vrijdag 7 november 2014

Dance, little gardens, dance!

In the forest currently on show in the Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin, between the barren tree trunks, strange objects are moving around. They look like bouquets or little gardens. What ARE they doing? Are they...could they be.... dancing?
They are called Sliding Gardens, made by Brazilian artist Fernanda Trevellin (Sao Paulo, 1980) and they are exhibited in light of the Festival of Future Nows, which takes place within another exhibition; David Chipperfields Sticks and Stones. The gardens are controlled by the visitors, by means of a device that reminds one of toys controlled from a distance. Interaction is established between bystanders, by making your garden dance around another bouquet, or chasing one another.

They move slowly. Only when they come near each other, the nature of the whole is revealed. Like the trees in the Neue National who make up a forest, Trevellins little gardens in the shape of a hexagon together make a geometrical construction, like a honeycomb. 

Future Nows
The Festival of Future Nows celebrates the end of a fruitful working period of the Institut für Raumexperimente (Institute for Spatial Experiments) at the Universität der Künste Berlin under the direction of no-one less then Olafur Eliasson ( don't we love his work!).

The project started in 2009 and in it's opening statement, Eliasson writes:"Due to its obsession with primarily formal questions, art education has, I believe, seriously failed to acknowledge the fact that creativity is a producer of reality". The sliding gardens by Trevellin illustrate his words by creating a reality which reminds us about the connection between maths and nature, between the one and the many.

In his closing statement, Eliasson notes:"‘Contact is content’ is a phrase I recently picked up from the eco-theorist Timothy Morton". And thus the reality of the moving gardens, this little exhibition inside a larger one not only provides a sense of belonging, of being part of a bigger something. They also provide a moment of contact. So, yes please; dance, little gardens, dance!

vrijdag 31 oktober 2014

Trees trees trees

Trees in the Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin? The installation Sticks and Stones by David Chipperfield (1953) fills the upper hall of the Neue National with stripped down tree trunks. The refer to the radically new design by the famous architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969).

Mies van der Rohes designs where radical because they looked so totally different, fresh and new for his time. For example the outer glass walls of the Neue Nationalgalerie seem to float. They don't bear the weight of the roof because that weight is being supported by two massive concrete rectangles, covered with beautiful green marble plates, in the middle of the hall and eight steel columns on the outside.

The trees by Chipperfield, who is also an architect, symbolically support the weight of the ceiling as well. They refer to the upcoming renovation of the building, executed by (the same) Chipperfield. The stripped down tree trunks point to this inherent closure for approximately two years. So visit it now whiles you still can!

maandag 6 oktober 2014

Meschac Gaba - Contempary Global Art

In 1996, African artist Meschac Gaba (1961) came to the Netherlands to study art at the post-graduate program at the prestige Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. It was his first visit to Europe and during his stay he visited a museum of contemporary art, probably the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Wandering through the halls, Gaba wondered where the contemporary African art was. Did they hide it somewhere? Later, he visited the Tropenmuseum, an ethnographic museum in Amsterdam, and there he found some. Not much, but some. 

Being from Amsterdam myself, I felt ashamed. His story shows that even in what I thought to be an open-minded country, in the nineties (only twenty years ago!) the reality still was this elite point of view that contemporary art is a) western (whatever this still means)  b) mainly white and c) predominantly male. 

Gaba transformed his experiences into the ongoing project the Museum of Contemporary African Art. It is not so much a commentary on the western exhibiting practice but more like a display window. It consists of 'rooms' without walls that each exhibit an idea. 

The rooms, now twelve in total, are linked to spaces generally found in museums, like the library, the restaurant and the museum shop. Gaba uses the function of the rooms to pose questions related to their purpose and expose different points of view. For example the Museum Shop, in which Gaba sells the one thing the shop has got to get, it's raison d'être; money.

Gaba presents the strange relation between art and money in multiple rooms. For example the work Artist Bank, where Gaba shows a collection of banknotes who have cultural figures like artists or writers on them. Or the work Money Tree, which contains banknotes with on them pictures of artists who claim to have been inspired by African Art (by which they meant African 'religious' art) like Picasso, Brancusi and Giacometti.

This focus on the old instead of the new can also be seen in the Art and Religion Room, a more philosophical room, in which Gaba presents objects from different religions. Maria candles meet menorah's, a prayer mat and a voodoo doll sit happely next to one another. This is the cateory where religious African art belongs. Gaba points to the Western focus on the latter whiles totally ignoring the contemporary art of the continent.

Gaba's Museum of Contemporary African Art is a twelve room installation which represents ideas about the identity, function and core-business of a museum (for contemporary art). In the installation Gaba also solves the in former times often absent exhibition space for his work. If not available, built your own.

At the moment, the Museum of Contemporay African Art is on tour. The exhibition just left the Tate Modern and is now on show in Berlin in the art space of the biggest bank (!) in Germany: Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle.

donderdag 2 oktober 2014

Positions Berlin- thumbs down


Positions Berlin, the new art fair, held in the former Kaufhaus Jandorf as part of Berlin Art Week, didn't like it at all. I thought it was conservative, reserved, and quite frankly; boring. There was a lot of painting, and not of the interesting sort. The media did like it, I left within half an hour. 

The only booth I really liked was the one from the Muthesius Hochschule (Kiel) in a coop with Umtrieb Gallery. They show drawings by Olrick Kohlhoff; one on the wall, two on the floor. I really liked this installation way of presenting his work. Turned out it was the gallery's doing, trying to show the variety in his drawings....

L'Oiseau présente... @ Berlin Art Week

Did you visit "l´oiseau présente..." , selected by Berlin Art Week, already?
'Rip, cut-grow' is an exhibition about de-constructivism, which basically means; take things apart in order to study the fragments. It creates new meaning, tells you something about their relation to the thing as a whole and confronts the viewer with pre-existing ideas about the whole. If you have missed the very enlightening talk by Magrit im Schlaa, the wall/floor piece by Nadja Schöllhammer shows you how it's done.

Die Raum @ Berlin Art Week


During Berlin Art Week, I visited die raum, with 5m2 probably the smallest project space in town (although I recently heard about a space which consists of one display window only, I will report back when I find it). The space, selected by Berlin Art Week, shows yet again an excellent presentation; a work by Otavio Schipper called elevator music. While their is none of the latter, it is interesting how much associations an elevator stool can bring, for example about an apparent desire to move vertical.

Why this work of art is SO FREAKING COOL!

#1: The mixed media installation from Donna Hanca @ abc


 My favourite work of art BY FAR at abc: The tableau vivant by Donna Huanca at the booth from Brand New Gallery, Milan. Check out more of her installations at her website.

In my new category 'Why this work of art is SO FREAKING COOL', I'm going to explain to you why I think this work of art is SO FREAKING COOL!
1) it contains paintings, sculptural objects and people, PEOPLE!
2) It is somewhat undefinable, which is great in an over defined world. Using people who stand before paintings and sculptures shifts this work somewhere in between an installation, a performance and a theatre play.
3) Which brings back to life the in the 19th century popular phenomenon of the tableau vivant; the living picture, an early form of performance or maybe even film-still one might say. Except this work doesn't represent another, so no feeling of deja-vu.
4) It uses the human body as a canvas and thus as a medium, hence the title; mixed media installation. The nudes hereby become objects, which brings to mind thoughts about the objectifying of the (female) body
5) It is unsellable, which is interesting because it is presented by a commercial gallery at an art fair

Opening abc 2014 - Picture report

dinsdag 16 september 2014

Das spiel ist aus! Berlin Masters 2014 @ ARNDT

ARNDT shows a selection of the recent grads from the two art academies in Berlin that matter; the Universität der Künste and the Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee. The collision of two different worlds is also on display; the safe playground of the art academy and the slap-in-your-face-reality of the art market.

The exhibition shows the result of such a merging very striking with the sound piece Das Spiel ist aus by Paul Darius at the entrance of the gallery. You here a sports commentator shouting, over and over again, that the game is over. The ten graduates who may call themselves Berlin Masters only mastered the top of a temporary mountain, their studies. The Master-title is, although for life, of limited preservability. Das spiel ist aus.

Marc von der Hocht, 2014
This second edition of Berlin Masters shows a variety of works, from the soundpiece mentioned above to the monochrome paintings by Marc von der Hocht. There are universal themes to be found like the grid, the dot, the window, the circle. Zeitzeichnung for example, by Felix Kiessling where he literally plays with time. From a small alarm clock he built a drawing machine that with the help of a little chunk of chalk draws a dreamy circle. 

Felix Kiessling, Zeitzeichnung, 2014

The installation Listening Test: Photographs by EunHee Lee deals with a more present-day phenomenon. It confronts you with the stuff you (unintentionally) think when you look at something. The installation shows a kind of test-setting where you can sit at a table with a booklet before you. On the screen images are projected with four statements about what there is to see. Only one you can verify directly from the image itself. The other ones are possible, yes, but cannot be checked for truth.  These pre-programmed interpretations that everyone experiences when you look at stuff are almost impossible to turn off. This courtesy from your brain, helping you to fill in and give purpose to what you see, is something to be well aware of.

EunHee Lee, Listening Test: Photographs, 2014

donderdag 21 augustus 2014

The smallest raum in town

die raum, opening with artist talk

Die raum is probably the smallest project space in Berlin. 5m2 is where the magic happens. The installation Lembrança de Brasilia (memory from Brasilia) is part of an ongoing project that artist Laearcio Redondo made here in light of the Project Space Festival. He shows that one can go even smaller.  Redondo divided die raum diagonally in half, leaving only 2,5 m2 for the exhibition.

Sometimes, and also for this project, die raum has no door. The transition between the private and the communal space becomes blurry. Literally. People have been rubbing through the charcoal pattern, writing their name in dust.
Installation view
By dividing the space diagonally, the floorplan gets the shape of a triangle. It matches the triangles drawn with charcoal on the wall. The pattern was inspired by the Brazilian artist Athos Bulcão (1918-2008), who played an important role in the coming into existence of the new capital of Brazil; Brasilia. This city was completely designed and built from scratch in only 4 years time, finished in april 1960. The groundplan of the city was designed by Lucio Costa in the shape of an airplane. The central axe houses all the government buildings. The wings are meant for living.

Panel by Bulcao in the Museum of Gems, Brasilia
The work of Bulcão can be found in every corner of this new city, in the form of tiles. Bulcãos mostly abstract patterns are colourful, rhythmic, playful and also very democratic. They are meant as open patterns, for people to play with. Bulcão actively tried to involve the workers who built them in the forming of the pattern and thus involving them the end result.

artist talk
Here at die raum something similar is happening. Because there is no door, people can get (unknowingly) involved in the pattern and leave their mark. They also change the end result.  By allowing this Redondo focuses not only on the beautiful patterns of Bulcão and his modernist ideas of building a bond between art, work, life and the city. He also creates a new bond between past and present and questions what has become of its (maybe) utopian ideas.

Winner! ding-ding-ding

There is a new art festival in town; the Project Space Festival Berlin. It features one project space, every day in august. The space in question organises an event or an exhibition, often accompanied by a performance, food and music. The press is unanimously positive. It is so popular that it has become one of the most documented festivals in Berlin at the moment. The Project Space Festival seems to be an absolute winner. How to explain this success? At the basis of all this lay three ideas that are absolute genius.

1. The concept of the festival. To introduce to art lovers one project space per day is the first absolutely genius move. No rushing from one space to the next, as in for example Gallery Weekend.  Do you know the feeling of an art-overdose? Trying to see as much art in one day as possible, coming home thinking what the peep have I seen, my head is pounding from too much art. Getting annoyed because there is so much more to see, but no more time (or no more you). Nothing of all that. One event. Every day. Time to prepare. Full concentration. Go!

Crowd @ Kinderhook & Caracas
2. The time frame of the festival is genius. Because of the duration of the festival, the whole month of august, you can be part of it. Even though you’ve heard about it only yesterday, you still can participate. And with all this press, it has become really difficult to miss this one. This buzz (where is what going on with who?) versus anti buzz ( ah, there is an event tomorrow as well? and next week also? nice..) is kind of relaxing.

Tour @ Kleine Humboldt Galerie
3. The timing is awesome. August is a great month for an art festival, because there is none. Most of the galleries are on ‘sommerpause’ in august. The Project Space festival can now also work as warm up for abc in september. Furthermore, august is a lazy month, people are not yet on full speed and have time to go to an art event on a monday night. And of course, there is a pretty good chance for good weather.

die raum

To summarize: I. love. it.

donderdag 14 augustus 2014

Festival fever @ the Project Space festival 2014

Why the Project Space Festival Berlin is so much better than the festival around Dutch art fair Art Rotterdam

In Berlin, there currently is a lovely festival going on titled the Project Space Festival. It features one project space each day, every day in august. The space in question organises an event or an exhibition, often accompanied by a performance, food and music. The press couldn't be more positive about this initiative, asking itself why there wasn't a festival like this before.

In Holland, the most interesting festival about contemporary art is the circus that arises in february around Art Rotterdam. It’s main event is the art fair Art Rotterdam, where one can find the best galleries from the Netherlands and a critical selection of international spaces. Berlin is featured there with seven galleries, among which Klemm’s, Future Gallery and Grimmuseum. And yes, you read this correctly; The most interesting festival is not in Amsterdam. 

Art Rotterdam 2014 @ the Van Nelle Fabriek
Rotterdam is definitely the place to be in february. Art Rotterdam itself lasts four days and there is a whole week planned around it. The city buzzes of events. In fact, there are so many of them, it is impossible to visit them all. In 2012 there were five (FIVE!) parallel art fairs. Some a bit alternative, like Re-Rotterdam, but still. In 2013, same situation. At that time the main event, the art fair, still took place in the departure hall of the Holland America Line, which has been described as rather cosy for an art fair. That being said, it could easily fill your day art-watching. This year Art Rotterdam moved to an even bigger location at the Van Nelle Factory.

Already in 2012, I started to get annoyed with the overflow of side events. “What do they want from me?’, I thought in the train home, with a huge headache from too much art. “I’m an experienced art watcher, not some art fair-virgin”, my thoughts continued, trying to soothe me. As an art historian-writer-critic-whatever, I wanted to take it all in. I tried and desperately failed, ending up with an art-hangover from trying to fit too much art into one day.

Project Space Festival @ Insitu

Project Space Festival @ Kleine Humboldt Galerie
It seems like such a waste. Spread all these nice events over the whole year and I think you make a lot of art enthusiasts happy. Let alone that you have something to see all year round. Of course, you probably won't get as many new visitors as you would from the flow that visits Art Rotterdam. Ergo less money. But they sure would pay more attention to what they saw. So what is more important in the long run?

Of course, Art Rotterdam can’t be compared with the Project Space Festival. They are apples and pears, rabbits and bears. One is an art fair with side effects, the other a festival. A very good designed festival, I might aid.

Luckily for me, here in Berlin I CAN take it all in. That’s why you can put me in line with the other lovers of the Project Space Festival. Simple, clear, diverse and above all, do-able.