Limbo Space : creating contexts for Geneva’s emerging art scene

In our first three issues, SuperGlue Collective spoke to emerging artists to learn more about their groundbreaking practices and to highlight the richness of their art. For this cycle of interviews, SuperGlue talks to the people who exhibit the work. During the month of May, we set out to discover different independent art spaces based in Geneva, London and Seoul. Despite different histories, programs, locations, and aspirations, you’ll discover how these structures share a similar approach to offering alternatives to the institutional art system. First Stop: Geneva.

Superglue spoke with the artist-led collective Limbo, who produced the exhibition Actonautes on view from the 21st to the 23rd of May. The show featured five artists whose respective works materialize an inescapable bond between performance and film. Limbo is formed of Deniz Behzad Gül, Pablo Rezzonico Bongcam, Sophie Conus, Alix Debraine and Apolline Deyhle, who have been putting on events and exhibitions in a former car body shop on Avenue de Rosemont since January 2020. In the following interview, they talk with us about their ethos, what it looks like to run an independent art space in Geneva, and their current and future projects.

Limbo team from top left : Deniz Behzad Gül, Pablo Rezzonico Bongcam, Sophie Conus, Appoline Deyhle, and Alix Debraine. ©Limbo

Let’s start at the beginning, what is the genesis of your project? What motivated you to launch Limbo?

When we started the project, we all wanted to give a part of our time to the scene in which we evolve as artists. We liked the idea that there was a space, a place, a part of our time that we dedicate to others. And it’s because there are people who do this that there are exhibitions. Likewise, when we exhibit somewhere, it is because there is someone behind it who has done what we do in Limbo. If we want this exchange system to work, we have to do it. It’s important that people realize what it’s like on the other side. And it’s very liberating to have the possibility to choose what we show, how we show it, and not to be consumers of art all the time. Instead, we are in a dynamic where we commit ourselves to participate in producing it in the broadest sense, up to the exhibition. Also, the development is huge when you’re in a group where all of you are extremely motivated, and extremely out there. Then automatically you grow with one and another.

What is your general underlying discourse through the different exhibitions?

We have imposed lines due to the fact that we don’t have much money, which limits and enriches a certain number of things we do. We have never been in a perspective of being curators of the space. We all have our own artistic practice in parallel, but our work at Limbo consists more in inventing situations. For example, we did an exhibition where we put up a wall and invited painters to paint live on it. We create contexts to bring people together, we take the time, we cook for them, we exchange. As for the exhibitions, we often choose young artists, who are beginning their practice, and we exhibit works that interest us particularly.

The space in which you organize your exhibitions really has a special atmosphere, can you tell us more about it?

The space was originally a car body shop and is located in a building called R14. The owner of the space has a long-term project to turn it into a cultural place where several  projects coexist. In addition to Limbo, R14 houses a music school, a production studio, and a polyvalent room. We have a trust agreement with her, which allows us to have another economy because we don’t have any fixed charges. This allows us to invent other ways of functioning and to avoid being dependent on private foundations. This kind of place enables us to be as active as possible with the few sources of money that we have.

As an artistic-led organisation, how do your respective practices come into play? Also, does this have an impact on the way you all collaborate with each other?

In our respective practice, we are so determined and precise. In our work within the collective, we try to do the opposite, we try to be diverse, open, and including. And of course, because our artistic practices are such big parts of ourselves, we always carry it with us, in the way we see art as well.

There is no hierarchy in the collective, we all have different skills and backgrounds. Some of the members have a strong link to the activist world, so we are used to working in a collaborative way. Sophie and Pablo are in other collectives, Deniz ran an art centre in Copenhagen before, Apolline was president of the union at the university. We live in collective houses. So we have never really asked ourselves questions about this, we are really self-managed, and we take things one day at a time. We try to see each other often, and build something collective, to put Limbo before the individual. We try to meet one another in the collective, which is also the most interesting way.

We divide the roles according to our different qualities in relation to our respective practice. Our personal practices give us some tools, but to try to use those tools in a different context, and try to add up all those different skills, is really the gift of the collective. And that’s how we supplement one another. It’s marvellous that we are such a small collective, and we can go through with it, we can establish an artistic context to artists who originate from different countries, and I think that’s nice that we can do this without being an institution as such.

From the 21st to the 23rd of May, you showed the exhibition Actonauts which attracted many visitors. What was the underlying thread of this exhibition ?

Actonautes was meant to be a starting exhibition for the three new members of Limbo [Alix, Apolline, and Deniz]. The main idea, was to bring us together to gain the experience, and go through the whole process before we start the more traditional Limbo exhibitions. Regarding the topic, and our thinking in relation to Actonautes, we wanted to make an exhibition based on performances that are represented through videos. We looked for artists that have a practice that makes sense in that way. Whereas not just a performance that actually can stand by itself as a performance, but where the video dimension is essential for the work. In that search, we actually found quit a few different artists, such as Eliza that is working with this virtual world, where she walks around in these different virtual spaces and communicates with other persons. From that to Heikki Kaski, who is making a performance in a small white cube with a motorcycle, which is making burnout. Due to the size of the space and logistical aspects, this performance wouldn’t allow audiences for example to experience it live. The exhibition is very much a selection of artists that really much make sense. It’s also the reason why we called the exhibition Actonautes, which are the discoverers of the acting gesture.

Do the five artists (Nora Smith, Jenny Johansson, Heikki Kaski, Marlène Charpentier and Elisa Gleize) you are showing for Actonautes have a common background? Are they all emerging artists?

Of the artists that we showed in Actonautes, they are still in the field of emerging artists, but there is still quite a lot of diversity in that regards, which is important for us as well. Some of them have finished part of their artistic education and some of them are still in art school. The artists originate from four different countries: Nora Smith and Elisa Gleize are Swiss, Marlène Charpentier is French, Jenny Johansson is Sweedish, and Heikki Kaski is Finnish. In the space of emerging arts in Geneva, there lacks the international depth it could have accordingly to the profile of the city. So we were really aware of trying to add to that. As some members of Limbo are from different places than Geneva, we have different artistic circles. Different art circles in general have different aesthetics and language, there is kind of an epoch of influencers, and then that effects the practices of a particular place. To have a room with both Scandinavian and Swiss/French is quite interesting. Further down the line, it’s going to be interesting to see, now that we exhibited two Scandinavian works here, if that’s going to have an effect or not. It’s not something that we are trying proactively to do, but it’s just like a kind of privilege that people are in a position to experience something other of high quality from another art circle. That’s nice, to be a space that can also communicate that out.

Finally, where can we expect to see Limbo next?

We are currently working on an exhibition that will take place in Porteous* this summer from 26 June to 11 July 2021. We want to present a project in the open air based on an open call, which will allow us to make new encounters. The idea is also to bring together two scenes from Geneva, the activist world and the contemporary art world, and to organise an exciting programme in this particular place. And after that, we’ll see!

* Porteous is a building in Vernier that used to house a sewage treatment plant in the 1960s and has been abandoned since the 2000s. In August 2018, the movement Prenons La Ville occupied the space to oppose the project of the Department of Security then headed by Pierre Maudet, who wanted to turn it into a prison centre, while the Department of Culture claimed the site to develop activities there. The occupation of several months proved to be effective as the Geneva State Council announced that the prison project would be abandoned and that it was committed to building cultural projects on the site over the next 10 years. With the arrival of Covid, the fact that they were no longer in the building, not knowing when the construction of the cultural centre would start, it was quite difficult to stay in a state of flux for the occupation collective, and this is why they were looking for people who would be interested in setting up projects.

Follow all of Limbo’s latest activities on their instagram account


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