Florian & Louise Kunth - Friends of Friends / Freunde von Freunden (FvF)

Florian & Louise Kunth


Florian and Louise Kunth fit the definition of urban nomads perfectly. Together they cultivate places and put themselves and others in motion. With individual event concepts, they unfold and deepen Hamburg’s spaces for its citizens. In doing so, they often encounter special districts and regions that at first sight might not seem the most alluring.

These off-locations away from the Bermuda Triangle St.Pauli, Schanze and Altona are renewed into the public consciousness through their agency ‘Here We Go’s’ diverse formats and projects. Examples of this include the pop-up scene-restaurant next to a feeder road, a 24h warehouse during Christmas time in between construction sites of the harbor city, and a graphic design festival with an international orientation.

Florian and Louise wish to see the official metropolis of Hamburg reach its living potential. They hope to continue finding ways and means to personally influence the cultural life of their hometown. Standing to the side and merely observing is something unthinkable for this couple. They collect memories and references from their self-initiated projects that find a place within their home; like a gallery that houses objects and photographic prints. Home is a place where life and work can come together, where they can sit at a window and watch seagulls throwing shells onto the roof in order to break them, and then seconds later hunt them down with a nosedive. It is obvious that Florian and Louise have a good eye for special places. We met up with the couple for an afternoon and accompanied them on a host of expeditions in Hamburg while aimlessly strolling around some of their newly conquered locations.

How did you end up in Hamburg?
Florian: I guess it is more a matter of remaining stuck here as we both grew up near Hamburg. We even went to the same high school, but had nothing to do with each other during that time. A while after graduation we met each other and eventually became a couple. Later on we realized that we wanted to work together. We had this vision of interlocking our profession with our private life in such a way that work – which gives us money – would be maximum fun. Now we work on making this happen step by step.
Louise: The first steps, in regards to that direction, didn’t just happen overnight. It was and still is a process. While we knew how we wanted to design our lives, we had no idea how to make it happen in the beginning.
Florian: Until we got there, I studied business and worked in sports marketing after graduating. Louise was working as a consultant for several design agencies. In 2010 we founded ‘Here We Go’.

What is ‘Here We Go’ exactly?
Louise: Through ‘Here We Go’ we began to realize our self-initiated, temporary event formats in 2010. For example, there was a magazine store in Hamburg’s Neustadt open for six weeks, the pop-up restaurant Chez Lenz in the district of Rothenburgsort and our Hypermarché in Hafencity. ‘Here We Go’ evolved out of an inner drive to take matters into own hands – things that we thought were missing in Hamburg. Additionally, we didn’t want to settle on one singular topic or discipline; we are interested in many things. ‘Here We Go’ enables us to create a frame in which we can try new things out.

So, established structures bore you?
Louise: Yes. ‘Here We Go’ and our life-concept are a permanent process drive by desire. We face the challenge of constantly managing a new terrain. For example, we also familiarize ourselves with wholesale conditions like we did for Hypermarché. Or whatever else is necessary to realize a project.
Florian: It was also very extreme in the case of Chez Lenz. Managing a restaurant was a very intense and adventurous experience. It is great to have the possibility of trying things out over time. Chez Lenz was fun, but I definitely wouldn’t want it back. But let’s return to the question of what ‘Here We Go’ is exactly. Today, you can generally break down our core concept into the following fields: we organize and realize event formats or do this on a fee basis for agencies and companies. In parallel to this, we perform at places. For instance our project ‘das Island‘.

What is the principle behind ‘das Island‘?
Louise: We actually started this project as an open experiment without concrete goals. The initial idea was to open an office with enough space for exhibitions and other events. Today it has evolved into an event venue for the most part. Here, we have the space and possibility of organizing things that fit our interests. They mostly consist of exhibitions from our network, often in connection with DJ-sets or live music. ‘Das Island’ can also be rented privately. We often subsidize new projects. Our first permanent venue was created through ‘das Island’. The relationship was turned around here: the aim was to get away from places with concrete ideas and get closer to places and ideas that hold opportunity for transformation.

You often develop counter designs for pre-existing principles. In 2011, there was the temporary Christmas market Hypermarché for example. How was it isolated from baby Jesus, St. Nicolas and roasted almonds?
Louise: Our counter designs are about setting familiarities within different contexts whereby something new is created. This is why we like to break open pre-existing principles and combine them in new ways. Hypermarché had actually nothing to do with Christmas, except that it ran until Christmas and presents could be purchased. We also wanted to offer more diversity and a ‘bigger city’. At that time there were already seven Christmas markets with saw-dust, mulled wine and ‘holy-shit-shopping’. So we just wanted to add an alternative. Hypermarché was a bar, stage, cafe and bazaar at the same time. It was open for 24 days in the lead up to Christmas, including 24 hours nonstop shopping which kind of forced us to sleep there as well.

Is there a conscious underlying element that connects your diverse formats?
Florian: One connecting element would probably be that we want to take people out of their usual environments and transport them to new places. Our aspiration is also always holistic; the overall experience during our events must be right. This implies, for example, that the food must be very good at our temporary restaurants. But also, the ambience of the accompanying programme must be interesting. The staging of the place must be presented in some sort of new form. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, comprises have to be made somehow.

Why do you think so many people hold onto their neighborhoods?
Louise: That probably has to do with convenience, which has become somewhat of a tradition here in Hamburg. You often hear people say: “In Hamburg you go out by foot.” For example, people often like to stumble from bar to bar and by chance encounter an exhibition at the next corner. From our perspective, the creative life has centered around St.Pauli for a while. Over the years it has established its own mode or rhythm of cultural consumption. We would like to oppose this very attitude. Fortunately we are not the only ones who want to do so. It also naturally happens away from our projects. For example, the cranes at the Elbbrücken, the golem at the harbor, the MS Stubnitz at the Afrika Terminal, or projects on the other side of the Elbe, for such as Dockville.

What other projects inspire you?
Florian: We always think it’s exciting when projects are somewhat new or set themselves apart. There are a few like that in Hamburg at the moment. For example Tissue Magazine, which frequently organizes accompanying exhibitions with parties. There are projects like Noroomgallery who now are working with Hotel Hamburg. Then there is Kleiderei, that has created a brand new clothes sharing-concept.

There are also small, non-established festivals that take place on a regular basis. For instance, Blurred Edges-Festival or the Comic Festival. Then there are collectives like Krautzungen, who are always organizing activities and exhibitions. Also, there are lots of interesting things in the university context with many little galleries. For instance, Powergallery that is located in the district authority towers at the central station. We love these ugly towers so much. There are labels like Smallville, which also have their shop in St.Pauli. The P/Art, producers art fair is also very interesting. It took place within Kolbenhof in Bahrenfeld for the first time last year.

What places do you prefer to work with?
Louise: We consciously pick districts where there is not that much happening. With this, we are pursuing the demand of spreading the city in people’s minds. We don’t conceive Hamburg as solely consisting of just two neighborhoods where everything happens. So far, we have been to Elbbrücken, Rothenburgsort, Hammerbrook, as well as the harbor city, which most natives don’t consider a ‘real’ district. Granted, for most people it is not that easy to perceive it as welcoming or beautiful – but I love them.
Florian: We like deserted areas. Overall, the harbor city is a very exciting project to us.

How do your projects promote mobility?
Florian: Mobility can bring people to places that they may never have thought about before. Many people must first scan a place and principally ask: “What was here before?” When we guide people to places that they do not know, they become acquainted with it and welcome the new area. This makes it interesting for us. Additionally it is also really rewarding when you can play with a predefined place and occupy it with something totally different and break down the visitor’s preconceived expectations. It opens new perspectives.

When do you find new ideas come to you?
Florian: Very often when I am walking around. When we have time, we like to walk through the city and talk. We get the best ideas and find interesting places or spaces that essentially lead to inspiration. We often have many ideas that simmer away. They process until a decisive moment comes along and the combination of diverse factors, places and encounters realize a complete vision.

What projects are on the horizon in the near future?
Louise: Our next permanent project will be ‘Ypsilon’ which is a combination of a concept store, cafe and space for contextually suitable events. Things like furniture, living and fashion-accessories, books, magazines, delicatessen and schnapps will be sold – basically everything you need! At the moment we mainly deal with locations. ‘Ypsilon’ also acts as a variable within this project. It could be said that with ‘Ypsilon’ we are able to bring Hypermarché into a much more focussed format and into a permanent place. ‘Ypsilon’ is not intended only as a store, but also a place where drinks can be enjoyed and things discovered. We are planning the opening in the city, within the Kontorhausviertel. We like the center and think that it could use a bit more of a lifestyle focus.

Will you no longer work with temporary formats?
Florian: We absolutely want to continue doing temporary activities. We are also currently working with the design office ‘I Like Birds‘ on the continuation of our design festival ‘The Joy of Graphic Design‘, that we started in 2012 at Hamburg’s Oberhafen. It gives the young graphic design scene in Hamburg a platform and the ability to connect with the rest of the scene in Germany. One of the festival’s component is a symposium with international speakers, including workshops, an exhibition and a varied supporting programme with a party, live-music and performances. If everything works out, we would like to repeat the festival every two years and anchor it as an alternative for the big established festivals.

It seems as though you always include specialist experts in your work. Who are your allies and how to do find these partners for your projects?
Florian: Of course we take people on board that have differing skills from us. For example, designers, photographers, architects and PR experts. These partnerships often emerge from existing friendships, or they are friends of friends, which then become your friends. It is an organic network that grows and grows.

There are so many things to discover in your flat. Can you tell us about a few personal stories?
Louise: We collect memories from our projects, most often in the form of prints, posters or objects, and with this a personal gallery is in the making. They are often works which we have bought during our ‘das Island’ exhibitions, for instance our 8 Euro Sculpture Prints by ‘I like Birds’. Or photographs by Sarah Bernhard’s exhibition ‘Love They Say’. Another example would be the collage by Fynn Steiner, who exhibited with Krautzungen last December. Or an illustration by Jordy van den Nieuendijk, who sold his art kiosk during the Joy of Graphic design Festival.
Florian: Or ‘das Objekt’ which is a piece from the series Critical Objects by HelloMe – who is Till Wiedeck – who we exhibited in last year’s ‘das Island’. Malt Metag from Bureau Malte Metag, who developed the last design for Chez Lenz gave us a print from the goodbye-party poster after the Chez Lenz. Another example is the ‘twentynine’ poster. Louise received this for her 29th birthday from Malte and Andreas, who are the designers of ‘We are Fellows’.
Louise: These stories are a result of our projects that get intertwined with our private lives – it becomes a full circle.

Where can we find you during your days off in Hamburg?
Louise: Probably very often at home or at a friend’s place. Or perhaps at Erste Liebe Bar, Abaton Bistro eating Moule Frites. Sometimes absurd places. For example, just recently we walked through Wandsbek garden city out of pure curiosity. Often the places we go have nothing to do with finding them beautiful. It is about being in some sort of absurd place which we find funny and sometimes even inspiring in some bizarre way. We generally like to transfer things from absurd contexts into our own projects.

What do you want for Hamburg?
Louise: More flexible and liberal politics with more dialogue and understanding. Less top-down and more flexibility within the urban planning, more free space for real developments and more support for smaller creative projects. To be honest, we don’t want to live in Germany’s capital of musicals and cruises. We would love less official regulations. One often feels that Hamburg’s politics don’t quite value creativity. Economic growth and big signature-projects, which are funded, are clearly the priority. This is in some way or another understandable, of course. But still, we hope that underground and mainstream trends can find some sort of stronger balance in Hamburg. We would also like to have a bigger group of hungrier and more curious people here.
Florian: It really isn’t solely about the support in the monetary sense, but more about being hindered or having difficulties in developing new projects or initiatives.
Louise: At its core, I hope that Hamburg maintains a kind of diversity, away from economic factors. Hamburg likes to praise itself for being the capital of creative industry. But nowadays, Hamburg does very little for its creatives, at least too little for the young, dynamic creative industry which essentially brings in the momentum and reproduces itself. We want more curiosity and openness.

What cannot be missed in Hamburg?
Florian: Hamburg is very diverse in many aspects, of course. The varied cityscape, from Alster to Elbe, from Blankenese to Wilhelmsburg. Hamburg can also show many contrasts which makes it interesting. Furthermore, we have the Elbstrand (beach) where one can go for a quiet walk during bad weather. I think it could also be stated that Hamburg is a pretty tolerant city.
Louise: You think so? I don’t consider Hamburg nor its people to be tolerant. Then again, that has a positive side: people here like to complain and generally like to ‘be against’ things. This creates a lot friction and tension, which is always good to have.

What can other cities learn from Hamburg?
Louise: This is not an easy question. It is difficult to compare cities due to their individual historical development. Everywhere you’ll have individual, urban planning challenges, good and bad.
Florian: The hanseatic sensibility could be seen as a big strength. People not only talk but also act upon things. Doing something is good. Perhaps one needs to simply invest more into this city than elsewhere.

Florian and Louise, thank you so much for the interesting insights into your work and sharing your views. If you want to find out more about Florian and Louise, please visit ‘Here We Go’s’ website here.

Photography: Sarah Bernhard
Interview & Text: Anika Väth