March 31, 2015

Art Blogger of the Week: Marieke Visser in Paramaribo, Suriname

Marieke Visser in front of a painting by René Tosari. Photo: Jeenah Hermelijn

This week's Art Blogger, Marieke Visser, is based in Paramaribo, Suriname. We met on google +. This way I got to know Srananart's BlogWe connected more on Twitter. Then we started following each other on Facebook. We also befriended on Instagram. Do we art bloggers spend a lot of time online? Yes, we do! 

Art scene
"We are at a dynamic and fascinating point in time when it comes to art in Suriname. Until recently our focus was always: the Netherlands. But now we are looking at the Caribbean, and it seems doors and windows have been opened and suddenly our focus has shifted, we seem to have grown very fast. I firmly believe that our 'well' from which we get our inspiration is extremely rich in Suriname, because its contents originate from all corners of the world. We are the illustration of Stuart Hall's famous quote about 'routes rather than roots'. At this moment our artists go deeper into that 'well' of inspiration: we understand now that our heritage stems from far before colonial (=Dutch) times. Another development is that our art world has become much more visible on the internet."

"I started with the blog in 2009 because the original plan, to make a glossy magazine about visual art in Suriname, was just not feasible. We have a population of half a million people: that is just not enough people to make any hard copy magazine a realistic project. So I started a digital art magazine and a blog on WordPress. And almost immediately started to see the great benefits of digital communication. You reach an audience much faster, you can enlarge your audience by sharing, and you reach people all over the world. Your writing becomes more spontaneous, when blogging you are much more too the point than when writing for something that will be printed. On the other hand: I do feel that the great benefit of writing for print is that you reflect more, become more analytic, dig deeper. I am in contact with other bloggers like Rob Perree in the Netherlands/USA, Africanah Black Girl Gone, The Belle JarKunstkiekenNo Black Pete, Processed LivesDona DulcineaAirform Archives, and Remco de BlaaijPeople I follow on Facebook and/or Twitter: Danny Simmons, Amma Asante, Anne Patterson, Harriet Duurvoort, Kno'Ledge Cesare, Zihni Özdil, Rose-Marie Maitre, Teju Cole, Uncooked CultureRonny Edry Pushpin, Proud Rebels, Arturo Desimone, Sunny Bergman."

"I have studied Literature and Linguistics, and Journalism. I started specializing in travel writing, about travels to the interior of Suriname, in which I also reflected on my own inner journeys. But when I became a mother when I was 38 I stopped traveling and started writing about things closer to home, like art. I feel that I can give a voice to Surinamese artists and I feel I can connect individuals and projects all over the world. In this century we shouldn't be held down by geographical boundaries. (Nor other boundaries ...). 
What has influenced me most is that I have a Dutch father, a German mother and I grew up in Saudi Arabia, Burundi, Thailand, Suriname and in between in the Netherlands. That has given me a wider scope and probably deeper understanding of cultures and identities.I am a writer, mostly about art, but also about other culture related subjects. My 'other' writing work is what pays the bills and enables me to keep on writing about art. But also: it keeps my scope wide and my mind open."   

"The Sranan Art Xposed platform is very forutunate to have a sponsor who makes it possible to pay our writers a small fee for commissioned articles and/or blog posts. We have two editions of the digital magazine every year and everybody gets paid for that: from graphic designer to chief editor to translator. The rest of the social media exposure is more or less done free of charge but I am happy to have some people surrounding me who do more than their share. Our sponsor is Suriname's biggest (in fact only) art gallery Readytex Art Gallery, who doesn't ask for anything in return. We are now looking in to find more sponsors like Readytex Art Gallery because we want to do more and our writers and photographers should be able to earn more. It is very important that we stay independent, autonomous. But at the same time, it is very important too that Suriname gives people like us (art writers, art promotors, event organizers) the resources to develop our thinking about art, and to get projects done. Art writing is not something that is easily done as something "on the side", which is the way we have to do it now. Of course it has other value, that is why we keep on doing it. Sometimes there are free books or tickets, sometimes you get an art work. But most of all: it has brought me so much on a personal level: wisdom, colour, encouragement, hope, anger, peace, solace. Art, and writing about it, enriches my life."

March 29, 2015

What Is Good Art? Rule Nr. 6

I'm progressing! I start using props in my VLOGS. Also this one is with subtitles if you push cc.

The Talk Of The Night: Andy Warhol at Entretempo Kitchen Gallery

Tainá Guedes presenting her cookie made of "soil" at Entretempo Kitchen Gallery

You know how it’s better not to look at art on an empty stomach? And then there is art that is hard to digest (the serious kind of art), and some artists that are easier to stomach when seen together (like Joseph Beuys and Andy Warhol cancel out each-others overdose). So what could be better then to have a dinner in which each dish corresponds to an art work on the wall? Entretempo Kitchen Gallery invited me for such a treat on Friday night. It was a “philosophical 5 courses menu” accompanying the exhibition FOOD WASTE MONEY in which my friend kate hers RHEE is featured with her legendary Dr. Rhee Kimtchi Shop. The night started off with a performance of Camila Rhodi whispering in my ear “take me” (and so I did). And my favorite dish of the night was a cookie inspired by childhood memories: didn’t we all prepare those cookies made of soil in the garden? Tainá Guedes, the cook and the director of the gallery, made sure that the cookies served were perfectly eatable. Guedes had caught my eye the week before at the exhibition opening, wearing a wonderful dress from the Brazilian design label FARM RIO made out of recycled green bottles. She told me there is a whole bunch of exciting events lined up at the gallery in the upcoming weeks - exploring, for instance, the connection of butoh dance and food

Tainá Guedes at Entretempo Kitchen Gallery wearing her recycled dress

A dinner is about the art of conversation and I lucked out that night with Anaisa Franco on my left talking about my favorite city of all times: San Francisco. And on my right side, kate hers RHEE was flashing this most beautiful pink blouse. The highlight of the night was, however, when kate left her chair (haha!) and I started talking to Doris and discovered she was a time witness of Andy Warhol! Oh my, can you believe my excitement! It’s not the first time that I meet a time witness of Andy Warhol. During a guided tour in Hamburger Bahnhof I met a French lady who met Warhol in the 1980s in the Limelight. She revealed to me that he was shorter than she had expected (“all great stars are short”!) and that he didn’t say a word but just taped the whole conversation and she kept asking him questions and talking to him until she felt transparent. That's such an Andy Warhol experience, isn't it! Well, Doris’ story was also quite exciting because she refused to meet Andy Warhol. I know, I know... I was looking at her with a stupefied expression - mouth half open, eyes wide spread. She explained that a friend of her father, a lawyer, offered her to introduce her to Andy Warhol in a one-to-one situation. Doris was at that time hanging out in New York with all these cool people (she named them but I immediately forgot the names, still looking at her in horror). Being a fine young thang, she just couldn’t be bothered...

kate hers RHEE, sitting next to Doris, the woman who refused to meet Andy Warhol, and next to her Rory, who was hit on by Andy Warhol

But the night got even better when Doris left her chair (haha!) and I started talking to Rory. Hold your breath, but yes! Also he was a time witness of Andy Warhol and he had an even better story to tell than Doris. Andy Warhol hit on him! We’re talking the early 1980s. Rory met Warhol at a party of a friend. Warhol was very pushy that night, not passive at all, ordering a drink and ordering people around. Rory declined to go into it with Warhol. Warhol’s skin was really looking bad that night with a lot of make-up  plastered on top of it and Rory didn’t feel turned on. At that point Doris came back to her chair and suggested to me that I talk to all these people who really knew Andy Warhol - she could introduce me, no problem. I politely declined of course. I said I rather meet people who have not really met Andy Warhol but only saw him from a distance or never got to talk to him for real. These stories are much better. I rolled my eyes and said to Doris: "I’m not a groupie, you know?" 

Object of the Week: Bla Bla Bla

Dieter Roth, Frühe Schriften und Typische Scheiße, 1970s. Foto: Wolfgang Müller

I've been studying and practising this week for the Dieter Roth guided tours at Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum of Contemporary Art, Berlin. The exhibition is about Dieter Roth's passion for music and I feel like Roth would have appreciated some entertainment during the guided tour. So I'm learning this poem consisting of blablabla's from Roth's Frühe Schriften und Typische Scheiße (1970s) by heart since it is a poem written for the ear. If you want to hear it, you will have to join my guided tour during the following weeks. I might fail just because Roth would like that even more. Instead of "everybody is an artist" Roth was convinced that "nobody is an artist". An everyday person arranges things, builds something up and then destroys it, and an artist just mimics this in a more primitive way so it is better visible. 

March 25, 2015

Art Blogger Of The Week: Ahmet Rüstem Ekici in Istanbul, Turkey

Art blogging is the new thing to do! As Jerry Saltz said: art blogs are “smart, fun, informative, important, irreverent, gossipy, and everything in between and MORE.” This series introduces you to art bloggers wordwide, starting with Ahmet Rüstem Ekici who blogs about the Istanbul art scene. I asked him a few questions about his art world, his blog, his expertise, and the favourite topic of all times: money.  Check out his blog! You can find Ahmet's portfolio on this website and you can also follow him on Instagram.

Art scene 
"Turkey is a developing country with more than 80 cities but only few cities have galleries and institutions where we can see and discuss contemporary art. The municipal goverments are supporting traditional crafts in their art galleries rather than contemporary art. When we talk about art in Turkey we can only talk about Istanbul, I guess. Istanbul is the gateway to both East and West, which gives it a geopolitical and cultural importance. Since 1987, the first Biennale, İstanbul is becoming more and more popular, its art scene and historical background being very catchy for many international artists and galleries. Fairs like Contemporary Istanbul and Art International Istanbul have thousands of visitors each year and galleries are expanding their spaces, wellcoming new artists. But I'm very negative about the art scene in Turkey. I feel that art is only for a group of people in a country that has more than 70 million citizens. Turkey needs more educational support for art, so it is not only understood by the public, but also respected."  

"As a designer and fine arts graduated artist I always visit galleries and I observed that people were so shy to enter galleries, go to exhibition openings, or they were just walking around so fast in galleries. I started thinking about this and I found out that some gallery statements were too hard to read and understand, which scares people so that they force themselves to understand something. My first blog post was a guide, writing about "how to visit art galleries". Then I started visiting galleries and writing about what I like and what I feel in an easier way. In one year time I had 40 exhibition posts on my blog and this became a passion for me. I didn't want my blog to be only about exhibition writing and I added some artistic topics, interesting books, movies, decoration ideas to catch the attention of people who might be interested in arts. Writing an art blog really helped me to meet great artists, gallerists, and curators. Once the galleries started sending me free catalogues, books, and invitations, I said to myself that I am on the right way. I also use instagram to inform people about my posts, to show them artworks, and direct them to my blog talking about the exhibitions that I visited."   

"I am an Interior Architect and TV Set/Stage Designer. I am also connected to art but I don't like to call myself an artist yet. My educational background helps me to look at an exhibition with its total aura: the lighting, the stimulation of the art works and how they were exhibited, the athmosphere of the gallery, human factors, and all architectural approaches to an exhibition catch my eye." 

"If I was  writing about beauty tips maybe I would earn money from advertisements but since I am writing about a topic in which a less amount of people are interested, I do not earn money from blogging. As I mentioned above, I do get invitation emails, catalogues, free press tickets and entrances to fairs, signed books from galleries and artists, which are so valuable. Social media is the new feudality, so having more followers, readers, and visitors is valuable too." 

March 22, 2015

1+1 =2. "Serialize" at Peres Projects

Great invitation card of Serialize by Peres Projects,
depicting Andy Warhol's Ladies and Gentlemen (Helen), 1975

In this review I’m going to talk in two’s. I have, for instance, two things to say after gallery hopping this week. First thing: anthropologists should stop wanting to be artists and artists should stop wanting to be anthropologists. OK, I hope this is clear without pointing the finger to certain galleries and shows. Second thing: the show Serialize at Peres Projects is awesome! I had such a good time - the exhibition really made me happy (as did the delicious quiche at the opening). Javier Peres knows how to bring his Los Angeles spirit to Berlin and I can only say “OMG, Thank You!!!” Berlin is after all very much located in Germany although one likes to think it’s not. This basically means that everything has to be heavy and “meaningful” instead of frivolous and Pop and humorous. The heaviness goes along with a lot of pretensions of sincerity, honesty, and authenticity. I can tell you that after a while of this German profoundness you scream for some lightness of being. Lets get it straight once and for all, shall we, Germany. First, because something looks easy, it’s not necessarily bad (and because something looks difficult, it’s not necessarily good). Second, humor is not the opposite of deep analysis. Rule Nr. 1 of Good Art is humor. 

Friends posing in front of radiating art work at Serialize.
It remains unclear if they are fans of Mark Flood or of Justin Bieber.

And the show Serialize has humor to it. First of all, for Peres Projects to conceptualize such an American exhibition in Berlin is quite funny. Because there is nothing more American then to serialize, isn’t it. Capitalism is build on serialization. And of course, the Godfather of serial art is Andy Warhol. Javier Peres shows here work from his own collection: Warhol’s Ladies and Gentlemen polaroid series featuring Wilhelmina Ross and Helen - ladies in terms of gender and gentlemen in terms of sex. Art historian Arthur Danto claimed that Warhol was truly avant-garde: starting in 1960 he blurred the boundaries between low and high culture, and in the following years other boundaries started to blur in society: between ethnicities and classes but also between sexes. The Ladies and Gentlemen polaroid photos were used by Warhol as source images for his paintings and depict its subjects in a series of facial expressions and gestures. As Warhol said, Pop Art was not about talking but about doing outrageous things, it was more about “gestures” than about articulation. 

Second of all, the whole exhibition space is divided into two parts that kind of mirror one another, though not exactly. This mirroring gives the exhibition not only a great Gestalt, it also enhances the serial "I’ve-seen-this-thing-before" effect. Serialize is stretched in different ways: as an obsession in Mark Flood’s Background Radiation, based on posters, magazines and publicities of Justin Bieber, and as a serial killer kind of way in Dean Sameshima’s sculptural paintings Untitled (Predator to Prey). My favorites were the verifax collages by Wallace Berman - I hadn’t heard about this Californian artist before but I love his assemblages made with a verifax photocopy machine - and the minimalist, conceptual paintings by the (French?) artist Guillaume Gelot. You know how it’s easier to define things by what they’re not, right. That’s exactly what Guillaume Gelot does: from NOT THE ANSWER, NOT SHAPES AND COLORS, NOT THE INTERNET, and NOT COMPLETION to a simple NO #2, NO #3, NO #4, NO #5 and NO #6, and then one basic No. There was only one confirmation titled 12 x 12

Art Object of The Week: TRASHION at Kisch & Co

Wolfgang Müller in front of Kisch & Co shopping window, with MÜLLUNG (Hybriden Verlag, Berlin) and his records  STOPP und MUSIKEN (Squoodge Records, Berlin)

Do you love window shopping? I curated a shopping window in the Oranienstraße in Kreuzberg. Unlike literary curating it’s not a new thing to do: it’s been done before and, hallelujah, by nobody less than Andy Warhol. So when the artist Wolfgang Müller asked me to curate a shopping window in the bookstore Kisch & Co, I was super excited. Andy Warhol practically started his career in a shopping window: in April 1961, five paintings based on comic strips and advertisements were positioned behind the mannequins wearing the latest fashion in Bonwit Teller, a New York department store. In 1973, when asked if he thought if art belonged in museums, Warhol responded: “Well, I thought department stores were the new museums. Then they could sell the paintings off the wall.” And ten years later he stated that Bloomingdale was the New Kind of Museum for the 80s. Well, in the 2010s it’s Kisch & Co.  

Because also this shopping window exhibition has to do with fashion. It’s a display of Müller’s latest publication MÜLLUNG. MÜLLUNG translated into English is TRASHION (trash combined with fashion). In German MÜLLUNG is a combination of Müll (trash) and Sammlung (collection). But it can also be interpreted as an association of Müll with Müller, the artist, whereas the -ung refers to an action. The action between Müller and Müll took place on a daily basis, when sorting out the mail. As in love it’s the dilemma of our times: should i(t) stay or should i(t) go? Wolfgang archived the mail that was on the hem of going or staying. Like things that have no value but might acquire value in the future; things that had value in the past, but have lost its value; or things that have value at the moment but you know they’re bound to lose their value in the future. I’m proud that I myself am included in the book and it’s definitely an up-valuation of my writing.

Wolfgang Müller didn’t ask me to curate the show because I’m a specialist in trashiology. He knows I like to arrange things. Arranging is quite the same as curating but since you can pronounce it in French, it sounds so much better: arrangement. It’s great that I could do my first arrangement in the shopping window of a bookstore. Bookstores are my favorite place to hang. Talking valuation, devaluation, upvaluation, revaluation: I’ve mentioned before in this blog that I believe that the salespersons at the bookstore are the ones who know exactly what is inflating and deflating at the moment. Of course, Wolfgang Müller’s MÜLLUNG can only go up, which is symbolized by its hard cover in the color gold. The result of Müller's archival enterprise is on view in the shop window of Kisch & Co, Oranienstraße 25, and you’re kindly invited to attend and window shop for as long as you wish until the end of the month.

For more info, check out: Hybriden Verlag, Berlin

March 20, 2015

What Is Good Art? Rule Nr. 5

There is one good thing about getting older - you will love Andy Warhol more and more. Why? I explain it here (with captions in cc):

March 15, 2015

Literary Curating. Ingo Mittelstaedt, Eli Cortiñas, and Sam Smith at insitu

Exhibition view of Framework 6: Parallelisms, “To Be Continued...”, 2015. Photos: insitu e.V. Two posters with page nr. 2 and 3 by An Paenhuysen. On the left: Ingo Mittelstaedt, RE: (Alexander Rodtschenko, Radiohörer (Porträt der Tochter Warwara), 2015, Pigment print, Courtesy the artist and Galerie koal. Original photo: courtesy of Sprengler Museum Hannover. Right: Sam Smith, Last Year, 2015, Reading of a section of the script for L'Année derrière à Marienbad by Alain Robbe-Grillet, Courtesy the artist and 3+1 Arte Contemporǎnea, Lisbon, Portugal 

Have you ever heard about “literary curating”? I'll have to do some selfish self-promoting of my own curating to explain the concept to you because, well, I happen to be the founder of “literary curating”. It’s Google Search that said so. To found something new, you need the right place, the right time and the right people. That's exactly what happened to me. insitu is the right place, 2015 is the right year, and artists Ingo Mittelstaedt, Eli Cortiñas, and Sam Smith are the right people. insitu is a Berlin project space that experiments in curating. The invitation to work with the team pushed me to come up with something different than usual, while trying not to be too creative because I happen to have an allergy for too creative curators. That’s why I bounced off my creativity with minimalism. This results in what I would like to call a mindfuck, which consists of an overdose and an understatement at the same time. I once had a band called Mindfukc (sic) but we, my buddies Zab, Jacob and I, never managed to turn the lyrics into music. With the insitu exhibition, finally the mindfuck has come about.

Exhibition view of Framework 6: Parallelisms, “To Be Continued...”, 2015. Photos: insitu e.V. 

Not that literary curating is about singing a song. The insitu team (Nora Mayr, Lauren Reid, Marie Graftieaux and Gilles Neiens) chose the three artists Mittelstaedt, Cortiñas and Smith, and developed the idea to show their work in two separate shows, of which the first one was to be done by me, the second one by the team, exploring different threads in the art work but also different perspectives in curating. In a private blog we started our conversation in which one curator reacted to another curator so that a chain of thoughts about the artists’ work came about. Based on this body of research I wrote a text that starts off with “to be a good artist...” and can be read as a loop. I was inspired by Gertrude Stein and Wolfgang Müller, the philosophers and practitioners of repetition. And two additional thoughts had crossed my mind: Magnús Pálsson’s “The less material there is in art, the more noble it becomes and once it has long since ceased to be visible except as a memory of art, that’s when it is best…” and Truman Capote’s “Suppose you ate nothing but apples for a week. Unquestionably you would exhaust your appetite for apples and most certainly know what they taste like.”

Exhibition view of Framework 6: Parallelisms, “To Be Continued...”, 2015. Photos: insitu e.V. Poster with page nr. 1 by An Paenhuysen 

I then asked the artists to fill one blank page each by selecting a work that confirms, comments, opposes, ignores, hyper-affirms, or illustrates the text that I wrote. The decision on who was going to fill in which blank page was based on randomly picking the names. This way Eli Cortinas was on the first, Ingo Mittelstaedt on the second, and Sam Smith on the third one. This is, coincidentally, also the alphabetical order of their names, which was a bummer, because I’m more of a “A to B and Back Again” kind of person... Of course the artists played a little game with me: they all responded with a loop as well. Even Mittelstaedt managed to do so with a photograph. That’s why the level of mindfuckedness in this experiment of literary curating has been increased to a dangerous level: the trick is not to get stuck in one of the loops. Therefore, let me finish by physically guiding you through the literary curating. For you not to go insane in the brain, read carefully:

Phase Nr. 1: In the first minutes of entering this loop of loops, you will have thoughts, opinions, emotions popping up. In this phase the artists give you food for your cultural baggage - Catherine Deneuve, Alexander Rodtschenko, Marienbad - while simultaneously shifting the familiar perspective. Hang on: again and again and again, until you get numb and every emotion leaves your body and even the strongest opinions will fade. 

Phase Nr. 2 is the moment when you capture yourself no longer having a thought, an emotion or an opinion. Indeed, you have exhausted all the emotion but the taste is still there. Clear-eyed and clear-headed you are now capable of analysing that taste. 

This way you will enter Phase Nr. 3. You have internalized the art in such a way that only the essence is left over. You will feel lighter as if you have lost weight, comparable to the 21 grams you loose when dying. At the same time, value has been added, which means there is more. This last phase of literary curating is still in its experimental state. If you feel stuck, call me!  

Exhibition view of Framework 6: Parallelisms, “To Be Continued...”, 2015. Photos: insitu e.V. In this photo Eli Cortinas, Love is worn around the neck, 2012, single channel video, loop. Courtesy the artis, Soy Capitán and Waldburger Wouters, Brussels.

March 14, 2015

What Is Good Art? Rule Nr. 4

I can never get enough of Andy Warhol's Making Money! What about you? Check it out (subtitles cc):

March 8, 2015

(Art Object) of The Week: The Feminist Century

Girl Power on Tempelhofer Freedom in Berlin

To celebrate Women's Day here is a quote of the amazing Eileen Myles, tackling Andrew Sullivan's writing about testosterone in the year 2000, and an ode to feminism and feminists:

"Listen to this provocative tack: 'After a feminist century ...' Now, isn't that something! But, I'll let him continue: 'After a feminist century we may be in need of a new understanding of masculinity.' Reading that, I feel I've missed something. I didn't know that the 20th century was the feminist century. I consider myself a feminist. How could I have not known about this bestowal of a century and Andrew did? Did it happen at some tiny conservative college in the Midwest? I would have acted differently if I'd known it was my century. I would have acted - well, how does one act when they know the house is theirs, when it's their ball, when their father owns the team? I would have acted differently, for sure.

Because I remember the 20th century and I was doing okay, but I was struggling. I could have used that extra lift. But Andrew is clearly referring to a century in which women had perhaps a little too much power and success (and he didn't have enough?) and yet where were the articles like this about oestrogen, progesterone, and yes, even female testosterone, because we do have a bit, and when we get angry we have more. And when we are successful it also expands accordingly."

What Is Good Art? Rule Nr. 3

Subtitles in cc! Enjoy!

March 5, 2015

Gallery Hopping Johann König, KOW. And oh yes, Yael Bartana

There are two topics that I rather avoid discussing because they are so tricky that you don’t get anywhere discussing them anyhow, or so it seems to me. Exactly these two topics were talked about in the Yael Bartana show at Capitain Petzel: religion and national identity. So what about challenging myself, I thought, by getting interested in something I’m not interested in. Well, here I am, two weeks later, still trying to get my head around the two topics, and the Yael Bartana show has already finished. To make this blog post not sound too belated, I will also talk about some shows that are still on - actually, they just opened. 

Great architecture at Karl-Marx-Alee. Gallery Capitain Petzel

Because yes, I did some gallery hopping last Friday and I happened to be at the gallery opening of the year: the Alicja Kwade show at Johann König had more than 1000 guests on Facebook and in reality, the show was packed too. Alicja Kwade is popular, yes she is. Value seems to be added naturally to whatever falls into her hands. Kwade works on the aesthetics of materiality and she gives material a touch of the sublime. I must say that I like it, although it’s almost  too sublime for my taste. I wish that Kwade would do something ugly for a change. At moments, the artist gets too “fleißig” (studious, but in a German way), and I would rather prefer her to be lazy once in a while. Kwade is also very polite, even if she's breaking glass. This way she enjoyably brushes you with beauty. And that is wonderful, but it might not stick. 

Breaking glass in slow motion, by Alicja Kwade at Johann König.

At the opening at KOW I encountered the other topic I find difficult: political art. I might be (too) quick in making an opinion but the aesthetics of the collective Chto Delat is so predicable, old-fashionably revolutionary (check: color red, check: collage, check: 1920s) and, on top of it, how can you make art look so Russian? Sorry, but this is the 21th century - move on! And let’s simplify the revolution by writing a readable manifesto, I beg you! Gallery KOW has been disappointing me lately: the former show on Tobias Zielony was such a drag: aesthetic photographs of “outsider” groups... It’s so easy to get famous in this art world, just do the obvious and you’ll succeed. 

Yael Bartana's True Finn at Capitain Petzel

So how did Yael Bartana tackle her topics at Captain Petzel? Quite ironic to talk religion in a grand pavilion where communism once had its parade. The film Inferno is about the Salomon temple, built in Brazil with stones transported from Israel. Bartana envisions the future destruction of this temple in a style that is a mixture of Hollywood combined with Leni Riefenstahl. Even Salman Rushdie manages to say silly things when talking about religion: saying, for instance, that religion is unreasonable (as if the reasonable is so reasonable, a friend of mine replied). Yet, watching Inferno, the only thing I could think about, was the enormous budget that must have been spent in making this art film. The idea behind the work is good. Bartana aimed to produce a “historical pre-enactment” and the tension in that concept makes it already worthwhile. But I guess it’s hard to play tricks with Hollywood and in this film Hollywood definitely won. 

Yael Bartana, True Finn at Capitain Petzel

I liked True Finn, screened in the basement space of Capitain Petzel. Again, Bartana walks a fine line, dangerously nearing Colors of Benetton, but, nevertheless, pulling it off well. It depicts a gathering of eight Finnish people, each from a different ethnic, religious and political background, who discuss during seven days what it means to be a true Finn, and, more generally, what it means to belong. The participants do typical Finnish things, like going to the sauna and wearing traditional Finnish clothes, and they have to write a new Finnish national anthem. Bartana plays with the absurd without manipulating or exposing the people she works with. The discussions don’t really reveal anything new, but as a whole, it’s of interest: “If a true Finn is something other than skin color, then I am a true Finn” and “You should have to be a Finn to buy land - Finnland belongs to the Finns.” Now and then some beautiful thoughts are expressed like “I don’t like using the words human, woman or man. I prefer using the word creature.” In short: I wouldn’t dare to ask for more.