Berlin Biennale: Klaus Biesenbach Talks

June 8, 2018



I'm not in town to check out the opening of the Berlin Biennale. But luckily I follow Klaus Biesenbach on Instagram, where I saw he visited the Hello World exhibition at Hamburger Bahnhof and, rightly so, called it the worst exhibition title ever. And now Klaus Biesenbach has also written down his memories about the 1990s when he founded the Berlin Biennale. Mainly his memories consists of him saying how he worked together with all these artists that time has proven to be "important." I 've written before about the Importance of Being an Important Artist

"Famous" in Biesenbach's dictionary equals mainstream, think of Carsten Höller  and Olafur Eliasson, or "the avant-garde of today is the salon art of tomorrow." Biesenbach remembers meeting Jonathan Meese, and apparently finds it to be a touching scene that demonstrates Jonathan Meese's dedication to the arts (aka its system of hierarchies). It made me feel sick to the stomach. A friend of mine found a new term for it: "Hyperaffirmatives Superschleim."


"He left after we finished meeting, and then came back and said, “Oh, I don’t know if I was really saying goodbye, and I just want to thank you for the time I spent discussing my work. I know it’s performance based. I know there’s not much to see in a studio, but I just wanted to thank you for the opportunity to explain my work.” So, he left again, went perhaps 30 feet, and came back to basically say the same thing. So we were very appreciative, and thanked him profusely, and reassured him that it was a great visit. Then he would go again, and he would go perhaps 45 feet, and he would come back and do the same and the same and the same. The whole goodbye at some point seemed longer than the conversation we had had before. This was actually such a convincing, over-the-top gesture, and Jonathan became a fixture in our community and his work became a very important part of the Biennale."
I'm not in town to check out the opening of the Berlin Biennale. But luckily I follow Klaus Biesenbach on Instagram, where I saw he visited the Hello World exhibition at Hamburger Bahnhof and, rightly so, called it the worst exhibition title ever. And now Klaus Biesenbach has also written down his memories about the 1990s when he founded the Berlin Biennale.  Mainly his memories consists of him saying how he worked together with all these art…


I'm not in town to check out the opening of the Berlin Biennale. But luckily I follow Klaus Biesenbach on Instagram, where I saw he visited the Hello World exhibition at Hamburger Bahnhof and, rightly so, called it the worst exhibition title ever. And now Klaus Biesenbach has also written down his memories about the 1990s when he founded the Berlin Biennale. Mainly his memories consists of him saying how he worked together with all these artists that time has proven to be "important." I 've written before about the Importance of Being an Important Artist

"Famous" in Biesenbach's dictionary equals mainstream, think of Carsten Höller  and Olafur Eliasson, or "the avant-garde of today is the salon art of tomorrow." Biesenbach remembers meeting Jonathan Meese, and apparently finds it to be a touching scene that demonstrates Jonathan Meese's dedication to the arts (aka its system of hierarchies). It made me feel sick to the stomach. A friend of mine found a new term for it: "Hyperaffirmatives Superschleim."


"He left after we finished meeting, and then came back and said, “Oh, I don’t know if I was really saying goodbye, and I just want to thank you for the time I spent discussing my work. I know it’s performance based. I know there’s not much to see in a studio, but I just wanted to thank you for the opportunity to explain my work.” So, he left again, went perhaps 30 feet, and came back to basically say the same thing. So we were very appreciative, and thanked him profusely, and reassured him that it was a great visit. Then he would go again, and he would go perhaps 45 feet, and he would come back and do the same and the same and the same. The whole goodbye at some point seemed longer than the conversation we had had before. This was actually such a convincing, over-the-top gesture, and Jonathan became a fixture in our community and his work became a very important part of the Biennale."

Nan Goldin Comments on My Blog

June 4, 2018



Very rarely somebody comments on my blog posts. Mostly I get SPAM-comments. You would think that this lack of response discourages me to write. But it doesn't. Because once in a while I do get a comment that makes it totally worth it. Take two years ago: I got a comment and it was written by Nan Goldin! And what's more, it was the first blog she ever responded to... Huh, I call that a successful blog. Here you can read her comment, and if you want to know what she was commenting on, then click on this:


"This is the first blog I have ever responded to in my life: 

Thank you for the additional historical information about the Taut Haus. I think your reasoning about why artists live in lofts is off the mark. I moved onto the Bowery in the 1970's because it was cheap and off-the-grid. Lofts there are now renting for 800% more than when I moved in. Because of my own politics it took me a few years to move into the Taut Haus after I got the space here. I understand the anger towards it, but its too easy to single it out as the core of the problem. The politics and economics of modern cities are based around gentrifying such neighborhoods. What you create and put out into the world is more political than your address.

-Nan Goldin-"
Very rarely somebody comments on my blog posts. Mostly I get SPAM-comments. You would think that this lack of response discourages me to write. But it doesn't. Because once in a while I do get a comment that makes it totally worth it. Take two years ago: I got a comment and it was written by Nan Goldin! And what's more, it was the first blog she ever responded to... Huh, I call that a successful blog. Here you can read her comment, and i…


Very rarely somebody comments on my blog posts. Mostly I get SPAM-comments. You would think that this lack of response discourages me to write. But it doesn't. Because once in a while I do get a comment that makes it totally worth it. Take two years ago: I got a comment and it was written by Nan Goldin! And what's more, it was the first blog she ever responded to... Huh, I call that a successful blog. Here you can read her comment, and if you want to know what she was commenting on, then click on this:


"This is the first blog I have ever responded to in my life: 

Thank you for the additional historical information about the Taut Haus. I think your reasoning about why artists live in lofts is off the mark. I moved onto the Bowery in the 1970's because it was cheap and off-the-grid. Lofts there are now renting for 800% more than when I moved in. Because of my own politics it took me a few years to move into the Taut Haus after I got the space here. I understand the anger towards it, but its too easy to single it out as the core of the problem. The politics and economics of modern cities are based around gentrifying such neighborhoods. What you create and put out into the world is more political than your address.

-Nan Goldin-"

Travelling in the Arts of Cetinje, Montenegro


Miodrag Dado Djuric art gallery

At the Podgorica airport I plop next to Vjera Borozan in the car. It’s a hot afternoon and we’re both sweating. Vjera is the director of the National Museum of Montenegro. She is new at the job, she tells me - it’s been ten months and it’s tough because of immobilising politics. She’s also teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague where she also runs the online platform Artyčok TV. When I arrive back in Germany, I get the bad news she’s being replaced. Politics wins. 

When we arrive in Cetinje the temperature has dropped. I was warned to bring a warm sweater: Montenegro has micro-climates. Cetinje is about 500 years old. But I’m a 1980s fan so I get excited when I see the Miodrag Dado Djuric art gallery in the city center. It’s a building from the Yugoslav socialist period. It has huge mirroring windows and for the opening of the gallery in 2012 the interior has been renovated in such a sparkling white you need to blink a few times before you can see the art. 

On Friday morning it’s market in Cetinje. The local farmers come to the city to sell their cheeses, tomatoes, cherries and strawberries. I drink a “deutsch-Kaffee” in the bar opposite the gallery. It’s a typically Montengrin coffee that is made with two espressos and milk.

I'm not a fan of events like the Long Museum Night, but I enjoy the National Museum Day in Cetinje. It starts with a gathering of elderly people. Together they listen to gramophone records. In the afternoon there’s a fundraising for a shelter of homeless dogs. Later on, at the historical museum, people get together to recite and discuss anti-fascist poetry. The day ends with a concert. Priganice, small airy fritters with honey, are served together with the local wine Vrana, which means “black horse wine”, or more precise, as the artist Lazar Pejović explains:  “horse, black as a crow.” 


Montenegrin Black Horse Wine
The next day Lazar gives me a guided tour at the historical museum. He comes here a lot with his students of the Academy of Arts. It’s important, he says, that artists are aware of the world they live in so that they don’t create an art that is too hermetic. One of the highlights are the huge grave stones of the Middle Ages. They carry poetic inscriptions. Lazar paraphrases: “During my life I’ve been sitting in a room with a door and a window but with no notion of the worlds outside of it. Now I know but I cannot longer access it.” 


The historical museum in Cetinje
The historical museum was designed in the 1970s by Svetlana Kana Radević, the first female Montengrin architect. It has brown carpet on the walls. I’m thrilled! (I hope they will never renovate this.) Upstairs is the collection of modern and contemporary art. A guard approaches me to say that I started the wrong way. She leads me through a long hall to the correct entrance. This way I can look at art chronologically starting from the beginning of the 20th century instead of going back in time. 


Artists of Cetinje
On Saturday I meet the artists Suzana Pajovic, Arijana K., Jelena Pavićević, Vlatka Vujošević, Irena Lagator Pejović, and Jovan Milosevic at the gallery. We talk and write about time stolen and time lost, about art communities you can’t see and hear, and how it’s good but it’s not enough. In the space there’s a blackboard with something scribbled in chalk. I ask for a translation. It says: “The earth turns again in a geological layer.”

I hear about the ISU - an non-profit, ambulant institute of contemporary art founded in 2013. It has organized exhibitions like Drugarice (Comrades), an archive exhibition showing the women movement in Montenegro from 1943-1953. I only realize later on that I met its director, Natalija Vujošević, remembering her wearing a Yumco trench coat at the concert on Friday night.  

I also hear rumors about a new Biennale being organized in Montenegro. The former one started in 1991, the year that also the war started. The new Biennale might take place in nature instead of the city. Maybe the arts will bring Montenegro to live up to its declaration as first Ecological State? 
At the Podgorica airport I plop next to Vjera Borozan in the car. It’s a hot afternoon and we’re both sweating. Vjera is the director of the National Museum of Montenegro. She is new at the job, she tells me - it’s been ten months and it’s tough because of  immobilising  politics. She’s also teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague where she also runs the online platform Artyčok TV. When I arrive back in Germany, I get the bad news she’s bei…

Miodrag Dado Djuric art gallery

At the Podgorica airport I plop next to Vjera Borozan in the car. It’s a hot afternoon and we’re both sweating. Vjera is the director of the National Museum of Montenegro. She is new at the job, she tells me - it’s been ten months and it’s tough because of immobilising politics. She’s also teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague where she also runs the online platform Artyčok TV. When I arrive back in Germany, I get the bad news she’s being replaced. Politics wins. 

When we arrive in Cetinje the temperature has dropped. I was warned to bring a warm sweater: Montenegro has micro-climates. Cetinje is about 500 years old. But I’m a 1980s fan so I get excited when I see the Miodrag Dado Djuric art gallery in the city center. It’s a building from the Yugoslav socialist period. It has huge mirroring windows and for the opening of the gallery in 2012 the interior has been renovated in such a sparkling white you need to blink a few times before you can see the art. 

On Friday morning it’s market in Cetinje. The local farmers come to the city to sell their cheeses, tomatoes, cherries and strawberries. I drink a “deutsch-Kaffee” in the bar opposite the gallery. It’s a typically Montengrin coffee that is made with two espressos and milk.

I'm not a fan of events like the Long Museum Night, but I enjoy the National Museum Day in Cetinje. It starts with a gathering of elderly people. Together they listen to gramophone records. In the afternoon there’s a fundraising for a shelter of homeless dogs. Later on, at the historical museum, people get together to recite and discuss anti-fascist poetry. The day ends with a concert. Priganice, small airy fritters with honey, are served together with the local wine Vrana, which means “black horse wine”, or more precise, as the artist Lazar Pejović explains:  “horse, black as a crow.” 


Montenegrin Black Horse Wine
The next day Lazar gives me a guided tour at the historical museum. He comes here a lot with his students of the Academy of Arts. It’s important, he says, that artists are aware of the world they live in so that they don’t create an art that is too hermetic. One of the highlights are the huge grave stones of the Middle Ages. They carry poetic inscriptions. Lazar paraphrases: “During my life I’ve been sitting in a room with a door and a window but with no notion of the worlds outside of it. Now I know but I cannot longer access it.” 


The historical museum in Cetinje
The historical museum was designed in the 1970s by Svetlana Kana Radević, the first female Montengrin architect. It has brown carpet on the walls. I’m thrilled! (I hope they will never renovate this.) Upstairs is the collection of modern and contemporary art. A guard approaches me to say that I started the wrong way. She leads me through a long hall to the correct entrance. This way I can look at art chronologically starting from the beginning of the 20th century instead of going back in time. 


Artists of Cetinje
On Saturday I meet the artists Suzana Pajovic, Arijana K., Jelena Pavićević, Vlatka Vujošević, Irena Lagator Pejović, and Jovan Milosevic at the gallery. We talk and write about time stolen and time lost, about art communities you can’t see and hear, and how it’s good but it’s not enough. In the space there’s a blackboard with something scribbled in chalk. I ask for a translation. It says: “The earth turns again in a geological layer.”

I hear about the ISU - an non-profit, ambulant institute of contemporary art founded in 2013. It has organized exhibitions like Drugarice (Comrades), an archive exhibition showing the women movement in Montenegro from 1943-1953. I only realize later on that I met its director, Natalija Vujošević, remembering her wearing a Yumco trench coat at the concert on Friday night.  

I also hear rumors about a new Biennale being organized in Montenegro. The former one started in 1991, the year that also the war started. The new Biennale might take place in nature instead of the city. Maybe the arts will bring Montenegro to live up to its declaration as first Ecological State? 

"Hochkarätig" or Top Class in the Arts

May 24, 2018



The museum was on the phone. "My colleague recommended you," he explained. "We're looking for somebody who can give a talk about museum language in a light, humorous way at our colonnade bar event this summer." I have this unfortunate tendency to get enthusiastic very quickly, so that's what I did: "Awesome!" I said, "I just wrote a little piece about the word 'important'!" "Splendid," he answered, "We can't pay much but since you already wrote it..." 

Two weeks later I get an email: Would it also be possible for me to do the talk in June instead of July? I can't do June, I write back and decide to give him a call to see what's up. "How unfortunate," he says with an air of gravity, "but for July we now managed to get some 'hochkarätige" (top class) guests: an actor and the director of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung!" My enthusiasm can rise but also drop drastically and that's what it did. "Hochkarätig!" I snarled while putting down the phone. But on the positive side: I'm sure that in a few months time I can talk about the "hochkarätig" in the arts in a light and humorous way... so the museum might want to get back to me for next summer? 
The museum was on the phone. "My colleague recommended you," he explained. "We're looking for somebody who can give a talk about museum language in a light, humorous way at our colonnade bar event this summer." I have this unfortunate tendency to get enthusiastic very quickly, so that's what I did: "Awesome!" I said, "I just wrote a little piece about the word 'important'!" "Splendid,&…


The museum was on the phone. "My colleague recommended you," he explained. "We're looking for somebody who can give a talk about museum language in a light, humorous way at our colonnade bar event this summer." I have this unfortunate tendency to get enthusiastic very quickly, so that's what I did: "Awesome!" I said, "I just wrote a little piece about the word 'important'!" "Splendid," he answered, "We can't pay much but since you already wrote it..." 

Two weeks later I get an email: Would it also be possible for me to do the talk in June instead of July? I can't do June, I write back and decide to give him a call to see what's up. "How unfortunate," he says with an air of gravity, "but for July we now managed to get some 'hochkarätige" (top class) guests: an actor and the director of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung!" My enthusiasm can rise but also drop drastically and that's what it did. "Hochkarätig!" I snarled while putting down the phone. But on the positive side: I'm sure that in a few months time I can talk about the "hochkarätig" in the arts in a light and humorous way... so the museum might want to get back to me for next summer?