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The LEAP (Lab for Electronic Arts and Performances) in Berlin

The Lab for Electronic Arts and Performances (LEAP) is an artistic center located in Berlin and active since 2011 in the domain of electronic and digital arts. It was founded by Daniel FrankeKai Kreuzmüller and John McKiernan and it regularly hosts national and international artists, as well as public workshops, events, performances and, of course, exhibitions.

During the months of September and October 2012 the LEAP presented two main projects. The first one is Pivot, an installation by the Danish artist Jacob Kierkegaard, an audiovisual work recorded and realized around one of the German capital symbol: the TV tower at Alexanderplatz.

The other hosted event is 20111111111111111s, a set/platform of multiple works inspired by and focusing about the year 2011 from different perspectives and artistic points of view.

The important of this art center is not only given by the quality of the presented artists and events or workshop offered, but also by the primary location, Berlin, one of the most creative and active cultural capitals in the heart of Europe. We asked some question to two of the LEAP founders, Kai Kreuzmüller and John McKiernan, in order to find out more about the center and their activities.

Silvia Bertolotti: When was your center created and what is the story behind? What is your main mission?

Kai Kreuzmüller and John McKiernan: We had worked together on a project in 2010, which led to the idea for Lab For Electronic Arts And Performance (LEAP). LEAP is a space for electronic, digital and performance artan interdisciplinary project that aims to forge relationships connecting Art, Science and Technology.

We renovated the space (located close to Berlin’s Alexanderplatz) and opened in early 2011 with a group show focusing on the theme ‘’Protocol’’: protocol as a form of control, control as an invisible unit, as a system for controlling the background, acting independently of the content while looking to the new (distributed control) and old methods of social and technical organization.

Of central interest to us is the intersection point between the physical and digital worlds. Many of the works and areas of discourse that interested us were on show only at festivals and in terms of performances for specialized communities, we wanted to bridge this gap between digital arts and performance and present the work in a gallery context for a wider audience. Over the course of the last two years we have realized almost 40 performances and exhibitions.

Silvia Bertolotti: What is the background of the project’s founders: Daniel Franke, Kai Kreuzmüller and John McKiernan?

Kai Kreuzmüller and John McKiernan: Our backgrounds are quite varied, Daniel a graduate of the UdK in Berlin works as an artist, designer and music video director, John is as a curator and producer having previously worked in project management, theatre, production while Kai’s has a background in music management and consulting, specializing in PR, strategic corporate communications and brand management.

Silvia Bertolotti: What kind of events you promote and host at LEAP? You don’t only present exhibitions but also workshops.

Kai Kreuzmüller and John McKiernan: As well as curating a program of exhibitions we also present performances on a regular basis, for instance our quarterly performance series BodyControlled which has featured performances by Robert Henke, Mario De Vega and Marco Donnarumma amongst others, where performances have focused on sound as an architectural form intertwined with LEAP’s existing architecture and generate other virtual spaces and the body as a bio interface for performance. We also present regular workshops in association with our exhibitions and performances. This month we begin the talk and workshop series Processing Berlin featuring Kim Asendorf, Rainer Kohlberger and Daniel Sauter, an initiative which focuses on creative coding, generative art and design.

Silvia Bertolotti: What are the pro and cons of being in a city like Berlin?

Kai Kreuzmüller and John McKiernan: The positives of being in a city like Berlin are the abundance of talented artists and projects being developed here and a young and ever changing public with an insatiable appetite for the arts. The negatives are of course the difficulties in getting funding for projects and the small budgets we have to work with.

Silvia Bertolotti: What is, in your opinion, the scene in the German capital concerning electronic and digital arts? What is the trend?

Kai Kreuzmüller and John McKiernan: When we founded the space the amount of projects focusing on new technologies in the arts were almost non-existent. Since then we have noticed quite an increase in the number of projects and exhibitions focusing on the impact of technology on the artist, and the changes in artists strategies and discourse as influenced by our changing landscape.

In founding the space we felt that there wasn’t a space in Berlin which focused exclusively on digital and electronic arts: there is the annual Transmediale festival (we curated a partner program this year), of course, and many artist projects but a gallery or project space with an explicit focus was lacking.  

Of central interest to us is the intersection point between the physical and digital worlds. As we said, we wanted to bridge this gap between digital arts and performance and  present the work in a gallery context for a wider audience.

It is important for us to develop within the art community in Berlin in terms of the artists we show and generating discussions and attracting new audiences. On the other hand, developing strong links with international spaces and institutions is a priority for the future.

Silvia Bertolotti: What kind of artists do you work with at LEAP? How do you mainly select them?

Kai Kreuzmüller and John McKiernan: We show both established and young artists from both Germany and abroad.  It is very important for our discourse that the artists we show are not limited to one geographical area. Our research takes many forms: visiting media art festivals, online research and artists’ websites, and of course regular studio and exhibition visits and meetings with curators.

We usually decide a concept/discourse for an exhibition first and then research artists to fulfill this concept by researching artists in our network. We also share our research on our Vimeo Channel: http://vimeo.com/channels/leap).

Silvia Bertolotti: You’re currently presenting a Jacob Kierkegaard‘s exhibition, directly related to the city of Berlin: Pivot. What do you think is the relationship between arts and public space? Which is then your role as artistic center within this context and more in general as cultural subject?

Kai Kreuzmüller and John McKiernan: With LEAP we are particularly interested in the boundaries of the exhibition space, in showing works which slowly infiltrate the public consciousness and in particular in communicating with an unwitting public. With an installation like Error by Shingo Yoshida, for example, our aim was to communicate a silent personal reflection of one’s own alienated presence amidst an urban setting. 

Silvia Bertolotti: What are the future projects you are working on?

Kai Kreuzmüller and John McKiernan: We are currently working on an exhibition which is a further development of themes raised in our recent BodyControlled Bio Interfacing performance evening, a number of solo shows and an exhibition Wahrnehmung des Digitalen, which deals with the physical perception of the digital.

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