What to do on Gallery Weekend?

First and Foremost, for Gods sake make it a Contemporary Art Weekend. The Galleries, especially the participating bunch that has this oeconomical edge to pay the fees, are not necessarily the providers of what is hot and what´s not. With a good advanced planning you should be able to make one of the gallery clusters on opening night. If you are doing Potsdamer or Augusstraße, always keep your eyes open. With that little luck you always need, you might make some interesting discoveries, something that is and has been rare even in Berlin.

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Starting early

Despite everything I just worte: there is a lot to do! So you should consider to start your Weekend on Wednesday with the opening of „Retreat into Darkness“ by croatian artist Ivana Franke at Schering Stiftung project space. Frankes work has developped into an analysis of conception and for this she collaborates with neuroscientists and creates amazing light-installations that are beautifull and discursive at the same time, asking about limits, borders and the phenomology of seeing.

Thursday evening its the good old Motto: Test the West! – and visit the art fair for contemporary drawings „Paper Positions“ inside the beautifully refurbished Bikini Berlin. Although art and shopping malls usually don´t really go together all that well, the great interior design of the Bikini mitigates this in a way. Still not great as a venue, don´t get me wrong, but allright and central enough. If you plan to buy an artwork while having a limited budget, here you might find some amazing possibilities that will even fit inside your flat or house (always difficult with giant installations and environments, right?).

Opening day marathon

Depending on your general constitution you can do so many openings this friday night, that you could hire an Uber for the whole night. But i recommend to show some restraint and just (which is still a lot) pick one of the clusters – Auguststraße, Markgrafen-/Lindenstraße, Potsdamer or all around Kreuzberg (from König in Alexandrinenstraße to Kwadrat to Nome Gallery, that has just moved its gallery space from Friedrichshain to Glogauer Straße). Because there is so much good stuff going on, I won´t get here much into Detail but rather give you Highlights.

Potsdamer Straße

Well, Supportico Lopez shows american artis Dara Friedman with „Dichter“ a four screen video installation of people reading poems that are dear to them and crossing them one over the other. From silence to cacophonic crescendo, this exhibition essentially deals with the idea of poetics and the closeness of this literary genre to visual arts. Afterwards you should visit the spaces alongside Potsdamer and don´t miss out on the exhibition „Zeitlaich“ by German painter Jonas Burgert at Blain Southern. A 22 meter long landscape painting. Wow. At least you have to see it, right? Also stop by at Jarmuschek and Partners in the same courtyard (that is anyway filled with galleries to the top) for Petra Lottjes video work „Timecode“.

Gallery House Lindenstraße and roundabout Markgrafenstraße

My advice: take your time with that house on Lindenstraße. For ten years now it is almost entirely occupied by a wide range of galleries and there is usually soemthing to discover for everyone on Gallery Weekend. My tips: Stanley Whitney at Niels Borch Jensen and ROBERT KuśMIROWSKI at Zak Branicka. After those two let your eyes guide you through the other exhibitions. Definitely a very compact way to start your evening out.

Heading over to Markgrafenstraße you should definitely stop by at Carlier Gebauer and their display of works by Thomas Schütte and swing around the building that houses quite a few galleries.

Good old Kreuzberg

Although up to today the heart of Kreuzberg around Moritzplatz and Oranienstraße has not been known to be especially dense with galleries, this is about to change. The Nome gallery just moved to Glogauer, ChertLuedde, formerly only Chert, moved in new spaces in Ritterstraße, showing a sexhibition by Kasia Fudakowski and Kwadrat is sitting pretty in Mateuffelstraße. This agglomeration of galleries is not as dense as in and around Potsdamer Straße, Auguststraße or even Lenden-/Markgrafenstraße. Which makes this one of the more interesting tours is the young profile of the galleries and their promotion of mostly emerging artists. Probably the best tour to discover new artists and galleries.

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He must have lost something, Giant Wallpaper on a house in Linienstraße, Berlin

Saturday

Because you should be tired by now of all that comercial stuff, its time to set out to independent art spaces. If you have a car, grab your friends and drive out to Lentzke, a small village near Fehrbellin. Since last year this Brandenburg Weiler is home to the RAE Art Farm, or, as you might put it, an international exhibition space with artis residencies and all kinds of interesting ideas and developments. On this weekend they pair up contemporary art with old cars. Classic, right? Also curated to fit, naturally.

If you are not as mobile, head out to Berlin Schöneweide. The Reinbekhallen will host „if this, then that“. Curated by Pierre Granoux this show not only puts Schöneweide on the map this year, it also brings together an interesting body of artists contemplating the idea of causality. And how causality sometimes looks in contemporary art we know very well since Fischli/Weiss Video work „the way things go“.

Sunday

If you are still not totally exhausted (well you definitely did something wrong, didn´t you now?), than sunday is 100 Days of Trump special at Haubrok Foundation in Lichtenberg. The Fahrbereitschaft is always a great sunday art retreat, this time paired with the exhibition „collected attributes“ and a Santiago Sierra film screening.

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The Miracle on Danziger Straße

Cover of "MONOLAGE EGAL", Salon Verlag, 2016

Cover of „MONOLAGE EGAL“, Salon Verlag, 2016

 

To run a project space for contemporary art is one thing. To have the balls to take on a task like that on your own after your co-founders opted out is quite another. When you hold out for six years on your own, its time for a celebration and a look back.

So at first we have to congratulate LAGE EGAL and its co-founder and longtime curator and artist Pierre Granoux for the amazing work, shows, discursive interventions and just that social place on Danziger Straße where no other art place has dared to exist (as far as I know) in the 2000´s. And what better way to celebrate than publishing a book that is looking back on the work that has been accomplished. It is too long a list of artists to name them all, but the range goes from that guy fresh out of art school you have never heard about in your life to emerging, Berlin bred stars like Alicja Kwade or international figures of the art world like Marcel van Eeden – plus a good portion of interesting french artists, due to the curators heritage, to stir it up.

Weighing that pavé (the frenchmans expression for a book thick as a brick) of a book that lingers between catalogue and an art work in itself, it seems just natural. Not that documentation is everything and even if books are the sextoys of intellectuals anyways, a printed object (and rather specially printed at that, using those pointillist dots in most of its imagery) like this just beats the photos from your last opening or performance on your website or facebook page. Its a lasting legacy, a celebration of art and complicity.

Besides of this double-design of being an arty book and a documentation of LAGE EGAL it can also be used as an interesting ride through a roster of – mostly – young artists working conceptually.

So what´s the next step? Hopefully ten more years LAGE EGAL and another book!

A publication like this always reminds me of the fact, that there is the danger of loosing so much (and a lot has been lost already, I do fear) of the great work that independent art spaces have accomplished over the years from the crazy nineties until today.

I will just say it: its time for an archive that establishes a Database of all project space and exhibitions before even more gets lost in the depth of the internet, handhold documentations in some binder in some artists cellar or in the attic of someones family home.

MONOLAGE EGAL

Five years + nine months
Lage Egal 2010 – 2016
edited by Pierre Granoux
Salon Verlag, 2016
600 copies
ISBN 978-3-89770-449-7

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Proverbs

A Game of Words

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8th Berlin Biennale, Third Notions

After my exploratory excursion into the far, far west, what rests to be discovered in this years Biennale is it´s „historical“ centre, the Kunstwerke for contemporary art in Auguststraße, Berlin Mitte. The catalogue states, that after intervening in the setting of a Villa (Haus am Waldsee) and setting up contemporary art, dealing with ethnological and postcolonial themes in an ethnological museum, art will come to itself in the Kunstwerke. Rather than the other, rather particular locations, the Kunstwerke remains that white cube, that is so common for the showcasing of art after all. While I did see the first two locations before the opening for the general public, I went to the Kunstwerke at the opening day with some friends, rain falling, tingrey skies, crowds gathering in the courtyard of the Kunstwerke and after some time waiting in line, we finally entered the exhibition. The first two works you see (each with a separate room) entering the ground floor picks right up, where you left the ethnological museum in Dahlem. David Zink Yis (Peru) video installation „The Strangers“ work circles around a silver mine high up in the andean mountains, showing the surroudings as well as the work in the mine, while  Santu Mokofengs (South Africa) „Ancestors/Fearing the Shadows“ documents some form of a construction site, that is contested  by the local indigenous population due to burial grounds of their ancestors. Especially the latter needs so much context to understand (beside of technical well done photographies of a rather barren landscape with construction going on), that you really did not get the thing very well on opening day, too many people, and I, knowing the other two locations already, wonderes a little, why these works were not implemented into the ethnological museum location, where they would have fitted nicely, not being art that would „come to itself“ shown in a white cube. This happens afterwards, in the big hall of Kunstwerke, that was this time fragmented into different spaces and picked up the classical artifact showing museum theme by implementing vitrines into the exhibition space, which did have a rather nice touch, I must say.

The works shown in the big space are drawing related, with a subtle, mostly monochrome aesthetic, which one could describe as poetical. The works really were proposals, from shades of green to drawings of plants and angles, lightgrey on white, studies one might say, other shown pieces dealing more with architecture, very geometrical is that, or sociologal approaches, aesthetical approaching comic. And than there is in the middle a built room with the works of Tonel. These now are in the face polemical (if not worse) depictations, accusations, posters, I would myself say, posters for raging teens willing to save the world they do not understand. because of colour and the more sensual, more brutal force of these works, the room was naturally the most occupied. I on the other hand asked myself, why these works were part of the exhibition anyway. The depth of the critic articulated in some words was at best as deep as a shallow puddle, the agressiveness of the depictation did not harmonize with the rather „silent“ drawings surrounding it, or the contextual depth of the works you could experience beforehand. It really reminded one of the last Biennale, where Occupy activists camped right there in that hall in the ground floor, with the upside that their striking slogans might have had even more substance. A pick on side of the curator, that otherwise had shown such a devotion to reflection, I do not understand at all.

Getting up the stairs in the first, second, third floors of the Kunstwerke proofed to be a nightmare. Due to the crowdedness the entry was restricted somewhat and you had the fine choice to wait in the pouring rain or inside in the heated up axhibition in a long row of art afficianados. That is why you actually do not go to openings of these big events, it always kind of hurts you badly in one way or another.

The first floor was dedicated to art playing with light and shadow, some very nice and poetical stuff actually, that were sadly lost in the gigantesque space, overlapping and diffusing because of too much sources of light. It really did not do the works a favour to have them set up like that, but i guess it was a necessity due to lack of considerably fitting space in the Kunstwerke itself (and they would have not made a point in the other locations). The second floor really did not hit it off either. The best work on display in my view, an installation by canadian artist Judy Radul, meditates over the idea of displaying artifacts in museums, showing vitrines like those in the ethnological museum, emptied or filled with everyday objects, this combined with videos from the same room, people looking into the vitrines, and selected parts of the ethnological museum and its collection (and its visitors). While only really understandable when you have visited the other locations before going to the Kunstwerke, it has an intertextuality that I find rather appealing. And than there is the plastic Owl on the windowsill in the uppermost part of the staircase, overlooking the courtyard and the rooftops of Berlin Mitte arty district around Augustsraße. A silent observer, in the bacjground playing some classical music (it might be the quintuor de negres, also played in the Haus am Waldsee, but I am not sure). That is were this years Biennale ends, a poetical image, a worthy situational work, ironic and sensual at the same time. The latter, sensuality, colour, overwhelming impressions, art that hits you just by looking at it, rather than reading two pages text on the context, is what´s missing in this Biennale, by purpose, for sure, but also closing it to what you might call „the art world“ and leaving the general populous a little bit out, for they are usually not drawn ti highly contextualised concept art or the poetics of drawing that is always a poetic of the proposal rather than the absolute stated by artworks so oftenly.

 

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8th Berlin-Biennale. Second Thoughts

After the Haus am Waldsee, as a reasonable proposal for starting the walk through all three exhibition sites of this years Berlin-Biennale (find the article here), I want to take you down some tube stations to Dahlem-Dorf (Dahlem-Village, if you would translate it), the location of the main buildings of the Freie Universität, the Ethnological Museums, were the Biennale is occupying some space, and a mixture of gardens, Villas, Cottages and small retailers, as you would find in any village, probably with more restaurants than usual though. As well as the even more outskirtish location of the Haus am Waldsee, the proposition of Dahlem Dorf as one of the centrepieces of the Berlin Biennale (and it is – at least in my view – the central place of this Biennale, were the overall concept, the works and the form of displaying them as well as the setting probably come into their own) enlarges the cities geography regardind contemporary art once again.

One of the reasons why this museum complex was chosen is their scheduled move into the yet to build Humboldt Forum Unter den Linden, that will be housed in the reconstruction of the Stadtschloss (the old palace of the prussian kings and later emperors), that is underway right now. This move will change the museums and their rather important collections considerably. Now housed in a modernist architecture in a corner of the city less and less visited after the fall of the wall, it will probably become a touristical hotspot in a fake historizised architecture, rebuilding the nineteenth century in the centre of the city instaed of looking (and building!) into the future. The whole project of rebuilding the Stadtschloss is a rather strange one. The Berliners don´t really want it. The peole stemming from the former GDR and – in my opinion every german – lost the emblematic building of the GDR Parliament, that was torn down in that location some years ago, although not necessarily beautyfull, it was a real historical site, that vanished for the purpose of eliminating the recent history, probably all of the misdeeds of the 20th century, which made Berlin actually what it is right now. It is also a project mostly backed by well-off old men from old western germany, entangled into the idea of prussia. The Museums in Dahlem now live like in a deep sleep, waiting for their reawakening and their transformation in the central city, which has become a touristical hot-spot over the years. I do not want to talk too much about the implications this all brings with it, but the anyways difficult display of ethnological objects, mostly collected during times of imagined european supremacy, in a touristical context rather than right now, secluded, for interested and therefore people who are more aware of the entangled problematics, will very much change the museum and the way one will look at the artifacts, because of the auratic impact of the central location, the fake historic faccade and so on.

Back to the works, back to the village, back to the far west, looking from a Berlin perspective. The intervention of contemporary art into an existing collection of artifacts in the formal setting of a museum struck me as highly interesting, when I first heard about it. Something like that had been done in documenta 13, where the curator opposed parts of the collection in the castle with contemporary art. The respond to that was mixed, as usual, regarding a ethnological collection and artists intervening into that with works reflecting colonial, ethnological and collecting issues could be much more fruitfull, due to the more specific nature of the artifacts on showcase. Sadly the intervention only takes place here and there, most of the Biennale pieces are in their own spaces, freed from objects of the museum itself. It may very well be, that it was not possible otherwise, I do not have insight into the arrangement made with the museum for the purpose of the Biennale. It is notably though, that the strongest pieces and installations are those directly taking on the preexisting collection of the ethnological museum. Wolfgang Tillman´s piece „untitled“, a one room installation taking into consideration its former display (the woodlands, USA), showcasing an assemblage of photographies, found images, objects, a nike shoe for instance, set up in a vitrine, just like the ethnological objects in the museum, a woven cap originating from these woodlands (left standing, as you  might say). With this, Tillmann creates an inside-outside view on the collection of the museum, proposes a postmodern ethnological „image“ collection and refers (back and forth) to the location, he installs this piece in. Apart from this, there is a rather lovely touch of proposal in the piece, it is at the same time very adapted to the situation and very open in its dialogical structure, taking you, as the spectator very seriously. Very different in the approach and the final execution is Mariana Castillo Deballs installation „You have time to show yourself before other eyes“, that deals with objects fabricated after originals (some of them actually lost during WWII) from the mesoamerican collection. Plaster reproductions are scattered through the room, on the walls there is a print done from the reliefs (very much like you would do with a cylinder seal of ancient Mesopotamia) and images related to the shown „objects“ oscillating between original and reproduction and copy. It is – for me – a pity though, that this really good piece of work could (as I imagine) not be shown in the halls were the mesoamerican artifacts are on display, it would have harmonized and there woul have been a rather intricate dilogue situation created, I do strongly believe.

Something to be noted too, is the use of rather outdated, sixies or seventies originated showcases and built-in vitrines for some of the contemporary works. The old museum (as in non-event related and outdated) comes here together with contemporary works, sometimes giving them a rather special feel, highligting maybe their datelessness (most of the works could very well stem from some time of the last thirty or fifty years, contemporary yes, but not aggressively „new“).

A work I want to mention, because I personally really adapted to it, are the notepad drawings of australian Artist Gordon Bennett, dealing with racism, white supremacy, images of the other and the self, mostly in regard of the native australians, the Aboriginees. It is also one of the few pieces displaying lively colour, something you will notice yourself in this Biennale that has a tendency to monochrome and silent-poetical colouring.

A review on the final exhibition site, the Kunstwerke for contemporary art will be posted soon.

 

 

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8th Berlin- Biennale. First look.

I was fortunate enough to have the possibility of attending the press preview of this years 8th edition of the renown Berlin-Biennale, that is even more than usual scattered around town. Besides of the traditional nukleus of the Kunstwerke for contemporary art in Auguststrasse, Berlin-Mitte, this years Biennale introduces locations far out in the western, bourgeois parts of the city, the ethnological Museums Dahlem (the Underground station actually is named: Dahlem-Dorf, Dorf meaning village) and the Haus am Waldsee, a former private Villa that became one of the most important venues for contemporary art after WWII, only to obscure more and more after the fall of the Berlin Wall because of its location far away from the new centre.

Much as most Biennales, the 8h edition of the Berlin Biennale is an intellectual construct that follows a general idea, in this case the outside look on the city and – even more importantly, looking at the works and the make up of the exhibition – postcolonialism. Both fields of research are not new to the international art circus of Documentas, Triennales and Biennales. What is probably different, is the very postmodern approach taken by the main curator Juan A. Gaitan, to propose this field of research and to work from that alongside his artistic team and the participating artists. The outcome is respctable, you have not one of these big shows, were the curator becomes the artist or is dedicately making his thesis, the works, venues and themes are always open for dialogue and the spectator is required to deal himself with the artworks, alongside their sometimes quite long explanations (the concept, after all, rules the work itself, that, in many cases, cannot be understood without context). Regarding this special makeup, the concentration of drawings in this Biennale makes sense: the artwork is a proposal, a possibility rather than a „work“, sitting pretty and satisfied with itself, they are in essence rather ephemere products of artistic research and subjective approaches on themes.

The proposed start for a walk through the Biennale venues is the Haus am Waldsee. Now there are a lot of critics out there stating, that this expeditionary starting point tries to set private collection as kind of an approach on art (which is partly true, regarding that there is a section named private collevtion just after the entrance of the villa), what they, in my view, neglect are the implications of the very special venue, being a bourgeoise Villa with a beautifull garden, regarding the theming of colonialism, collecting, and ethnology. Out of these surroundings, wealthy and mostly non aristocratic, the european dominace over the world turned to collecting its artifacts int he 19th century, from Napoleons Egyptian expedition to Alexander von Humboldt and so on. The imagined supremacy and the – oftenly romanticised – fascination with the „other“, that always unveals more of the self than of the other, especially when displaying their artifacts out of there natural, sociological or ritual context. The displayed artworks also reflect this very uniquely. Carla Zaccagnini from Argentinia proposes with „Le Quintuor des Négres“ an installation that assembles a classical music piece with that same name by Johann Nepomuk Hummels that is shown as a notation and is played from the terrace of the Villa, overlooking the splendid garden reaching downhill to a small lake. Additionally she showcases several volumes of a nineteenth century novel dealing with the „paradisic“ life in the colonial world, alongside Rousseaus theory of the good „natural“ human. The music fits very well the villa, this european model of bourgeoisie, the title of the piece itself transports the romanticism and adventure of the „other“, the books draw us into the science of humanities and europes intellectual view on its outside, tainted by the very limited idea of eurocentric civilization. Next to it, the work of Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnec, cryptically entitled „Sector IX B Prophylaxis of Sleeping Sickness“, is displayed. Glasses with mosquito larves, on the walls photographs from ethnological objects out of the lost collection of his grandfather, who worked out of Gabon, and finally a vitrine showcasing pages from a 19th century guide how to collect ethnological artifacts for the french museums, if travelling remote corners of the earth. Personal history connects with the idea of collection, displaying and science (as in the larves, needed for research on mosquito transmitted diseaes), both given in an open, wide angle of proposition for the spectator to meditate over, but again taking into account the „private“ angle of collecting and the citizen as hobby researcher, breaking the eurocentric view by displaying it. Outside, in the garden, a sound installation by the artist collective „Slavs and Tartars“, does in a way break the privateness of the villa, its garden and its bourgeois surrounding by intervening through a muezzin chant in turkish, alienating the idyllic and for the european spectator culturally so well known setting of a garden and a villa.

Although this might read very positively, it is, in question of the whole curatorial set up, a rather pressing question, if an opposing of these works with the artifacts in the ethnological museum would not have been more fruitfull. A Dialogue between the artifacts and this contemporary works, directly dealing with the intention of collecting artifacts, might have been a more disturbing, more discursively approach. In itself though, the Haus am Waldsee presents a series of interesting works, besides those mentioned especially the installations by Matts Leiderstamm on the upper floor.

Secnd thoughts and a virtual wordy stroll through the Museum Dahlem and the works displayed there will follow soon.

 

 

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Prints, baby!

at the opening in Alte Feuerwache

at the opening in Alte Feuerwache

Thirty years are a long time in the art business, especially in Berlin, where – with our contemporary view – everything seemingly started in the nineties. Surely that is not true and Berlin has been the Hub for visual and arts in general in Germany many times, not only before WWII. The Printing Press „Tabor Presse Berlin„, founded 1982\83 in Kreuzberg, at first in the Kunsthaus Bethanien, celebrates its 30th birthday these days in the communal project space „Alte Feuerwache“ in Friedrichshain with a grand overview on their work since the beginning. Thirty years, that means not only a hell lot of wirks to choose from, that also means an enormous variety in style, technique and approach on the craft of printing, ranging from Aquatinta to Lithographie to Woodcuts. Although probably not as popular as it once has been in Germany, prints are in my view one of the most interesting and probably most underestimated works in art. They struggle with the original as being seen as the holy grail for the collector, which is actually astonishing given the art history of the last sixty years and the proclaimed negating of the „one“ original by many avantgarde movements like Fluxus and artists as Andy Warhol.

If you manage to have a look at the exhibition (and i really advise anyone to do so), you can expect works from Berlin painter stars from the early 80ies as Elvira Bach (one of the Jungen Wilden), from grandmasters of GDR painting like Wolfgang Mattheuer and nowadays art heros like Jonathan Meese, not to mention all the not so famous artists being part of the exhibition.

Look at this!

Look at this!

For those interested also in the craft of printing there is a selection of tools you work with and a prepared Lithography stone on display. If you are interested in prints as a collector, have a look at the „Tabor Presse Berlins“ shop website. Fresh in the program is the annual print calendar (2014) with twelve prints by twelve artists, also being around for over twenty years now. A nice christmas present if your Budget allows it.

Now there is only one thing left to say: Happy Birthday, Tabor Presse Berlin!

„Die Spur der Steine“ (the track of the stones)
30 Years Tabor Presse Berlin
until january 31st
Tuesday to Saturday 14.00 to 19.00
Alte Feuerwache Friedrichshain
Machlewskistraße 6\10243 Berlin

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