Among the many creative studios in Berlin, “acte ™” has recently received a lot of attention. Despite being founded as recent as 2018, they are already in charge of campaign visuals for “Audi”, and work on behalf of fashion brand “Givenchy”. Besides, they are now working on a variety of projects ranging from high-end sculptures, feature films and their own fashion to a photo story featuring Tohji for the Berlin-based fashion magazine “032c.” These diverse works made us wonder who on earth “acte ™” is.
In order to explore the background of their cross-disciplinary creations, we visited their studio in the Kreuzberg area to meet with Sascha Huth (Sascha) and Philipp Groth (Philipp), the founders of the mysterious studio. I spoke to Sascha who smiles softly and says, “In fact, I come here almost every day, because this is my home,” and remotely to Philipp who was working in London. This is their very first long interview with the Japanese media.
The two founders, who are still in their twenties, launched “acte ™” in 2018.
Firstly, we talked to them about their background before launching their studio.
――Can you tell us your personal history before starting “acte ™”?
Sascha Huth: I was still in the middle of my studies at Udk (acclaimed University of the Arts in Berlin) when Philipp and me founded the pseudonym. After graduating with my degree in product design, we went all-in and took acte ™ as our full time job.
Philipp Groth : I served a smaller film production as creative director before launching “acte ™”, but at one point I developed a vision which I personally wanted to achieve by my own terms. After quitting, I went to NY and LA to gain more knowledge about the intersection of film and art. Both Sascha and me were growing in a similar direction during that time, which led to our encounter in 2017 and it was a catalyst for a big change in our life.
――I see. Your respective backgrounds in different visual disciplines make crossing these borders possible, right?
Sascha: Yes. For me, is not particularly important whether I am working on a visual expression in two-dimensions or a three-dimensional expression. I’ve always had a cross-disciplinary way of thinking, so it felt natural to keep that energy. For us it is more about the message and feeling which then defines the medium by itself.
――At the same time, do you think it is necessary to master a specific field in order to pursue outputs with high quality?
Sascha: Absolutely. Otherwise, I imagine it would be hard to dive into a project down to the smallest detail. Mastering a specific field also helps with looking at it from different und unconventional angles. I do believe, though, that at acte tm we transfer a lot of knowledge between disciplines successfully, which then brings something new and unexpected to other fields of work. In fact, I had started doing graphic design first, but at some point, I started getting more passionate about product design. Instead of being bound by one category, I took advantage of my previous craft and expertise for my current field of profession.
――This work suit is the first original product as “acte ™” , right?
Sascha: Yes, and we were happy to release in collaboration with longtime friend and collaborator “Voo Store Berlin”. However, I think they are all gone at the store by now… The larger story behind the suit is quite simple. We wanted to create something that we like to wear ourselves and that describes the identity of acte tm. We saw it as a blanc canvas and a work-in-progress clothing piece, which will evolve when people use it.
Collaboration work with Tohji “Stand firm on your vision”
――I found you after seeing Tohji as a model in Berlin’s fashion magazine “032c”. How did you discover the artist in the Japanese hip pop scene? Can you tell us the background?
Phil: I met Tohji when I was setting up our large-scale video installation for the acte tm exhibition at KÖNIG gallery in Ginza. I met Tohji through a friend named DJ Sinta who is familiar with the hip-hop community and a DJ himself. I fell in love with TOHJIs character at a glance when I first visited his live performance. it was electric and we had a small conversation backstage. His manager Keiichi was also there, so I said, “I want to take him for the summer season look of ‘032c’.” After that, I proposed to meet again in London and shoot in the park.
――It was a wonderful encounter. How was the collaboration with him actually?
Phil: I was able to share some pure ideas and concepts with him in a second. It all felt linked. More, I was really impressed about the amount of trust he has when it comes to creative collaboration. In any case it is impressive to see how he stands firm on his vision, as we do too. We may have resonated with him in that point.
――And “acte ™” is trying to approach the world’s cultural scene with creativity, not just ones in Berlin and London.
Phil: I think as personalities, Sascha and me are both ambitious. Acte tm is rather about changing something meaningful in the long term than to achieving fast fame. So, I’m moving around, instead of staying in one place as much as possible. That’s why our focus is on people like Tohji in Japan. These kinds of unique artists scattered around the world are a great source of inspiration. Interestingly enough, when we walked into a random store in Shibuya, I was surprised to hear Yung Hurn (German-based hip-hop artist) playing. It’s fun to see the world’s culture connected unintentionally like this.
――The practices of “acte ™” itself has many anonymous elements, which made me feel a kind of Berlin-ness, but at the same time made me think that it was not a team open to many people.
Phil: Initially, it was simply about challenging the zeitgeist. Huge cultural influencers were hired as creative directors by large corporations which felt to me like a cheap way of decorating an old institution with a young face. Everything was staged hyper-transparent, and I think we just wanted a counter design to that. Something more stable and even a little bit German. I think what feels like a Berlin element is the fact that many people come to Berlin to live a more anonymous life without judgment. Either way, acte tm is far away from elitism. It is a manual for collaboration.
――Do you think that the rise of small but creative teams such as “acte ™” will change the structure of the fashion and advertising industry in Europe?
Sascha: There are still many challenges. In order to confront the existing industry, we have to make major changes in our way of doing things. Fortunately, we’re still young, so we’ve been able to experiment and challenge the status-quo. The basic concept of our studio to gather distinctive and unique expertise and vision in one place to build a legacy, which I think is always a worthy challenge. I think especially the fashion and art industry will be more flexible in the future.
――What do you want to realize in the future?
Sascha: Right now, we are looking forward to exhibiting more art in a gallery context. We are working on a sculpture made of stainless steel, which will see be unveiled soon. Due to the Corona pandemic, we have temporarily lost the freedom to go somewhere, and this piece of work incorporates the wishes we had at that time. I hope to have the opportunity to exhibit it in Japan in the near future.