abc

abc. really not for me.

i left feeling sad. sad at the precarious state of affairs that contemporary art in berlin seems to be in.

i left feeling cynical. cynical that, if i couldn’t find anything to stop me for more than 5 seconds, who would.

i left feeling despondent. despondent that perhaps this is the world of art and that it is exactly as precarious, insecure, listless and flaccid as all this.

i left feeling ripped off. there are some kick-arse galleries in that list. places with some great shows on at the moment. i wish i had saved my €8 and just gone to see them instead.

i did think it was amusing that i walked around the art fair with my bag of groceries – a leek in one hand and the plan in the other. i felt as though i was shopping for art lebensmittel in a supermarket at 10pm on a Sunday, before the shelves had been stacked full again.

i acknowledge that an art fair isn’t really for me. i’m not an art-buying public at all. perhaps, for them, it’s amazing. and a real success.

who knows.

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berlin art week

I’m sure there’s a well-written article about the shift from stables towards nomadic gallery lifestyles of pop-ups and art fairs. There will be great pieces written about berlin art week and the exhibitions on.

This is not going to be even close.

But I will be posting a few blogs about art that’s happening in Berlin this week, because I’ve got time to write at the moment.

It’s Berlin Art Week, which also incorporates art berlin contemporary – the art fair that still exists after the whole art forum debacle** (last time i was here there were six art fairs on in a weekend!).

On Tuesday night about a hundred galleries opened their new shows for the year and Berlin was kinda pumping. I only went to 2 complexes (which included about 10 galleries), but they were buzzing.
To my taste, most of it was kind of dull*, but here is a little bit about what I have liked so far.

Galerija Gregor Podnar – Vadim Fiškin
With a series of sculptural works that play on the role of the machine within the works, this show could easily be a series of one-liners. But the main work, Don Quixote Pact/v. Alliance was one work that really stood out – as enjoyable/entertaining visually, but a little more complex in terms of its dynamics (physically and compositionally speaking).

A windmill in a ‘valley’, is powered by the wind of electrical fans on a constructed ‘hill’, which in turn forces air back into the jetstream of these powered devices. It’s a thermo feedback loop. All of these forces sit atop a fibreglass ‘landscape’ (that also looks like the mould of a hot tub/spa bath).

It alluded to more than just a little optical gag –  overproduction, authority, nature, surplus – are all words that come to mind with this work, and aesthetically, was a nice combination of readymade and crafted, designed and collated.

Galerie Opdahl – Chosil Kil
Amongst loads of painting-based work that I feel like I’ve seen tonnes of before, I found this show such a breath of fresh air. And mainly because of the work called Sausages – the first work you see when you walk into the space. It’s a jewellery piece, strapped around the corner of the first wall. I love a work that transgresses its form and obvious exhibition format for something a little different. I wanted to own the work straight away (Hello? Kanye? You need this piece).

The rest of the show did remind me a little of works going around Melbourne at the moment, but this little fragment of the show – re-introducing the sausage-like leather wall sculpture and a haunting sound element – tickled my fancy. I’m happy to report that not all Berlin is monochromatic and geometric canvases.

Both these shows are in galleries amongst a block of austere white cube spaces above the German heavyweight Konrad Fischer Galerie. As we all scooted up and down the stairwell, popping in and out of the galleries’ all dressed up for their first day of school, it was reminiscent of a commercial art version of the Dover Street Market in London. It was almost fun and cute. But for the Very Serious Art Crowd present.

MD72 – Florian Hecker
I like Florian Hecker’s work, but this show, Auditory Objects has completely floated my boat in a way that others haven’t. I’ve already warned the gallery staff that I’ll be back to listen again 🙂

The gallery itself is stunning and holds these minimal scultpural devices so well.

In each room across the main space hang a single speaker with an attached convex/concave mirrored piece of metal***, extending, reflecting and distorting the audience assumptions across both visual and audio planes.  You find yourself listening to the sound works from the speaker, from the cone, between the two, across the space, between the rest of the gallery – in and out of each room. And because of the staccato and sycopation in the electronice sound works, you find yourself also listening to the door opening and closeing, to the ambulance, floor creaks, etc all with the same value.

This work is complimented by a work that spreads itself through the ‘back end’ of the space – in the office, store-room and little kitchen/ante room. It unites and divides the space in equal measure with its electronic intensity and repeated speaker objects. I’m sure it drives the staff nuts, but it’s exciting to see an artist stuffing a new listening experience into the workplace.

The works are influenced by the questions of the phenomenology of sound: How is it perceived? As a discreet object, or an ongoing stream onto which we project meaning, which of course is right up my ally. And yet I’m particularly interested in the bodily and performative influence of this work, so you might hear more about it again.

Salon Dahlmann – In Action. Performance, Actionism and Concepts from the Charim Collection
Showcasing the private collection of the Charim family, this exhibition featured a whole load of VALIE EXPORT photos, documents and original artworks (yes please!), plus ephemera and drawings from the performances of Viennese Actionists and their ilk:  Günther Brus, Otto Mühl, Hermann Nitsch

I’m not from a performance background and the recent residency at ]performance s p a c e [ schooled me.  I was like a new student with this exhibition and the works had different meaning for me yesterday that they might have had a few months ago. What hadn’t changed is the admiration of collectors continuing to collect performance work ephemera.

Of course not all of the works themselves were amazing. But as remnants of amazing things, and as a collection of a reference of historical significant, it was a great show. I enjoyed seeing the board on which Hermann Nitsch did those gross things with his body and animals and viscera. I liked seeing images of blood and goopy stuff from when blood and goopy stuff was properly new. Günther Brus’ action paintings, Dieter Roth and Arnulf Rainer making Paul McCarthy look like a kid, Peter Weibel being taken for a walk on a chain by VALIE EXPORT – these are seminal images I’ve only ever seen in books.

It was also enlightening, in the face of history. Quite a few of those artists no longer practice performance work.  EXPORT is probably one of the most consistent and has continued longevity – which I always find inspiring. Her and Dieter Roth (what a power combination in just one sentence) are artists I still think are total guns.

I never really liked Otto Mühl works and found his drawings of the body to be crass and slightly cariacature, but then again, I’m not so good at divorcing artists from their abusive actions, so take of that what you will.

Comparitvely Brüs, who has always made beautiful imagery (more than powerful actions I believe), his drawings of skeletal figures were so touching and almost-classical in their form. They reveal a much deeper connection with the image of the body.

As part of the collection, it was also great see works by younger artists like Maja Bajevic and John Bock inspired by the work of these crazy performance pioneers. I think that’s when a collection comes into its own – when you see the dedication to particular artists at a particular time/place, but also to the form through the next generation.

*so much so that even my lily white legs in short shorts caused quite the stir amongst the well-heeled art clientele. I wasn’t even that racy!

** I’m going to abc today and will report back anon.

***a replication of a medical scientific device called a syncrophone – designed to alter the frequency of a listener’s brain waves.

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it’s all about the planes

so, if i’m going to generalise wildly and irresponsibly about art, then i’ll say this:

london is all about totty, berlin is all about the planes.

in the last week and a bit, i’ve seen a creepy amount of artworks here about airplanes, airports, travel and flying. i don’t know whether it’s just me, or whether it really is a ‘thing’.

last week i caught the last day of the most-excellent exhibition at the deutsche guggenheim by roman ondàk: do not walk outside this area. the exhibition was primarily about constructing narratives and realities from slices of life, using sculpture, text, found imagery and a fucking big airplane wing.

i vaguely remember seeing his postcard works before; in which he and his wife sent franceso bonami from the fondazione sandretto re rebaudengo postcards from around the world with the same stamp: “we are still alive”, and i like the combination of faux optimism, cutting commentary on the privilege of travel and safety and the process of continuing to send these things from around the world.

and, the rest of the works in the show were way better than these (including the brilliant ‘newspaper clippings’ of eastern european news with all the leading images of people queueing or waiting).

and, the two rooms of the gallery were bridged by the wing of a domestic airplane. complete with the words: DO NOT WALK OUTSIDE THIS AREA.
the audience were invited to walk the wing to get to the other room, although not outside the area.
i was excited. how often do i get to walk on a plane wing? never. and especially as i had literally alighted a plane not an hour prior to attending the show and i had seen those words on the wing outside my window, as we flew into berlin (although they were in french having flow air france, natch).

a few days later, i went to tempelhof to get a bit of open air, check out the crazy airport (having recently finished lights out in wonderland) and i stumble upon the raumlabor berlin exhibition the world is not fair. whilst i liked the idea of having an exhibition at tempelhof, for its peculiar space as a public recreation space that still very much looks like an overgrown public transport space, the works that i did see on foot were a little bit shit.

they were all super-open super-relational communal spaces. which, in theory is great. but i feel like a whole lot of art and architecture at the moment is going for the Occupy ‘aesthetic’, for community’s sake and missing a bit about what art actually brings to people. i’m not down with it. as i said to a friend yesterday ‘a shanty is a shanty, regardless of whether its in an art exhibition or not’. but that is another rant.

Then yesterday i go to TANAS/Edition Block (another amazing, consistent gallery in Berlin with a fantastic show) and there’s another work about planes and airport. One in which a group of artists try to make a ‘tattoo’ of a plane at Tempelhof on the grass, so it’ll be seen from Google Earth.  yes, well.

I spent a lot of my childhood in airports and on planes, discussing flight schedules, maintenance plans and the politicking of australian airports, thanks to a father who worked in the airlines. Sometimes i get nostalgic about that whole travel/engineering culture.  But if i’m honest, I’d rather see works about sexy bodies at the moment.

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last art in berlin

kriss kross

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


wyld stallions hands

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.

gold gothic draper

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.

our lady of the three chins

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


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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


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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.

kienholz art show

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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sliding into the new year

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rather than some binary process of ‘now you see it’ and ‘now you don’t’, the germans talk of sliding into the new year. they wish each other ‘guten rutsch’ – a good ‘slide’, which is a much better way of talking about the still-magical time of new year.

thankfully last year wasn’t quite as crazy as the year before.  but it was pretty bloody racy – i think i moved my stuff about 10 times in the year, went to a stack of different countries, met with people i’d only ever known on the interwebs and introduced myself to more strangers than i have in my entire life.

i spent most of the year pushing myself to the limit.

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this year is gonna be different again. it’s my year of dynamic consistency. i have no idea if that’s even a plausible phrase, but like a good slide, i’m aiming to get my life into a rhythm that hovers between leaving and arriving. where i can start to be in two places at once (melbourne and berlin), without that resembling chaos, crisis or some kind of breakdown. i am planning on being ‘home’ wherever i am, rather than homesick – which is the plight of any australian who has spent a chunk of time abroad. i have no idea of the logistics necessary, but i’ve a decent amount of determination and optimism. that’ll get me through, right?

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this year i also have a bit project that i’m heading back to australia to work on, which is all about dynamic consistency – a regular structure that involves a changing roster of people and ideas. something that’s constant enough to feel reliable, but flexible enough to avoid ghastly stagnancy.

and, other than those two big things (and a desire to go to the desert), the rest of the year is open to a stack of surprise.

here’s to another new beginning and i hope you all had a great slide into this year.

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this week at the galleries

er, ok. you got me. it’s not a week since i last posted about art i’ve seen in berlin. in fact, it’s been ages. i kinda went into lock-down for this exhibition and pretty much didn’t leave my little studio apartment for a week.

but since the opening, i’ve been seeing a few things here and there:

silberkuppe – living well is the best revenge
Tobias Kaspar
 the cutest, smallest gallery space on skalitzer straße, near chert/motto for you local berlin kids, this show was ace. an investigation into the line between public/private, through the action of jogging and everything that goes with it – including all the fashion/marketing/rah-rah-rah. in fact, a lot of similar ideas to the ones i work on with sound. the beautiful block-mounted photo letters that ‘ran’ through the little space were total gems.

skalitzer 140_temporaryR.E.B.E.A.T I.T
skalitzer140_temporary

this is another great space on skalitzer straße, this time they have just a one-night only exhibition each tuesday. it’s well set-up, simple and clear. last week they had two projections in the back Hof, which was brilliant and I encouraged them to do that again.

i’m looking forward to seeing what else is in the space. i might even break my own ‘no more shows this year’ promise and exhibit something myself..

alte national galeriepermanent collection//tino sehgal

Pan and Bacchus

i hadn’t managed to get to any of the big olde worldy galleries in berlin until now. but, i’ve since bought a yearly ticket and am going to squeeze them all in before i leave. thankfully, having a friend here as a tourist kicked me in the right direction.

This is Propaganda 2002

the presence of the ongoing tino sehgal work at the national galerie was a clear starting point. i bloody love tino sehgal’s work and have now been fortunate enough to experience and engage with two of them thus far [last year at the marian goodman galerie in paris]. the work at the alte is a reproduction/replication/reintroduction of the 2002 work ‘this is propaganda’ – a song-based work in which the situation of a place is changed through the singing of a note by a performer.

Friedrich Abbey

obviously i saw some other amazing work in the gallery – my personal highlight being the caspar david friendrich paintings of the monk staring out at sea and the abbey in the oak forest. they’re pretty damned exquisite and really difficult to see as paintings. i got told off for going too close, but i just had to get in an see the surface. layers and layers of varnish (and time) means that these works are photograph-esque. actually i couldn’t help but think about todd mcmillan’s performance version of the monk, especially as the paintings seemed more like videos than something made with goopy stuff.

the romantic paintings were also pretty amazing and i made an interesting link between romanticism and hipsterdom that i’m in the process of unpacking.

Raumlabour Jumping cubes

oh, and there’s a nan goldin exhibition on at the berlinische galerie. we went to see her talk, but it was sold out, so instead of sorting out how to really deal with that, they locked the doors to the place. we snuck in and made it to the shop, but no further – they weren’t letting anyone else in until an unspecified moment. weird, weird, weird experience i tell you.

but that raumlabour jumping castle geometry outside the place was fun!

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