Today’s unsetting context to carry out an event that brings together international personalities is rather unimaginable. However, with all the challenges that the corona virus has imposed over social gatherings, the art world is slowly restarting the business. Two days before the opening of the art fair, Luxiders spoke with the directors of POSITIONS—Kristian Jarmuschek and Heinrich Carstens. While this year’s edition was particularly attractive for it combined art, photography, fashion and paper-based works, the fair was planned from beginning to end on the premise that it could get cancelled last minute. Two days before the opening of the exhibition, the directors weren’t sure whether the fair was going to take place, nor could they imagine how the social distancing would affect the regular business transactions. The uncertainty underlying the event was the icebreaker of our video call.
Directors Heinrich Carstens and Kristian Jarmuschek agreed that following safety measures wouldn’t be a problem, however, they pointed at the challenges that the use of mask could present when closing a deal. “If you want to sell an artwork, the face of the client says a lot; if they seem impressed or not” affirms Heinrich. The partial concealment of the face threatens the intuitive communication between artists and buyers for their final agreement is rather the result of an intimate interaction that allows buyers connect to the artist’s personal drive. Surprisingly, no matter how nerve-racking is to run an event of such magnitude—and especially now under the current conditions—Kristan and Heinrich continuously soothed the air with chuckles and the fabrication of hypothetical scenarios of an event taking place two days forward. “Maybe they will just start asking each other: do you like it?” says Kristian as they laugh.
Two days forward, the blue sky of an early autumn sheltered the Berlin Art Week without any precedents. POSITIONS Berlin presented, for the second time, Fashion Positions—a section dedicated to the blending of fashion into the conceptual arts. Located at the end of the site at Tempelhof, the small section grabbed the visitors’ attention as it turned fashion into a space to reflect. Berlin-based Frank Leder exhibited an artisanal bread stuffed with one of his signature shirts made of organic fabrics; offering the possibility of keeping it whole as an artwork, or breaking it apart to eat the gluten and wear the shirt. Tra My Nguyen, known for denouncing Balenciaga for copying her project where she dresses motorbikes with garments—a composition that alludes to her roots in Vietnam—was on display.
Likewise, Damur set up a space where visitors where asked: How Many Pants Do You Have? A question that addressed their upcoming project in which people will be able to drop off their designer clothes in exchange for cash. As visitors answered to this initial question, they were confronted by a second one, “and how many do you regularly wear?” The interaction opened up a space to meditate on our over normalised hoarding habits and the futile need to stock up on clothes. These designers, among others such as Trippen, Pugnat, Quite Quiet, Uncommon Matters, brought to the fore the conceptual side of fashion that offered visitors an interactive perspective on how art and fashion not only influence each other but also, in combination, can create strong narratives around self-expressionism, commodification and overconsumption.
For the curation of the event, Kristian explains, mixing art and fashion in an art fair can be unbalanced if there is plenty of liberty. Whereas fashion designers were free to present their work however they preferred last year—the first time POSITIONS hosted a section in fashion—, this year, the directors gave instructions on how to present their fashion designs in the context of an art fair.
“Designers are used to showing 50 pieces of their collection but they have to know that this is an art fair and visitors and collectors only want to see one or two main artworks. They can never show all pieces at once because then they [collectors] will never be able to decide if they want to buy any. It would take them a week. So this is what we try to encourage—make an art presentation, not a fashion presentation,” says Heinrich.
In combining art and fashion, Heinrich and Kristian agree that the art fair continues to explore the relation between art and fashion, and how their differences in embodiment and purpose can be communicated under the same tone. Overall, despite all the financial, travel and social restrictions, the art fair did not only run as planned but it also managed to feature over 130 participants—almost the double compared to last year. What comes next for POSITIONS is an ongoing learning process where the event stages a conversation between the fair, artists, designers, and the world’s context.