Our purpose in staging this exhibition was to give artists an opportunity to curate their own exhibitions, each in one room of the gallery. How did you approach this invitation?
In speaking about the process of showing my own work, or staging an exhibition together with other artists, as I am doing now with Bernice, I would not use the term curating. When I am asked to contribute a specific work to a curated group exhibition, without being involved in the exhibition-making process, this means that I have no influence over the environment, which does something to my work in one way or another. (That can be interesting as well.)
In this case, the concept of “rooms” gives me space to think of the room and the objects as actors doing something with each other, which contrasts with perceiving an object/artwork as a dead, self-contained entity. I am a person who speaks very little about their work until it is finished; I guess language is just not my prime mode of accessing things.
You knew that Bernice and I wanted to show works together, and I am glad you asked us if we wanted to participate in this exhibition. Thinking about the rooms in the gallery, I was most interested in the cellar. At that time I was working on a sculpture (“head”) that I see as a moment frozen in time: An axe, positioned on a table, is splitting a tree trunk and by so doing is itself being split. Putting this work in the cellar of the gallery, which is the space in the building that has probably undergone the least change since the house was built, was for me the perfect match. A cellar is like a kind of time capsule, storing food and objects that sometimes stay untouched for years.
I was also curious about how the object would be encountered differently in a “functional room” from in the more standard exhibition spaces. We have now moved to a different room in the gallery, but this is how it started.
The initial intention of the exhibition, which was to address the problematic relationship between artist, curator and gallery, suddenly took on a new level of interest when the lockdown came into effect. Being isolated in one’s own room was now no longer simply a working situation in a gallery but also a compulsory existential situation. What kind of influence did quarantine have on you as a person and as an artist?
There was no total lockdown in Germany, which meant I was still allowed to go to the studio and the garden and to leave the city. I think in terms of rooms the difference was much greater for students and people with a shared working space. For me what was harder was not meeting people, friends and family, and not being able to travel.
Bernice and I could communicate only through video-call, emails, and so on. In a way I could concentrate on my work much better because there were very few distractions. But that’s something I only realized later. In those first weeks, I was like most people - just worried about what was happening and trying to understand it.
In the studio I was starting to work on a sculpture that I call “manifests for future beings” for which I made a different egg every day. The idea for the work was older but it came back to me at that time.
How did it affect me and my way of working in general? Maybe I will be able to answer that question in three years’ time.
Maje Mellin (1991, Gehrden, Germany) is a Hanover-based multimedia artist whose works often result from dynamic interactions with everyday things and materials.
Starting in 2011, she studied visual arts at Yrkeshögskolan Novia in Nykarleby/Uusiikaarleppyy, Finland, and subsequently fine arts at the Hochschule für bildende Künste, Brunswick (2012-2017). She has served residency programmes at HANGAR Centro de Investigaçao Artística in Lisbon and a Pilot Residency at Fabrica de Pensule, Cluj-Napoca. With a series of both solo and group exhibitions to her credit, Maje Mellin creates a poetic universe in which multiple media (drawings, sculpture, audio/video installation) communicate, resulting in an immersive environment.