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Insight: ‘You are always at the beginning & always at the end,’ diving into Zeal Studios residency exhibition

Text by Chiara Vignandel

Veronika Marxer

Zeal Studios is an initiative founded by Veronika Marxer and Vera Kamea Frommelt in 2023. The goal is to provide financial and professional support for young artists, protecting them from pressure and market dynamics in a collaborative and balanced environment in the current fast-paced art scene. The femme-lead studio developed a network of grants and fundings to sustain their residencies, a slow but necessary step that makes projects possible.

In order for us to stick to what we promise our residents with regard to mentoring and guidance in research, we are fully reliant on a functioning network of partners, collaborators, mentors, helpers and friends. So, our vision implies a high degree of collaborativity in a decelerated and socially comparably sustainable environment, as Émonie Fay Chetwin, editor and PR manager of Zeal Studios, told us.

Their last four-month residency program showcased artists interested in post-digital identity systems who experimented with different media and outcomes. Some of the artists’ recurring themes were fan fiction and autofiction, technical imagination, and post-historical spiritual practice. The residency culminated on March 28 with the opening of the exhibition You are always at the beginning & always at the end at the partner gallery Council+ in Berlin, featuring Laura Radzewicz, Lena Peplińska—working together under the name Xtreme girl—, Lea Dippold, Lisa Dieterle, Veronika Marxer and Vera Frommelt. 

Despite the variety of voices and the different takes on the themes, the exhibition appears strong and coherent. We were trying not to be too restrictive on neither style nor choice of media but rather emphasise a precise theme of work we wanted to interrogate—which, for this residency, happened to be post-digital identity systems.

Vera Kamea
Xtreme Girl

What is very interesting is to see how the artists, all female and born between 1995 and 1999, dive into the post-digital identity systems highlighting different facets, from identity and late capitalism to queer culture and freedom, touching on environmental changes, alienation, solitude and so on.

I think identities in our age are super much algorithmically driven and saturated with data that is fast changing, confusing, or tricky to grasp. Somehow growing up on the internet, witnessing its platformisation and going through a global phase of being chronically online during the pandemic really changed the way in which we perceive, show and understand ourselves and others. We are interested in these new ways identity functions, how they might relate to the past and how they hint at the future. Émonie Fay Chetwin shares. 

Such urgent and relatable reflections are exactly what we all need right now. In this context, the long-term goals of Zeal Studio are organic and clear: making art production ethical and accessible. We envision our operations in forging and hosting discourse, simply curating shows, and providing long residency programs as we recently did. Our big dream is to physically inhabit a long-term studio with access to a wide range of media workshops and infrastructures. Slowing down, taking time, and creating space—physically and conceptually—for art to emerge and raise topical questions. Again, this is exactly what we all need right now.

You are always at the beginning & always at the end is a fun and complex exhibition where you can encounter a toy car accident, provocative online language, and philosophical takes in disguise of game booths. Everything appears highly referential and challenging, yet very clear and accessible. Chetwin describes how the artists-in-residence worked on the project, highlighting how most of the artists chose to either engage with a very self-referential identity interrogation, or they decided to investigate very specific identities, as in popular character profiles that emerged out of the post-digital landscape.

Take your chance to dive into this little parallel universe at Council+ in Berlin. The exhibition is open till April 20, 2024. 

(Media courtesy of the artists)
On Key

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