(Berlin.) Imagine for a moment, you’re dealing in art, and you represent your gallery at a fair. What could be more convenient than the opportunity to tell potential buyers, nonchalantly, off-hand: “This very moment, the artist exposes at ---.” “Or: “Have you seen his latest show at ---? Astonishing!” --- being a museum/foundation/relevant art space. Even better, if --- resides in the same city, and your target could easily visit there himself (but better not now, under all circumstances, don’t suggest taking a taxi together, he might not like that show after all!) “Yes, you should absolutely go, but back to this work, we have already several enquiries, ... yeah I know, it’s crazy! ... The fair closes tomorrow, yes, already, it was soooo exhausting,... Oh, thank you, but we don’t talk about that, let’s just say, everybody’s happy...” There’s no better way to underline your artist’s relevance than an institutional show. It’s the art world’s equivalent to “I have the same at home.”
On the occasion of Berlin Art Week, two galleries were lucky in this respect – or, actually, it has nothing to do with luck, it’s the logical result of tireless networking, countless phone calls, emails, of personalized invitations to fairs, biennales, and after-opening dinners. One of them is Barbara Wien, whose artist Hague Yang not only dominated the gallery's booth at Art Berlin, but who is simultaneously honoured with a show (well, a single, albeit large, installation) at Kindl Zentrum. The South Korean loves to work with household goods, and turns them into something new. The installation consists of loosely attached neon tubes and window shutters swinging in the wind like a gigantic mobile. Hung in two layers, the outer circle is painted black, the inner blue. “Moving neon tubes” should immediately tell you “op art”, optic illusions, in this case without a motor. Maybe the parts are a bit too recognisable, the work stuck halfway between readymade and “original creation”. A hand fan like form shows here and there, where a shutter is half-raised and bent. The Star Wars aesthetics you might discover in the above press photo (-> “X-wing”) does not show as much in real life.
There’s more at Kindl Brewery’s centre for contemporary art. Asta Gröting takes silicone casts from Berlin facades still scarred by WWII bullet holes to document the time that has passed since. Occasionally, involuntarily, they appear slit like a Fontana canvas. But there’s more to these works than the artist claims (and, perhaps, intended). Remindful of papier-mâché, tracing paper, or facial masks, they tell of change and authenticity. Each tissue is an individual, yet you could produce copies, an edition of cities from one mould. These days, Berlin is busy recreating a fake past, copy-and-pasting the historical, and destroyed, city palace as a future tourist attraction. A silicon mould like Gröting's would suit their endeavours perfectly.
Only a copy of the outer hull, Gröting’s art seems like a metaphor for history writing, or photography, capturing a moment in time, to create a reproducible copy. Furthermore, it gives rise to uncanny biological associations: The buildings are flayed, or, more optimist: they shed their skin like a reptile, a natural transformation to start into a new phase, and life. The city is a living organism, but does gentrification compare to this evolution, or, on the contrary, are those dying away the lost skin, here preserved? Let’s discuss it over a Kindl.
Also during art week, and very much to the delight of König Gallery, Berlinische Galerie museum opened a small exhibition of Monica Bonvicini. Entering, you find yourself confronted with a ceiling-high tin wall, a construction meant to keep out everyone who’s not welcome. There’s a door, closed, you check yourself, “not wearing a sombrero, shaved the mustachio last week, no tequila breath, pooh, they should let me in”, yet you shy away again, and decide to go to the movies first. Berlinische Galerie features a large screening room, the entrance next to that wall of Bonvicini’s, and I at least believed, what looked like the exhibition’s exit – that door in the wall - could not be anything else. The beginning would be a film, especially as a written introduction to the artist – large scale installations, sexist (sorry: feminist!), architecture, economy, power, &c - hangs immediately next to the cinema entrance. For the next thirty minutes, I was following a captivating association chain turning around 20th Century movies and the famous Villa Malaparte on Capri. Somehow, it seemed politically philogyn, too. Finally leaving, I found some leaflets: This film is actually not a work of Monica Bonvicini‘s. It’s Amie Siegel. Don’t you think you should make this a little more obvious, dear Berlinische?
So back again it was, and through that door in the forbidding wall. Beyond, there is a white space (please note my not adding a popcultural reference to walls keeping out winter-white landscapes here), a turnstile with handcuffs dangling from a chain to the side, and far in front a broomstick whirled around by a crane. First association: Jordan Wolfsohn at Stedelijk, the doll exchanged for that broom. Approaching, the bristles turn out to be belts, they also give form to a sculpture even farther in the background that cannot be described as other than testi-lic (not sure about the vocabulary here, what’s the complement to ‘phallic’?)
A most daring interpretation: Waiting in line till the chains are broken, then escaping the traditional duties and prejudices, to finally grow some?
Schering is not sc(h)aring, no, it’s pronounced like "sharing"; I wonder why they never adopted the slogan, “Schering is caring”. (Maybe one day, a well known art collector’s Kering conglomerate might attempt a takeover?) The pharmaceutics founded, now independently operating Schering Foundation is hungry for art. Daria Martin adapted Kafka’s story A Hunger Artist into a short film, and what shall I say: it’s wonderful! First of all, the performance of all actors, from the brilliant lead – a Steve Buscemi lookalike, slightly more androgynous -, to the last extra, they’re superior to almost everything you normally see in art films (including these). Watching attentively, you recognize more Kafka motifs, a person who might be the hunger artist’s father passing by, for instance. In the end, he turns not into a bug, but a black panther, or so it seems (in the text, he’s getting replaced after his death), and there’s the deliberately bad pun of the original story, ‘I just never found anything to my taste’. The 1920/30s ambiance is recreated in perfection, you think of human zoos and more contemporary phenomena.
One more. Successful artist owned Schinkel Pavillon offers a hypnotic slideshow by Geoffrey Farmer. A panorama of (mostly American?) history, compiled by a software fed that was with the artist’s collection of images. Like the digital age’s version of Aby Warburg’s Atlas. In the basement, there’s a collections of paper cut outs from an art encyclopaedia, representing personalities from the past. Go, and guess who’s who, or imagine their conversations. A tremendous work, in both parts.
Berlinische Galerie, Monica Bonvicini, 16 September 2017-26 February 2018
Kindl Zentrum, Asta Gröting Berlin Facades, 10 September-03 December 2017, and Haugue Yang, Silo of Silence - Clicked Core, 10 September 2017-13 May 2018
Schering Stiftung, Daria Martin, A Hunger Artist, 14 September-10 December 2017
Schinkel Pavillon, Geoffrey Farmer, The Care With Which the Rain is Wrong, 17 September-12 November 2017
World of Arts Magazine – Contemporary Art Criticism