For Genefer Baxter, Berlin had always felt like home. With her mother growing up only five minutes from where she currently resides in Wedding, she frequently visited her grandparents in the city as a child. Even though she was raised in the United States, her upbringing was very German. She even jokes, “I was eating Nutella in my Ikea bed linens before any of my friends were!” After getting divorced, Genefer went on a journey of self-discovery. After traveling throughout Europe, she eventually settled here in Berlin. She was drawn here by love, but stayed for the art.
Where is your favorite place to visit in Berlin?
My favorite place in Berlin is Wedding. There are so many gems there that are still relatively unknown by tourists! I won’t give all of the secrets away, but I’ll give my favorite place to eat in Wedding: “Be-kech”. “Be-kech” is an anti-cafe, where you pay for your time, not your meal. They provide an all-you-can-eat buffet of delicious, home-cooked vegan food and drinks, for just 5 cents/hour—it’s vegan heaven!
What’s at the top of your Berlin bucket list?
At the top of my Berlin Bucket List: create a platform/system that helps the creatives of Berlin to realize their creative potentials. At my core, I believe that artists are grossly limiting themselves, for the sole reason that they have not taken the time to define their “why”, and then push that “why” in the same ways as a business does, to the point where they are earning real income from it. With my Marketing and Visual Arts background, I plan on coaching the creative community of Berlin on how to create authentically, and live from those creations.
If you could change one thing about Berlin what would it be?
I don’t think that I would change much about Berlin. Although there is always room for improvement, the city is incredibly free in its way of thinking compared to the US. Berlin is the one place where I feel as though I can be my authentic self. Many people complain that Germans are very direct and sometimes blunt. I, however, find saying exactly what you mean to be a great thing! This leaves little room for miscommunication, which I love. I am used to having to ‘read between the lines’ when conversing in the States, so communication for me here is refreshing.
Online however, communication is a different beast. If I had to choose one thing to change about Berlin, I guess it would be the incredibly pre-historic websites. Trying to do anything online here is a nightmare, especially if you do not know the language. I have missed many opportunities due to a sheer lack of willpower to figure out the German Interwebs.
What was your first job?
When I first arrived in Berlin, I spent up to six hours walking the city handing out business cards and looking for work. I tried cafes, book stores, bars, you name it. Unfortunately, it can be difficult finding work without first knowing the language. My first paid gig was my first art event here in Berlin. It was a Women’s Art Festival in Kreuzberg called ‘HERSpace Berlin’, a concept that I brought from the US. If you can’t find work with someone else, I say make your own! Most times, freelancing is the
best option – especially for a woman who is allergic to the ‘office lifestyle’ like myself.
What current projects are you working on?
I am currently working on two projects: ‘Arttheorie’ and ‘IMRSV Arts’. Arttheorie is my personal project, where I am developing an art-research method for creatives. I believe that art is a legitimate method for studying and understanding nature, just like math or science. Symbols are symbols, and some prefer to think in images rather than in numbers. This method involves training in the creative process and techniques in how to use art to explore your unique ‘curiosities’ in a legitimate way that will be respected in the ‘civilized world’.
My second project, IMRSV Arts, was co-founded by myself and artist Marco Locatelli, here in Berlin. IMRSV creates interactive Art Experiences with the aid of technology.
Our mission is to help others in realizing their own creative potentials by encouraging their participation in the art-making process. In our exhibitions, the installations come to life when human interaction begins. This democratization of the arts, is a stark contrast to traditional art institutions that often make the viewer feel out of the loop and disconnected from the artist.
What inspired you to work with interactive art?
After investigating the art scene in Germany, and executing many exhibitions in the US and in Europe, Marco and I noticed that there was something missing from the experience of viewing art. In most galleries, it isn’t an ‘experience’ at all, and interacting with art can feel dead and cold. Often times, it feels as though you are going to an art graveyard rather that art fair.
To see the works of artists that spent decades conceptualizing and perfecting their craft, go into one ear of the viewer and straight out of the other, was heartbreaking. Some art-enthusiasts are able to get past the dry-presentation of a still work hanging on a wall and enjoy themselves, but most viewers pass by because they simply do not understand it or its relevance.
Marco and I found that the best way to break this barrier was to allow the viewer to interact with the works. Humans have a strong primal hand-brain connection. Historically, we have learned through play, so why should things change when it comes to experiencing and understanding the language of emotion? By introducing interactivity using things like Virtual Reality, interactive projections and installations, our viewers let their guards down and leave feeling included rather than excluded from the world of art.
IMRSV creates experiences, not exhibitions.
What is the biggest roadblock you’ve faced professionally? How did you overcome it?
My biggest roadblock was my self-doubt. When you are alone and unfamiliar with your surroundings, it is easy to feel like you made a huge mistake in leaving your friends and family behind. Fear chokes you, and it is sometimes so strong that it prevents you from getting out of bed. Two things saved me from this crippling self-pity party: 1) remembering why I left my home in the first place, and 2) building a support network in Berlin.
It is important to remember that you decided to leave your previous situation for a reason – mine was to grow myself and to follow my dream of becoming an entrepreneur in the arts. Being able to think positively about my future accomplishments rather than dwelling on the present is one of a human’s best defense mechanisms, and I used the sh*t out of it!
Even on my worst days, I went out walking and visited events. I spoke to hundreds of different people over a very short time. Eventually, you come to the realization that most people in Berlin are/were in your shoes at one point, and that everything will be OK. The friends that I have met here in Germany are some of the strongest bonds to date, and are a big part of the reason why I faced my fears and stayed.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
The best advice that I have ever gotten was from my dad; I used to be very concerned about money, getting into debt, credit score etc., and he told me that ‘money comes and goes’. Running out of money is not something that should hinder you from following your dreams and taking risks. As soon as you begin making business decisions based on acquiring money instead of working from passion, you lose the game. This is the biggest downfall of most entrepreneurs.
What’s an unusual talent that should be on your resume?
I am actually ambidextrous; I can draw and write with both my right and left hands. Interestly enough, when I get intrigued about an idea, my left hand gets a tingling sensation, as if it wants to say something. Upon further research, I discovered that this is something called synesthesia, which is the condition in which one sense (in my case thinking), is stimulated by another (movement with my left hand). If I do not write or draw, I often squeeze a ball or play with a fidget-spinner! I find that I get my most
creative ideas in this way.
What do you have in the works for 2018?
2018 is the year for me to perfect what I already began working on in 2017. I think that we all have a general sense of what we need to do—it’s time to stop making excuses and get to work! This year IMRSV Arts is planning several interactive and unique events, and we are looking for dedicated warriors who are working in the digital arts to collaborate with on these projects. We are heading toward projects having to do with artist development, the music scene, podcasts, and data visualization. Keep up with our plans on Instagram or on Facebook! If you are interested in collaboration with IMRSV, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The goal for Arttheorie is to have a functional platform for creatives and to
release the philosophy via free content on Youtube, an online creative-development course, artist talks, and an audio book. Stay up to date on the progress of this project via Instagram or Facebook!