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Rodney LaTourelle
Berlin
December 08, 2009

Praised by the art and design community as an exceptional example for the potential of urban infill, the recently completed building at Brunnenstraße 9 may be a mixed blessing in terms of city development. While it’s contemporary style strikes an uncommonly elegant balance between functionality and an aesthetics that is alternately restrained and expressive in all the right places, some see it is a further notch up in the increasingly swift gentrification process of an area that has already experienced wave after wave of development. Recently, there was an ugly standoff across the street as police forcibly evicted residents of a decades-old squatted house. But it is the increasing number of bland hotels that is really worrying in the area, such as the bunker-like easyHotel down the street.



Brunnenstraße 9

What makes this building so unique is its municipal approval in the face of the city’s perennial focus on nostalgic planning policies, such as the unfortunate phase of “critical reconstruction” in the 90s. Designed by a team led by Arno Brundlhuber, Brunnenstraße 9 uses simple but well-crafted materials to house a residence, atelier, and gallery space. Behind the UV-pink tinted façade of PVC, the concrete building is cleverly cut into spaces that use double-heights to counter the relatively narrow width of the building. The front façade employs a minimal geometric motif generated by the difference between the two adjacent facades while the back of the building is a cool composition of exterior concrete stairs, decks, and balconies.



Jordan Wolfson, Con Leche (courtesy Johann König Gallery)

Clues to the former state of Brunnenstraße are found in the background of a new video by Jordan Wolfson: now showing at Johann König Gallery. The video portrays milk-filled diet coke bottles walking through desolate urban streets that could have been filmed in this area about ten years ago. The soundtrack extends the cultural critique with a voice-over exploring numerous contentious contemporary topics. Taken from first-hand accounts and news stories found on the internet, the subjects, ranging from technology, race, re-incarnation, mourning, and the general culture of re-cycling and re-use, take on a confessional tone that is simultaneously emphasized and disengaged by constant instructions from the artist to the voice actress. The hybrid mix of displaced elements constructs a strange yet almost melancholic media critique at once personal and timely.



Jerszy Seymour, Workshop Chair

While Wolfson’s cultural critique uses found text and imagery, he is able to emphasize their personal aspects; his strategy might even be said to have an existential core. In this way it has a similar starting point to the work of Jerszy Seymour Design Workshop, whose activities engage a “human” approach above all as an alternative to the normal modes of industrial production. After completing numerous exhibitions in large scale institutions this past year, Seymour and his team have recently opened Amateur Workshop to present their experimental approach to design on a more intimate scale. Central to this recent production is a plastic-wax material called “capa” that is easily formed and yet unusually strong. For his exhibitions, Seymour often provides raw capa, along with an inventory of found lumber and other elements, to be used by the designers along with visitors to join elements together for the creation of everything from furniture, sculpture, and even swimming pools. In this way, the capa acts like a “social glue”, facilitating communal acts of subjective shared production.

Gregor Hylla

Gregor Hylla’s polychrome wall-painting at Tanya Leighton combines influences from geometric abstraction, Colour Field painting, and Constructivism. The title of a series of recent oil paintings also exhibited reveals a conceptual direction: The Class on Prophecy Has Been Cancelled Due to Unforeseen Circumstances. Is this another memorial for the utopian tendencies of the avant-garde, a re-invigoration, or do we find a synoptic tendency for painting? Such questions arise in the presence of this jubilant work.



Henri Chopin

Opened in 2007, Supportico Lopez, is a somewhat recent addition to the comparatively small number of galleries with truly creative curatorial programs in Berlin. They are currently exhibiting, in collaboration with Fondazione Morra in Naples, the French artist Henri Chopin (1922 – 2008), a relatively uncelebrated yet prolific force in the history of the 20th Century avant-garde. Chopin was an early figure working in multiple media with a primary interest in sound, who focused on the human voice as an action and language initiated deep within the interior of the body. For example, on UbuWeb, one can hear his Cantata for Two Farts & Juan Carlos I., among other pieces such as La Digestion. In the gallery, a series of stunning “typewriter poems” testifies to Chopin’s experimentation with the written form, while the visitor can play a vinyl recording on a hi-fi. The inclusion of numerous exquisite editions extends the breadth of Chopin’s search for primordial forms beyond communication and his seemingly now-forgotten prescience.



Jay Chung and Q Takeki Maeda

At Isabella Bortolozzi Gallery, Berlin-based artists Jay Chung and Q Takeki Maeda use the domestic context of the gallery for work that is characteristically made with as few personal or aesthetic decisions as possible. In the otherwise empty gallery, the artists have placed secondhand corner vitrines that easily fit in to the existing décor. Seen as leftovers from consumer society, the artist’s minimal and conceptually based process led them to focus on the anti-modern and pseudo-traditional nature of these cheap mass produced signs of customary coziness.



Karin Sander

The Temporary Kunsthalle is another almost empty exhibition space on view at the moment. And yet this exhibition involves a full ten percent of the Berlin art scene. Consistent with the Kunsthalle’s current mandate to present group exhibitions involving Berlin-based artists, Karin Sander has invited 599 artists from the city to translate their own work into an audio piece of around two minutes in length. From a single horizontal line of numbers with corresponding names that circles the space, visitors can select a track on a portable audio-guide set. Activating relations between experience and visibility using the participant’s imagination, the exhibition successfully mediates between artist, space, and “viewer” to generate an unexpected acoustic panorama.



Rodney LaTourelle is an artist, writer and designer based in Berlin and Winnipeg. He writes frequently for artist's catalogues, and is a regular correspondent for BorderCrossings and C Magazine.


Johann König Gallery: http://www.johannkoenig.de/
Jordan Wolfson: Con Leche continues until January 9.

Jerszy Seymour Design Workshop: http://www.jerszyseymour.com/

Tanya Leighton Gallery: http://www.tanyaleighton.com/main.php#exhibitions
Gregor Hylla: The Class on Prophecy Has Been Cancelled Due to Unforeseen Circumstances continues until December 19.

Supportico Lopez: http://supporticolopez.blogspot.com/
Henri Chopin continues until January 24.

Bortolozzi Gallery: http://www.bortolozzi.com/
Jay Chung and Q Takeki Maeda: When Buffeted continues until December 22.

Temporary Kunsthalle: http://www.kunsthalle-berlin.com/
Karin Sander continues until January 10.

 

 

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