The range of reactions from the audience to Anne Imhof’s Angst II exhibition as durational opera during Berlin Art Week this year ranged from “Turner Prize” to “You could be one of the performers” [the equivalent of “I could have done this”]. The first reaction I heard came from two German girls standing behind me at the entrance waiting to get into the general public opening night, “Der Nebel! Ich liebe Nebel!” [Fog! I love fog!] I thought, has fog become the new sunset. Throughout the evening I heard comments like “This is lasting forever [when there was still 3 more hours to go],” “Berghain in a museum [Berghain several times],” “Just your average night in Berlin [Americans bragging to out-of-towners],” and “hahaha lets go.” The crowd was also a mixed, broad and diverse sampling of Berliners and visitors. I saw middle-aged and older museum goers, start-up CEOs, tourists, cool kids dressed in black and PR party girl types. This wasn’t an emotional piece but it made me think about it for quite awhile.
The smoke machines filling the main hall of the Hamburger Bahnhof offered a thrilling aspect for me as a lover of smoke/ fog. I spent about three hours walking back and forth taking photos and almost running into one of the main non-beings. The humans in the piece were not performing as humans but as the equivalent of objects. The gestures slowly performed by the non-beings were like tableaux vivants or living pictures with ready-made objects. The living pictures showed the postures and movements the bodies made with a mobile phone or a cigarette or shaving cream but blankly. Without the objects, their gestures were at times highly stylized and mannered, sometimes recognizable and other times not. Often the gestures mimicked exhaustion, death, boredom, fatigue or the audience. And the vacant looks of the non-beings were well-executed by this cast. They did however at times acknowledge each other. Almost immediately, I realized how gendered and almost Quattrocento my own postures and gestures were compared to these non-beings whose gestures were androgynous, desexualized, and highly anti-social.
It’s difficult to be moved by the musical sound of a soda can going “pop” or for shaving cream to be used not for the non-beings, whose bodies no longer had any hair but so that the shaving cream could perform and the razors could have its moment. The roles were interestingly reversed but whether equality was achieved, that is harder to tell.
Although the piece had no narrative and the audience was told this, I still couldn’t help but try to follow a conventional narrative structure, convinced that if I stayed till the end, something might happen. I didn’t make it to the end but it was interesting to know that I kept on thinking it would. Even though the humans were non-beings, the regular humans still followed them around and gave them more importance than the objects because that was also an old habit to break. In fact, most of the drama was actually created by the drones, the falcons, the smoke machine, the shaving cream, the razors, the Coca-Cola/ Diet Pepsi cans and mobile phones. Once the falcons left the stage, it was fairly uneventful.
‘Corner Door and Doorframe (Installation view),’ 2014-2015,. Robert Gober
Stepping out of the metro at Lido T.I.B.B., I spotted an Asian couple that looked like they were going where I was going and they were. The woman apologized that her Italian had overtaken her knowledge of English so she could now only speak English in aphorisms. On the other hand, her companion had studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and only spoke German, so I spoke with him and exchanged short English questions with the lady. As artists and teachers, they took me under their wing all throughout the visit.
In a gold leaf building known as the “Haunted House,” I walked into a space that instantly reminded me of a picture. With its light almost faded blue walls and sketches of a lone tree, I thought that picture (If I could have seen the look on my face). As I was thinking this, the lady spoke these words.
Lady: This is famous.
Me: Is it Louise? (she gave me a look)
Lady: This is contemporary art.
Me:… (which contemporary art world are you living in or rather, which one am I)
Later on, still thinking of her riddle on the third floor circling butter in a crib.
Me: Why is it contemporary art?
Lady: Too complicated, Google it.
Story of my life.
A few hours later in the Gallerie d’Italia, drawn to the words Beauty Restored, I took this picture. Being a facade kind of girl, I found myself looking at a corner… unknowingly what I had seen was already showing up in my images.
… on a kind of cold evening in Berlin 2008. This evening first opened my eyes to the magic of contemporary art. Pressed for time start at 19:00, want the magic start at 23:00, want a laugh start at 27:20
“I’m interested in things failing, in the beauty of failure, and the fall in general,” Cyprien Gaillard for Interview Magazine
I think the genesis of my fascination with smoke / fog started here.
HERMES & HERMAPHRODITOS, 2015 (Detail)
Courtesy Michael Müller
Michael Müller’s solo exhibition “Wer Spricht?” (Who’s Speaking?) at Kunst-Werke could easily rival a showing at the Hamburger Bahnhof or the Tate Modern. It could have been mislabeled “group show” and I wouldn’t have known the difference due to its comprehensive and well-executed nature. It felt historically present, relevant and gave a feeling of totality. Whereas I usually leave a show having fell in love with one or two pieces or one specific artist, almost every single object, drawing, video, sculpture, photograph, mixed-media piece drew my attention and made me dote over it with affection. I traveled through a cushy child’s playroom with my shoes off staring at a gold jigsaw puzzle, sat in a “gold lodge” home movie theater feeling pretentious and crouched down to enter a frightening hellhole where one could imagine elicit anonymous fucks. Less powerful was a clinical setting of Sol LeWitt-like penciled script in an unrecognizable Tai-Kadai language. I wanted a painting that was a drawing which gave the impression of having erased itself into strokes. One was struck by Müller’s mastery of old art forms to new ones, and the ways in which he alluded to mythology fluidly with Star Wars and Twin Peaks adding a hint of soft porn and topping it off with a golden salute to the orient in the form of an animal seesaw.
The video that plays in loop in the Gold Lodge movie theater depicts a Lacanian courtly love in which Hermes and Hermaphroditos never consummate their love but are forever in an erotic game, in this case on a see saw.
The media image chosen for the show pictured above could do little to capture the sheer scope and ambition of the show.
For friends who look at contemporary art with a admission of ignorance, they look to me as someone with a knowledge they don’t possess. In other words, that I must be bringing something to the art to engage in the experience. Why else would I go to so many openings, museums and make it a big part of my life? I must understand it but my reading is a naive one. By naive I mean, my experience is wholeheartedly subjective to my tastes and most times, I don’t even try to understand why I like something, I just do. The historical dialogue is long and we only have so much time to listen in on the debate. Unless you read the PR release or the informational text plastered on the museum/ gallery space, no one knows what is going on, you just walked into a centuries long discussion on representation.
I don’t have a role in the art world other than developing a knowledge of my own tastes. You don’t know what you like till you see it. And after you see it, you don’t know how it will change you, infiltrate your thoughts or art production. If you’ve only seen or heard of Van Gogh, then your desires start and end there. I may not be able to explain Katherina Grosse but I know I love her work. These thoughts are old, but the Daniel Hylden pictures are new.
Ai Weiwei’s sunflower seeds installation has made it into a recent work of fiction How to be a Grown-up by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. It was also my first experience of his work in the flesh. In the novel, a cameo character’s daughter chews on a sunflower seed and her mother immediately calls her art dealer to ask if Mr. Weiwei can provide a replacement piece since the sunflowers were purchased with an adherence toward feng shui and one less was gonna fuck that up. The moment I read this, I thought these two women writers are comic geniuses. While it was being shown at Tate Modern, edible sunflowers were given away as exhibition souvenirs.