Like with the very majority of other major cities, Berlin as well is defined - at least from the outside - by a few central districts. It’s just the easiest way to get around, especially for relocaters, who seemingly couldn’t care less about the big picture... which feels incredibly weird, come to think about it. Locals most likely beg to differ for obvious reasons, they know at least the greater number of areas by name, as they often love to drop names of either the highly sophisticated or wannabe-problem boroughs in random conversations for dramatic effect. And then there’s Rudow, a district on the outskirts of Berlin that simply doesn’t seem to exist in the public conscious of natives and newcomers alike, which nevertheless plays host to an almost magical balance of idyllic family homes and rather blunt projects.
It’s suburbia sans white picket fences people most likely only know by passing through on their way to Schönefeld airport where they jump on their trusted flight discounter in order to leave everyday life behind for at least a weekend. It’s neither dull nor screwed up. It just is. And Berlin-based artist Conny Maier is a proud native of this particular district.
“Rudow does generate a specific type of Berliner“, she tells Lodown, “you notice this more and more with the amount of time you spend in the area... but I guess the same can be said for some other suburbs of West Berlin. I always planned to leave that ugly but idyllic island in Berlin’s south - having said that, paradoxically I do love Rudow and I am proud to have grown up there. When the time came, It was quite an effort to leave that area and move to the “city”, or in my case: to go to school which was located deep in the heart of Berlin-Wilmersdorf. It was totally clear to me as an eleven year old kid that my future would not be in Rudow. During endless time traveling on the U7, to and from school, I had enough time to read and “escape“ through daydreaming. Which then was the catalyst of my creative escape, so to speak. People from Rudow - and I count myself as such - are working class heroes. We’re a bit rough but very loyal. My creative output though is informed by my surroundings, and by the things I observe, which goes far beyond the streets of Berlin. I read a lot about cultural changes and find Berlin to be a little magnifying glass to check what’s happened in the world outside - but with less danger and less consequences.“
Conny Maier might have come to the public eye as a solo artist just recently, but in actuality she’s been around the block for ages, a modest and unagitated yet central part of Berlin’s emerging pop culture explosion that delivers visual greatness far beyond her LookyLooky home port - connected by a great sense of integrity and community. Having recently left the doodle-aesthetics - but not necessarily the snappy slogans - of the LookyLooky-universe behind, her first international solo show “Coke First“ (which was on display in Berlin and Los Angeles) surprised the audience with large scale oil paintings that confidently married the rather abstract with the absurd.
“The connection is an observation of contrasting prosperity versus the fear of social descendence. I deliberately chose the medium of painting, because it’s the strongest contrast to our today’s Schnellebigkeit and the depreciation of objects that goes along with that. The painting has become a luxury item, by the time it took to create. At the same time it is an accuser of the ruling systems. It stands therefore in conflict with itself. Large paintings are not easy to sell. It turns more into a statement to relieve the decorative aspect. The big screens are important to show and to exaggerate. Fortunately Jörg Haas was starting to establish his gallery Beinghunted./net.work, and we did the first painting exhibition - which turned out to be a great experience for me. It was a rather natural development, and I got lots of confidence from the feedback we got around LookyLooky. Because I have always drawn, it made sense to push my work in another direction which is separate from the brand, and where I can show my own personal thoughts. And since you’ve just asked about the brand: we neither quit nor are we on temporary hiatus - we are simply not doing the tradeshow rhythms anymore, because it’s an old form of retail and it doesn’t fit with our philosophy. We’re taking the freedom to produce more limited collections throughout the year... and we are not selling in Germany anymore, except via our online store and at selected shops in Japan. Being the only relevant streetwear brand founded by women in Germany, it fits more to our idea of what we want to be. The whole thing grew naturally from friendship to a brand, and therefore it is important to keep it special. Going a different way than the norm is something that's very important to us. Usually Germany is quite conservative with their orders and it can be very disappointing to repeatedly produce the same pieces. I guess, what I’m tying to say is that we’re not quitting, but rather transforming.“
The act of transformation sure is something Maier is very proficient in. At this very moment she’s working on new paintings for an exhibition that’s supposed to see the light of day this forthcoming winter while putting the finishing touches on LookyLooky’s forthcoming apparel edition. This particular collection will incorporate imagery from another pet project of hers which she finished earlier this year: “I’m in love with the LOLO“ - a risography zine reflecting on the life and death of Ève Geneviève Aline Vallois aka famed pornstar Lolo Ferrari, a tragic story rich on black despair that shows life in all its incredible weirdness.
“In my teenage years I was obsessed with the identity of Lolo Ferrari“, Maier explains, “she was a great prototype of someone who really wanted to become famous. To attract attention, we find nowadays very similar behavior in social media. Back then I read every single article I could get about her. It was pure fascination for a person who wanted fame so badly, that she would have done anything to reach that goal. Lolo Ferrari is the exaggerated cliché of a busty star in the late 90s. Porn, plastic surgery, a mouth complex and pill addiction was paired with a small ego, which got all pimped up and pushed by her husband and former junk dealer Eric Vigne. The zine questions the bizarreness of fame, by focussing and mixing faces, situation and boobs that are bigger than anything we know. Besides that I want this zine to be a humble memory of the girl Ève Valois - who questioned her beauty to such an extent that she became Lolo Ferrari. The Zine is risography print on paper, 33 pages questioning with collages and virtual drawings of the life and death of Lolo Ferrari. I chose that nostalgic way of printing because it is the opposite to the fast-moving way pictures and phenomenons are dealt with these days.“
Like the majority of us, Conny Maier might dream about getting old somewhere by the seaside - until then there’s enough unfinished business for her to take care of in the city. And if we’re lucky it’ll take her a bit longer than expected to fully achieve her goals while her name will be slowly but steadily engraved in Berlin’s pop cultural conscious. Or Rudow’s, to be precise.