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“We force our audience a little bit”

INTERVIEW: Back in Feb 2012 we spoke to Ivo Wessel and Olaf Stüber, affable creators of Video Art at Midnight, offering a special platform to experience video art in a unique, unparalleled setting. Don't miss the next VAM night on April 12.

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Photo by Ana Garcia de la Blanca

Ivo Wessel and Olaf Stüber, the duo behind Videoart at Midnight, say they’ve found a way to give art films the audiences they deserve – by bringing them out of the gallery and into the cinema. 

Collector Ivo Wessel and gallerist Olaf Stüber come together once a month at Babylon Mitte with one selected artist whose work is shown on the big screen at midnight. Having developed a loyal following, their programme supports the most interesting undercurrents in the Berlin art scene, from Chicks on Speed to David Panos, and they do it all without charging for entry.

The next edition, on April 12, features with a trilogy of videos from Annika Eriksson, who will be present for a question and answer session after the screening.

What is Videoart at Midnight?

OS: VAM is our format we developed within the last three years. Once a month, on a Friday night, we show art video works on the big screen of Babylon cinema together with friends and the artist; every night is dedicated to one artist.

Why midnight?

OS: Inspired by the midnight cinema movement in the 1970s and 1980s (i.e. all Jodorowsky films had their premiere at midnight), we thought it also would be possible to get an audience for video art.

What are your favourite films and filmmakers in the history of film?

OS: I grew up with the Nouvelle Vague and still love those works. But also the New German Cinema – Fassbinder’s influence is still important.

IW: Nouvelle Vague, Wim Wenders, Jim Jarmusch, Aki Kaurismäki. Stanley Kubrick since my school days… there’s still a lot to discover.

How do you feel about the decline of celluloid?

OS: We love films, and films that are shot on celluloid should be shown as long as possible on celluloid – this has to do with respect for the author. But times have changed, and most films are shot digitally.

IW: As a software developer I love François Truffaut’s idea of ‘human backups’ for the other endangered media of our time, books. It’s a collector’s duty to keep things alive. Of my all time most favourite movie, The State of Things [Der Stand der Dinge] by Wim Wenders, I also own – along with all video formats of course – some 16mm copies. Keeping them is as pleasurable as seeing it on TV, DVD or in a cinema. I don’t have  players for all formats any more, but I still have a 16mm projector, in case of emergency.

Why show the films in a cinema setting rather than a gallery?

OS: In a gallery or museum, people normally pop into a film/video screening not knowing if it is the end or the beginning of the work. Normally they don’t stay longer than five minutes. Most longer videos in the art world aren’t seen in their full length – they are just known by hearsay. We force our audience a little bit with the late starting time and the cinema setting, sitting in deep armchairs in the dark in a row with others. With our programme we make the art production scene of Berlin a little bit more visible.

What’s good about doing it in Berlin?

OS: Berlin is our home. The Berlin art scene is not only one of the most vivid ones but is also an intellectual and thoughtful one. Berlin makes it possible to run such an ‘underground’ project with free entrance! Such a generous offer would probably not be possible in London or New York.