Currently reading : An interview with curator Elise Lammer

An interview with curator Elise Lammer

29 October 2013

Author : reba

Elise Lammer is a Swiss curator who has lived and studied in Barcelona, Lausanne and London and is currently based in Berlin. Last summer, she hosted a residency programme in her home country named Kunsthalle Roveredo.

What Elise has created is hard to categorise; rather than choosing physical objects and placing them in the setting of a gallery she has selected artists with whom she had previously worked, and invited them to spend time together at her parent’s home in the Southern part of Switzerland. The artists she chose came from the three places she’s worked and lived; Switzerland, London and Berlin, and were all brought together with the knowledge that the creation of work during their stay was not necessary. What’s more, the idea was to provide a space to think rather than a space to produce.

The choice to house her guests in her parents’ home is interesting, as it follows a long-term tradition to welcome artists and intellectuals to retreat in the house. Was this residency a replication of the Lammer family memories or her very own way to invigorate intellectual and artists discussion?

How much of what Elise Lammer has curated falls into the categories of the deliberate? Was this event a PR tool? A holiday for the artists? A chance to network or a comment on the Swiss ‘art as lifestyle’ mentality? Some answers might be found in the follow-up exhibition that opens tomorrow in Geneva, where all the residency guests will present works that have been physically or conceptually started during the programme.

We have interviewed Elise to find out more about her aims for this intriguing project, how it uncovered and how it will continue.


“Pink Dinner by Pauline Beaudemont and Elise Lammer”


Please tell us a little bit about yourself. First of all what and where did you study?

I studied Fine Art in Spain and did my Masters at Goldsmiths College in London, where I graduated from the Curating department last year.

Where do you currently reside, and why did you choose this place?

I moved to Berlin six months ago after spending some time in Vienna. I chose the city for its artistic scene and because it allows me to afford to be a freelancer.

What do you currently call yourself, as a professional title?

Curator, artist, writer?

What does it entail or mean to you?

That’s a good question. To me, being a curator is not very different from being an artist, it’s one form of expression among many. I’m having a hard time with the multiplication of curatorial studies claiming to train people to be ‘professional curators’. It’s important to be professional, full stop. I don’t like the authority such professionalisation entails… But I shouldn’t bite the hand that fed me in the first place…

Do you have current regular occupations or projects besides the Kunsthalle Roveredo?

My next gig is “Post Digital Cultures”, a 3-day symposium in Lausanne early December. It will explore the relationship between contemporary art and new technologies, from a sociological and philosophical point of view. The list of guest speakers is mind-blowing and I can’t wait to hang out with such great minds! Besides that, I have been selected as a fellow researcher by Fieldwork Marfa in Texas in 2014.

How did Kunsthalle Roveredo come about””why is it relevant on a personal and more general level?

The location of the residency is really important. It’s where my parents live and have been hosting writers, artists and art lovers for the past 15 years. Although the house is in a very remote part of Switzerland, in Graubünden, in the Southern part of the country, it feels like a hub for the arts and one can feel the invisible evidence left by the many great minds who stopped by. I also realised how important it was to provide a retreat to the artists I selected, where they can take some distance from the art market and the social pressure that goes with it, while slowing down their online activity.

Could you tell us about your upbringing in Graubünden? How much has it influenced your work? Did you ever see yourself using that space in the future?

I grew up in Lausanne and my parents moved to Graubünden when I was about 18, therefore I never considered it my home. There is something really special about this place, it’s hard to describe what, but I always felt protected and used it as a conceptual shelter when I needed to write and think. Kunsthalle Roveredo has always been intended to be a long-term project and will take place on a yearly basis.

What were your parents’ reaction to your project?

I think they are really pleased. For them, it makes sense to keep using and sharing the house with like-minded people – art lovers and aesthetes.

Who are the people you invited, why did you chose them?

The 2013 residents were Pauline Beaudemont, Jan Kiefer, Benjamin Orlow, Maria do Carmo Pontes, Chan-Young Ramert, Emanuel Röhss and Max Ruf. Since my intention was from the beginning to turn this residency into a sustainable and meaningful project, for its first edition I wanted to make sure the space, rhythm and concept were working. I didn’t want to test such key features on strangers and therefore decided to invite curators and artists I already knew. What’s more, most of the residents had shown great interest for the project when it was only an idea, which was the most important selection criteria to me. However, I’m considering the possibility of doing an open call next year.

Did you go there with a specific script? What had been pre-defined and what did you leave up to chance?

I didn’t want to impose anything in terms of artistic production. The idea was to gather a group of great artists and curators, whose practice I deeply admire with the goal to generate discussions and friendships. I also assigned each resident to cook for everyone else during one day and that brought some interesting situations. Everything happened very organically.

How often were the artists left to their own schedule?

All the time, there was no imposed schedule at all.

Did any of the artists already know each other before arriving at Graubünden?

Some of them did, but most didn’t.

Can you describe the chronological development and noteworthy events of the workshop part?

One of the highlights was a day trip we did to visit Lake&Only, a project space located in a cabin in the mountains nearby. It’s run by Raphael Linsi, who’s been organising great exhibitions for the last two years. It was comforting to see that such a great project could exist in a very remote place. The last day of the residency coincided with the Swiss national day and we organised an Open House event, for which a few guests managed to reach the house after a small hike. We had a great party with sausages and fireworks.

And the result?

I had great feedbacks from all the residents who told me that such a retreat was needed in the stressful context of the cities where they were based at the time. In concrete terms, the results of the programme will be presented at Galerie M J in Geneva during the month of November. Besides the exhibition, we are launching a publication of fictional tales about Kunsthalle Roveredo, for which we collaborated with Edition Taube.

More information on the residency programme is available at and

The exhibition will open on 31 October at MJ Gallery in Geneva,
1st – 28 novembre.

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