dinsdag 16 juni 2015

Grosse is grand

Katharina Grosse @ König Galerie, St, Agnes church
Part of the appeal of the Berlin art scene are its spaces. Sometimes hidden somewhere on the fourth flour. Sometimes all the way in the back of a parking lot. And sometimes in incredibly beautiful (old) buildings that got a new purpose. Like the Kindl Brewary in Neuköln, now a center for contemporary art in the making. Or the St. Agnes church in Kreuzberg, now home to the König Galerie. And there is a grand exhibition to be found there.

It's called The smoking kid and shows "paintings" by German artist Katharina Grosse (1965). Her canvases are build up out of colorful layers. Each layer is torn up, so that the layer below is visible, Like getting rid of wall paper which sometimes means being confronted with layers and layers of old wall cover.
overview Katharina Grosse @ König Galerie

Put together, all these layers provide a time capsule. They are the reminder of an earlier state. Now all that is left of this state, are fragments. Fragments of stories, captured in one frame. Their size makes that you can drown in these multiple story canvases. You can even choose, do you want to observe one story at a time or let yourself be swept away by their totality.

Katharina Grosse @ König Galerie
On view until the 21th of June 2015

zaterdag 13 juni 2015

A how-to guide to the wonders of the Berlin gallery scene

Published in Freistuz, June 2015

François Morellet @ Blain/Southern 
You are interested in art but think museums are boring? You heard of the vast gallery scene in Berlin but don’t know how to access it? You tried once to select a gallery opening but gave up after seeing the list of choices? Do not despair any longer. With this how-to guide you’ll be self-sufficient in no time. But first things first: we have to lay down some ground rules.

Rule number 1: Go in with an open mind
Art cannot function without an open mind.  When you walk into a gallery, you might find something potentially mind breaking, life changing and/or  awe inspiring. Even if it looks boring at first glance, the gallerist chose this work or artist for a reason. Your job is to figure out what that reason is. And sometimes you have to work for it: read the pamphlet, do some online research, etc. If you still don’t get it after you put your best efforts in it, it might just be bad art. Because what is the meaning of an artwork if it cannot communicate its meaning? If this is the case, GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE!

Rule number 2: Show no fear
Galleries can seem impenetrable fortresses  with gallerists as their watch(wo)men, who will cut your head off if you make one false move. Your job is to show no fear. Don’t be shy, ring the bell, walk in, smile, say hallo and walk around as if you own the place. Don’t be scared of the arty folk sitting behind their desks.  Little secret: they are people too!

Rule number 3: Ask questions
You made it! You are inside, happily strolling around and exploring the space. Now what? The art seems strange, you don’t think you get it. You read the pamphlet on the desk, but it doesn’t seem to make things clearer at all. Then ask the gallerist what it is all about.  Let them work for it. This is part of their actual job. If you are shopping for a new TV, you ask the salesperson  to tell you stuff, right? Same here. A gallery is a wondrous world where you can broaden the mind, but it is also a shop. So ask something like: “Can you tell me something about this artist/work/installation/etc.?”

Go, go, go! But where?
With these ground rules in place. You are ready to rock the galleries in Berlin. But where to go? Berlin has a gallery hub in practically every ‘Kietz’. Let’s start with the area around the Potsdammerstraße, an interesting street where posh meets neglect. With the street prostitutes on the Kurfürstenstraße, it might not feel like a gallery hotspot, but the ‘Potse’ is already turning highbrow, so check it out before it is too late.

Our first stop is Schöneberger Ufer 65 where  Esther Schipper gallery is situated. She is a leading lady in the Berlin art scene and her shows are seldom disappointing. At the moment she presents work by Daniel Steegmann Mangrané (Barcelona, 1977) entitled Spiral Forest (kingdom of all the animals and all the beasts is my name). There are photo’s, installations where branches circle round on moving mirrors, a movie and an virtual reality environment, all featuring the Mata Atlântica forest in Brasil. They all present different  views on this rainforest. You see the 2D version (the photo’s)in black and white and in colour, the moving 2D version (the film), the interpretation (the installation) and lastly you can step in the virtual version of this forest by putting on a special headset. You get to know this forest, without ever visiting it. Information about it is present, although the subject, the forest, is absent.
Blain/Southern Galery view

Walk your way through the Potsdammerstraße until you reach number 77-87 where Blain/Southern are situated in the courtyard. Next to the überposh Andreas Murkudis clothing store you will find a vast exhibition space where works from François Morellet (France, 1926) are presented under the title Dash dash dash. The giant mural fits the space perfectly and shows that being 89 year old artist, doesn’t mean your art gets stuffy. The abstract shapes seem to rhythmically float on the walls. Don’t forget to go up the stairs to take a look from above.

Entrance Galeria Plan B

Don’t go back to the street just yet. When you walk out of Blain/Southern, turn right instead. Around the corner you will find GaleriaPlan B. You can’t miss it, a big rock is blocking the entrance. It is an artwork by Navid Nuur (Teheran, 1976), with a magnet as its core. If you examine its surface, you will see that it attracted iron dust. His exhibition Mining Memory centers around rocks. They contain more history than anything else on the planet.  This notion of ancient information pressed together and  locked in layers of stone  is the key to exploring this work. Inside the gallery, in a dark corner, another type of work shows you something about the nature of looking. A painting is hanging there, that only can be seen if you take a photo of it with flash. Light is essential , imperative for viewing. Without light, we stay in the dark. This is taken literally here.  If you are not prepared to work for it, the meaning will stay hidden.

maandag 8 juni 2015

Airplane in your face

In the beautiful Kesselhaus (Boiler House) of a former Brewery, now the KINDLE - Centre for Contemporary Art, there is a plane hanging in an unnatural position. If this weren't an installation, this plane would face certain destructing. Standing directly under it and facing upwards is therefore a powerful experience.

A loud noise is present in the huge space. It is produced by two giant fans, which make the aircraft slowly spin round. The installation is made by Swiss artist Roman Signer (1938) and called Kitfox Experimental. Is is also the name of this type of aircraft; "an economic airplane you can built yourselve".

This build-your-own-dream venture is exactly like Signers work. He makes strange installations with ordinary objects to do crazy and fun stuff with. Like catapulting stools out of windows, or letting a rocket pull your knitted head off. This artist certainly has the time of his life, whiles producing art.

Taking objects (or attitude for that matter) out of their natural habitat, gives you information about the thing itself. For example about formal qualities you normally take for granted. The plane, which goal normally is to go up into the air, fly around and then go down again, is now hanging there. Still in its natural habitat, it is doing an unnatural thing.

If the plane was in this position in real life, there would be no happy ending to this story. Luckily for us, this strange still life gives us the opportunity to stand right under its nose and invent one.

Artist of the Year 2015 - Koki Tanake - Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle

Artist of the Year 2015 was (according to the Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle) the interesting Japanese artist Koki Tanake (1975). Tanake examines everyday objects you can buy for example in a supermarket and ordinary tasks like climbing a ladder. He wants to know what the nature is of our relationship to them, how aware we are of these relationships and if there is room for alterations. 
Installation view Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle
Did you ever consider the way you handle a plastic cup? Most people can't help squeezing it when it's empty, an act that almost always makes the object unusable, because it cracks. This and other acts can be seen in the video Everything is Everything (2009). The subtle aggression towards everyday objects and sometimes even their soft destruction feels nice somehow. To smack the lid down of a container is a good way to let everyday frustration out. 
The thought here has more to do with awareness. Most objects you don't observe anymore because you've handled them a million times before. The mind simple doesn't have the time to observe everything all the time, so attention is diverted constantly to what seems the most important. A video like the one above can divert this attention back. 

Tanaka's new work is more about social collaborations and its limitations. For example: can you ask 9 hairdressers to cut the hair of one person? Or will someone help you if you ask them if you could use their car to climb onto a roof? And then later on ask another person to get you down? I'm sure that in for example my home country, the Netherlands, he wouldn't be so lucky to find someone so quickly. 
Installation view Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle
The term 'Social Sculpture", created in the sixties by German artist Joseph Beuys (1921-86), has been connected with Tanaka's work. The basic assumption here is that society as a whole is a work of art, everybody has creative energy and everyone can contribute to it. It brought a meaning to art, a way to ensure participation in building a society.

In Tanaka's work, social structures are made visible. Actually sort of like the everyday objects, by focussing your attention. They pose questions about the limits of our social endeavors. Tanaka calls these works "precarious tasks", because we are most likely to find out how social we really are in emergency situations.