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.

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