I built a drill press this morning. Although new, it wore a sheen of slick oil atop its red coat of paint, making the machine reminiscent of a 1950s Cadillac. I liked Legos longer than I should have as a child, not for play but for building; I would continue to assemble my younger sister’s sets once I had outgrown the dolls. Putting together the drill made me feel like that version of myself, buzzing off solving something unnecessarily complex. I hadn’t thought I would be learning to construct mechanical tools during my summer internship, nor that I would be drilling, or that I would be designing mock-up covers for a record or sewing sweatshirts or braiding ethernet cable. But seven weeks into being a studio assistant to the Berlin-based conceptual artist Evan Roth, I have completed such tasks, as with many others, all while absorbing the realities of a full-time artist’s lifestyle.
Though the individual days these past two months have bled into each other, they can be roughly categorized by their weeks, the majority of my time revolving around a new topic every four to six shifts. The location of our meetings has subsequently corresponded to these subjects, shifting between the upper and lower ends of Prenzlauer Berg, Roth’s studio and apartment sandwiching the Berlin neighborhood made fun of by locals for its population of Gen X “creatives” with kids, a metric the artist falls directly (and proudly) into.
The first month was spent predominately at the studio. It’s located on the sixth floor of a decaying East Berlin building that smells of sour acrylic paint from the growing collection of ateliers contained within the 8 stories. Roth’s room is as big as it needs to be, and he’s covered the walls with paintings and glass prints of photographs from his past and current collections. The entire floor is fastened with the leftover wallpaper from his site-specific piece Since You Were Born, a collection of the hundreds of images captured from his search history over the four months since his second daughter was born. I spent the first few weeks there helping Roth set up his online shop, researching various hosts, packaging, and product info. One of these products was the upcoming record Roth plans to produce; a mixtape of beats and rap verses the artist has been making from home since the pandemic. I drafted mock-ups for potential cover artwork and researched the top record distributors in Europe. Back home, I have a radio show at my college’s station and am stepping into the ‘Web Master’ position on our E-Board, where I will help to coordinate students’ music journalism aspirations. Getting to be involved with Roth’s music offered a unique opportunity for me to explore how my non-musical skills can be utilized in record production.
After Roth felt satisfied with the work we had put into the set-up of the online shop, we shifted our meetings to his home, a first-floor apartment with a rare-for-Berlin backyard, and a pig for a neighbor. Roth’s next show is a solo exhibition in Northern Italy and will display a variety of his works, including his recent series Bent Networks.
In Bent Networks, Roth sets up blocks of sleek marble with an ethernet cable that he braids or weaves across the surface, acting as a functional cable connected to the venue’s network that visitors can plug their phones into to access the internet. He gives the visitor a moment of agency within larger, more complex internet networks whose comprehension remains inaccessible to the common public. For his upcoming show, Roth wants to expand this series. So, my job for the second half of my internship was aiding in the testing and prototyping of these sculptures. I spent days researching knots and cross stitches, drilling holes in wooden boards and weaving ethernet cable, the gentle squealing of the neighbor’s urban pig and Roth’s independent black cat Sam keeping me company in the backyard. It was fascinating to witness how much trial and error goes into artistic practice, and how much intention and patience is required for an exhibition.
My internship experience required presence from me, a sort of concentration that differs from the brain exertion I am used to at school. The work I did with Roth was more experiential, laboring with my hands as much as my intellect. I learned from him the everyday requirements of a full-time artist’s life, how so much of it consists of experimentation and teaching oneself the rules of logical business despite your creative tendencies. I leave Berlin with wider comprehension of the workload that comes with following your artistic passions, and also with an understanding of its payoff. That, and a new apprehension to pigs as pets.
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I am Multimedia Journalism student at Skidmore College. In my free time, I make a lot of art and go on as many adventures as I can with my friends!