Dancing trees, Rwanda and the Collage

August is the month when nearly the whole Berlin art-scene is going on vacation. Even most of the big galleries are closed due to the annual holidays. But sure enough there are interesting exhibitions around town. Especially the museum for photography and art produced in berlin (contemporary and modern), the so called „Berlinische Galerie“ is hosting an exceptional summer-program.

Entering the museum there is a long and high hallway, since some years dedicated to big installations by contemporary artists and resembling the situative game of the turbine hall in the Tate modern (much smaller though). Since the end of april a ballet of trees is turning around, not only resembling the dance of a derwish (those mystic, originally mostly turkish, muslim dancers who try to enter a state of transcendence due to fast circular dance-movements) driven by some motors, but also „painting“ the floor and parts of the wall with their continouus movement and the ongoing loosing of fir needles and the scratching of wood on a white floor. The installation of five uoside-down hanged trees is completed with a livestream from a forest, where a group of trees was encircled by a black square. The video shows live the slow moving decompostation and transgression of the paint on the forest underground. It is an impressive work by artist „Michael Sailstorfer“ called „Forst“ (an old german term for wood) that won the Vattenfall contemporary price for artists this year. The installation has not only an ecological component to it, but also plays with the (very german) myth of the german wood, which has envoked in certain periods a nearly hysterical fascination by artists and the public.

installation view @ berlinische galerie

Besides of this big installation the Berlinische Gallery is momentarily hosting as one of three exposition sites (alongside the NGBK and the Alte Nationalgalerie) the first retrospective of the chilean artist Alfredo Jaar – „An Aesthetics of Resistance“. Jaars works are political from the very beginning. His artistic coming out happened with the overthrow of the democratic elected president Allende in Chile in 1973 by Pinochet, and his early works, shown in the NGBK, are encircling the military dictatorship in Chile. The works shown in the Berlinische Gallery consist of two parts – his time in Berlin with a DAAD scholarship in the early ninetees, especially with a focus on an installation at the famous „Pergamon“ museum and works directly related to the fall of the german wall and – on the other hand – works concerning the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Jaar travelled early after the end of the massacres to Rwanda and into the heart of this abyssal humanitarian catastrophe. Besides a videoinstallation with extremely peacefull filmstills that show the beauty of the Rwandan countryside, his moving works „Boxes“ (1995) consisting of 6 monuments of photography boxes, holding one colour photography each with the description of the scenes written on them (one for instance reads like: a church, skulls with rest of flesh in the grass, blue sky). Jaar decided to take this indirect approach for presenting this wortk to undergo the (very direct) implications of photography which seemed to him not fitting for this catastrophe, that, in its whole brutality, revealed itself just when he was already working in the tormented land. Another workcycle shown concerns the medias, especially the püress, and their approach (or negation) of Africa itself and the catastrophe in Rwanda in particular (for Newsweek it took 4 month to put the massacres on their title page).

bookcover of the exhibition catalogue

Last but not least the Berlinische Galerie is also hosting a little outlook into the ABOUT CHANGE collection, dedicating itself to the history of Collage. From Dada to most recent works using this technique, this small extra view is a nice little escapade in the sometimes popular and than again nearly forgotten art of collage, that is nowadays also used by sculptors in some ways. Although the exposition is rather small it hosts some amazing works by Hannah Hoech, Ceal Floyer and others.

Über philippkoch

author and curator, specializing in literature and writing on visual arts
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