Dragan Šimičević is a coach, psychologist, artist and now curator: together with Peter Rehberg and Jessica Walter, he has put together the exhibition “Photography as a Way of Life” in honor of Rüdiger Trautsch. As the Darling of July, Dragan talks about his friendship with the Schwules Museum, and also provides intimate insights into an even more important friendship: the one with Rüdiger Trautsch himself.
Hi darling, I’m glad to have you here! Would you introduce yourself?
Hi and yes, I’m happy to do so: I’m Dragan Šimičević and I’m from Berlin, although I grew up in Croatia. At the Schwules Museum I am with many functions, firstly as a great friend of the institution, but also as a Cultural and Artistic Consultant. Since a couple years back I have also been allowed to accompany the change management in this organization. I know the museum from many different directions, and that’s the beauty of it.
What does that mean when you speak about change management?
So, basically, I’m an organizational psychologist. I supervise organizations from the cultural and arts sectors that are in development processes. My job then is to accompany them structurally and emotionally through all the necessary changes. Here at the museum, the following question has been asked for some time: How can an organization grow healthily? I have been involved in this process since 2016.
Wow! That means you’ve seen quite a bit of us, right?
Yes, from exhibitions, people and teams, I’ve seen it all. As a person who comes to the museum every now and then, it’s great to witness an organization grow, thrive, and change as well. In 2016 the board and audience looked very different, now the Schwules Museum is far more diverse – that’s great to see. This also reflects the change in society.
And what was your personal journey to the Schwules Museum like?
That goes back a bit further. My first visit to Berlin was connected with a visit to the Schwules Museum, when I was still a student. When I came to the Schwules Museum for the first time, it was still located on Mehringdamm and was much smaller. The second time I reached the Schwules Museum as a visual artist, that must have been in 2014. That’s where I had my solo exhibition “Dream Within a Dream,” curated by Patrick Henze-Lindhorst. It was about the divine in human beings. I reflected on how humanity and gender create themselves as works of art, but also how God created man and then the human creates itself again as a work of art. So that was definitely a little excursion into kabbalism.
How exciting! So that’s how you came, and fortunately how you stayed.
(laughs) Indeed! Through this exhibition I realized how interesting I find the connection between psychology and culture. So, I’ve directed my work as a psychologist in that direction. In that sense, the Schwules Museum was really formative for me, to see myself as an organizational psychologist.
Of all the roles you’ve had the privilege of stepping into, is there a favorite?
Actually, I would say accompanying the processes of the institution, but last year I was given the honor of trying myself out as a curator – here I have to shout out and thank the museum and Peter Rehberg, who trusted me with this task from the beginning. I then accompanied him, together with the wonderful Jessica Walter, in the curatorial work for the exhibition “Photography as a Way of Life” by and for Rüdiger Trautsch. Here, we are allowed to show 50 years of Rüdiger Trautsch’s work.
Do you also have a favorite day at the museum?
I’ll have to think about that for a moment – I’ll probably have to highlight the opening of my solo exhibition. That was very special for me. Because I actually am, although I can talk a lot, a really introverted person. My artistic activity was one that happened in my world, so it was a very intimate act that also had to do with spirituality. Finally, to see the finished videos and photographic works in large spaces, to see visitors, friends and journalists engage with my works and take them serious – it was all a very intimate and emotional act for me… And it also comes full circle, because Rüdiger was also at that opening. There’s a great picture of him looking deeply into one of my works. Rüdiger was my mentor at that time, a time in which he praised me as well as reprimanded me. It is also to his credit that I went from digital back to analog. He always said, “if you master the analog camera, you can take pictures.” So, thank you Rüdiger! There really are no coincidences.
I’ve already seen, your darling is also connected to Rüdiger. Do you want to tell us more?
Yes, absolutely! So, in case it hasn’t become clear yet: the current exhibition, which runs until September 18, really shouldn’t be missed by anyone. In it we see 50 years of photography by Rüdiger. But my darling offers another insight into his work: his artistic method was that of the encounter, from which also his numerous friendships and acquaintances were built. He was a gifted artist as far as drawings, collages and other visual works were concerned. In the archives of the Schwules Museum there are dozens of books and drawings by him, from which I pulled out this one. This booklet contains many drawings by him, but this one drawing in particular struck a chord with me. Rüdiger has drawn chance encounters, revealing his thoughts, longings and desires. In the exhibition we see all that is his artistic work in the sense of deliberate recordings, but here he concretely formulates his thoughts and feelings. Here, for example, he writes: “Oh my God, they are beautiful! I would have loved to photograph or draw them, but the boys would react nervously. They must be lovers – or are they just at the same hairdresser?” (both laugh) The figure of the lovers has occupied Rüdiger in general, and here, for example, one person of this couple has particularly taken his fancy.
This is really a testament to the depth with which Rüdiger pursued his practice, isn’t it?
Yes, definitely. It really wasn’t about depicting beautiful bodies, either, but about the diversity of existence. He drew all genders, ages, and physicalities. It wasn’t about desire, but about encounter.
Does the darling then have an official name?
For me, those are the Trautsch Bookslets!
And you came across them in the course of research for the exhibition?
Exactly, Rüdiger was one of the most loyal fans of this institution, and had already catalogued his estate really well. In the cataloging, these notebooks caught my eye, and for the exhibition we decided to explicitly honor his photographic work. So for me it became also important to show that there is much more from Rüdiger in the cellars and archives of this museum that is worth looking at and researching. At the same time, leafing through these notebooks reminds me of the time I spent with Rüdiger on my balcony, with a glass of juice and deep conversations about God, the world and people. Rummaging through these books is like entering into a dialogue with Rüdiger again. It feels close and intimate, and I realize: he is still alive.
That is so true. Thank you, Dragan, for giving us this emotional insight!
Image: mino Künze