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We asked an Italian art curator what it means to work in Berlin

What is the path to treat an exhibition?

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On the occasion of the month of photography in Berlin, we asked Silvia Carapellese a few questions. Young art curator, she told us what it means to organize a photographic exhibition and above all what it means for an Italian to be able to do it abroad.

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Hello Silvia, first of all what are you doing in Berlin? 

Hello! Nice question... Two years ago I decided to leave at short notice to venture into the German capital and discover its creativity. Fascinated by a trip in the spring of 2018 and impressed by the staging of unconventional exhibitions, photographic and not, I chose to move here in the winter of the same year. I started my adventure with an internship in a photo gallery in the elegant district of Charlottenbourg. Then, other experiences arrived, one after the other, doing a bit of networking through social media, maintaining contacts with Italy, but above all going to browse the various galleries and installations by presenting me and asking questions to those who worked there. Which I still do.

What does an exhibition curator do in detail? What does it mean to do it in Germany? 

The curator is the one who collaborates in close contact with the artists and with the aim of creating a project that has as its goal an exhibition, that is virtual, in a physical space or on a book. In my case I am particularly interested in contemporary photography. Taking care of an exhibition means taking care of the space, the works and the artists, from the beginning to the end of this process: the choice of the artists, the theme and the works, the expeditions, the sponsors, the various critical accompanying texts and much more. Obviously it also depends a lot on the nature of the exhibition, if independent, supported by an institution or within a gallery. Doing all this in Berlin for me also means having to deal with different languages and cultures, the German one but also that of all Expats, like me, that the city welcomes.

October is the month of photography in Berlin, the city is in turmoil or still suffering due to pandemic? 

On October 1st the Berlin EMOP (European Month of Photography) opens and in this period there is a lot of excitement: several cultural festivals are taking place, with due respect for precautions of course. Berlin in winter is gloomy and tired, Berliners wait for summer all year round. Despite the global pandemic crisis, the pace has not stopped for too long with the arrival of long days. Many of the events that had been canceled and suspended were resumed starting in September; many museums and galleries began to open as early as June, gradually returning to normal opening hours. The situation in Germany has been treated very differently by Italy, also because of the different needs in terms of health facilities. However, the world of art, freelancers and small businesses have also suffered a lot here.

You curated the exhibition that tells the collaboration between photographer Esther Haase and IMAGO Camera, a giant analog camera. Tell us better about this almost all female project. 

We are very proud of our almost all-female team around the IMAGO Camera, the gallery/photo studio that bears the name of the same giant camera. Susanna Kraus, the artistic director, was one of the first meetings I had in Berlin. With her I developed many ideas and projects, some of which were blown up by the pandemic and the consequent closure of borders. "Beflügelt" is the first new installation designed after quarantine. We wanted to showcase a new series created in 2014 through IMAGO Camera by Esther Haase, a well-known German fashion photographer. Being a unique type of machine in the world, it was a particularly curious challenge. The idea was born a few years ago: to propose the use of the machine to other photographers, accustomed to optical systems and completely different manual skills. IMAGO is a "walk-in-camera" meaning that the subject can literally enter it, is analog, is equipped at the same time with a darkroom and a room poses, and is able to produce an image on film instantly. You get in a few minutes an analog print in black and white large format (life size). The challenge was to organize a fashion shooting with this type of technology, using the gaze of Esther Haase and the technical skills of Susanna Kraus. "Beflügelt", the name of the exhibition, means "with wings" but also has a double meaning linked to being inspired. It is a kind of inspiration that traditionally came from the outside: feeling light and suspended in time and space. Just like the models in their clothes, wrapped in an aura. Aura that only some types of photographs can release, reminding us of the first black and white portraits of history.

How do you approach a project of this kind? Is it important to feel in line with what you are treating? 

Basically yes, it is important that there is at least an affinity with the artists and especially with the works. The curator must be able to bring out what artists sometimes shyly fail to express. Generally speaking, it is clear, however, that in the first years of a profession it is not all that simple, often you have to compromise. We accept unpaid jobs, we accept projects that are not always exciting, but we also accept many challenges that increase the wealth of experience.

What’s the feeling you get when you put the word “end” on a project you followed. 

Once the opening day arrives, when everything is ready, there is a sigh of relief. The next day, instead, we think about the next project. It’s a continuous cycle, which I think applies to everyone in the creative sectors. Although we know that the inauguration is only the opening of an exhibition, in terms of work it is a bit like a conclusion because it corresponds to the final result of months, weeks, or sometimes years of work.