It’s biennale time in Berlin. This edition, the 8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art is located in three venues; KunstWerke of course, Haus am Waldsee and in Dhalem Staaliche Museen Berlin. On my last visit to the Dahlem-part, I was standing in the hall of the museum wondering which way to go. As I was looking at the floorplan, it seemed that I already passed three artworks on my way in. And I didn’t see them. Or, more accurate, they were apparently not what I expected.
|Museen Dahlem- Staatliche Museen Berlin|
One of them, I had actually walked over, on my way in. I must admit, I felt a bit ashamed for not noticing it. It’s the floor piece of Olaf Nicolai (1962) in the foyer. He painted the marble floor tiles of the museum with a white pattern that he found in a vacant shopping mall in Lichtenberg. The pattern is surprisingly modern. It fits the museum floor perfectly and one wonders how it would have looked in its commercial counterpart.
In reviews in newspapers and on blogs the biennale was described as tame, quiet, resembling the last Documenta which focused on history, research, looking back ( as did the last Venice Biennale for that matter). The mistake made in this resemblance is not that the biennale is tame, it is that we apparently got used to the opposite; big art, in your face art, huge badass installation art, may-be even including flickering neon lights or sounds. Ok,may-be that’s a little overboard, but you get the picture.
|Olaf Nicolai - Szondi/Eden (2014)|
This biennale seems to have a more intimate thing going on. With more focus needed, more concentration. Why go forward if there is so much hidden in the past? Maybe the notion of ‘the new’ got old. And I must say, I kinda like this need, this demand to slow down. To look closer. To do research, to investigate what already has been made instead of inventing (if at all possible) something new.
In 2008 the fifth Berlin Biennale was called ‘slow’ by The New York Times art critic Kimberly Bradley. I quote her quoting one of the curators saying: “These are complex works that are not loud and shiny, but draw you in”. This notion kind of resembles this Biennale.
Doing a quick bit of online research revealed a world of slowness out there. Apparently, everything can nowadays pop-up (see first post) and/or be slow. Slow has, among other things, a wiki (which means you truly exist), an institute, and a book. It even has it own day in april since 2009; Slow Art Day, with as a mascot a depressingly anti-titillating tortoise. The point of Slow Art Day is to look at art. Slowly. And then have lunch, to discuss the experience. This bit sounds like a plan.
How slow do you have to go? The organisers of Slow Art Day advice a five to ten minute look, instead of the 17 seconds an average museumgoer seems to take. I’m not even sure I look that long. As we Dutch people, who ride a lot on our bikes, know; too slow will make you fall. So there you have your answer. That is exactly how slow you can go.