Never one to disappoint, the 2018 Berlin Gallery Weekend was alive with a exhibits exploring all avenues of mediums and offering exploration into questions and topics both deeply provocative and painfully necessary for the individual as well as society. With 47 galleries participating in this year’s event, the attempt to take in as much art as possible was an exhausting yet simultaneously invigorating endeavor.
Biking along the city’s iconic cobblestone streets from gallery to gallery offered not only a great way to pack in as much as possible, but time to also enjoy the landscape of the city and an adventure into new neighborhoods that one might miss or overlook. The vastly disparate exhibits provided an adventure with each gallery, keeping the viewer buzzing with curiosity and thrown through a loop of artistic genres from classic modernism to creative interactive contemporary pieces.
Impossible to enjoy the exhibits of all the galleries, I did my best to make a respectable dent in the list, and have chosen a few highlights (in no particular order) from the 25 I had the pleasure of visiting.
Julius von Bismark – Immer noch der Lauf der Dinge
One of the more experimental exhibits on the list, the Julius von Bismark show was a lesson in our sense of awareness. With a floor consisting of three moving walkway panels, viewers have to keep in motion while viewing the video installation along one side of the gallery wall. They are also forced to work with and around other viewers, taking one outside one’s self, and demanding interaction and cognizance.
The darkened room allows the brilliance of the animals to captivate the eyes. The fluttering of the fox’s fiery fur or the stork’s snow white wings are a painful beauty that is both enhanced and disrupted when one is informed that the animals are dead and floating in a wind tunnel. While the viewers own kinetic action forces one to feel more alive, simply by the use of the body, the video’s ability to deceive reality through involuntary and factitious movement brings this seemingly axiomatic element of our lives into question.
Tomek Baran – Black Mirror
Working with multiple mediums and varying color schemes, perhaps one of the strongest aspects to greet the viewer in Tomek Baran’s Black Mirror is the asymmetry in each of the pieces. Seemingly incongruous, each piece sits slightly off in some form: the metal siding is lifted up on one end, the large black slabs like “black mirrors” sit off kilter from one another, and the more colorful paintings fit imperfectly on their canvases. With a digital and industrial component running through the exhibition, the disharmony projects a fragility in the world which society has created for itself. A harsh and rigid, yet precarious existence, or perception of existence totters grotesquely in pieces around us. Walking around the pieces and confronting an alternation of black, white, and almost unnatural color in disparate forms makes the viewer function as the point of cohesion between the pieces – a force of cohesion, which will vary from person to person. What part do we play in this birth of the “heterotopia”, and at what point does this dubious construction fragment irreparably?
AA Bronson + General Idea, 1968-2018 – Catch Me If You Can!
Five decades of work from both AA Bronson and his artistic group, General Idea, are presented in this monumental exhibition of allegory. An internal odyssey which manifests itself into the external, Catch Me If You Can! doesn’t just scrutinize the elements of corporeality, but rather attempts to construct the essence of a noumenon. The question of perception of self, both of the body and beyond, is materialized and fragmented into multiple aesthetically discordant pieces around the gallery space. The volume and variety of the exhibit threatens to overwhelm the viewer with confusion, but in taken as a whole, serves to augment the theme. From Bubble Machine #2, an allusion to the AIDS virus a sphere constructed from motorcycle mirrors, to Flasher, a portrait of a man leaving little to the imagination, to Représentation Confusé, a delicately-colored painting of a phallic shape on hard wood, the exhibit brings together a myriad of configurations (in medium, vision, production, perception) to project the kaleidoscopic atmosphere of the essence and obscurity of being.
Louisa Clement & Studio Miessen – Fractures
A collaboration between artist Louisa Clement and Studio Miessen, Fractures focuses on the disruption of human interaction. The cleaved connection between two beings, and the sensuality of the nature of the effort, despite the unavoidable lack of division. Bringing together photographs and video installation using pieces of mannequin bodies, Fractures creates a disconnect from body and reality. The issue of identity and the construction of identity underlying the exhibition highlights the issue of authenticity and honesty through both the inanimate nature of the mannequins as well as the images of their pieces placed together slightly askew. The disjunction of human and human-esque entity as well as the oblique formation of parts of a body removed form a whole, shifts our attention to the undeniable growing separation of humanity and its connection and forms of contact within itself.
Jim Thorell – Illicit Electricity
It’s difficult to capture the energy of a dream, which has elements from the real world, but Jim Thorell found a way in Illicit Electricity. The delicate color palette and use of pastels and charcoal lures the viewer into an ethereal atmosphere, but the feeling is short lived, and the ghastly and ghostly souls of the pupil-less characters seem to emerge from the depths of the canvasses. It is as if the pieces were not hung on a wall, but rather portals to a place both unsettling and romantic. One can’t help but hear Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre while viewing the exhibition. There’s a playful horror that makes one uncomfortable yet willing to explore this mad world further.
Fernando Bryce – Freedom First
Freedom First confronts us with the magnitude of the world and the struggle of people from every corner. Caught in our own society-centric spheres, Freedom First broadens the vision in one forceful go to force the viewer to confront the expansion and simultaneity of struggle, revolution and social discontent. In pen and Ink, Fernando Bryce reproduces front pages of newspapers from around the world, which covered the 1950s and the major social and political revolutions making up the decade and beyond. The extensive reproductions cover the gallery room, making it overwhelming to absorb the quantity of information, adeptly creating a proxy for the state of the world, both at the time of the printings, as well as at any given time. By recreating these newspapers, Bryce, disturbs their accepted authenticity and opens up the dialogue for forms of representation and the hidden agendas behind them. Newspapers chosen were founded or supported by the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), which was a covertly CIA backed non-communist liberal intellectuals. With this knowledge, the complexity of world politics and the dissemination of information become even more obscured, making it imperative to question that which we think we understand.
Bettina Pousttchi – Allee
Questioning prescribed purpose, Bettin Pousttchi manipulates quotidian urban objects to reinvent their possibilities. Having been described as anthropomorphic and giving human names as titles, Allee then breathes (a different) life into our general surroundings. This literal reshaping of the objects’ use inserts a sense of agency, which can be converted into other varying forms. It is not so much the objects that she uses, albeit this element can make a great impact on the overall meaning, but it is rather the overarching concept of appropriation or (malle)ability, which imbues her work with a greater social message. Too quickly are elements in our daily lives taken fro granted; Bettina Pousttchi forces the viewer to stop and reconsider, to twist their perceptions and consider an alternative.
Fiona Rae presents the birth of the cosmos in pastel. Strong lines and nearly perceptible shapes break out of the stardust that gently envelops her large canvasses. A sense of great energy seems to move on the canvas, and although it’s gentle and delicate, almost innocent, it never seems to convey a feeling of frailty. There is a dynamic power formulating and striking out wantonly, building up to something greater that only needs time to manifest itself. A sense of hope and beauty is imbued into the exhibition and a call to the recognition of the possibilities of something pure.