It has been an especially busy time for the
Program opened the elegantly installed Present Perfect by Edith Dekyndt, including two videos, a sound piece, and a balloon-like object hovering above the floor, balanced by a mix of helium and oxygen. Titled Ground Control, the floating sphere is a radically contingent figure, at once menacing, absurd and playful. I was reminded of the allegorical British TV show, The Prisoner, where a translucent white ball descends on the main character each time he attempts to escape his surreal imprisonment on a tropical island. Prior to this at Program, Sophie Dejode, Bertrand Lacombe, Philip Vormwald presented a convincing half-scale version of the entire gallery space within the existing gallery, an uncanny and ingenious statement in keeping with the architectural-art nexus that is the focus of the gallery.
Truly strange encounters were also to be had as I negotiated Elín Hansdóttir’s labyrinthine tunnel at Maribel López Gallery. Wandering through this all-white construction is a disorientating experience as its overwhelming darkness is broken only by light issuing through thin gaps that delicately wash selected planes. Walls seem to recede into the darkness until you knock into them, while shadows seem to render the navigable openings solid.
Dark Science, curated by Carson Chan at Curators Without Borders, was a rich assemblage of work around the theme of the cultural interpretation of science. Via Lewandowsky presented a body-sized white cube punctured by a slightly protruding head. Eva Grubinger’s matte black phallic totem, standing like a stylized panopticon, also invoked a fascination with architecture as control. Situated near the abstract, spatial constructions by Pash Buzari and Luis Berrios-Negron, Jeremy Shaw’s 10,000 Hits of Black Acid (After Malevich and Martin, for Nietzche and Nihilists) conflated a minimal design of LSD-25 blotters with the Suprematist icon, a very productive matrix of associations I must say.
In Architecture Regarding the Future of Conversations, on exhibit as part of Freisteller at the Deutsche Guggenheim, Dani Gal presents two turntables activated by exhibition visitors using motion-sensors. The A and B sides of Conversations Regarding the Future of Architecture, an American LP from the 1950s of interviews with famous modern architects, sporadically come to life, triggered and disrupted by movements through space. The stated positions of singularity and determination are thus transformed by dialogue and negotiation.
The re-imagination of received history is also integral to the exhibition Your Favourites at Bereznitsky Gallery. Here we find large scale photographs from a loose collective of Ukranian and Belarusian artists, exhibiting under the name The Revision Group. With a satirical eye on the art world, the artists constructed their own art history, establishing a subjective rating system and short-listing the 175 artists of all time. Twenty-one finalists were selected for portrayal using a combination of photography and found reproductions. Ten of these twenty-one “legends” hang at Bereznitsky, each icon with their own barbaric hairstyle. Based on their own self-portraits and the meticulous work of a hair and make-up artist, these images are a sharp and humorous comment on the “wild” image of the artist in society.
Along with site-specificity, the re-interpretation of history was a crucial theme for Adam Szymczyk and Elena Filipovic, the curators of the 5th Berlin Biennale. Critical of the role of the biennale format in today’s event culture, the curators chose to work with lesser-known artists in a collaborative process, rather than choosing familiar works from the art-stars of the global biennale circuit. The ambiguous title of the exhibition, When things cast no shadow, conjures an absence of hype yet simultaneously evokes a sense of context and the immediate surroundings. But, while there are numerous fine works in this exhibition, many created especially for the Biennale’s venues, the subtle and well-conceived premise produces an overall experience that lacks strong feeling, a sense of wonder, or any kind of astonishment. Slow-burning, possibly over-worked, the concept is brilliant, but the experience is much different. That said, there is still much to ponder. Performances, lectures, and ephemeral happenings make up a continuous night program, while art work is divided over four venues.
At Kunst-Werke, a large asphalt floor by Ahmet Öğüt is situated in the main floor exhibition space, anchoring an awkwardly heterogeneous collection of work at this venue. Adjacent to the asphalt, in a curious basement-like room, one of the weirdest and most compelling works of the exhibition is projected. Die Fregatte (The Frigate) by Belgian artists Jos De Gruyter and Harald Thys is twenty minutes of strangely engaging alienation. A model warship becomes the dark locus of anxiety for a variety of characters whose strained interaction builds an unreleased tension in a drab airless room. The existential discomfort transported me back to all those over-lit and over-acted television serials from the CBC in the 70s. Oh, the horror. Upstairs, notable works include Kohei Yoshiyuki’s photos of clandestine sexual encounters in Japanese parks, as well as Zhao Liang’s video depicting the hidden stress and violence of contemporary
At the Neue Nationalgalerie, Mies van der Rohe’s icon of late modernity, the Biennale continues with an assemblage of work that respects the expansive main floor gallery by not constructing any temporary display walls. In doing so, the building was able to provide an easy, yet always elegant, target/foil for many site-specific works that contrasted a contemporary, heterogeneous, and relational perspective against the singular and deceptive democracy of capital-M Modernism. At once a composition of coloured stripes and a sly political statement, Daniel Knorr’s multi-coloured flags representing
The abject and uncontrollable neglect of the Skulpturenpark Berlin_Zentrum was the site of a further series of somewhat hard to find works. I thought the productive confusion between what-was-art and what-was-not, a common and always interesting trope typical to
Some of the exhibitions timed for the collector-focused Gallery-Weekend that opened on the first weekend in May stand out from the crowd. Carsten Nicolai at Galerie Eigen + Art and Olafur Eliasson at Neugerriemschneider were disappointing, but there were a few displays that were not only highly marketable, but also compelling. Transfiguring banal references and materials into evocative works that use scale and perspective in unorthodox ways, Tatiana Trouvé’s Density of Time continues at Johann König. Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie’s current exhibition is centered on Jim Shaw, the infamous post-punk artist whose work has been described as “crapulous.” Paintings by Shaw and installations by related artists work evoke a fascinating and troubled, yet somehow redemptive
Recently, at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, the
Finally, I want to end with the recent exhibition, The World of Madelon Vriesendorp: a sprawling collection of paintings, postcards, objects and games at Aedes Pfefferberg. A founding member of OMA, along with her husband Rem Koolhaas and Elia and Zoe Zenghelis, Vriesendorp’s strange collection hints at the messy, kitschy objects of desire that define (by opposition) the aims of contemporary architecture though their willful abandon and failure. Her painting, Flagrant Delit, published on the cover of Delirious New York, shows the Chrysler and the
Maribel López Gallery: http://www.maribellopezgallery.com/index.html
Curators Without Borders: http://www.curatorswithoutborders.com/
Deutsche Guggenheim: http://www.deutsche-guggenheim.de/e/
Bereznitsky Gallery: http://www.bereznitsky-gallery.com/cms/website.php?id=/en/index.htm
Neue Nationalegalerie: http://www.neue-nationalgalerie.de/
Skulpturenpark Berlin_Zentrum: http://www.skulpturenpark.org/
Johann Koenig: http://www.johannkoenig.de/current.html
Isabella Bortolozzi http://www.bortolozzi.com/
Galerie Neu: http://galerieneu.net/
Kunstlerhaus Bethanien: http://www.bethanien.de/kb/index/trans/en/page/news
Aedes Pfefferbeg: http://www.aedes-arc.de/nli.php?o=9&a=2945&i=324391
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