Sunday, May 04, 2008

Art Space Talk: Andrea Loefke-- HomeBase III

Home Sweet Home (detail), Andrea Loefke installation-- HomeBase III. Photo by Douglas Romines.

Andrea Loefke is an accomplished German installation artist, who has shown extensively in NY and Germany, and is a Smack Melon resident. Andrea offered her time in order to discuss her installation, Home Sweet Home, which is on display at HomeBase III. Andrea has created a whole room based on the concept of food and cooking in a humoristic atmosphere that reminds one of a picnic scene. Andrea actually cooks at the project every Wednesday at 8 pm and throughout the weekends, simple homey foods – like oatmeal. While Andrea prepares food, visitors are allowed to explore the world that she has created in her space at HomeBase III-- as long as their shoes are off! You can learn more about Andrea by visiting her website--

The HomeBase Project, founded and directed by Anat Litwin, is a unique annual public art project devoted to the exploration of Home. The HomeBase Project is currently celebrating its third year (April 27 - May 18). HomeBase III has landed in a historical landmark townhouse in Sugar Hill, Harlem. This years project includes a group of international artists from Lebanon, USA, Germany, Israel, Switzerland, Iran, as well as local Harlem Artists who have inhabited the space to explore and create in it site-specific projects addressing the notion of Home. Visit for further information about the HomeBase Project.

Home Sweet Home (detail), Andrea Loefke installation-- HomeBase III. Photo by Adi Shniderman.

Brian Sherwin: Andrea, you are one of the artists involved with the HomeBase Project... HomeBase III to be exact. Can you tell us about your space at HomeBase III and the experience you have had with the project so far? Also, why did you decided to be involved with the project?

Andrea Loefke: I have a smaller size room on the second floor located towards the back... the garden. It is a quite room with a beautiful old fireplace. A little oddly shaped with a diagonal wall, making my space even more friendly since it is zoned off from the entrance door and creates privacy.

My piece at HomeBase III is entirely in red and white and I utilized the floor for the creation of the space. The area has an airspace of about 20" above ground, not more. The complete floor is covered with carpet padding and a red/white check patterned picnic tablecloth, the one we all recognize immediately. It is the fabric we all know from our mothers or grandmothers kitchen table or picnics we have had when we were children. It is rich in these associations and suggests a nostalgic, homelike, and guarded atmosphere. It builds comfort and generates personal memories. A cliche with intensity, excessive and meticulous.

I created a kind of playground. No shoes allowed! The world inside invites us to tinker, to make, to eat, to socialize and to relax. At certain times I am cooking on my two hot plates on the floor. Everything is in red and white. During the opening day I made oatmeal with milk and strawberries topped with a few drops of raspberry syrup and flakes of coconut. The room was crowded with visitors, enjoying the food, making drawings, shaping plasticine or watering the plants and flowers.

Home Sweet Home (detail), Andrea Loefke installation-- HomeBase III. Photo by Adi Shniderman.

My strawberries and tomatoes are growing in window boxes behind a little tea station. The fireplace has paper flames and cotton smoke clouds. Marshmallows on red sticks are positioned by the wall-- appearing as if they are ready to be roasted. There are bowls of candy and flowers in red pots floating just above ground. Scribblings and pined up drawings can be discovered on the wall. It is a creative place. A place that appears cozy, yet expresses some insinuations of discomfort... as if things are slightly out of control!?

For example, there is a tinkered white foam-core house that has no roof. The view inside reveals an aggressive red and glossy surface that nearly spills out over its walls. The paper flames and puffy clouds are escaping into the room. All details are without exception within the color scheme and even the red and white checker pattern has been meticulously cut out and made to wooden blocks stacked and collected in containers. Everything is unreasonable and overly excessive, doesn't our home often exhibit the true sides of oneself?

HomeBase has been a very challenging and new experience for me. When Anat Litwin approached me I was intrigued by the concept of working on site and with the clear intent to interact as a group and with the place. I usually work by myself and rarely have discourse with others during this process. Things happen quietly in my studio. At Homebase I was inspired by the group, the talks, the meetings, the place, the neighborhood. It was a wonderful opportunity to explore a new working practice.

In addition we had an immense time constriction. Three weeks went by and there was still construction going on in the building. One had to act quickly and smartly. As a matter of fact, my idea to cook and set up these "tinkering stations" came through the fear of not being able to create a complete and finished piece! I decided that I would need to have a continuous process... a piece that will grow over time, even over the course of the exhibition. From there I went and the idea formed toward my "Home Sweet Home" Installation.

Home Sweet Home (detail), Andrea Loefke installation-- HomeBase III. Photo by Douglas Romines.

BS: What do you like about the community aspect of the HomeBase Project?

AL: The community aspect of HomeBase goes beyond the community of artists in the space. For me it was very interesting to work in a different neighborhood-- Harlem is a place I hadn't‚t been able to truly visit before. The next door neighbors, the kids on the street, the Jazz Club across the street... there were clashes and concurrences-- experiences all around. We were all clearly challenged in the role as both visitor and intruder. We had wonderful moments of connection and other moments of misunderstanding.

BS: You were born in Germany... did the transition between living in Germany and moving to the United States impact your work and process? Artists that I've interviewed before have mentioned that they felt a sense of isolation reflected in their work due to the clash of culture that they had experienced... did you experience that as well? Is that reflected in the work that you have created for HomeBase III?

AL: No, I have not experienced isolation and it doesn't‚t reflect in my work. I have always felt very welcome in the United States. I embrace the difference in culture, especially the difference in material culture. When I came to America I was fascinated by the 99 cent stores, the cheapness, the kitsch, the artificial colors, the slick and tacky surfaces. My work has changed vehemently since I arrived and day-by-day I am joyfully diving into the tactility of America's mass-produced knick-knack.

My piece at HomeBase might have a little sentiment... the red and white, like my parents kitchen, the strawberries, the cooking, the smell of food. My mother and I both love strawberries and at home we always had an enormous bowl of strawberries with whip cream. I also associate home very much with my mothers cooking. I love to sit in the kitchen at home and have mother prepare a nice dinner for the whole family. Yes, this is my personal felicitousness.

Home Sweet Home (detail), Andrea Loefke installation-- HomeBase III. Photo by Douglas Romines.

BS: Your installations occupy a space between familiarity and fantasy. In your work... you are interested in the journey of discovery and offering pathways for viewers to explore their own reflections and interpretations upon viewing your installations. Can you go into detail about the thoughts behind your work and how you have carried those thoughts into your space at HomeBase III?

AL: In HomeBase III the pathways are even more open than ever. I provided a place full of possibilities, a framework that allows personal experience, a personal narrative-- the viewer and visitor can be creative in his or her own terms quite literally. I am interested in creating a place that has the capacity to crack open a well of associations and allow the viewer to feel, to dream, to fantasize, be irrational, subjective and intuitive.

During the process of viewing, specific or vague personal memories are awakened. The participant is asked to weave his or her own story and sensations, to believe and to wonder. Certain materials, objects, colors and smells (of food and cooking) might trigger these reactions. The actual doing and creating in Home Sweet Home might heighten the experience. After-all, the installation fuses the real and the imagined. It is my hope that it generates an atmosphere of creativity.
Home Sweet Home (detail), Andrea Loefke installation-- HomeBase III. Photo by Adi Shniderman.

BS: Finally, as I know you are rushed for time, is there anything else you would like to say about you work at HomeBase III or about the HomeBase Project in general?

AL: I wish I could take part in the HomeBase Project again but with more time to fully apprehend the potentials of such a project-- the idea of completely experiencing a place and space and its people.

As for the cooking and my "play area": I feel that the work and its visitors have been a gift to me. I have never experienced such true participation. Last Sunday was an unforgettable, and indeed extraordinary, day for me. Home Sweet Home had a magical atmosphere-- a candid and yet "artless" involvement. Thanks to everyone who visited.
You can learn more about Andrea Loefke by visiting her website-- You can learn more about the HomeBase Project and HomeBase III by visiting the following site-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

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