Two Bears and A Strawberry Tree.

A Photographic Dialogue between Berlin and Madrid (14.10. – 26.11.2023)

With works by Sergio Belinchón, Laura C. Vela, Émilie Delugeau, André Groth, Manuela Lorente, and FASE 11 x Alejandro Marote 

Duration: 10/14 – 11/26/2023

Opening hours: Sat + Sun 3 – 6pm

With the generous support of the Senatskanzlei Berlin.


Against the backdrop of this year’s 35th anniversary of the city partnership between Berlin and Madrid, AFF Gallery presents the multisensory group exhibition „Two Bears and A Strawberry Tree. A Photographic Dialogue between Berlin and Madrid.“ Three international pairs of Berlin- and Madrid-based photographers enter into an artistic dialogue. Together they illuminate personal and fictional stories of cultural clichés. They tell of searching for and finding identity and a home. But they also approach, through documentary and conceptual approaches, the transformation and formlessness of the big city – as landscape, historical setting and living space.

© André Groth
© Manuela Lorente

André Groth (Berlin) & Manuela Lorente (Madrid)

Driven by the desire to explore their own neighbourhood and take an unusual look at it, Manuela Lorente in Madrid and André Groth in Berlin each developed photographic narratives about places and people around them. Their visual languages are equally fresh and intense, but their respective approaches could not be more different.

Lorente photographs impulsively in all directions on the streets of the Spanish capital and with „Él pone la música, nosotros bailamos“ humorously imagines a fictional story about charismatic gangsters, criminal entanglements and robberies in her neighbourhood from her collected impressions and assembled images. Using flash, fragmentation, tilting and pop colour choices, the artist exaggerates the protagonists of her photographic short stories – whose flair is reminiscent of old gangster films.

Groth, on the other hand, approaches his Neukölln neighbourhood for his photo essay „At the End of Sonnenallee“ more slowly and with the question of what it was like to grow up here. While the High-Deck housing estate, built in the 1970s and 1980s as the epitome of contemporary living, was initially sought after as a place to live because of its quiet and green border location near the Berlin Wall, it developed into a social hotspot in the 1990s. Groth accompanies some of the boys growing up in the High-Deck-Siedlung with an immigrant family history. He asks about their wishes for the future and is interested in their challenges and perspectives. Between childlike curiosity and the pressure of social expectations, the boys find themselves in a particularly vulnerable phase of life at the beginning of their puberty. Groth portrays them atmospherically in warm light in their urban surroundings. By staging the young people beyond rehearsed poses, individually and quietly, he consciously deconstructs stereotypes and undermines social expectations.

The question of the personal and artistic handling of cultural and social clichés became the core of the joint dialogue between Manuela Lorente and André Groth. How much truth is there in clichés and how much fiction in a photo? In their collaboration, they dared to take the step of moving away from the original ideas of their respective works in favour of a new, joint sequence entitled „Barking Dogs Never Bite“ (2023), which, edited on the basis of formal and aesthetic points of contact, has the dramatisation and deconstruction of clichés as its theme.

© Laura C. Vela
© Émilie Delugeau

Émilie Delugeau (Berlin) & Laura C. Vela (Madrid)

Sometimes I feel I am a rootless plant that blows in the wind and is rooted wherever it falls.“

(Xirou Xiao, from the book of Laura C. Vela (2019): Como la casa mía, Madrid: Dalpine)

Home. What exactly is it? What does it look like, feel like, smell like? Is a home a place, a language, a landscape? When and how does something become a home? Is home where I am, or where I come from, where I was born? These questions connect the works „Como la casa mía“ (2019) by Madrid-based photobook artist Laura C. Vela and „Zuhause“ (2017‒2020) by Berlin-based photographer Émilie Delugeau.

„Como la casa mía“ tells of the encounter between Xirou Xiao and photographer Laura C. Vela, who both live in Madrid. The young women from different backgrounds are united by the same desire: to build a home and find a place in society. For three and a half years, C. Vela accompanied the protagonist, a Chinese immigrant trying to orient herself and find her way in the strange, often hostile new environment. What the scent of madeleine and tea is to Proust, mandarins and jasmine are to C. Vela and Xiao, evoking memories and creating intercultural connections.

Since Émilie Delugeau moved to a new apartment with her daughter Emma in the fall of 2017, she has often been asked why she, as a single mother, would not rather move back to her French homeland. The recurring question about her home became the starting point for her photo series of the same name. For three years, she photographed her immediate surroundings whenever she discovered something in them that felt like „home“ to her.

For the AFF Gallery, the two artists have created the joint sequence „And Angels Know the Rest“ from their works. With their narrative, which in its title refers to a quatrain written by the poet Emily Dickinson, they reflect on the spiritual search for home, not only in a real place, but also in their relationships with themselves and others. Marked by subtle humour, their installation references the strange and mysterious, leaving space for the unsaid. In response to FASE11 x Alejandro Marote and Sergio Belinchón’s monumental, wall-sized installation in the large exhibition space, C. Vela and Delugeau opted for a contemplative approach that aims to convey and experience intimacy through sight, smell and touch. Not only the creation of their respective works required closeness and in-betweenness; their perception in the small exhibition space also encourages visitors to get closer to themselves and others and to exchange ideas.

© Sergio Belinchón
© FASE 11 x Alejandro Marote

Sergio Belinchón (Berlin) & FASE 11 x Alejandro Marote (Madrid)

To the sum of the steps we all take together we have given a name, the name of the city.“

(A. Marote)

The city as a conglomerate of sand and stone, streets, buildings and districts – shaped and transformed by individual experiences, political decisions and historical events – forms the starting point for the artistic dialogue between Sergio Belinchón (Berlin) and Alejandro Marote (Madrid), who works in the collective FASE11. The artists are united by their preoccupation with the figure of the passer-by as well as the exploration of urban structures. These become musical elements that invite viewers to question their perception of the city.

For his documentary project „Provisional Atlas of Berlin“ (2020-2023), Belinchón explores Berlin’s socio-economic changes and their profound impact on the cityscape. Ultracapitalism determines the shape of the city and the lives of its inhabitants. Urban space is transforming and becoming standardized, losing its character and identity. Belinchón roams the city and creates topographical color photographs with which he makes visible what has disappeared and what is in the process of change. He focuses his attention on the ordinary, the sideshows and landscape in the background.

From an artistic laboratory situation, on the other hand, FASE11 & Alejandro Marote dissect the city in search of recurring signs and essential structures. The expansive and multimedia work „How many steps are a city?“ (2023) rhythms these findings. It is based on photographs of Marote’s „Project A“ and aims at interaction and immersive experiences of the exhibition visitors. Through his graphic images and objects, Marote explores both the self-induced dependence between man and his urban environment and the attempts to break free from this oppressive relationship by returning to nature.

Together Belinchón and Marote create a narrative with which they reflect on the transience of cities.