ArtPod – Contemporary Art for Children in Berlin

STADTGESTALTEN BERLIN: A new art venue for children and adults has opened up in Berlin – and of course it didn’t come into being out of nowhere. The Berlin artist Rebecca Raue and the New York curator and gallery owner Laurie de Chiara had had the idea of creating a place for children where they could communicate with each other and with the world through contemporary works of art for a long time. Many discussions, proposals and reflections followed, and now the two have realized their heart’s project and founded artpod. And under this project name their first exhibition opened at the Amerikahaus am Bahnhof Zoo: “Imaginary Journeys”.

Both women love art and children, and so on the one hand they were often enough annoyed by the stiffness and the strict, for children rather repulsive atmosphere of many museums, by the at best rather unimaginative “smurf art” offered to young visitors. The two finally wanted to create a place in Berlin where children in particular feel comfortable, where they are perceived and taken seriously as recipients, and where they can walk barefoot or somersault when they want.

A place where they can play on mats in front of a video installation or loudly express their enthusiasm for what they have seen. It is about the experiences the children have, about an exchange between artists, parents and children.

On the other hand, the ArtPod founders want to set a sign against the elitism that has spread more and more in the art world, an obstacle that discourages many people, especially those with children, from going to exhibitions at all and experiencing and enjoying works of art. “Because art basically has a lot to do with feeling, there is no wrong or right, art concerns everyone,” says Rebecca Raue. “Above all, children often deal with art in a much more relaxed and thus more natural way, and perhaps feel or see much more what moved the artist to the work. And that’s why art is important for everyone and everyone and everyone can look at it, touch it, like it or dislike it. In any case, it stimulates togetherness. And communication is so important, especially in the big city, that’s an essential part of city life.”

There are so many artists and so far there is simply no place where they could make all their work accessible to children. That’s why this new art space in the Amerikahaus is so important. Rebecca Raue also wants the exhibits to be able to make a difference between parents and children, for example by stimulating them to talk about their feelings and sensations. She is fascinated by the idea that someone, an artist, dreams something, from which he then develops his work of art, and by exhibiting this art, it is virtually left free again and again inspires others to dream.

“And children can also discover here that adults still play with objects, that they, like children, deal with things that may not make sense, but which are so vital to life and therefore have a right to be! In this exhibition the visitor, large or small, will inevitably come across the actual meaning or nonsense of art. He is taken on an “imaginary journey” in his head and travels through different art worlds – on foot, on stilts or in a small wooden boat by Rebecca Raue.

There are also explicitly no guided tours in the exhibition, because the word “tour” means that you have something to teach, we don’t want that exactly, we really want to learn from the children and listen to them. Nevertheless, there are so-called travel companions who offer information about the artworks if they are desired.

“When you go on a journey, you can experience a lot on your own, but it can be very helpful and beautiful when someone tells you – you know, the old king lived in this castle or something – and suddenly other worlds open up.

Right at the beginning of the journey, for example, there is a super-long soccer table with room for at least 26 people. The artist, Wolfgang Karl May (where the spirit of adventure is already in the name), has shaped his kicker like a long, winding mountain landscape. There is a mountain in it, which is the one gate, and from this mountain you play the ball along the sandy path through a canyon, past hills and caves, to the other mountain gate.

Like Mary Poppins, you can fly from one wall to another in the next room with a huge red parasol. The artist Katharina Lackner loves to travel and is on the road throughout the history of the world, without a fixed abode, and she expresses this attitude to life through her art.

Next to her moving work of art on the ropeway, a tree trunk found by Olafur Eliasson lies on the ground – this long piece of wood has itself undergone a long journey as driftwood and now invites you to balance.

The artist Stefan Saffer has hung up drums to form a kind of satellite mobile that recalls the sun, moon, and Venus in various colors. There are balls in the room that can be used to throw at these planets – the sounds they make change the perception of his art. “If you imagine that a picture by van Gogh would suddenly speak to you or make music, it would touch the viewer very much and make him perceive the picture with different eyes or different senses,” laughs Stefan Saffer.

Many of these exhibits appeal to children by their very nature – there are rockets that can be climbed, a swing by Thilo Frank that reflects the sky in which one flies on it. There is a Ping Pong halfpipe by Max Frey, through which hundreds of balls clatter, and a fountain of old bathtubs and showers that Franz Hoefner and Harry Sachs have screwed together to form an installation.

Other works of art make the children more thoughtful and inspire them to ask questions – such as a black plastic bag by Eduardo Basualdo that dangles from the ceiling and in which something moves that cannot be defined. Or a dark workshop reminiscent of the chaos of Petterson and Findus, but over and over filled with old everyday objects, memories of the artist Ethan Hayes-Chute from his own childhood.

All these artists made their works available to ArtPod free of charge for this first exhibition, by the way, out of conviction and also out of love for art and children. Their reward is the joy and all that their works can trigger in people. And now, of course, they are eagerly awaiting the coming weeks, in which their works of art will be experienced, felt and viewed. They are especially looking forward to the children, who will fill everything with life.

And Rebecca Raue and Laurie de Chiara will hopefully continue to work on winning the Amerikahaus for a permanent children’s art institution in Berlin. And at the latest after visiting this really successful and special exhibition, everyone will stand by her side and want to support her!

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Christina Cherry
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