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Mirrored Image

C-print contributor Nora Hagdahl pays German artist Michael Beutler a visit in his studio which the artist notes is smaller than the galleries and spaces he generally shows in which makes the practice of working with production models pivotal and makes the studio a site for experimenting rather than completion. Beutler is since showing at the ongoing 57th Venice Biennale with a shipyard installation paying homage to the origins of the Arsenale.

As Michael Beutler’s art, his studio resonates a construction site, seemingly under production, unfinished. The raw interior Michel builds himself. Unpolished wooden flooring and sliding walls patched together by old shipping crates and Masoite boards, that open and close to alter the space. We enter into what he refers to as the “trash and loading deck”; in the 300 square meter studio that also is his home. The space is located near Hermannplatz in Berlin, on the top floor of an old industrial building. The handcrafted interior contrast with the white painted, rigid architecture.

The place looks more like a workshop than a traditional artist studio. It is carefully organized and divided by craft, where the textile production is placed at one end and the wood production at the other. In-between lays an almost empty room which now storage fragments from different installations. Against one wall, paper pressed into nets in a variation of colors are stacked on pallets. He refers to them as “sausages”, made by the Sausage Machine – a piece and an experimental machine where the production of art is displayed. The sausage machine is a construction stripped down to its essentials. The invention is made with bare plywood and a log, pressing the paper into the nets, manufacturing artworks on a conveyer belt. The boundaries between storage and sculpture, by production and product are dissolved in Beutler’s art. The stacks in the studio don’t look that different from the piles of finished sausages, placed in the exhibition space.

In the wood workshop, everything is covered with a layer of sawdust and you walk in between thick hoses that are connected to the big machines. Wrenches, hammers and saws are orderly hung on the wall. “All of the tools are set out to make this model here”. He points to different machines, walking us through the process of sawing, drilling, shaping and putting together. The studio is like a mirror image of his exhibitions which often are constituted by open-ended installations that transforms the space into a site of continuous production. His work inhabits the whole space with seemingly unfinished work, machines and material. The exhibitions undergo different stages of production. This functions as a strategy to underline the craft and making – and makes visible, in a large scale, what we witness here in his studio.

At the table, we can look at the blueprints for the upcoming project of which he is currently building a model of. “The galleries and spaces that I’m showing in are often bigger than my studio, and have higher ceilings. This forces me to always kind of imagine how things will be. Therefore, the models become important”. One of the most crucial parts of his exhibitions is the element of making on site, the museum as a workshop. The practice in the studio, he tells us, is about trying out production and experimenting, rather than completing the work. He views the place as a test ground. At the end, this model is going to be something like a ship, 12 meters long and 9 meters wide, and will be shown at the 57th Venice Biennale this summer.

At the other side of the studio, we find the textile workshop. This room is filled from the floor to the ceiling by rolls of fabric. Once again the workshop reminisces installations from his exhibitions. Michael’s art often balances on the verge between handicraft and industrial. He moves between engineering and DIY. Michael explains that this room previously was just a big loom. It contained a huge weaving machine, yet another of Michael’s pieces used to make rag carpets. It is now in gallery storage but to take it out the studio you had to take it apart, otherwise it wouldn’t fit in the lift. “The lift is in a way determining everything. It’s just under 4 meters. And it makes it a bit problematic at times.”, he says.

The feature was originally published in the second issue of Nuda Paper for which Nora Hagdahl serves as art editor. Photo and images courtesy of: Frida Vega Salomonsson, editor in chief of Nuda Paper.

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