19 July 2018

Clinking ice cubes in a glass of rosé. For Alicja Kwade that's the sound of summer. We talked with artists about their greatest summer moments, their memories and longings.

By Philipp Hindahl

Winter in Berlin is silent except for the wind and the crunching snow under your shoes. Summer is loud, as if the noise were hibernating during the colder months. Alicja Kwade, who has been living in the capital since studying at the Universität der Künste (College of the Fine Arts), tells us about her favorite sounds, the city, and the summer. She is using the month of June to move into a new studio. Her old one has three large rooms; the first one filled with large crates, most of which are closed. Only one that is half-open stands out for there is an enormous black clock peeking out. In the next room, there are some desks with iMacs. Assistants are running around all over the place. In the final and biggest room, light floods in through the windows in the sawtooth roof. Here, almost everything has already been cleared out.

© Jan Buchczik

Alicja Kwade speaks so quickly that she has answered all my questions within precisely 13 minutes. We are sitting on a bench outside her studio in the complex that was once home to the Filmstadt Weißensee, film studios in the northeast of the city. It was here that “The Blue Angel” was filmed, and “over there Marlene got her wage packet,” Alicja Kwade explains, pointing to the first room of her studio. I believe her immediately.

I notice that the place looks almost like a factory. “I wouldn’t say a factory, because we don’t produce as much as – for example – Olafur.” By this she means Olafur Eliasson, the artist, who produces editions of large or very large works in series. Kwade’s studio, on the other hand, is more a place of research and consideration. “A normal working day is like this: People work between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. I travel quite a lot, but when I’m here…” — at this moment a young man walks by and calls out, “Cheers!” Alicja Kwade returns his greeting and quickly explains he is Michael Sailstorfer, her studio neighbor: “You can ask him a few questions in a minute too.” For now though, I’m interested in how Alicja Kwade spends the summer. “For years I have been planning to do what the French do and not work at all in August.” Of course this won’t happen,  Kwade is extremely busy. You only need to talk to her to realize that she is permanently hyped up.

For September, for example, she’s planning an exhibition at the König Galerie in Berlin. I ask her what we’ll be able to see there. “I wanted to show the same work that was exhibited in Zurich at the Haus Konstruktiv, a large metal frame with planet-like spheres, but it’s not clear whether it’s structurally possible. My plan B is to show three groups of sculptures that always incorporate a transformation, a kind of cinematic moment in sculpture: a sequence, almost like a narration.” Through repetition and variation alone? “Exactly. Basically, it has to do with timing. When you say ‘time’, you romanticize it so much. It then immediately relates to oneself and one’s own impermanence. I don’t see it that way at all, rather as a systematic sequence.”

For years I have been planning to do what the French do and not work at all in August.

Alicja Kwade

She doesn’t have any specific summer reading, she claims, saying she is an undisciplined reader. “I just take whatever interests me.” Like a network, with hyperlinks, I suggest. “Exactly. For example, I look at what physics says about the material, then I look at Karl Marx’s view, then I come to work and I am in the middle of sociology. I have decided to learn more about Zen Buddhism. Because I have been exhibiting quite a lot in China recently, and I’m always told that my way of working is reminiscent of Chinese philosophy.” I recommend her the old hippie classic “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”.

But we’retalking about work again. What are her favorite place and her favorite sound? She loves to sit in the bistro Themroc on Torstraße with her friends, where she drinks rosé with ice cubes. After all, the most beautiful sound on earth comes from ice cubes in a glass of rosé, she says, perhaps surpassed only by the crunching of snow in winter.