Crai / Roh

Residency at Sculplobe, Berlin
March 2022

Manon Awst was artist-in-residence at Sculplobe, Berlin in March 2022, kindly supported by Wales Arts International. She was offered a studio and space to experiment and respond to the unique architectural context of Lobe Block. Outcomes of her residency included a presentation of new works on the concrete rooftop and a photoshoot with Berlin-based Welsh photographer Carys Huws.

Wedi ei chefnogi gan Celfyddydau Rhyngwladol Cymru, roedd Manon Awst yn artist preswyl yn Sculplobe, Berlin ym mis Mawrth 2022. Yn adeilad Lobe Block cafodd gynnig stiwdio a gofod i arbrofi ac ymateb i’r bensaernïaeth arbennig hwn. Canlyniad ei phreswyliad oedd casgliad o ddarnau newydd ar ben to concrid yr adeilad, wedi ei ddogfennu gan y ffotograffydd Carys Huws.


Interview with Sculplobe, April 2022

What concepts did you seek to explore during this residency?

I was excited to work in an urban context since I’ve spent very little time in cities over the past two years. I’ve been in North Wales, between the mountains of Snowdonia and the sea. This landscape is a magnet for tourists, who flock to the area to hike, climb, camp, swim, sail… activities which bring with them a whole load of cultural and material baggage which I’ve been incorporating increasingly in my sculptural work.

In contrast, concrete predominates at Lobe Block. From the rooftop you can see widely across Berlin in all directions, and the Fernsehturm is this constant orientation point. Funnily enough, there’s a climbing centre next door called Magic Mountain – a coincidence since I’d been making climbing holds during lockdown out of old fishing nets.

I wanted to see what emerged when I placed the thoughts and materials I’d been gathering in the landscape into this distinctly urban environment.

Can you give us an insight into your artistic practice and research during the time of the residency?

I shared my time between the studio space and rooftop and arrived with this image in my mind of a silhouette against the horizon – a human-scaled figure standing there, strangely still. So, from home, I brought with me a sleeping bag and some of my climbing holds. After making an internal structure, I could turn the bag upside down so that it resembled a standing stone.

Wales is scattered with standing stones, and for me they’re like anchors. I grew up with these stones in so many different forms – from the logo on my school jumper to fibreglass stone circles playing centre stage in major cultural festivals. They give voice to timescales beyond us - past, but also future.

At Lobe Block, this fabric stone is dotted with climbing holds and put in relation to a mirror of the same height. On one hand the holds are an invitation to touch, to grab on, but at the same time the fragility of the pieces makes climbing impossible – hold on, stop! Narratives around habitat, tradition, spirituality, adventure, tourism, and sustainability are woven into the materiality of these pieces, and although they’re playfully performative, there are darker undertones where plastics and rocks, landscapes and bodies, merge into strange new strata.

Tell us about the photoshoot.

Carys and I got to know each other through exhibiting in a group show together last summer. I love her work and was keen to collaborate. We didn’t have a set plan but experimented by placing the pieces in different architectural situations. The photos capture them in a particular time and place before they set up camp somewhere else.

It was an improvised performance where I put my body in relation to the materials – I carried the works around, lay next to them on the ground, jumped across them, responding to the dynamic between artwork and context. That physical interaction with sculpture, being in the same space as the materials, is important to me. You don’t get that direct physicality through images, but materials can still resonate, and I think Carys managed to capture that.

How did the environment and community of Lobe Block affect your work?

I was immediately attracted to the raw concrete terraces and rooftop as sites to explore. The whole concept of the building is brilliant – rough and ready, creative, flexible, with urban gardening and local energy at its core.

During my residency, I was welcomed into the community and made to feel part of its daily activity. It was a lively period since it coincided with the opening of the new Canteen downstairs and the arrival of a family from Ukraine. I could work and try things out in my own time, knowing I would receive the support if I needed it. I’m so grateful to Lobe Block and Sculplobe for their generosity.