“Not All Houses Stand Fast”

Berliners: Meet Lorenz Estermann. He is crazy about you, so listen up to see if the feeling is mutual. Although the Austrian artist’s people-free artworks portray architectural structures in isolated locations, he is not the misanthrope you might expect. Instead, Estermann has a vision to explore the theme of “potentiality” that he is unwilling to compromise, even if it means he must adopt unknown media formats or work entirely alone in remote sites. I stopped by Estermann’s exhibition build-up yesterday at alexander levy gallery to chat with the artist and gallery owner Alexander Levy about the upcoming show “Virtual Reactor.”

Nestled in Berlin’s gallery cluster around the corner from Checkpoint Charlie, alexander levy sits quietly above the vibrant tourist action below. The energy inside the gallery, however, is anything but quiet. When I arrived, I interrupted Estermann and Levy in the middle of some big decisions: organizing the exhibition layout and pricing the works. However, the interruption did not phase this dynamic duo. Before I even had a chance to whip out my notebook, they were guiding me around the space and discussing Estermann’s artistic philosophy.

lorenz and levyArtist Lorenz Estermann and gallery owner Alexander Levy take a quick break during the build-up of "Virtual Rector." Photo: Chris Phillips  

Mobile Works

The first two pieces I saw were sets of sculpture and accompanying video. One of them, “Roller House,” consists of a large, round sculptural home and a video of that house rolling rapidly downhill.  In a related work, the sculptural element was a house with stilts and the video filmed these houses as the protagonists, allowing you to move through and around them. The video is installed in a black cube at the back of the gallery to ensure maximum immersion in this desolate and uninhabited world. Impressively, Estermann realized this piece alone from start to finish on the set “of one man: only myself.”  

These mobile homes allow Estermann to overturn – literally – the housing paradigm that “all houses stand fast.” Estermann is also able to use video innovatively to bring the sculptural works to life. Levy noted that the videos “change the perception of sculpture.” Estermann nodded in agreement, adding “it’s a little help from me to you.”

Rooted Man

In contrast to the mobility of his works, Estermann enjoys the stability of a fixed home. “I like to be in one place. I like to come back home.” Levy added, “Yeah, having a home is not that bad. If you want to make strong work, you need the same place to concentrate.” But don't get the wrong idea – Estermann is not a total homebody. Although he is based out of Linz, Austria, he makes sure to visit Berlin at least twice a year. He has been coming to the city since the mid 1980s and enjoys observing Berlin’s rapidly developing changes in both its architecture and the composition of its populace. When I asked Estermann how he would describe his relationship to the city, he instantly and forcibly replied “love.”