In the Laboratory of Form-Ideas Savvy Contemporary
Tucked into a side street in northern Berlin’s northern Wedding district, Savvy Contemporary has been one of Berlin’s most visible contemporary art project spaces for nearly a decade. Its programming goes beyond art to encompass symposia, neighbourhood outreach, and curatorial activity around the world. Its mission as a laboratory for form-ideas unites western and non-western thought. After all, art can be an expression of protest, but also an act of radical love and inclusion.
Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung
He is living proof that incremental, disparate thoughts and actions can add up to something much larger. His activities as a contemporary art curator, thinker, and agent of change always address a variations on the question: how can we connect dots, shift boundaries, and, most of all, define, expand and celebrate what our collective humanity is, was, and can be?
Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung is more familiar than most with the principles and practice of coexistence. As the first sweet autumn breezes blow through Berlin, the man is working hard on site at SAVVY Contemporary — an exhibition space for contemporary art (and many other things) that he founded in 2009, now in its third location in the German capital. Decisions are being made, artworks installed, discussions organised.
SAVVY is not a commercial gallery, although it certainly looks like one. According to the non-profit organisation’s new mission statement (a meaty read, available online), SAVVY is an art space, discursive platform, eating and drinking spot, njangi house, and space for conviviality. All true, although at the moment the first two functions seem to be most prevalent. The words on the SAVVY entrance banner — SAVVY: A Laboratory of Form-Ideas — bring things to the point even more succinctly.
SAVVY is indeed a laboratory, and ideas are what drive 41-year-old Ndikung — a biotechnologist by training, a sought-after contemporary art curator by practice. His work and his world transcend mere exhibition-making, and even location. Not only has he orchestrated SAVVY’s many participants and events for nearly nine years, but he was also the curator-at-large for the Documenta 14 in 2017, a mega-exhibition normally taking place in Kassel, Germany, but held that year there and, controversially, in Athens.
Ndikung has also become a high-profile intellectual in the international art world, appearing on panel discussions, dealing with policymakers and writing longform articles on topics like decolonialisation, public activation and the issues behind controversial projects like Berlin’s Humboldt Forum. Through it all, he remains passionate and outspoken but always open and accessible (not to mention, as writers like me always note, dressed to the nines in colourful suits, hats and accessories).