German visual artist Ralf Schmerberg celebrates his 15th year as a resident of Berlin with a retrospective exhibition at Mindpirates.
Treading the line between commercialism and art can be a perilous endeavor for any artist, not least one who relies on visuals to convey their messages. Can a television advert for Nike or Levis really be considered art? Likewise, can seemingly ordinary photographs of intimate social occasions and landscapes be considered an authentic act of creativity? Can a documentary?
Ralf Schmerberg is one such visual artist who has managed to successfully reconcile these two opposites. Originally from Stuttgart, Schmerberg arrived in Berlin during the iconic Love Parade era, and has established himself as one of Germany’s most feted autodidactic photographers and directors thanks to his award-winning body of work.
Currently exhibiting a retrospective compendium of his artworks, films and photographs than spans and celebrates Ralf’s fifteen years spent in Germany’s capital as a professional artist, the event is being held within the mind-bending inner sanctum of artist-led collective Mindpirates.
Set up as a community-based platform for mutual exchange and public presentation, this multi-purpose artistic haven, situated on the banks of Berlin’s Spree, boasts a cavernous gallery, intimate project room (the Projektraum) and ridiculously cool clubhouse (the Vereinsheim) housed in a resurrected flourmill.
Regularly curating and hosting cross-disciplinary artistic projects, Mindpirates strives to critically examine the boundaries between art and its relationship to society through screenings, performances, get-togethers and exhibitions. A suitable setting for an artist who blurs the lines such as Ralf.
“What’s special about this particular exhibition is that this is the first time I’ve mixed my photographic work, my film and video work, and my installation work, to show the full scope of what I do,” states Ralf. “I don’t mind mixing the commercial with the non-commercial because the ideas, themes, images and people are all Berlin. It’s very reflective.”
It’s also very personal, as the assortment of family photo album-style images attests to. Found on the fifth floor gallery and blown up to eye-pleasing proportions, photographs range from the intimate to more straight-up documentary style, including those of friends at New Year’s Eve house parties, smiling children, blooming flowers, scorched furniture and transvestite brides, to those of the Berlin skyline taken from various vantage points (rooftops, airplane wings) across the city.