For many Berlin-based artists, those weeks of self-isolation opened the doors to wholly-new creative inspiration.
The cloud of financial, existential and every other kind of panic that was lockdown feels like it’s behind us. Now it’s time to ask: how did Berlin-based creatives fare during this time and what did they get up to?
These nine Berlin-based artists responded to the pandemic in their own unique ways – either by using the time to invest in existing projects or letting their quarantine restrictions inspire new ones. Between nipping to the studio and sketching in smokey bars (is this what artists do? Probably not), they spoke to me about their work.
Hang Linton & Laura Lulika: Creature Bodies and Performative Personas
In their own words, “Laura Lulika is a shapeshifting queer crip (sick+disabled) witch. They work with video, performance and installation. Hang Linton is a self-taught visual artist and musician from Lewisham, London. His practice focuses on prioritising and protecting the voices, memories and stories of other marginalised people.”
Pictured above is a shot from their lockdown project Creature Bodies and Performative Personas: Online Workshop at nGbK, as part of their Making Queer Outreach programme, curated by Frances Breden and Harley Aussoleil.
It was supposed to be delivered in person – but that was before the pandemic struck. While the rest of the world struggled to get to grips with the lockdown and turned to online alternatives, Lulika, being disabled, saw this problem as the same obstacle that disabled artists have faced for years – and one which they’ve learned to overcome. With this in mind, they used their experience in using such platforms for accessibility to move their workshop online.
Guen Douglas: To Larson With Love
Guen Douglas is a freelance illustrator and cartoonist who’s been tattooing professionally since 2005. Her work “has a wide spectrum of styles, but is usually bold and high contrast, exploring pop culture, political and culturally-important topics.”
The single-panel comic series she created during quarantine, entitled “To Larson With Love”, is a satirical, subtle and very, very funny take on the ways COVID 19 has affected our collective consciousness. The project is an expression of her personal feelings, but also a chance to connect with others through the strange and, even stranger, unifying experience that was (and is) the pandemic.
Ncube: All The Pretty Girls, that fly 70s sci fi futuristic shit !! and the AGE of WONDER
Ncube is a man of many talents. As an “independent writer/producer/filmmaker/playwright/actor/editor/cinematographer”, he’s been “churning out productions of original works for over 10 years.”
Over the lockdown, he created and finished three feature-length films that have been screening in Berlin as part of the Black Lives in Modern Cinema series. The films (which comprise his directorial debut) are “All The Pretty Girls (a quixotic psychodrama with mockumentary elements), that fly 70s sci-fi futuristic shit !! (an afrofuturistic blaxploitation wanderlust) the AGE of WONDER (a film with nine names, exploring a changing world!).”
Ari Liloan: Die Welt nach Corona (The World After Corona)
Ari Liloan is a freelance illustrator whose bright, surreal and sometimes disturbing work has appeared in New York Magazine, The Guardian and GQ (to name a few). During the lockdown, she was commissioned by Rotary magazine to create “an optimistic illustration about all our futures and possibilities after Corona. The image centres the idea of how hard times open you up for great changes.”
The colourful and almost-but-not-quite chaotic piece is hard to take your eye away from. If you want to find more of her pieces (to endlessly stare at, I know I do) visit her website, Instagram and Twitter.
Charles Simmonds: Welcome to the Police State
Charles Simmonds is a “multidisciplinary artist specialising in painting, drawing, writing & photography… I guess you could say I’ve been an artist my whole life.”
Over lockdown, Simmonds put his “sometimes violent, often vulnerable, erratically cryptic and always absurdly unapologetic” artistic energy to good use by making a piece based around the role of anxiety and authoritarianism during the pandemic.
Specifically, this piece reflects his personal anxieties about the “authoritarian flavour” of the lockdown; the way in which power has been handled and problematic social structures have been revealed. It’s a wake-up call, and an eerie one at that.
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Me with my painting “Succubus”. First time this work is on display, now at #zellermayergalerie , Berlin. New group show up for the next 2 months “Rot Dominiert” (Red Dominates). My work is in good company as always alongside my brother @planetloganic , the late virtuoso #bernardschultze & more. So if your a fan of powerful paintings & the colour red go check it out.🤗♥️🧧⭕️🙏 . . . . #exhibition #photo #opening #groupshow #berlin #art #myart #artist #artcurator #neoexpressionism #painter #painting #drawing #portrait #berlinartist #darkart #artcollector #interiordesign #kunst #event #show #people #red #instagood #gallery #artgallery #contemporaryart #charlessimmonds @berlinaffair @berlinartlink @positions.artfair @berlinartdiary
Tiare Maldonado Hucke: Latinoamérica
Tia Mal Huc is an artist whose “tool of expression” has always been photography. Lockdown, however, inspired her to gravitate towards different mediums and photographic subjects to explore issues that affected her personally during the worldwide crisis.
She “felt a desperate desire to put all my energy into continuing to experiment with intuition and that led me to connect with nature and the phenomena that make it up; water, wind, the amorphous, timelessness, cycles, the colours of the sunset, calm, flow, opposites.”
Mal Huc struggled to cope with the confinement of lockdown until “something very magical happened. I closed my eyes and started to see. I began to discover a whole world connected with intuition, the nonrational.” As opposed to looking outwards, the lockdown climate made Mal Huc see inwards and transform her creative self. What will she discover next?
Follow her on Instagram to find out.
Stephan Van Kuyk: Art in Times of Corona
Stephan Van Kuyk is an artist, art consultant and creative entrepreneur who, having had his visual art displayed on platforms worldwide, has turned a helping hand to the artistic community.
The crippling climate of the pandemic caused Van Kuyk to take extra steps to help artists whose careers and bank balances were affected by COVID 19 restrictions. He created Art in Times of Corona, a video series for artists to use during this time to grow their careers through their online presence. The series is designed to enable artists to connect with and help each other. It also tells artists, in an entertaining and informative step-by-step guide, how to get their career off the ground.
Van Kuyk also set up Corona Relief Auctions, an auction platform designed to connect artists with art lovers. He and his team at Artist Stop Being Poor put the work of 10 new artists up for auction each week. Find out more on his Instagram and website and get yourself featured at an auction here.
Giulia Gr and Beatrice Lezzi: Virtually Yours
Giulia and Beatrice met over Instagram a few years back and have followed each other’s work ever since. They only met in real life one year ago when they both took part in an exhibition here in Berlin, for which Lezzi flew over from Italy to attend.
From their evolving relationship and Corona’s world takeover came the intimately profound project, Virtually Yours. They told me “We fantasised about taking pictures of one another for months, waiting to be finally, physically together in the same city. Both impatient to deepen our friendship through photography and, at the same time, discover ourselves a little bit more.”
Their project, like many others produced in this time, became a comment on the way creativity can be exchanged and expressed when the modes of communication we rely on are taken away. It was a glimpse inside a personal relationship and shone an ethereal light on the beautiful potential of modern technology.
Sean Smuda: The Berlin Coronnale
Sean Smuda is an artist, photographer and writer whose performance art is rooted in Contact Improvisation. His many projects have taken place across the globe; from Antarctica to Iraq to Wall Street.
His recent video project, The Berlin Coronnale, was “a daily map of the psycho-spatial effects of the COVID isolation, where one can go in public, and what possible directions this new world holds.”
For the first 40 days of lockdown, Smuda created diary-like videos of himself that included “improvised songs, movement and images of the city in lockdown.” Then, he got wider communities involved. He began a Facebook group where artists from all over the world shared footage of their own creative coping mechanisms.
Like any good online artistic community, it was therapeutic, entertaining and hopeful. Art may not rake in the cash, but is there any better way to forge a community?
If this makes you feel like a totally unproductive Netflix addict, well, maybe you are. But also, finishing 3 series in a week is quite an achievement, right?