Berlin’s reputation as a melting pot of artistic innovation with its officially estimated population of 20.000 professional artists has made of it a creative capital of the European art world. The sheer diversity of cultural events hosted here is unique in Germany however the great number of artists and galleries is not proportional to the number of sales. For that reason, the Berlin Gallery Weekend is an attempt to foster sells in the German capital which seems to be no longer poor maybe still sexy —as former mayor used to say.
Collateral Events to Official Gallery Weekend Programm
Ornament and Crime by Roberto Uribe. Intervention in Public Space
Ornament and Crime is a public space intervention located in two billboards at the junction of Kurfürstenstrasse and Potsdamer Strasse hosting a temporary homage to Kaptein Hendrick Witbooi who died in battle against the German occupation of what is today Namibia.
The title refers to the 1908 Adolf Loos publication Ornament und Verbrechen which would become one of the most influential texts of the Modern Movement. It was controversial at the time to speak about how the modern man should pursue the simplification of objects in the sense of the „Neue Sachlichkeit“, liberating design of ornaments and freeing craftsmen of unnecessary work thus providing them with more free time and better benefits. This revolutionary vision for the white working class in Europe contrasts startlingly with the racist ideology that Loos uses at the beginning of the text, where he describes the Papua culture as degenerate and less developed using arguments about their tattoos. Adolf Loos even goes so far to describe the Papua as children and the modern (white) European man (he himself) as the adult.
Seiichi Furuya at Galerie Thomas Fischer
Seiichi Furuya (1950, Izu, Japan) boarded a ship in 1973 in Yokohama and left his homeland, whose authoritarian structures of powers for him are a sign of no future. With the Trans-Siberian railway, he came to Europe, first Vienna, then Graz, where he met in 1978 Christine Gössler. Three months later they married. In 1981 they had a son and the following year she shows signs of schizophrenia. Furuya received the offer in 1984 to work for a Japanese company in the GDR, the family moved to Dresden, and one year later to East Berlin. On October 7, 1985, the 36th anniversary of the German Democratic Republic, Christine Gössel commits suicide jumping out of the window.
Since then Furuya tries to cope with this traumatic experience through his photographs. In 1989 he publishes the photo book Mémoires. By 2010, four more volumes and numerous international exhibitions followed. He places the thousands of shots that emerged in the seven years with his wife in ever new contexts. He seeks answers, hopes to see in the pictures what he could not recognize in life and also subsane his feeling of guiltiness. Mental illness schizophrenia, from ancient Greek schizhin, “split off”, and phren, “soul”, include disturbances of perception and depression. The woman appears on almost all the portraits as if there was already a split between her and the world. Seiichi Furuya documented his great love and incidentally cast a unique view of the GDR, both of them no longer exist.
Guido van der Werve at Fluentum
In 2016, artist and filmmaker Guido van der Werve was involved in a serious cycling accident that almost cost him his life. According to his medical team, what saved him was his extraordinary physical fitness, achieved in part through the training required to make his radical artworks, in which the artist often films himself in extremely precarious and physically demanding situations. In 2007, for instance, he spent 24 hours at a fixed point on the north pole, slowly swiveling in the opposite direction to the earth’s rotation, while trying not to freeze to death. This work, along with five other films from the artist’s ongoing Numbers series marks the opening of a new private museum, Fluentum.
Fluentum is located in a Nazi-built military facility from 1938, later used as US Army headquarters in Dahlem. The new museum houses a private collection dedicated to time-based media. The building alone is spectacular rebuilt by the software entrepreneur Markus Hannebauer it to exhibit his art collection. The building apparently is one of the first made using reinforced concrete although as Nazi grandeur it is equipped with black marble monumental columns and walls. The building now converted into a house for video art with great spatial experience, perfect for running in the main room, where the Dutch artist following Chopin music is embarked in triathlon from Warsaw to Paris. At some point he sits at the piano and plays Chopin in a diving suit, superimposing times and manners. After the Berlin Gallery Weekend, space is open by appointment only.
The Black Image Corporation, Theaster Gates at Gropius Bau
Chicago-born artist Theaster Gates continues his tribute to the Johnson Publishing Company, founded in 1942, creators of the magazines such as Ebonyand Jet, which helped shape the way African Americans thought about the aesthetic representation of their political and visual culture. From an archive of more than four million images, Gates focuses on two photographers, Isaac Sutton, and Moneta Sleet Jr. Alongside these framed prints, the video Michigan Avenue in Full Bloom (2018) documents the interior of the publishing company’s former Chicago offices. Artists Vaginal Davis, Mac Folkes, and Wu Tsang will, throughout the exhibition’s run, stage their own interventions with Gates’s selection.
Continuing with Gallery weekend officials
Peter Fischli & David Weiss at Sprüth Magers
Fischli Weiss, the Swiss artist duo active and popular since the 1980s, present Haus (House), a work first developed for Skulptur Projekte Münster in 1987 and subsequently showed in exhibitions at the Guggenheim Museum, New York and Museo Jumex, Mexico City. An aluminum version of the work was permanently installed in Zurich last year. This exhibition focuses on the architectural reference system at the heart of the artists’ work with a selection of sculptures and archival material.
The artists continued to develop their interest in everyday architecture and brought the sculpture back to the public sphere for Münster. The miniaturized building unusual scale —too big to be a model, to small to be a building— derives from the late modernist architectural form and the resulting aura of the everyday. The utopian-positivist ideas drifted into the pragmatic and ultimately the commonplace. The show also has a sound collage piece made of radio broadcasts on everyday topics and sculptures made of black rubber and unfired clay which embody more abstract aspects of the interior or everyday domestic living.
As we saw in part I, whilst most of the female artists denounce sexism plus socio-politic and civic issues in their proposals, male positions are worried about abstract metaphysical questions as time, space, direction, dimension, resistance. Here some examples of male highlights seen during gallery weekend.
Julian Charrière at Dittrich & Schlechtriem
Silent World is a series of photographs of free divers disappearing into liquid obscurity. Naked and, in pictorial terms, dissolving, his figures physically enter another layer of the ocean imaginary.
Accompanying the photographs, a ceiling-mounted projector beams video onto a screen lying on the gallery floor, from which vapor emanates: footage of the sun’s rays breaking through the water’s surface, streaming down from above. In terms of spatial orientation, the installation proposes an inverse scenario—whereby the sun occupies a submerged position, shining up from the deep.
Ryan Gander at Esther Schipper
Ryan Gander work quietly ponders questions of time, lifecycles and the life of the artist. Footprints in the snow, rendered in white carpet, show a moment of action frozen in time. A calendar year is evidenced through repetitive daily attempts by Gander to draw the same thing over and over. An illuminated staircase to nowhere is placed opposite a small mechanic mouse peeking out from a hole in the wall, trapped in a time loop.
The show is introspective, conceptual and self-contained. There are hints of narratives and the personal world of the artist, yet with an overall sense of the endless cycles of time that govern. There is also low volume ticking emanating from 24 grey cubes scattered across the carpet.
Veit Laurent Kurz at Isabella Bortolozzi
Featuring new paintings, sculptures and a video collage made primarily from sculpted and painted polystyrene and modeling materials, Kurz artificial topographies provide the habitat for various humanoid. In this two-part exhibition, he abandons the synthetic landscape towards a more idyllic setting. Large Styrofoam panels, decorated with ornaments, flowers, and birds, are reminiscent of archaic Roman mural painting, while the architectural elements, made from the same material, are alluding to the ghostly ruins of ancient Pompeii. The walk through the paper mache world of Veit Laurent Kunz is a trip to a wonderland.
Pieter Schoolwerth at Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler
Pieter Schoolwerth’s new cycle of paintings captures invisible flows of abstraction that structure contemporary experience. The recurring use of compression and superimposition in his imagery turns those elusive flows into motifs to elaborate new kind of figurative painting focusing on group portraiture. In his work, the paint itself appears at the end of a layered, multi-media process only to supplement an already constituted image. Schoolwerth pulls his uncannily illusionistic paintings into three dimensions, existing as freestanding virtual landscapes that the viewer can literally “see through”.
Fabian Knecht at Alexander Levy
Knecht’s bronze sculptures and large photographs share a deeply conceptual and uncompromising approach that questions the notion of time and collapse in a world of permanent crisis. From removing trunks in the German forest, building a wall on the icy Baltic Sea or covering and “renaturalizing” an open rift in Arizona, his performative process shares a radical vision, questions the fragility of a system, and the apparent opposition between the natural and artificial.
Entering the gallery, there are three tree trunks placed in the middle of the room. Apparently blown off by the wind, they have lost their crowns, their majestic heights. Knecht has reproduced them as unique sculptures in bronze, making the tree trunks undergo a material transformation. Bronze embodies value, but foremost longevity and remains a promise for a long-term future.
Text: María Muñoz
Photos: Courtesy of Gallery Weekend Berlin