January isn’t often a big month for art, and the same usually goes for Berlin, but this year, galleries seem to be pushing things a bit further to present exciting shows, even if a majority of them seem to have opened in November. In addition to “regular programming,” January brought the third instance of the Berlin-Paris gallery swap to town, as well as the lead into the Transmediale festival, which straddles the lines between music, performance, and art (now currently underway). But since this is actually happening in February (thankfully, it’s not as sloppy, so far, as last February), here’s a look at a few shows that eased us through the month of Janus.
At the Schinkel Pavillion, an installation by Aaron Curry presents us with a tangle of purple and green-chromed tubes with a complicated accumulation of paper-covered cardboard chunks hanging from various points on the colorful tubing. Actually 6 separate works, they first appear somewhat haphazard and unconsidered (a cynic might view this as someone carelessly blowing their production budget on bent chromed tubes); upon further contemplation, one realizes that not only are these purple and brown colored cardboard pieces more well-crafted and considered than expected, they have tasty painted elements as well, nestled into the (silkscreened?) color swaths. Purple shapes have brown smears, brown shapes have purple smears. Painted within these smears, there are simply rendered “water droplets: condensed on the contrasting colors, as if they were made of a material cooler than the air around them, or possible to some oily substance, retaining and repelling the dew of summer mornings. The cardboard shapes recall those of Miró or Tanguy, as do many of Curry’s other sculptural works, the markings upon them suggesting edits or bandages, as do the strips of cloth tape in matching colors holding further cut-up pieces of purple or brown to the main body of these often squiggly, choppy shapes.
When the art historians start treading through Berlin’s turn-of-the-millennium years to chart artists’ march to Neukölln, Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset‘s studio will be a main stop for tea and insight into the city’s physical transformations, and Berlin’s metamorphosis into a home for globetrotting artoholics. And it’s not just because the former couple who brought us Prada Marfa, The Welfare Show, Drama Queens, and The Collectors, 2009′s 2 for 1 Nordic Pavilion, were featured in the New York Times‘ Home & Garden section. The Scandinavian duo moved to Berlin in 1997 from Copenhagen, the year that scores of galleries cruised into Mitte and Hamburger Bahnhof celebrated its first birthday. Five years later, they were awarded the Preis der Nationalgalerie für Junge Kunst by the then-six-year-old institution for their spatial tours of sex, power, and white cubes in Powerless Structures. But before I get all monumental and start speculating about these artists’ design savvy, humor-heavy installations, and Berlin’s contemporaneous remodeling of empty lots into hot spots, here’s a fireside chat with Ingar Dragset.
Alex Freedman: Before we get into talking about boys, tell me about your leading ladies: Irina, Rosa, Tala. Since 2006, at least one of them is always jet-setting to a new E&D location, and yet I’ve seen little written about this trio of gilded maids. Do tell, what’s the story?
Ingar Dragset: The golden maids are all named after the cast’s original model, who come from different corners of the world. Most of them have been maids at some point in real life. Silently they stand and watch you, the viewer – almost ghost-like – but in spite of their stoic posture, their face expressions hint at their personal stories.
When asked a few weeks ago to accompany a friend to Karlsruhe earlier this month for Elmgreen & Dragset‘s opening of Celebrity: The One and The Many at ZKM, I jumped at the chance to participate in my favorite activity: traveling to meet an institution whose net presence I’m familiar with. So while the column’s next post will chat up Berlin-based artists Elmgreen & Dragset, this week takes a turn out of Berlin to look at ZKM ❘ Center for Art and Media, Germany’s bastion of intermedia arts. Founded in 1989, the Center for Art and Media has championed digital media, acting as a leading force within the global community in exhibiting, collecting, and conserving works in the days before most museums thought about digital database systems. So what better timing to get acquainted than during an opening and the ZKM’s hosted symposium, The Digital Oblivion?
Coming from Berlin, the first thing one notices about ZKM is its sheer size. And then, for those of us often confused at Germany’s lack of digitization, the automatic question is: “Karlsruhe, really? The seat of the German Federal Constitutional Court?” (For those unfamiliar with the German legal system, it’s a lot of paperwork). Yet, it makes sense. ZKM is home to to a core group of arts-related practitioners focused on developing theoretically sound strategies for long-term institution building. When asked, museum sources will tell the story of how in 1988, a committee of professors, politicians, and nuclear researchers put forth Konzept 88, which outlined the creation of a research institution for the emerging field of media arts technologies. Following the Center’s 1997 move into its current residence, the roving center transformed into ZKM ❘ Center for Art and Media, a think tank whose vast programming is a testament to director Peter Weibel’s philosophy that media art is not entertainment. But as it turns out, the history is a lot less stoic than it sounds: until reunification, Karlsruhe was Germany’s Internet capital (Universität Karlsruhe sent out the nation’s first emails in 1984) and from 1980-1994, the munition factory was outfitted with squatting artists’ studios. Though the institution’s press department would eschew this kind of language, it’s safe to say that ZKM was built out of a whole lotta cyber love. And no where is that more apparent than in Peter Weibel and Berhard Serexhe’s exhibition, IMAGINING MEDIA@ZKM.
Bundle up, Berlin: winter is almost here, and it might be a long one, again. If you haven’t fallen prey to the sniffling, the sneezing, the nose-blowing and coughing, germ-spreading crowd on the city’s subways and got stuck in bed with the first cold flu of the season (like me), there are some interesting exhibitions going on that make it worth the effort of getting out there.
There is, for example, Dutch artist Willem de Rooij’s project Intolerance at the Neue Nationalgalerie, which consists of a site-specific, temporary installation as well as a three-part publication. In the installation, de Rooij presents a group of 17th-century Dutch bird paintings by Melchior d’Hondecoeter, who exclusively painted birds, with a group of Hawaiian “feathered heads” from the 18th and 19th centuries.
De Rooij’s works investigates notions of image-production and image-distribution through playing with conventions of presentation and representation in various media such as photography, film, sculpture and text. In this way, his work opens up a large amount of possible interpretations and so, according to the press release, “Intolerance can be read as a three-dimensional collage, as a reflection on the conditions of the exhibition space and of institutional practice, and as a visual study on the triangular relationship between early global trade, inter-cultural conflict and mutual attraction.” Intolerance will be on display at the New National Gallery until January 2, 2011.
To use a very versatile phrase, “It’s that time of year again.” In this case, we mean: it’s art fair-season in Berlin. With the 15th anniversary of the somewhat-confusingly-named Art Forum Berlin (originally named “European Art Forum Berlin”) art fair upon us this week, we are embarking upon yet another generally exhausting “big art weekends.” This one, particularly, is a real soul-suck.
110 galleries from 20 countries will present their works/wares. For the last 5 years, there had been an additional curated (and themed) exhibition running along with the fair, adjacent to the 2 main halls of booths; however this year, that seems to not to be the case, and thankfully so. For the most part, it’s hard to switch gears from the browsing mode in the main halls to real’art-looking — to give the art a fair glance, especially after someone worked so hard on a presentation with a four-day lifespan. Instead of an exhibition, a new way of introducing smaller, younger galleries and artists to Berliners and visitors from afar to the Art Forum Berlin (AFB) world has been devised. It borrows an idea from the small, one-day 7×2 fair (now renamed SUNDAY), in which, at the tail-end of Gallery Weekend Berlin, seven galleries banded together to produce a somewhat off-the-cuff mini-art fair. In turn, they each invited their own counterpart gallery to exhibit and interact with in the same space (at the original 7×2, the space given was one of 7 lobbies of a high-rise on Strausberger Platz.) 7×2/SUNDAY is a fresh take on the collaboration and quid-pro-quo style used by young galleries and artists just to survive, and AFB is right to follow their lead. AFB calls this sector “focus” and sets the galleries up in the center of each hall, giving them a more equal cut of the audience. However, one does wonder, is all this space available because of a lack of participating galleries? Or something else? Esther Schipper, Galerie Neu, and Klosterfelde are sharing one booth, and these aren’t small-potatoes galleries.
During a recent visit to Exile Gallery, I spoke with guest curator Billy Miller about his concurrent shows Head Shop/Lost Horizon, which were a part of Exile’s annual Summer Camp Series. We chatted around a courtyard table, as a giant tarp made of discarded umbrellas loomed over us, engulfing the whole hof in cheap, translucent color and swaths of frayed paisley.
As Berlin’s erstwhile lover, the Sun, streamed through the fabric, the space flooded with light, a whimsical vision only slightly unhinged by party leftovers from one of the many events and screenings held in tandem with Head Shop/Lost Horizon.
While talking to Miller about consumerism and carelessness, he informed me that all the umbrellas had been gathered after a particularly rainy day in New York City by artist Justin Yockel, serving as spineless evidence of our slapdash culture. Like most of the work in Head Shop/Lost Horizon, Yockel deftly tongues around preachy or flippant tones in favor of more complicated language; a pretty impressive feat considering the topics of discussion include Facism, meth-making and Abu Ghraib.
According to Miller, Lost Horizon and Head Shop represent two different responses to a shrinking natural environment and an increasingly pervasive Beck-ish culture of fear. The difference in tenor between the rooms is immediately apparent. In Head-Shop, Miller sweetly eulogizes the head shops of the 60’s with a hyperactive installation of rambunctious political works, while Lost Horizon offers a quieter “frozen” view of loss.
Nothing spells houseguest season like late-August in Berlin. With school about to resume and the major art metropolises shut down for summer, the town becomes besieged by the event hungry. But with most galleries closed, museum blockbusters wrapped-up, and the usual array of talks and screenings, the question looms: what do you recommend for guests? For those art tourist hosts shrugging their shoulders, and for visitors, who may or may not have art savvy hosts, here is a cursory round-up to keep you occupied until September.
Closing this Saturday is the Glasgow School of Art’s MFA International Exhibition Definition Article at Kunstraum Kreuzberg and from last year’s Glasgow graduating class is Kate V Robertson with her show, Pieces, a sculptural dialogue with art history’s generic leveraging of meaning on view at FEINKOST through September 5.
Chiming into the art historical debates with a carton of readymade hangers found en-route to the exhibition’s inaugural meeting, and a lot of research, is Lan Hungh and Darri Lorenzen‘s final product, RPLCMNT, on view at Savvy Contemporary until September 11.
Also not to be missed are Yinka Shonibare MBE’s masterful Victorian dandies at Friedrichswerder Church and ArtForum’s Berlin picks: Mona Hatoum’s Käthe Kollwitz Prize exhibition at the Akademie der Künste and Liam Gillick’s 1848!!! at Esther Shipper. Continue reading »
… and put your car on cruise and lay back cause this is summertime
— Will Smith
Berlin summers never fail to deliver their own magical moments, the kind that make you remember why you’re here, why you chose this place. Perhaps these moments are more pronounced because the memory of Berlin winters (and this previous one in particular) make one soak up all the sun, the heat, the colors, the grass, the night-swimming, the sunrises by the canal, the sunsets in the park, the days by the lake and the impromptu studio barbeques with an urgency that can only exist in places where these things are luxuries, and fleeting ones.
Berlin summers never fall short of art tourists either, and this year is no exception — the city is full with internationals stopping in anywhere from a weekend to three months to enjoy what’s best about it — the perks of being simultaneously an art world hub and the so-called “slacker capital of the world.” There are, however, some visitors who have gather no moss. During the three weeks of programming that New York’s Triple Canopy put together this month in collaboration with Program Gallery and Nine Eglantine Yamamoto-Masson, there was simply no time for lazy summer activities. Triple Canopy facilitated six evenings, most consisting of multiple events such as podium discussions, artist’s performances, dinners, workshops and topics, reflecting their collaborative organizational approach.
On July 22, “Print and Demand” — one of the events in the series — brought together editors and representatives of four publications for a podium discussion on the changing nature of print and online publishing. Participants included the Norway-based XYM ,whose content is solely downloadable in pdf form, Berlin-based bi-annual publication 032c, the Canadian art magazine/journal Fillip and Triple Canopy’ s several associated web-based publications. Given the diverse nature of the participants, formats, readership, and funding models (including “no” budget, public grants, and traditional ad-based financing), the discussion was lively and fortunately not heading towards a print vs. digital polemic (which would have been really boring). The panel members offered a unified response to a question from the audience about missing comment functions or ways that readers could respond to the content of the publications; interestingly, none of the participants encourage this type of anonymous feedback. Panel members agreed that their readership and contributors often overlap – instead of writing comments or letters to the editor, readers with ideas should think about contributing. They also pointed out that they all thought of their respective projects as curating spaces which can affect “community building”– no matter whether these communities coagulate through websites, downloadable pdfs or within a magazine format purchased in art bookstores or newsstands.
On August 31, 2010, the Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin (TKB) will close its doors as according to the original concept. With 8 major exhibitions, 3 facades, and other projects involving over 800 artists (though, 566 can be attributed to one exhibition, it seems) throughout the 2 years of its temporary existence, the TKB’s final show is FischGrätenMelkStand, which opened on July 2, 2010, curated and designed by artist John Bock.
The Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin’s mission statement was simple: to showcase Berlin-based artists in their own city; to create a program that:
shows the diversity of Berlin as a location for artistic production from a range of perspectives. The series of artist-curated group shows examines the complex relations between artwork, institution, and viewer via direct engagement with the artists, their ideas, and their networks.
Based on the success and ideas of 36 x 27 x 10, a large group exhibition conceived by Coco Kühn and Constanze Kleiner, executed in the decommissioned and slated-to-be demolished Palast der Republik in December 2005, the TKB indeed created yet another venue for artists to convene, converse and celebrate. But it’s not been without strife. In June 2009, the Artistic Advisory Board, a group responsible for appointing curators for the exhibitions, resigned rather suddenly and for a brief moment, the fate of the TKB seemed a slightly uncertain, despite having a contingency plan almost immediately. The shift that followed (large group shows, either curated or “presented” by artists — or, in the case of the Karin Sander‘s Zeigen, at least involving a multitude of artists — as opposed to solo “positions” by mid-career artists from Berlin) allowed a much more varied discussion of Berlin’s art scene by opening its doors to a wider swath of artists. Additionally the admission fees were waived for the final year, thanks to Dieter Rosenkranz and the Stiftung Zukunft Berlin, making the privately-funded museum truly free and open to anyone at any time.