december and early january have not necessarily proven fruitful for mucho art viewing here in berlin. that is partially because i decided to hibernate a little and bake gingerbread instead of being a dutiful artist/blogger and traipsing around the galleries. it is also de rigeur for the art scene – everyone shuts down after the middle of december and has a little pause. in australia, that pause is for 6 weeks – just enough time to come here and inhale as much contemporary art as possible. i’m not sure what the peeps in galleries here are doing in their 2-week break, but suffice to say, there’s little art to be seen.
however, i have managed to squeeze in a few last-minute sightings and pilgrimages before i start my journey back home to australia next week. here is the last art i saw in berlin. well, for a while.
permanent collection at the bode museum
the sculpture museum ia an amazing mashup of grand design – it’s all neo-classical vaults and domes and grand ballrooms, intersected with heavy doors, marble columns and dark green walls. some of the sculpture is a bit repetitive, but it was an opportunity to reiterate my art history education. i could really see the progression of skill and understanding of the human form from the gothic (of which the most amazing work of the time was clearly architectural), to the intensity of baroque sculpture.
i made some interesting notes about the significance of drapery between the 14th and 19th centuries and will be taking that into my future work on fashion.
there were some ridiculous expressions of baby jesus, and i just loved the gothic virgin mary, who had double chins. there were some amazing hand-gestures going on in the baroque period, with one particular sculpture reminding me so much of wyld stallyns that i had to try really, really hard to stop a giggling fit.
my favourite of the museum was the tiepolo cabinet – a room of frescos from the villa volpato panigai. i still can’t quite work out why tiepolo and his awe-inspiring foreshortening and dramatic ceilings don’t get the kind of acclaim and line-ups that mr buonarotti gets at the vatican. but, given that i was in the room on my own for a large amount of my time there, sometimes i’m grateful for the ignorance of the masses.
last symphony III at vereklasen/werner
i really like where this series by sound fair is going. the last performance by olaf nicolai was one of my top 5 exhibitions of the year.
this work, by annika eriksson wasn’t quite as sharp, or as engaging. admittedly, i didn’t stick around for the whole 2 hours this time, but it seemed to be about the randomness and relative un-sophistication of a sound performance (theramin performed by non-professionals, it seems). glorifying failure again.
the format of the performance – darkened room, spotlight, amplifier – did appeal to my sense of ‘code’ around performance and sound-listening – where the audience is primed for something that may or may not happen.
the divide between static sculpture and an active, relational work was muddied, which i liked a lot.
but ultimately the form of a theramin performance, the ironic or impending failure and the overly heavy anticipation within the room was not deep enough to hold me for so long. i’m willing to concede that i may have completely misread the show and, as such, now appear like an ignorant kunstbenause fool. it happens sometimes.
however, if you are reading this and you live in berlin, subscribe to the soundfair or VW newsletters and go to the rest of their events, because they will be amazing.
cory arcangel at hamburger bahnhof
i saw this show a while ago, but didn’t get around to writing about it, so apologies if this is all sooo last decade.
i quite like what cory arcangel has done in the past. i had the fortune to be curated into an online video exhibition with him last year and think that his use of remix/collage/selection in tech-pop-culture is heading towards great.
i do get the feeling that everyone else in the world thinks that too, so this show felt a little premature – a little too much fawning over the pretty young thing.
there were two very clear, awesome works in this survey, though: a bound dissertation on the history and structure of the JPEG file compression format – which explained in depth, but in laymens terms about what a JPEG really is. aesthetically it was rudimentary, but i just loved the ethos and the detail behind the work. it also, obviously, places the JPEG in the popular realm and something to be understood. for me, it signified that the jpeg – the slighly inferior image format – will be around for a while. just like VHS and DVD. huzzah.
the other work, which is typical of his video pieces (and a whole lot like other rad remix chix, soda jerk) is the recomposition of a johan sebastian back piece (goldberg variations), using found footage from youtube of people playing musical instruments. it is a split-screen work and is, actually, really rad. it’s exhibited in a nice, big, black box and you can just enjoy the original piece, the genius of his editing and the sheer abundance of video imagery of people playing music online. pop culture 101.
ben byrne at experimontag
i continue to learn a lot about australia sound art. even in berlin. actually, given the number of australian sound artists in berlin, that last statement is not as shocking as intended. last monday i got the chance to meet and see ben byrne play at madame claude’s. from the robin fox/8-bit style of music, his crazy chaos pad pieces were mind blowing. arhythmic, the compositions were an amazing sight to behold, as ben played this small piece of technology with the same proficiency as a concert pianist.
i also discovered that ben is writing a PhD on the relational aspects of sound art and engagement, which i’m very excited about. but that’s just a personal geek-out moment.
nan goldin and edward kienholz at berlinische galerie
a few weeks ago, i was locked out the the berlinische galerie because the auditorium was so packed with people wanting to hear nan goldin speak, that they had to shut the doors. it was one of the weirdest art moments i’ve had to date.
anyway, i finally got around to actually seeing the show – a survey of work she did in berlin in the early 90s. i love nan goldin. i think her style and the spirit with which she captures the fucked up scenes in new york (and berlin) are amazing. the way captured ordinary people’s dark, ugly and yet attractive vulnerability in front of a camera influenced a stack of us in art school. and she proves to me that terry richardson and larry clarke are just misogynist hacks who use this kind of aesthetic to justify child porn.
a nice bonus to checkin’ out the nan goldin was getting to see the kienholz’ installation the art show. i bloody love what edward and nancy kienholz do. the first time i saw a work of theirs at the MCA a while back and since then i have keenly followed what they’ve done. this work is an hilarious critique of the art scene, whilst obviously being a loving homage to their friends too. the figurative forms are something that the dada kids would have loved to see i think – human bodies covered in drippy varnish with automotive airvent faces, blowing hot air out to the world. their hearts are transparent electronic circuits, replaying art theoretical diatribes when you push the button.
interestingly, i think the installation manages to overcome a us vs them dynamic by being interactive. you’re allowed to touch the sculptures (to push their buttons) and, being life-size, you enter into the ‘personal space’ of these art scene heavyweight effigies. suddenly you’re in control and are on the same level. which means that all the power of their philibustering is sucked out of the situation.
and that’s the end of it for a while here. turns i’m totally not ready to leave berlin – which has caught me by surprise. and yet i know that when i get to hug my mum and my family and my awesome buds back home, it’ll be alright.
but just so you know, berlin, we’re not through yet.
image credits: nan goldin images from the spiegel website
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