Tracey-Snelling-in-conversation-with-Den

TRACEY

SNELLING

MON STUDIO SESSIONS

ARTIST INTERVIEW

“... the mutation of scale within a same/similar work or theme expresses the idea that everything is subjective, and meanings can change depending on a multitude of variables.

Tracey Snelling

Berlin, April 2021.

Interview with Tracey Snelling by Denis Leo Hegic

Tracey Snelling creates meticulous miniatures of Berlin´s (urban) life. Her translations of the brutalist architecture of Kotti and the surrounding expose the mysticism of the city and it´s residents. No cheese, no clichés: Tracey is an observer. And once you start exploring the countless windows of her works and the lives that take place behind each one of them, she will turn you into a voyeurist as well.

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KOTTI

2018

Wood, paint, plaster, plastic, fake landscaping, lights, media players, lcd screens, speakers, transformer

72 x 122 x 90 cm

Tracey, they call you the goddess of Kreuzberg, the Corbusier successor of a city on the edge, the voyeurist in flagrante. Is any of that true?

Denis, those are amazing descriptions! But I am definitely not the goddess of Kreuzberg... Perhaps a bit of the Corbusier successor of a miniature city on the edge, and definitely the voyeurist in flagrante! But I feel more like the character from my film The Stranger, sometimes wandering alone and observing, other times feeling connected to everything and everyone. I feel as if I'm an urban sociologist, but I also enjoy taking part and immersing myself in experiences. So, my observations become my art, as well as my life, and they intertwine together and meld into a flavorful stew with no discernable edges. To be living back in Kreuzberg with my small-scale sculptures of Kotti and the Admiralstraße sozialbau in my studio, and then to walk down the street and be dwarfed by the actual buildings is extremely satisfying and somewhat mind-bending!

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KOTTI

2018

Wood, paint, plaster, plastic, fake landscaping, lights, media players, lcd screens, speakers, transformer

72 x 122 x 90 cm

Scale is important to you. You scale down the existing architecture that you´re "dwarfed" by. Please tell me more about the issue of size: Is architecture bigger then life? Do we need the different scale in order to understand the big picture?

I've always seemed to play with scale. When I made the first small house sculpture, I then photographed the rooms with a large format camera and enlarged the images to larger scale prints. Though I've also made life-size rooms and a life-size motel, I find that shrinking a building or buildings down to small scale gives one a more complete view of the place and its surroundings. The viewer can look into multiple windows without getting "caught", fully embracing the voyeuristic aspect. To be able to present an array of viewpoints in one piece is a way of storytelling, showing different facets of a place and many narratives that can be viewed at one's leisure. I've also found, through the constantly changing scale in my work (the small FUCK sign becoming a BIG FUCK sign, then ending up in a new short film digitally placed in a landscape of a prior photo I took many years ago) that the mutation of scale within a same/similar work or theme expresses the idea that everything is subjective, and meanings can change depending on a multitude of variables.

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SMALL FUCK

2020

edition of 7

Wood, paint, plaster, fake landscaping, electroluminescent wire

32 x 24 x 12cm

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BIG FUCK

2020

edition of 3

Wood, paint, plaster, led tube

207 x 153 x 70 cm

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Scene from:

A POEM IS A CITY

2021

Short film by Tracey Snelling and Arthur Debert

Was that the biggest FUCK you ever created?

My biggest FUCK was Clusterfuck 9, a large-sized installation shown at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art in 2019, with four wall projections about US gun violence, the fight for women's rights, mass media, and the new age phenomena. The remaining wallspace around the projections was covered with images from posters, magazines, etc. In the middle of the room  was a living room set. I had a performance during the opening in which a husband and wife's "traditional" roles unravel and are turned upside down. The idea behind my Clusterfuck installations is to present a clash of video, images, tchotchkes, sculptures, lights and sound that overwhelms the viewer. 

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CLUSTERFUCK 9

2019

Mixed media installation with video projections and performance

100 square meter space

San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose, California

Photo by David Pace

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CLUSTERFUCK 9

2019

Performance in the installation

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MEN WRESTLING PERFORMANCE

2018

First We Take Manhattan, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin

How do you discover your motifs? I´ve seen several of your works depicting Berlin, Shanghai... Are they reflecting your path?

Sometimes, as in Clusterfuck 9, my motifs are influenced by what's going on politically and socially today. Other times, I find my influence through my travel or where I live. While in Shanghai doing the Swatch residency, I documented Shanghai and also Chongqing, and began building sculptures and an installation around the documentation. My friends and I are in the videos of some works, and many of the places I build are important to me because of experiences I had in those places. Often, the line between my life and art get blurred. For instance, while in Shanghai I got a tattoo on my back of a sentence by a Chinese poet that says 'wait for the clouds to part to see the moonlight'. Video of me getting tattoed plays in my sculpture of a tattoo shop in Shanghai. The saying, painted in red chinese characters and detailed with fake neon, ends up on a new neon sign of a moon with clouds that I just completed. My motifs can also come from dreams, random images that I come across, or a feeling.

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SHANGHAI/CHONGQING

HOT POT/MIXTAPE

2019

SOZIALBAU ADMIRALSTRASSE

2020

 

WAIT FOR THE CLOUDS TO PART TO SEE THE MOONLIGHT

2021

Mixed media installation with video (wood, paint, images, found materials, fountain, lcd screens, media players, speakers, lights, transformers)

Room size installation

58th VENICE BIENALLE, Swatch Pavilion, Arsenale

I am very much fond of your Clustefucks as superlatives to the FUCK series. They are a natural evolution in both complexity and size. Saying that: how do you move your works? It must be quite an endeavour producing a show with such large and delicate pieces.

It really depends on the exhibition. Often, my exhibitions are immersive installations that combine larger scale works with small scale sculptures, dimmed color lighting, video projections, and sound. Sometimes I incorporate performance too.  Other times, works can be shown more formally in the "white cube" on plinths. Recently, with the increase in window exhibitions during the corona lockdowns, I have shown a single sculpture alone in a room. This is a really new experience for me! I'm more prone to having multiple works that speak to each other or form a new conversation in the context of the combination. But I really appreciate the stand-alone sculpture. The focus is pinpointed. It's always such a pleasure to have a new realization with my work or the presentation of it.

As for handling the works, if I'm creating a larger installation (or having one built to my specifications), I build it in multiple pieces that can come apart and be reassembled. I'm always thinking about what size the parts have to be to get through the door! With One Thousand Shacks, a 5 meter tall wall of shacks with lights, video and sound, I built the work in nine pieces that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. This was quite complicated because my studio wasn't tall enough to accommodate it while building, so I had to make a few adjustments the first time I assembled it.

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ONE THOUSAND SHACKS

2016

Wood, paint, plaster, plastic, lights, media players, lcd screens, speakers, transformer

5 m x 3.25 m x .5 m

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Detail

ONE THOUSAND SHACKS

2016

Wood, paint, plaster, plastic, lights, media players, lcd screens, speakers, transformer

5 m x 3.25 m x .5 m

Your latest work "Mäusebunker" continues with the brutalist architecture of Berlin. How did the "mouse bunker" come about?

I first came across the Mäusebunker when I heard they were going to tear it down and a petition was circulating to preserve it. I was fascinated by the strange architecture and rode my bike to visit it on a grey, stormy day. The photos I took of it were beautiful, with the dramatic storm clouds hovering over the haunting facade. After visiting that day, I decided I would build it. It actually took me quite a long time to finish it as I worked on several other projects at the same time. I completed it in March this year. I added some graffiti to the sculpture, with a mouse on the front and the words: "Be nice to mice", and a mouse head on the back saying "Save me." Video plays in several windows on the front and as a large billboard on the back, with footage from mouse experiments and a mouse dissection, The Secret of NIMH, Willard and Ben (two older films from the early 70's about boys with pet rats that end up killing people), Breaking Bad, Bunuel's Exterminating Angel, as well as other footage. The work also speaks to the problems with animal experiments, which is also part of the history of the building. 

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MÄUSEBUNKER

2021

Wood, paint, plaster, plastic, fake landscaping, lights, media players, lcd screens, speakers, transformer

48 x 70 x 130 cm

Photo by Peter Rosemann

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MÄUSEBUNKER

2021

Wood, paint, plaster, plastic, fake landscaping, lights, media players, lcd screens, speakers, transformer

48 x 70 x 130 cm

Photo by Peter Rosemann

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MÄUSEBUNKER

2021

Wood, paint, plaster, plastic, fake landscaping, lights, media players, lcd screens, speakers, transformer

48 x 70 x 130 cm

Photo by Peter Rosemann

When will you brutalize the architecture of Venice and when will we get to see you there?

There's a possible upcoming showing in Venice, but it's still in the works. For my next project, I'll travel to Sofia, Bulgaria to work on a vitrine project in the Largo with Vera Mlechevska, the 2019 Bulgarian curator for the  Venice Biennale. Next year, I will produce special projects at the University of Michigan and with TOKAS in Tokyo that were postponed from this year. And in the fall of 2022 I will be in an exhibition at the Ludwig Museum in Budapest. In between, I will be starting on another brutalist building called the Bierpinsel, which is located here in Berlin. I'm also writing an experimental film, but I can say no more about that!

A POEM IS A CITY

2021

Short film by Tracey Snelling and Arthur Debert, produced by Künstlerhaus Bethanien

Tracey Snelling

Still from the short film "A Poem is a City"

Tracey-Snelling-Museum-of-Now-MON-Studio

TRACEY

SNELLING

MUSEUM OF NOW STUDIO SESSIONS