5Q2 - SAVVY Contemporary
In November 2020, the art space and platform for discourses SAVVY Contemporary took over our Instagram account in a “curated by”-takeover. In our format 5 questions to (5Q2), we talked to Raisa Galofre and Bona Bell about the work they show, the work they do and their upcoming plans.
Founded in 2009 by Dr. Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung in Berlin – Neukölln, SAVVY Contemporary | The laboratory of form-ideas is an art space, platform for discourses, meeting place for good conversations, food and drinks -a place of shared hospitality. It is located on the threshold between concepts of the West and non-West in order to understand and deconstruct them. It has carried out a variety of projects -exhibitions, performances, film screenings, lectures, concerts, readings, discussions, dance. SAVVY Contemporary has built a participatory archive for German colonial history, a documentation centre for performance art, a library and a residency programme. The art space cooperates with schools in educational projects and deals with the history and socio-political realities of its neighbourhood, which are closely interwoven with the project’s considerations and discourses. This year, SAVVY Contemporary moved to its new space in the Reinickendorfer Straße 17 in Berlin-Wedding.
Photo: Juan Pablo García Sossa
Fototreff Berlin: What is SAVVY Contemporary?
Savvy Contemporary: SAVVY Contemporary is many things at the same time, and this is one of the things that makes it so unique and special. It is a laboratory of Form-Ideas, where different forms of apprehending, sensing, expressing the world evolve in different formats of mediation and communication. It is an art space, a discursive platform that situates itself at the threshold of notions and constructs of the „West“ and „non-West“, in order to understand and deconstruct them. It is a space for epistemological diversity and exchange where processes of unlearning and learning constantly challenge one’s own discipline. SAVVY Contemporary are the current and past team members from five continents that have been and are shaping the space with their individual background. It is a space for conviviality and hospitality. But besides being under this „big umbrella“ of being an art space, SAVVY Contemporary offers the possibility to be something different for every person who experiences it. For some, it can be a radio station or a record label, for others, it can be a kitchen where one can meet to cook and eat together. It can be a dance floor, a research platform, a library, a place to have good conversations and a place where one can feel at home. It is this always changing performative characater that makes SAVVY Contemporary an art space in a constant and inspiring state of becoming each and every time.
FT: What is the intention?
SC: The intention is to challenge the universalizing tendencies, that aim at reducing narratives and stories to a „single and true one“ by proclaiming a singularity of „knowledge“, which ultimately result in silencing, oppressing and erasing other point of views, of life, of living and being. That’s why at SAVVY we embrace and work with knowledges and epistemic systems from Africa and the African diaspora, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean but also Europe and North America. „In so doing, we have chosen to explore other mediums that embody and disseminate knowledges. The body, music, storytelling, food/eating and performativity of different kinds, as for instance dance, theatre, performing and performance art, etc. These are our chosen means to swim against the Enlightenment conception of reason“ (1)
Another focal point of SAVVY Contemporary is to reflect and experienciate on issues of conviviality and hospitality. Something we consider extremely urgent, as the xenophobic and racial violence has increased immesely over the last years and decades.
FT: Why does Berlin need a space like SAVVY Contemporary?
SC: It is not a coincidence that SAVVY Contemporary was born (was founded) in a city like Berlin. Considered the most multicultural city of Germany this „multiculturalism“ doesn’t seem to be represented in the art scene, especially in the people behind desks making decisions and writing concepts for exhibitions. SAVVY Contemporary is the only long-term independent art space with great international reach that has been founded by a person with migration background in Berlin. SAVVY was founded by Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung precisely in reaction to the lack of those spaces and the need to enable and give space to other voices that are already participating in the cultural landscape of the city, to actively conceive it, create it. SAVVY has responded to a very long pending need of Berlin.
Furthermore, as our societies are more and more connected, mixed and interrelated, with SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin can be seen as a variety of designs and sketches of how our life together as a society can be. In this sense SAVVY is also a laboratory of ways of togetherness, of communication and knowledge production. It is ultimately, an investment in the future because in our praxis the reflection of… How do we do? How can this work? is always present.
FT: Would you define SAVVY Contemporary as a bridge or a link between different understandings of living and culture?
SC: SAVVY Contemporary is a link and a bridge. These two words are inseparable. To understand this role, one must experience an exhibition or an invocation program at SAVVY Contemporary. These are moments of connection and synchronicity at a very personal level.
FT: Who is primarily addressed by SAVVY Contemporary?
SC: Everyone. Everyone who is open to listen, to see, to feel, to unlearn and learn.
Nevertheless our immediate audience is, of course, Berlin, Germany and from this focal point we move across the world connecting and exchanging. Most SAVVY projects take place in at least three of the five continents and involve working and collaborating with artists, writers, researchers, curators and audiences beyond a geographical point.
FT: What are the plans for the future?
SC: We have been and will continue to work hard to put SAVVY on more sustainable feet, to be able to support, also economically, a big team in which most members still dedicate a lot of their energy, wisdom and labour on a voluntary basis. After more than 10 years, this is still one of our main goals, in order to be able to keep on moving, creating, connecting for many more years!
(1) Taken from SAVVY Contemporary. A concept reloaded (2017) by Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung