The Ballery is a community led arts space in the heart of Schöneberg. While the current exhibition „My Gay Eye“ examines questions about what is that makes art gay, we hear from owner and curator Simon Willams what the gallery is really all about and why, in some cases, misfits are the pioneers of truth.

What is it that you’re looking for in artists?

I’m looking for the truth and what is the truth? The truth is the story you choose to tell and so I’m looking to support, for me this is what art is all about and im looking for building a community which embraces and supports that which ultimately is freedom so I don’t really mind. There isn’t a kind of artist.

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Vittorio Zambardi
Karl-Lakolak
Karl Lakolak

The truth is a wide field …

Yeah, the story that the person is choosing to tell and I was going for it. And this means you don’t find a lot of people who were telling their own story, you meet a lot of people who are repeating somebody else’s. You know so it’s quite easy to filter out. I would say that I’m a very insightful person when I meet someone. I can like sense if this person is being true and is free, because that excites me. I think people who really look into art want that freedom, they want to see perspectives from people, true perspectives, and because of that I think I attract a lot of misfits into the gallery which I think means a lot of gay people and I don’t say that I’m a gay gallery but I have a lot of gay people here because they don’t feel like im addressing them because they’re gay, because im addressing them because I’m interested in who they are and what they’ve got to tell. There are great female artists here, so the gallery really isn’t exclusively gay. The majority of the good artists here are either kick ass women or gay men.

Would you say they’re seeking freedom?

I’d say they’re seeking freedom in terms of not necessarily artistically but in terms of choices. They make their own choices and I’m giving them a space to present themselves as they’d like to be seen. I’m not someone who’s going round their house saying I want this and this and not this. I would say that this gallery is an artists’ gallery and I’m just the conductor making it right and questioning the artists, not in a judgmental way. I ask them to do something really big and kind of in a way asking – lets’ say counseling – artists into getting more of their truth out of them and to be more brave. And that’s what I want from artists. I’m tired of seeing interesting things all the time. I wanna see beauty. That for me is freedom, is striving not to compromise.

And making your own decisions.

Yeah that’s right. Someone being interested in them. I think that can go for writing or music. What do you want to say? Go for it! I don’t think you have spilled it out, think about it again, So I think that’s what a lot of people want and that’s definitely what I want, I wanna be in good company and gooJoseph Wolfgang Ohlertd company for me is you know the balls of society and that’s kind of revolutionary to build up and surround yourself with that kind of energy. It inspires you to be more free yourself and I think that’s good you know.

You also host a lot of events where people are allowed to come and speak about their art you have readings and performances. Is it like poetry slam?

First of all I’m allergic to that word poetry slam …

Especially now slamming has a whole new meaning to it…

That’s right, especially around here. I focus on the work so it doesn’t matter to me if it’s music or visual art or performance or video or film.

Mon-Graffito
Mon Graffito

Where do your exhibits fit in the art market?

Price wise, I would say up to around at the moment 10,000 Euros and look I don’t really –this sounds very arrogant – I don’t position myself in the arts market. I don’t pay attention to what other artists are doing, sometimes I go to see things but Im more thinking about this is the tough thing, what do I wanna do, what do I want to stand for and I definitely like the idea of standing for what I wanna see or what I wanna do?

And most of the time I just try to connect collectors, supporters and artists who want to enjoy arts the way that I do, and if for example I meet you and you wanna do something and I say, what have you got going on? What is that you want to do? And you say well I’m developing this and that and its ready to go I say well why don’t we do something at the gallery and what date could we do it? Let’’s do it on this day and you invite some people and I’ll invite some people and let’s see how it goes and I think the program comes together
a bit like that, because I realized if you try to fit into the market, sometimes it doesn’t work. You know and so then you end up doing something your’e not really that excited by.

Which then makes it hard to contribute something in a good way?

Dirk-lang
Dirk Lang
Giovanbattista-Brambilla
Giovanbattista Brambilla

Yeah, I think the great thing about a space like this is first of all the room is really nice and we have the potential to do performances, but we can also do whatever we want. What I would say is really important in the arts environment is to create a positive network of people who want to support it and who like to go there and connect with other people in the space. I think it’s a bit like church. Why do people go to the church? They want to be guided into making good decisions and meet other people. It wasn’t just about going to church, it’s a community. I think that art is at the heart of the community and to bring a community together through art I think is great. Art – like I said – is just ideas and perspectives from people and in this gallery all of the artists are Berlin-based. So I think that to go somewhere and to see what people are doing in your community, who come from all over the world, I think its great. What more do you want? What are we living for? I’m certainly not living to go and make compromises. I think the older you get the luckier you are to still be alive so you should better do something with yourself. Dig a hole in your grave, make it deeper. Go for what you want to do. And it is tough, any business is tough, I’ve been in the arts all my life. I think its great. Right? It’s not for everybody, a lot of people haven’t grown up with the arts, a lot of people have grown up in a very robotic kind of office, school-like structure and it’s fine for them, but I certainly couldn’t be happy in that structure and I think that it’s that, every generation, every decade every time, the community has always been important especially now in the time that every body is looking down in their lap into a little rect angle. It’s like our whole lives are being taken by our little rectangles and it’s great to go somewhere weekly and see new things and meet new people. And it doesn’t have to be in a bar, and it doesn’t have to be in a sex environment like Berlin is, and it doesn’t have to be for dinner. I mean what can you do in Berlin between six and ten apart from eat?

Go to the gallery.

You can have a drink here, you can meet people, you can meet some rich people, you can meet some good looking people.

I’m in. Thanks for the interview.

My Gay Eye @ The Ballery

4. Dezember 2015 bis 6. Januar 2016

Nollendorfstraße 11 – 12 | 10777 Berlin

Interview: Torsten Schwick

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