COVEN BERLIN met four years ago with the idea of pursuing a sex positive, genderbending, non-dogmatic project based on feminism, art, and love. It was born around a kitchen table and took form after several of us responded to a post on craigslist. Since then, the collective has expanded and evolved organically through friends and friends of their friends.
Even though COVEN BERLIN isn’t a practicing witch-coven, we do believe in the strength of community. Organizing together has meant learning how each of the heads of this hydra emotionally relate to each other in tandem with the collective work it does. LUCKY is the first project COVEN BERLIN has done in this current constellation of eight; it has been our collective labor for the last year and a half.
Curating LUCKY has been a new experience for us in that we are working with a budget and as part of the neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst. Paying artists or ourselves had previously never been an option. For this reason, it was clear from the beginning that we would prioritize the queer art and activist communities that had made our shows possible over the years. We made our first open call for submissions to LUCKY to these communities before reaching out to new artists we hadn’t worked with before.
However, the departure from familiar networks and the mere fact of funding engendered new questions: What do we want, collectively and individually? What are our criteria for selecting a work? And what is our understanding of luck—and of privilege? How can we problematize the power of the curator and simultaneously remain catalyzers, facilitators, and collaborators?
Installation view, LUCKY, nGbK. Foreground: Anna Uddenberg, FOCUS #1 (target), 2018. Photo by Judy Landkammer.
LUCKY was born as an exploration of the blurry borders between good fortune and privilege. We don’t intend to be didactic, rather, LUCKY should be a playground to encounter, to learn, to come together, and occasionally, to rest. Our approach to privilege is multi-layered, of assemblage, and suspicious of the homogeneity within identities that intersectionality sometimes assumes. Not one single person has the same experiences and privileges as the other. Sometimes only a glimpse into another’s experience is available, but that alone can be eye-opening.
All the invisible layers of power, the invisible codes, the invisible fine dust, often result in very visible disparities of power. Many of the artworks in LUCKY present estrangement from, appropriation, distortion, and exaggeration of the status quo, the ‘natural’ balance of things. LUCKY is not an attempt to unify a discourse but rather to make it more complex—reticular, organic. The works take on different lived experiences of luck and privilege that can both complement and negate each other. We steer away from dogma and try to communicate a critical messiness that is, we hope, transformative.
In the past, we were present at our own shows, which usually lasted two to three days and were packed with events, playing the role of emcee, technician, and bartender. The format of LUCKY doesn’t allow us to be present at all times, but we still want to invite conversation and connection. We’ve set up an online guestbook/feedback page so that visitors to LUCKY can give us questions, impressions, and feelings at: www.covenberlin.com/luckyfeedback
The exhibition guide for LUCKY is available to download in English and in German here:
Text by COVEN BERLIN (Harley Aussoleil, Frances Breden, Shelley Etkin, Lorena Juan, Judy Landkammer, Kiona Hagen Niehaus, Esther Roman, and Louise Trueheart)
Header Image: Installation view, LUCKY, nGbK. Foreground: GeoVanna Gonzalez, Forever Ride or Die, 2018. Photo by Judy Landkammer.