Something gets lost in translation if you try to explain the term ‘Geist’, especially in English. Usually, it is understood as spirit, mind, soul or, by some more literal sources, ghost. The more sensitive interpreters, who feel that these translations are quite limiting, resort to employing the German lego method in grammar construction and combine the two words, "spirit-mind" to help convey a deeper meaning of the term. In Hegelian philosophy, Geist combines all humanity under one mind/spirit, steering away from the notion of men as separate individuals, but rather, under an absolute conception, all as one, in spirit. However, even Hegel, having spent pretty much most of his life trying to define this term, faced some difficulties. So, is it even worth trying to explain the essence of Geist, the whole point of which was based on being there? Probably not, but worth a try anyway.

To put it in context, Geist is a series of self-initiated exhibitions which bring together the non-conformist interests, ideas and aspirations of young Berlin artists who have not yet sold their souls to the system, and find the time, energy and drive to fulfill their exhibiting fantasies and ideologies outside market forces, choosing to display work in more unusual locations outside the commercial gallery space, for the duration of 24 hours. The third in the series, Geist III took place in an abandoned building, on the verge of being knocked down,in the middle of Mitte, across the road from the bougy collector’s lounge me , and the institutional KW. The risks were big from the start. Apart from being completely illegal; with the threat of possible arrest looming over pretty much all the time, the working conditions were far from ideal. Imagine, a building that is so beyond repair that there is no other solution but demolition. Yet, with all the limitations, uncertainties and threats, those involved did not surrender. Together they were strong, and their collective spirit kept them going.

24 hours prior to the opening, 45 artists distributed themselves among the 12 flats spread over 4 floors, working discreetly throughout the night, in very low light, sharing the limited electricity supply available. Some worked with the building, some on it, some against it. A variety of different media and materials were employed -- projections, light and sound installations, photography, painting, pigeons, old oil, hoovers, flour, but what what made it all the more exciting was the uncertainty principle of  the whole thin. What was art and what was not? How long is it going to stay here? Is it safe to go here? Nobody knew all the answers, but everybody took part.

The general adrenaline of the event infected all who came, and  they too became active participants in the fate of Geist. In the end, it was none of the artists or invited family and friends who brought the whole thing to a sudden finish, but some totally unrelated drunken idiot who decided to walk on the roof, and distress some neighbours. And just like that, it was over. One can only speculate what could have happened if this guy didn’t show up. Would the show go on for the intended 24 hours? Would the police ever come? Would anyone get arrested? Perhaps, the universe’s intervention was not so random, perhaps he was the martyr who walked the plank, treading on thin lines in the name of art. Who knows. The incompletion of the intended duration becomes irrelevant. What is more important is not the plan, but the progress and energy which fueled the project from the start, which cannot be touched, written, or photographed. Like any life, the life of Geist is unpredictable, with unexpected twists and turns along the way, but that is not to say that it is over. Far from it. 

Text: Anastasia Loginova Photography: Anastasia Loginova + Teresa Stark

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