Surviving Generations and Wars: Part of Leipzig's History

By Camila Rocha MFA 2015

Dreaming big (and getting a little jealous too) in front of Olafur Eliasson huge studio in Berlin.
Four Academy classmates from the class of 2015 were chosen to attend the LIA residency in Leipzig, Germany. After many months of working hard, we knew how much effort everyone put into their work and we felt very honored for this opportunity.  Although we will miss everyone, we're happy to share some moments from Europe.  Arriving in Germany for the first time can be quite a surprise. Everything is written in German and very well organized.  Few people speak English well and are always apologetic that they can’t speak English better.  Since the German citizens are extremely kind and polite, at one point we asked "Who are these people?" we are the outsiders and we should be learning their language.             
We were greeted at Spinnerei by Kristina Seminova  (LIA program coordinator, an amazing and intelligent Russian woman, who knows all).  In the few first days, she explained the history of where we were staying. The old cotton mill factory had survived generations and wars to become one of the most important centers of art, artists residencies, studios and galleries in Germany. Today big names like Neo Rauch, Oliver Kossack, Rosa Loy and many others are residents of this factory complex.

This facilities smell like art, from the inside out!!!  Leipzig feels like a small town but its energy is like a busy metropolis with art fairs, openings within the buildings all over the city. There are so many openings to go that we had to get organized, the list of museums and place to visit are endless leaving no time to spear.  Many of city's apartments seem empty, but a growing number of artists of a younger generation have been taking over.  One of the reasons for this is because of Leipzig Visual arts and fine arts. 

We have two independent artists in the residency with us, Piper Mavis a visual artist form Los Angeles/CA and Francis Morgan, a Berlin based painter from Australia. I have to confess that part of the success of this trip is because of them. They happily motivate us with the energy that they emanate. Their critiques and feedback on art outside of the school have been very helpful in making us think more maturely about our studio practices. I feel that I've learned so much from them.  Their confidence is very inspiring. Frankie has the most marvelous sayings: “One of my goals is channeling my emotions into paint instead of fucking up someone's day".  And whatever impression that gives you, it's yours to take.  How honest is that?

We visited Stephan Guggisberg and Sebastian Burger's studio, two of Neo Rauch’s graduate students.  It was fascinating to see their process and the way they approach painting in a contemporary manner. Sebastian’s approach seems to be a tedious and unforgiving attempt to search for light and is influenced by his photography background. He literally fights with some type of dry media and paint on paper. Almost like a geographer excavating the image from the paper. It left us all in awe about the amount of work that goes each piece, a small work can take around 15 hours to be complete.

Sebatian’s studio practice is related to Cryptomnesia and reflects the idea of tapping into the unconsciousness to experience memory as inspiration.  His iconography comes from different unknown sources and often, after a piece is done, he encounters the images in history books or graphics from ancient art work. His process although a very different from “Plagiarism” generates a totally different conceptual meaning due his methodology.  

With a full calendar of events and activities, I can't wait to share more and tell you about our studio practices and excursions around Leipzig and to Berlin.  I had to visit Berlin to get my visa renewed and I found a little time to visit a museum close to the bus central station-- The Grunderzeit Museum.  This museum was created by Charlotte Von Mahlsdorf and it shows the art collection of the family. I found a very humble list of artists that I had never heard of before.  What a fascinating visit. We also went as a group to visit the Neue Galerie and David Bowie Exhibition curated by the Victoria and Albert museum in England.  In my next post, I will tell you about all this and more!


Camila Rocha is joined by Matthew Comeau, Esteban Ocampo and Hannah Stahl in Leipzig, Germany for a two-month Residency.  On the Academy's blog, the students will share their adventures abroad throughout the summer.  Return here for updates and more from Germany.  

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