Taking its title from the song by British industrial band Throbbing Gristle about the heinous Moors murders committed in 1960s Manchester by the now infamous Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, the group exhibition Very Friendly at House Berlin spoke of violence turned into an environment, an everyday landscape of somatic discomfort and confinement, filled with a sense of volatility, unease and alienation. The record of the exhibition hidden in a wicked house in the last ruins of Berlin Mitte; weapons as non-obvious symbols, war waistcoats, lurid characters whispering around a table. Sometimes, disturbance is necessary to reflect.
Its context was no coincidence. The show, which brought together seventeen impactful, multi-disciplinary works by artists such as Romeo Castellucci, Anne Imhof, Angélique Aubrit and Ludovic Beillard, was located in the monumental House, an unrenovated Wilhelmine building complex with a former shooting range curiously situated in the heart of Berlin. Hidden and exposed. Majestic and decadent. Enclosing those contradictions that can generate morbidity, discomfort, attraction. 
House is conceived and developed by Juliet Kothe and Georgina Pope who, as artistic directors, define House as a transcendent place, embedded in the past and at the same time facing a new future. House embraces the romanticism of decay and examines tumultuous histories. In 1930, the format of the hall was adapted to its function as an entertainment spot promoted under the slogan ‘Berlin schießt!’ The venue also includes the former King Size bar, a derelict courtyard and a reception hall. As part of House, these spaces are integrated into the exhibition concepts, and Hall and Courtyard are used to host talks, musical interventions and other forms of gatherings.
Angélique Aubrit & Ludovic Beillard - Avec inquiétude mais aussi avec espoir, 2021 - Courtesy of the artists and Galerie Valeria Cetraro, Paris
House celebrates Berlin as a place of escapist realities that oscillate between absurdity, freedom, dismay and desire. It remixes something simultaneously historical and contemporary, exploring the rowdy sense of being caught between the disasters and hopes of the now. It makes sense now that this was the perfect framework for Very Friendly. The show was curated by Agnes Gryczkowska, with whom Juliet and Georgina had already worked before. Very Friendly opened on October 13th and closed on the same day of January 2024. It traced the moments before and after the violence, the invisibility of systemic cruelty and the orchestration and management of fear. 
Political and personal uncertainty, along with the ambivalence of one’s own security, seeped through cracks in the floor and broken windows. They implanted themselves in the scratches on the walls, moving silently and stealthily, giving rise to a psychological state close to madness. The spectator was able to absorb this discomfort, perceiving a bearable disturbance that unsettles but calls for reflection. Like the song, the exhibition was configured as a powerful exploration and questioned the dark and obsessive sides of the human condition, which contrasts effectively with the seemingly benign title and descriptions of ordinary everyday activities. The song moves away from the need to sanitise or colour evil in favour of relentlessly confronting it.
I visited House twice. On my second time, Georgina and Juliet welcomed and escorted me on a tour, giving me details of the stories behind each work and relating the meaning of Very Friendly as a whole. This apparent romanticisation or fetishisation of the aesthetics of decay is actually an alternative communication to aggression and impactful headlines. Today, art is fundamental to serve beyond the purely stylistic. It is time to reflect on the times we live in, not at all easy and totally unpredictable; on the utopias that we once had and that have now disappeared.
Darja Bajagic Ex Axes, 2023 - Courtesy of the artist and Tara Downs, New York - I Know It’s Sick But It’s So Much Fun, 2016 - Courtesy of the artist; Carlos/Ishikawa, London and New Galerie, Paris
If we take into account our previous context as a society in which ‘progress’ – be it technological, human, ecological – gave us expectations for a better and less violent world, and compare it to the current events, we seem to fail. I sometimes believe that we could be facing a cyclical illusion and that the world has always been hostile; it may be part of human nature. That’s why I wanted to examine the concept of hope together with the directors. And here’s what they had to say.
Georgina Pope: Hope can be a very beautiful thing and it is necessary. It’s a tool for comfort in challenging times. But, of course, a loss of hope is also a reality, especially when complexities and hardship persist and persist. Reality is what ultimately persists, and all you can do is be realistic and then adjust. Progress breakthroughs in technology, politics or the environment largely don’t last long before ethical, health, financial or social problems arise. So yes, everything is a cycle. 
So many global shapeshifters are characterised by disaster or illusion (natural and/or human-inflicted) – dinosaur extinction, Pompeii, the plague, flight travel, landing on the Moon, extreme weather, the internet, covid, war –, and we keep breeding the same results. It’s a ping-pong of progress and regress. Even without putting things down to a particular system – communism, capitalism, patriarchy –, things become destroyed or impossible because Mother Nature is ultimately over human nature, and we shouldn’t forget this in our (mis)treatment of the earth. Systems of today are very much to blame for hostility, but for a motivation of hope and action, I love to quote from V for Vendetta: “People should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people.”
Davide Allieri ZONA, 2022 - Fiberglass - Courtesy Davide Allieri Studio
Juliet Kothe: I would suggest a different term than hope in regard that we speak out of an art field perspective: Utopia. The utopian concept has always been part of artistic processes or visions. A utopia stands in a positive sense for a possible desired ideal, a new social order or a worldview that unfolds in a specific place in the future. The utopian idea is linked to progress and humanism. The idea of utopia was envisioned by artists, especially in the 19th century, but also for philosophers, sociologists and economists. In the present, I see the utopian concept exchanged for the concept of escapism: a conscious turn against certain configurations of reality. This escape from reality manifests itself in the fact that the ideal state is only achieved for oneself and thus represents the failure of belief in a positive development of the social order.

Today, people who leave structures of power and violence behind them are more likely to say goodbye to normative society and live escapist lives. Structures need to be broken. Previous minority groups and women must be integrated into structures on an equal basis. For me, this is an opportunity to have a positive influence on this world. This is already happening in the art field: structures and participation are changing to the advantage of previously underrepresented people. The entire history of art is currently being rewritten. That gives me hope.
Mauro Ventura - LA LA LAND, 2023 Steel - Courtesy of the artist
Rosemarie Trockel - Less Sauvage Than Others, Contribution for a Children’s House, 2012 - Courtesy of the artist and Sprüth Magers, Berlin
Adam Alessi Boo!, 2020 - Courtesy Collection of Greg Carr
Romeo Castellucci - B. #03 Berlin – III Episodio della Tragedia Endogonidia - Video memory by Cristiano Carloni and Stefano Franceschetti, 2003 - Original Music by Scott Gibbons
Blackhaine - DID U COME YET/ I’M NOT GONNA CUM, 2021 - Concept – Richie Culver - Writer & Producer – Blackhaine, Micheal-Jon Mizra - Film – Blackhaine, William Markarian-Martin Camera – Patric Kuo, Joseph Reay-Reid (Bruxism) and Louis Ellis - Design – Chris Curran Participant is a record label and creative studio run by William Markarian-Martin and Richie Culver
Allen-Golder Carpenter - Stone Soldier 1, 2021 - Courtesy of the artist and No Gallery, New York
Jack Kennedy - A History of Arson, 2023 - Courtesy of the artist