June 19, 2016

Strange. Stella Zannou at DOCK11

My neighbour Hannegret (I talked about her before) told me that when art takes you out of a bad mood, it's good art. I like that definition, it's so simple and sincere that one almost wouldn't think of it as one is always searching to complicate things. I could verify its truth yesterday since I was in a bad mood and the dance piece Strange that I saw at DOCK11 turned out to be good art. Not that it was all cheery and optimistic. Not at all. It was actually a satire on the art world. But unlike the ongoing Berlin Bienniale the satire didn't stay on one and the same level, but it touched upon various levels at the same time, taking you from surface into depth and from depth to surface, which was a bit like being on a rollercoaster or like looking at a moebius strip. There was a knotting / unknotting process going on. I've talked about "unknotting" in art philosophy, which unlike the "unveiling" seems to involve a more gentle gesture that leaves behind a trace of mystery. In Stella Zannou's dance piece Strange the bodies were literally knotting themselves, whereas a kind of talkshow host was there to unknot the dancing by promoting its endeavour but also pointing out it shortcomings, its lack of concept, its failure to succeed. "It has to be very very interesting or it has to be really really impressive - one of both extremes: in the middle is not good enough", he commented. It reminded me of the "Does it get easier?" scene in Lost in Translation, where the young woman has a fear to be just mediocre in life. Well, it was nice to see art that is moving in the space in between both extremes. One of the strengths of Strange is definitely its concept, which is funny because the whole piece is about searching for it. Yet all the way it had a clear concept represented by an object that we, the audience, had chosen ourselves at the very beginning and which was put in the spot light, right into view. But the thing is, you forgot about it, which is indeed that seldom occasion when a concept really works and you no longer see it. 

One more thing about art: it asks for the right light. In case of imperfection (and who wants to be perfect?), Andy Warhol recommended low light and trick mirrors because "a person is entitled to the lighting they need." Same counts for art, and the applause here goes to Asier Solana, the light technician of DOCK11. 

My neighbour Hannegret gave me this postcard, Maria unknotting, 1700, 
by Johann Georg Melchior Schmidtner

June 15, 2016

Isa Genzken's Crème de la Crème

A big Isa Genzken exhibition is going on at the Martin Gropius Bau and although it is not well curated I can only recommend to go and see it. Isa Genzken makes great work, really top, so I was excited and you'll be so too. Up front: as always in Martin Gropius Bau they didn't bother making a stringent selection (we know by now that they have a horror vacui there, why is anyone's guess) and this exhibition in particular is poorly curated, which is unfortunate for such a great artist showing in her hometown Berlin. Luckily the artwork has a strength to it so that even bad curation can’t kill the art. Let me tell you how to visit the exhibition to get the most out of it: Upon entering choose the right side of the exhibition - it has the Nefertitis, the Fuck the Bauhaus, all of Isa Genzken's crème de la crème. Afterwards, don’t go to the left side of the exhibition because the art work is stuffed in the space in a way that it can't breathe and neither can you. Just go home and read the interview with Isa Genzken in the Tagesspiegel. She's quite a spirit. Once she titled an exhibition in Vienna I’m Isa Genzken, the Only Female Fool, so you get the gist. In the Tagesspiegel the journalists told her that her artwork sells for a good price and that she must be happy, and she is like:  “Sells well? Take Jeff Koons, he’s of my generation, much worse than I am, but so much more expensive. That's injustice.” Haha, right on!  The journalists then continue, clearly eager to get some frustration and self-pitty out of Isa Genzken: “Do women have a harder time on the art market?” She: “No, they’re just not that good. The best artists are gay. Like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, also Gerhard Richter.” 

June 5, 2016

The Berlin Biennial 2016: Where Art is "Fun" and Bland


Alright, I’m gonna be really short about this Berlin Biennial, because I have no patience for it. We knew what to expect, the post-internet Biennial of DIS-Magazine, and if you “get it”, good for you, and if you don’t “get it”, like me, it’s just a bland “fun” world. Maybe it’s a matter of mere taste, anyway, art..., so I was thinking after seeing this Biennial. I can just say that I want more from art. Yes, I want some magic, poetry, and beauty.  And yes, I ask from art that it has a vision (visionary at its best). Otherwise, sorry,  it just isn't good enough.

Simon Fujiwara at the Academy of Arts, Pariser Platz

At the press conference the curatorial team explained their concept of the “post-contemporary” - which is one of those new words that has to sound radical. Who still calls things “post” anyway? I tried to distill something interesting out of this “post-contemporary” - but I can only remember that it’s about how there is no future anymore because the future is just more of the same ... blablabla, this kind of cultural criticism has been saying the same since the start of modernity, (and the funny thing is, those cultural critics always think they are saying the newest thing in town). In the “post-contemporary” there is apparently also no time for critical questions anymore. At the press conference the “any questions?” was purely rhetorical.  A friend suggested to ask: ‘What is the brand of your T-shirt?” Very cynical of my friend indeed, but a cynicism that the Biennial curators would dig because their Biennial is cynical at its core. 

At Academy of Arts

Take the show at the Academy of Arts at Pariser Platz. It is curated in a way that everything looks the same as if it’s made by one artist who just took different media. So I feel hardly the need to mention the names of artists. It doesn’t matter, really... I mean, Hito Steyerl’s work was brooding in the basement as if giving birth to all those post-internet clones that spread through the whole building. I saw the artist herself biking to all the venues of the Biennial, probably surveying her off-spring. In the entrance hall it starts with an artist working with suitcases and display puppets. I would like to set one thing straight: only Isa Genzken can pull it off to work with display puppets. Other artists should just keep their hands off. At the entrance hall we were also welcomed by some advertising poster art, one that nicely incorporated diversity (everything I say here is cynical, just you know). 

Academy of Arts

I had some hope about Lizzie Fitch / Ryan Trecartin, but they delivered just more of the same same (= trash videos. Once you have a formula to sell, why change it, right? Easy money, easy fame - bling bling, glamour!) The art work at the Academy of Arts is all about the doubling of corporate design, be it office spaces, advertising, or internet. Doubling is a favorite and easy artistic strategy, one that’s supposed to reveal something by repeating it but in reality it doesn’t involve breaking anything, but leaves everything nicely into place. So safe! So fun! And the money that you get for it, is funny too! 


At the ESMT at Schossplatz, there is some 3D sculpture by Katja Novistkova. It’s bad. The fire seems to suggest a ritual which was probably supposed to work with the magnificent space. No need to say that the architecture outdoes the art. The art work itself looked like cardboard advertising, and I wouldn’t have noticed it at all if I didn’t knew there was a Biennial going on. But that was exactly the idea of the curators, that you wouldn’t know if it’s art or not. Great, once more some curators who have a flat understanding of how art and life should meet.  

At Feuerle exhibition I liked the video by Korpys/Löffler, but I wished the artists hadn’t worked with cell phone blurbs for the text and had used good old subtitles. At the KW there was more of the same art. Yet it was here that I saw one beautiful piece by Alexa Karolinski/ Ingo Niermann, which had emotion in it. Finally an emotion! After all this emotionless art it was such a relief. Also, it was the best kind of emotion: love. I shed a tear right there when I saw it. Yes, this might be a good way to finish: there is a little drop of hope in this big bland Biennial.  
Alexa Karolinski / Ingo Niermann at KW: a drop of hope