If, when you hear the name ‘Berlin Art Institute’, you started to imagine a last century building carved in stones by the most talented architect, you got it wrong. It couldn’t be more industrial, with metal doors, concrete staircases and the colours varying from light grey to less light grey.
In a small room, 3 tables in U shape, a projector, and a wall full of art books and revues, the five of us got busy, each of us in our own way: Ralf was setting up the projector while chatting with the lecturers who were starting up their computer and getting out material from a square card box while keeping an eye on Stephanie who was trying to run through the induction with serious stress in her voice while I was busy pretending to be super relax and flirting outrageously with the lecturers.
12 students are registered with the bai in the same session. Five were on time, I placed a label ‘don’t give a fuck’ on all the other ones. Rude? What if I tell you that the same students didn’t bother turning up for the afternoon session?
‘Various & Gould’. That’s what the lecturers were called.
I am ashamed to say that I don’t recall having heard their name before, but we’ve all see their work (at least if you’ve been to Berlin recently you can’t have missed the ‘FaceTime’ mural:
And the weirdest thing happened. As they unfolded their experiences, projects and ideas, everything rang a loud, insistant, non stopping bell. They started with screen prints and quickly searched for ways to scale up their work. They started dealing with the questions of Identity with the Identikit project when I was working on ‘L’Unicitié des Identiques’. They created a whole bunch of new Saints when I used a similar technique to create my Fivers series. Fate? Destiny? Both?
(Kuntz/Plakat/Kuntz by Various & Gould, left vs Fivers by Francois Domain, right)
They got me fascinated by their approach and by their never-ending drive. Each and every slide was just shouting ‘Get your art out!’ I never even thought that what I do could actually be Urban Art. What a revelation.
Could to get even more exciting? Yep. After a quick lunch break we were invited to exchange directly with the duet. Taken by surprise, I’ve been invited to plug in my computer and show my work. I was completely unprepared and even if my computer is more organised than anything else in my life it’s not the great to improvise a lecture… It couldn’t have been messier, and I forgot to talk about so many things but I didn’t feel embarrassed to show them my stuff, which is a good start! And the feedback they gave me was extremely helpful (I’m not great at taking feedback in but when it comes from someone who does what you aim for and managed to actually do it in big scale, it’s actually easier!)
Their next project? City Skins – layer by layer. And guess what… They invited me to work with them on the project today! So, yes, I’m over the moon!
(City Skins, by Various & Gould)