Here's something for your eyes to munch on if you're Berlin bound this month:
Armin Linke's Future Archaeologies photographs explore how some contemporary places and building structures can be regarded as 'archaeologies of the future', modern artefacts subject to slow-fading decay. This snapshot of a progress that never took the road it was supposed to follow triggers the question: 'How long will it be before our own idea of modernity gets stranded in a dead end?'
An exhibition particularly interesting to visit in the light of last week's Transmediale conference whose theme was "Futurity Now".
To visit the gallery you have to climb up the first floor, the stairs have that pleasant and old fashioned smell of wax and spicy perfume for gentlemen. Open the door to the luminous white gallery and meet...
a display of tired stuffed apes at the Zoological Museum in Florence,
the interior of the MIR space-station simulator in Moscow,
a modernist monument in Kosturnica, Macedonia,
a bedsheet acting as a cinema screen in a village somewhere in China,
the illegal Israeli settlement Har Homa in the West Bank,
"These are real Science Fiction scenarios, constructed man-made utopias, hurling their absurdities at the viewer," says the press release for the show. The most literal example comes from the Shrine of the Book, a wing of The Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Built in the '50s, its dome looks like the ideal set for science fiction movies.
Linke's photographs poetically document globalization effects and complex interrelations of the idea of modernity with inherent structures of violence and colonialism.
The gallery also screens a video in 3D. Nuclear Voyage travels inside inactive nuclear power stations and waste sites. The slow and ordinary gestures that the last people working there perform are at odds with the James Bond-like world of wonder that nuclear used to embody.
The choice of filming and screening using 3-D technology nails the idea even further. The 3D aesthetics and the god-awful glasses one has to wear to follow the movie offer an ironic comment on the renewed hype regarding spatial viewing of images (i just read that LG predicts that 30 million people will buy 3-D TV sets by 2012), the spectacle of which had already been celebrated as photography's great promise in the 19th century with the advent of stereoscopy.
Future Archaeologies runs at the at Klosterfelde Gallery in Berlin until March 6, 2010.
A show you don't want to miss if you're in Berlin before the end of April. Just make sure you avoid weekend afternoons or it's Long Queue party for you!
At first glance Walton Ford's animal watercolour paintings look like harmless illustrations made by French and British colonial-era illustrators. Until you look closer and realize how cruel the world depicted is.
A beautiful panther has escaped from the zoo and villagers are trying to kill it, an Orangutan is serenely strangling a parrot, a gorilla commits suicide using the gun of a hunter it has just killed, a (now extinct) elephant bird of Madagascar stands distressingly on one leg as the other is impeded by the rope that a hunter has tied around its body and beak. It's animal kingdom at its fiercest. You almost wish you didn't have to witness any of those scenes but then the images are so beautiful, you proceed to the next one.
The lions, birds, wolves, primates and other 'wildlife' animals never come on their own. They are accompanied by symbols, allusions and clues alluding to texts from colonial literature, folktales, travel guides or even classics from American literature. In Ford's watercolours, natural history meets political commentary in an erudite and visually spectacular way. The images satirize colonialism, politics, slavery, natural science, and man's impact on nature.
"There is so much science and popular interest regarding animals - like the Animal Planet shows and field research," Ford told The Local. "But that's of no interest to me. I don't care how gorillas behave in nature, but how people could come up with something like King Kong - how they could develop that kind of fear and terror, and we could come to accept him as an icon of nature."
Ford's images are accompanied by a brief text which sometimes reveal the meaning or story behind the painting and sometimes only deepens its mystery. Example:
Thurneysser presented also to Basel, his native city, a large elk, which had been given to him by Prince Radziwil; but the good Baselers looed upon the strange animal as a most dangerous demon, and a pious old woman finally rid the town of the dreaded beast by feeding it with an apple stuck full of broken needles. The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals by E.P. Evans, 1906.
Ford is fairly popular and well-known in the United States but less so in Europe. Walton Ford - Bestiarium which opened recently at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin is his first solo exhibition in Europe.
All my pictures.
Walton Ford - Bestiarium runs until April 24, 2010 at the Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin.
Who would have thought i'd end up blogging about a splatter movie on wmmna? I'm not talking about any horror flick, i'm talking "gay-porn zombie film", a genre which i assume is under-represented in contemporary art. Written and directed by Bruce LaBruce and starring porn actor François Sagat, LA Zombie is on view at the Peres Projects gallery in Berlin, along with a dozen new works on canvas.
It was a bit of a hard core spectacle for someone like me who has no interest nor experience in the genre(s). I'm still wondering how i'll manage to convey the happiness and sense of beauty that the film gave me. There's something respectable about a porn movie that you watch inside a renowned art gallery. You might be shocked but you're never ashamed. Bruce Labruce's other queer cinema horror film Otto; or Up With Dead People debuted at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, the artist has contributed to magazines such as Vice, Index, and BlackBook,
I doubt LaBruce bothers much about making you and me and other art lovers comfortable. Just like Murakami delights in selling his art in both prestigious art galleries and shops merchandising fugly brown monogram bags, LaBruce doesn't seem too eager to drawing a line between art and porn. He told Salon: "All of my work has been about that line. You can situate yourself on either side of the line without really altering the work itself. I could take a picture for Honcho magazine, but can take the same image and put it in a frame in an art gallery, and it becomes art. For me that speaks to the arbitrary nature of those labels." A soft-core version of L.A. Zombie will tour film festivals this year. You can expect to find the hard-core DVD gracing the shelves of your favourite sex shop in the spring.
LA Zombie was shot in Los Angeles. Guerrilla-style. With almost no budget. The main protagonist rises from the sea, with as much clout and allure as Ursula Andress herself in that famous Bond scene. He's a zombie or maybe he's just a bit deranged and fancies himself as an undead creature. He sports canine teeth and is dressed like a homeless. Good looking young guys get killed or die in accidents. He finds them, gives them the fuck of life right into their wound, they open their eyes. They have become zombie too and lead the life of tramps around LA. People don't seem to even notice their presence.
Bruce Labruce LA Zombie: The Movie That Would Not Die runs at Peres Projects in Berlin until April 24, 2010.
5 days in Berlin is a frustratingly short time if you're planning to follow half-closely what is happening at Transmediale and want also to see some exhibitions around town. I'll bring back what i can. Such as this lovely exhibition titled East Side Stories. German Photography 1950s-1980s at the Kicken Gallery.
As its title suggests, the show features some 30 black and white pictures from photographers who portrayed life at the time of the GDR, mostly in a way that steered away from the official GDR iconography. Under the regime of East Germany, photographers had a degree of licence denied to other artists - largely because the state did not regard photography as an art form (via).
East Side Stories. German Photography 1950s-1980s runs at the Kicken Gallery in Berlin until April 17, 2010.
Unfortunately, the bad news is that this show has already finished. But, Scorpio's Garden at Berlin's Temporäre Kunsthalle was a very beautiful exhibition and this is s small attempt to highlight some of the 60 pieces on show, all by Berlin-related artists, curated by Danish artist Kirstine Roepstorff.
Being an explicitly subjective snapshot of a certain scene that is revolving around several locations, mostly in Kreuzberg such as Silberkuppe or Basso, the show seemed to draw a lot of strength from the reflection of an approach and aesthetic that is running through a lot of the work.
The whole façade of the Kunsthalle served as the biggest piece in terms of size as Bettina Pousttchi used it for her photo installation Echo which turned the the building into an ironic doppelgänger of the Palast der Republik, the GDR's parliament which used to stand right next to where the Kunsthalle is now located until its demolition was finished last winter.
What I particularly loved about this piece is not the (quite successful) sensation of déjà-vu it evoked but the fact that it was facing an equally virtual image of the dreadful Stadtschloss (the old palace which will be resurrected as the zombie of architecture if its proponents will be able to get hold of half a billion Euros) as if to say that things lost can as little be recreated without becoming a farce, just as history can not truly be eradicated like it has now been attempted with the modernist Palast der Republik (and the old Stadtschloss before).
Inside, Elmgreen & Dragset refer to "Foucault's proposition that the acceptance of certain behavioral patterns within certain structures is what leads to the limitation of people in their actions, and not the structure itself." In Liebe Grüße (2009), a bouquet like those presented at the opening of an exhibition is left as if it were forgotten on a pedestal. The flowers look faded already but like so often in their work, they are a well-made fabrication so that their only reveal their artificiality after a second glance (and asking the gallery staff).
The paintings of Alexandra Hopf emerge as reverse glass paintings in finely sprayed layers. The very first layer of paint remains visible even after subsequent layers are applied, thus turning on its head the classical structure of paintings in which the sketch phase is covered by the final version.
In the lovely video piece Haukka-Pala (A-Bit-to-Bite) (2009), Laura Horelli tells of her relationship to her deceased mother, who worked as a nutritional expert for a children's television series in Finland. Her mother died of cancer some two years after the show was produced. In the video, one sees her in conversation with a mouse, talking about food and cooking. It's at the same time funny and somewhat eerie, and Horelli is adding her own personal thoughts to the scene as a voice-over. I wished I would have had time to watch it in its entirety.
Untitled (mime 1 & 2) by recently deceased New York artist Dash Show casts the socially marginalized figure of a street performer as a godlike character in two beautifully strangely framed and out of focus photographs.
Monica Bonvicini's history of architecture is also a "history of sexual oppression. In her sculptures, installations, and videos, she presents objects and materials of everyday life as sites of ideological conflict". The light installation Blind Protection (2009), a bundle of fluorescent lights that is arranged around a transparent PVC tube, the bright light from which briefly blinds the beholder.
Henrik Olesen showed two very different pieces, yet both of which "deconstructs notions of authenticity and cultural production and recharges them with meaning in a remix procedure". The first of them is borrowing from the early sculpture of Bruce Nauman. His cast of the Kunsthalle's right corner in concrete, Rechte Ecke (2003/2009) lies across the floor as if fallen down, with marks of the casting process still visible on the wall.
The second piece consists of milk Tetra Paks on which the nutrition information has been deliberately replaced with collaged information on homosexuality in the animal kingdom. So instead of calcium contents, one learns about the kinky habits of gorillas and bonobo apes. Somewhat pranky, it does speak about demonstrating the existence of invisible limits and territories in today's social landscapes.
A beautiful object, Kirsten Pieroth's Inflated Dinghy (2009) uses the air that streams from a harmonica to pump up a rubber boat, and "creates with the transformation of air to music a metaphor".
Suzanne Treister transcribes in her series 11 Alchemy Works (2007) "the title pages of international newspapers and translates them to alchemistic drawings. "The news no longer reaches the reader in clearly structured and soberly placed patterns, but in neurotic outbreaks that represent the world as a site that is driven by ominous forces, powers, and beliefs. Using the symbols of a secret language, her works explain the world system in the form of organic diagrams that are linked to notions of omnipotence."
Lastly, I believe that my favorite and also the discovery of the show was American artist Jason Dodge who "works with frugal means and suggestive allusions, staging traces of past events at the center of which are protagonists whose existence and impact remains at the threshold between fiction and reality". He was showing several pieces, all of which were as subtle as they were poetic.
Column bells (2009) "towers as a rectangular, narrow paper column, like a chimney. The bells at the bottom were made by the Huck family in Nuremberg, bell-makers for five generations, and respond to the movement of air in the space."
Rubies Inside of an Owl (2006) is a taxidermied owl whose stomach is filled with rubies. It was hidden in a niche below the curved platform that dominated the space of Scorpio's Garden, almost as if sleeping.
In Order of Altitude (2008) consists of the stacked trouser pockets of five people from different professions, increasing in 'altitude' from a window cleaner to a pilot, but this metaphorical classification "could be subject to other criteria as well, say body size or social status", so the meaning of the allusion remains in the attribution of the viewer.
Next up at the Temporäre Kunsthalle is a show called "Zeigen. An Audio Tour through Berlin", opens December 4th at 9 pm.
Part of Thomas Demand's wonderful show Nationalgalerie, "Haltestelle" (2009) is a very recent work, as usual a large-scale photograph of a life-size paper model resembling a space of cultural significance. In this case it is a nondescript rural German bus shelter, which happens to be the place just outside of Magdeburg where the teen pop band Tokio Hotel were waiting for their school bus every morning.
Now this is what I've been told about what happened: due to the band's huge popularity with teenagers, the shelter soon became somewhat of a favourite destination to worship the band, much to the annoyance of the local residents who had to cope with a torrent of emo kids rolling in from all directions on a daily basis. They came up with the idea of removing the shelter and putting it up on eBay, somewhat unsuccessfully. Soon after they realized that, due to their limited pocket money, Tokio Hotel's fans would not be able to purchase an item like this in one piece. In a slight iteration of the plan they sawed it apart and offered the pieces on eBay, this time to much greater success.
What is interesting about this piece is that to some extent it mirrors Demand's own way of working in the way that the residents took advantage of the connotation of an object in the collective memory and used that to produce a new object (or pieces in their case) in its own right.
A text accompanying the exhibition says "Thomas Demand's works test our reception of visual media and explore their influence on the structures of our memory, [he] conducts experiments in visual culture which centre around the questions of whether and to what extent a society's appearance is condensed and concentrated in individual key images as well as being retained in people's minds and remembered through such key images."
The show, situated in Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Neue Nationalgalerie close to Berlin's Potsdamer Platz features about 35 works, each reflected in a text by Botho Strauss. Runs through January 17th 2010.