If Paradise Is Half As Nice (IPIHAN) is an artist initiated project that leaves behind the comforts of a traditional artists’ studio to instead pursue the creation of artworks by finding and using abandoned buildings as sites for artistic production. After an abandoned building is found, in less than four weeks, the collective of artists make their artworks onsite that culminates in an exhibition that is presented to the wider public. In this short time, each artist must find their own way to utilise the available materials and space to conceive and execute their artwork. Inevitably, the artworks that they produced are embedded with specific history and dynamics of decay that is unique to each project location.
Functioning as a creative pressure cooker, the limited time frame serves to accelerate the exchange of ideas. Consequently, this leads to unexpected and innovative solutions in the conception and execution of our artworks. At times, in addition to making art, there can be the necessity sneaking around to stay undercover, so as to avoid being noticed by the local authorities. Each project is undertaken with a spirit of camaraderie and shared desire to stage a final exhibition that is to be celebrated at a closing event.
Weary of the constraints of a conventional studio based art practice and wishing to work in response to spaces beyond the studio, in 2012, Rotterdam artists Pim Palsgraaf and Daan Botlek travelled to Leipzig, Germany to look for a unique place to create their artworks. As a part of the former GDR, Leipzig was at that time full of many empty historic factory buildings with remarkable architecture. In Leipzig, Pim and Daan found and occupied a beautiful old spinning mill. Over a four week period, there they stealthily made their artworks without being discovered by the local authorities. On the last day, they invited a few friends to view their creations and to celebrate with some drinks. Together they came up with the exhibition title If Paradise is Half as Nice, which is taken from the lyrics of 60’s song by Amin Corner.
Upon their return to Rotterdam, Pim and Daan enthusiastically and unanimously agreed to continue the project. A year later a second trip was organized with three other artists and If Paradise Is Half As Nice was officially born. Since then, the project has been developed as an annual event with at least one edition each year.
Over the years, the project has taken place in locations throughout Germany and the Netherlands. The sites that have been selected are wide-ranging and include many unique sites such as the former Polygraph building in Leipzig; the Betoncentrale, a large concrete wasteland in Rotterdam, Netherlands; a stripped-down grain storage in Leipzig; and the abandoned Zitza Fabrik factory in Zeitz, Germany, which appeared to be frozen in time from thirty years in the past. It was as if one day the workers suddenly just dropped their tools and simply left.
Now ten years on, the core group has expanded to include eight artists and one historian. A total of thirty artists have contributed to the project, and we have had a total of over seven thousand people visit our many exhibitions. Even as each artist creatively responds to the selected building in their own way, the project comes together due to the intimate conditions of temporarily living and working together onsite. In this brief time, a rich atmosphere of exchange emerges within the group that is also fundamentally influenced by the character of the site itself, as Daan once observed, “the building is our curator.”