happening in the world or each other's practices and to find space to explore and experiment, and not be tied down to a 'type.' How has this approach benefited your practice, and/or how does having these conversations influence your outcomes?
RS: Well, I think nobody does art on their own. I'm definitely constantly influenced by other people like my mum, Helge Schneider, Lubaina Himid, Jo Waterhouse, Jamila Johnson-Small, Alexandrina Hemsley, Annie Whiles, Ana Laura Lopez de la Torre, Eva Weinmayr, Open Barbers, see red women's workshop, Kate Walker, Jenny Moore, Kathrin Böhm, Althea Greenan, Bridget Christie, Ain Bailey, Doris Stauffer, Marianne Wex, Nina Power, Assembly SE8, Romy Rüegger, Andrea Francke, Kaisa Lassinaro, Alicja Rogalska, the Flat Time House Institute, Karen di Franco, W.A.G.E, the simpsons, Rachael House, Madeleine Amsler, StopKillingCyclists, Gillian Wylde, Guy Lochhead, Mhairi Black, Marina Kampka, Augustiner Brauerei, AND publishing, Margherita Huntley, Juliane Schickedanz, The m/other voices project, Hannah Clayden, Mario D'Agostino, HoferOppliger, theyarehere, the British cactus and succulents society, Sarah Jury, Anna McCarthy, the people's assembly against austerity, Mirjam Bayerdörfer, Rebecca Fortnum, Temporary Services, Augsburger Puppenkiste, Louise Shelley, my dad, Astrid Lindgren, xmarksthebokship, the Electric Cafe in Tulse Hill, Malmö Free University for Women, Tamsin Clark, Annie Sprinkle, Georg Klüvner-Pfandtner, black lives matter, Aufbaugilde Heilbronn, The Feminist Library, Leonie Cronin - what all these people are doing is very important for me and I'd like my work to be a conversation with their work.
CL: What is next for you? And what is next for the art world as a whole - in terms of partnership working and being open to possibilities?
RS: Ah, that's a trick question! Because there is never a "next" in art. Art is an ongoing loop not a staircase.