Have you met... SOX

text by Katy Hawkins pictures by SOX, Truant Monks concert

A self proclaimed “alternative showroom in public space, a vitrine on Oranienstrasse”; SOX marks an innovative approach to intermingling art with the 'every-day'. For, not immediately distinguishable as an art-world contribution, one can over look the space - given its geographical contextualisation on the bustling street, and nestled as it is amidst kiosks, cafés and an assortment of commercial establishments. In deviating from the traditional gallery formula, the space does not bear a loud external sign and exists unmanned - with no personnel poised ready to explain its worth or intent. It thus faces a diverse and often unbeknown 24 hour audience. Despite its subtly in arrival, the exhibitions have a way of modulating and impacting the walked-street, in employing aesthetics that eventually draw you in - working to incur a more naturalized mode of 'experiencing' art.

I spoke with the team currently behind the project, Benedikt Terwiel and Alexander Wagner...

How did you initially get  involved with SOX?

The SOX vitrine has been used for art projects since the 80's, so we knew about the space. The artists Anne Neukamp and Renaud Regnery, who had previously run the space, in cooperation with art historian Kassandra Nakas, asked us if we would like to take over. Since we liked their program and the space a lot, we were very pleased to accept the invitation.

What do you consider the role of the curator to be? Do you have an overarching curatorial POV?

We understand SOX more as an artist run space. We choose and invite artists to experiment with the vitrine's specific situation on the street, its dimensions and possible formats of display. We discuss the work proposed and give advice or opinions, and help during the installation. The final decision on the piece is of course with the artist. We also consider our program as a whole, and try to put the shows in an order that would make sense.

How site-specific is this project to Oranienstrasse?

The immediate surroundings of the vitrine play an important role, the format of the space - between a window display and a room - influences the works exhibited. They communicate with the displays around the vitrine and in the street, which means the specific condition embeds the pieces structurally in this visual location. Beside that, almost all projects were specially developed and realized for SOX. How much a work responds to the environment depends on the artist. But nevertheless the pieces do gain special attributes in this given location.

SOX operates outside of the tradition gallery system and offers an alternative way to access and 'experience' art, what considerations do you make in light of this?

For the people passing by Oranienstrasse with all its attractions (restaurants, bars and shops, etc.) the vitrine works like a gap, that interferes which what you normally would expect, visually. Depending on how much an installation in SOX focus´ on “presence“ in the street, it often also draws the attention of people that do not usually affiliate with the arts. Also the projects can be seen 24 hours which means they should work under many different circumstances - such as light, temperature, weather etc..But part of the "alternative access" also mean that it is freezing on cold openings during the winter...

What sort of response do you receive from the project? If any, what are the affects of having no immediate personnel or linguistic accompaniments to support the space?

We provide information on the projects and the space on the website, but people also contact us for more information and shows sometimes get reviewed or critiqued. The fact that there is no immediate information seems to have the effect that response usually takes a little longer. But we often get direct feedback at the time of the installation, before the opening, for example we witnessed a mother being asked by her child what we would do there in the vitrine, she responded: “Don´t think, its art!” Another time an aged heavy metal/death metal couple that live next door came up to tell us how they always pass by and find the projects really interesting. He told us he was painting too, but “good stuff”, like  Arnold Böcklin´s Toteninsel, skulls and skeletons and so on...

How do you consider the effects a certain aesthetics might have on the 'walked-street'?

There is really a very diverse public on Oranienstraße, so it seems difficult to predict aesthetic effects. We do consider the aesthetic appearance, but it is not in the foreground. There are “louder” projects that claim the attention of the people very directly and other ones that just co-exist with this busy street. Both is possible and can be interesting.

Can you tell us more about the upcoming exhibition.

At the next exhibition Hella Gerlach will show a performance, which develops into a site and site-specific installation. So far her fixed setting includes new ceramics and posters, a sports car, and selected special guests.

What are the long term plans for SOX, and your involvement in the project?

We will run SOX for awhile longer and we hope to get more interesting national and international artists to realize work for the space, and then to pass it on to a new group of artists who are interested to run this great location as a non-profit experimental place.

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