How do you find the artists for your curated exhibitions and how did you select the work for Instinct?

I have a vision of the show, namely based on a topic related to masculinity, then I try to find a selection of artists to represent this topic. I initiated the project in December 2016 for an opening in March. With the help of one of the invited artists, Manuel Moncayo, we brought together a group of wonderful artists each showing their own perspective of masculinity and the male body. Since then, I receive plenty of applications from young artists coupled with the  support of established artists who are happy to be part of the adventure. 

What are some of the topics that have been addressed by the artists of Instinct and those in residency?

The first artist we hosted in residency was Tony Whitfield. He developed the project ‘Queer Home Sweet Home’, questioning the fresh start in gay life after leaving the family home in order to create a new self identity in a new city.. In combination with this, he did a series of portraits called ‘Re: Seeing’, inviting members of our community to show their fragility and beauty in front his camera. 

Artist Rafael Medina, part of the Instinct #4 collective show, talked about sexual experience from people over 6o. His project ‘SkinDeep60+’ was a combination of b/w pictures together with some interview videos of men ready to speak about what is their sex life today.

In Instinct #5, with his project ‘Fuck Raw - towards a better future' Harlen Mansö chose to talk about how Prep could change our sexual habits, the way to connect with each other without fear of hiv, and the choice to have an active way to protect ourselves.  He created a series of drawings presenting the condoms as dinosaurs along with interviews from 10+ gay men talking about their own experience.

What themes or requirements are part of your selection and what role do you take in the creative process?

The name of the project says it all: it’s about instinct. 

When I decide the theme of the show, I try to make the right selection of artists who together, offer a balanced selection of pieces that best express the selected topic. I love to couple young artists who have never exhibited before, with more experienced ones. 

As far as my creative input, I focus on details, connectivity, and curation. My role is to give the artists a safe space to express their work and give some advice along the way.  The artists are free with their work, it’s a collaboration between them and the Instinct community.

How long does it take to plan an exhibition?

I have a fantastic team supporting me in this process but it’s still a lot of work.

We have two exhibitions a year. One at Easter and one at the beginning of September. Both take place at the same time as big gay events in the city.   This is a coincidence, but we are also aware our space is dedicated to GTBQ men. And having such a large international convergence of gay/queer men during these events really brings new ideas and energy to the space.

What is most challenging about what you do?

As the space is 100% self-financed, the most challenging about this project is to make it happen financially.  I am always trying to balance running a professional space with keeping an open door for artists.

As  the whole project is not yet financing itself, we rely on a growing base of art-collectors, first-time buyers as well as a strong connection to other art-spaces.

regardless, I rarely limit my vision due to scarce resources. My next step is to learn to how to sustainably fund our vision and help create an incubator space for queer artists in Berlin; a space of dialog, exchange, mutual aid and support to give more opportunities to all these wonderful people trying to express and survive in a difficult world. 

What did you like about the art world in general?

I’m always amazed with the creativity of artists, the strength of the message carried by their work, the questions posed about our position in this world, and the impact it has on society.  Galleries and gallerists have a important responsibility in this world: to give space, freedom and security.

When you’re confronted by someone with which you have a conflict, how do you handle the situation?

Difficult people don’t always know they are difficult,  sometimes it’s simply the pressure of the work – the creative process is not always fun. Also, working with me, could make a person much more difficult [laughs]. I know where we’re going, but sometimes it’s difficult to follow from the perspective of an invited artist.

The best way to avoid conflicts is to identify early-on the potential for drama, the points for potential personal conflicts, and the limits of giving full liberty. Find the right distance and embrace those elements.  All of the invited artists in the last years are extremely talented and sensitive people and my goal with everything is to bring value to the artist and the space. And we are succeeding, we have a growing number of art-collectors as well as first-tie art-buyers. 

What inspires you in general?

My boyfriend, my friends, my family, my work, and all the people involved in our fantastic projects. The streets, the art, the incredible surprise of nature – the beauty in everyday life is inspiring. 

And unicorns. I do believe in unicorns. They give me a lot of inspiration, because every dream can come true. 

What are your next projects?

There’s plenty! We welcome Aaron Cobbett for his residency and will work together on a collective art project based on his experience of quilting (text of FB event here)

We are madly preparing the next instinct titled, MACHO for which I have a fantastic selection of artists. on top of that, in collaboration with the active scene of Dance for Berlin, we will initiate Instinct Dance. A platform for queer dancers and performers to develop projects and connections.

And finally, we will publish an art book at the end of the year compiling all the artists I was lucky to have in the first five editions – almost 40!  A hundred examples of the book will contain an original piece of work, and all of them will be finished by hand and love with by Berlin based artists. The money collected from this book will help us to develop new projects to deepen our roots and make sure that Instinct can offer as many opportunities as possible to voices that need to be heard.

Interview reviewed by Tristan Joseph Boisvert

Exclusive interview with art curator 

Hi Eric, first of all thanks for being with us. Could you give the readers some background information about yourself and how Instinct Berlin came to be?

Hello Fernando, thank you kindly for your invitation. I have been living in Berlin since 2004 after 20 years of living in Paris. In 2010, I met a guy who, in many ways, changed my life. We have been working together ever since and are a good imaginative team, just crazy enough to believe we can make this world a better place. 

In 2016, we opened a space in Berlin dedicated to GTBQ (Gay, Trans, Bi, and queer) men, which hosts a variety of workshops, festivals, trainings, and ongoing classes.

Having queer artists come into the space questioning masculinity, gender roles and societal expectations through aesthetic experimentation, proved to me that Berlin needed a safe, positive space to create. And so, Instinct was born.

Instinct Berlin consists of two collective exhibitions a year, showing around nine invited artists to work on a specific topic; a residency program that supports two artists who want to experience working with our community and queer subject matters; Artist Talks, a creative workshop open to everybody; as well as screenings from young artists. We also offer the space for photo shootings or rehearsals.