Berlin Art Week

A few weeks ago I was in Berlin, coincidentally during Berlin Art Week (or was this my fate?). The following crossed my path:

A painting by Birgit Brenner at Eigen + Art, about which (like so much of what passed my field of vision) I am not quite sure what I think of it. “There will never be another you”, sounds to me like a message that is both reassuring and disturbing.

part of "Microcosm Macrocosm", Yamamoto Masao
part of "Microcosm Macrocosm", Yamamoto Masao

Microcosm Macrocosm by Yamamoto Masao at Alfred Ehrhardt Stiftung Berlin was an exhibition in which I, as a coincidental passer-by, was drawn into, enchanted by the shop window. I had never heard of the photographer before. The exhibition text tells: “Yamamoto is known for his small-format silver gelatin prints, that he reworks through tinting, painting over them, or other manual interventions to the point that they almost become objects, carrying reminiscences of the past. As diverse as his motifs are, his images are expressions of an attitude of humility, as propagated by the Chinese philosopher Laozi, who considered humanity as only one small part of nature, which in turn is merely a miniscule part of an immense universe. By observing all the minute things around him, Yamamoto finds a key for accessing the all-encompassing nature of the universe that he captures on photographic paper.”

Embroiderie by Ugemfo at „Miete Strom Instagram“ (Rent Electricity Instagram) by Walch&Winkler
Embroiderie by Ugemfo at „Miete Strom Instagram“ (Rent Electricity Instagram) by Walch&Winkler

These “cute” embroideries by Ugemfo I came across at „Miete Strom Instagram“ (Rent Electricity Instagram) by Walch&Winkler. From their Facebook event: “„Miete Strom Instagram“ is an event designed to reflect the work and living conditions prevalent among artists in Berlin. (…) Beyond their artistic and geographic context, the works on show share a common functionality, reflecting the circumstances of their production. This is evident in their manifestation in the form of lamps, shoes and clothes, the objects highlight the artist’s need to create alternative means of income. The objects assembled in “Miete Strom Instagram” reveal a host of strategies and work methods that have arisen out of necessity among the artistic community.”

This drawing by Lin May Saeed (I’m not 100% sure if it’s hers, I have to admit; if you know better, let us know) was on display at Bar Babette. For some reason I was attracted to it. Maybe it was the back to basic lifestyle I saw there in combination with the unpretentious gesture that the lines seemed to radiate. Bar Babette went into her last month of existence. From their website: “At the end of September 2018, the iconic Bar Babette will vacate its historic building on Berlin’s Karl Marx Allee. Its closure is a sign of our times and an echo of the city’s gentrification and radical economic evolution. Over the bar’s fifteen years of existence, it has become both a gathering place and an ad hoc institution for the many communities of Berlin’s art scene, which have contributed in their own ways to the city’s cultural richness and attractiveness.” Sounds like a true loss.

Freely translated from Dutch “we fell with our noses in the butter” at “Me Collectors Room” where “The Moment is Eternity – Works from the Olbricht Collection” was just opened with a delicious breakfast buffet. Also the show was good to digest. There was a lot of photographic work to see, classics from the 90s, and among others this giant painting of the master of hyperrealism, Franz Gertsch, one of my favourites at the time. A little hidden in the back and up a narrow staircase, we suddenly reached the “Wunderkammer” where we discovered one after the other rarity and treasure.

Berlin Art Week
Posing in front of Franz Gertsch's Irene
Gerhard Richter, 48 Portraits, 1998
Left: Christus, four nail crucifixion, ca. 1670. Right: Robert Capa, Death of a Loyalist Soldier (Spanish Civil War, Sept 5, 1936
Head of Saint John the Baptistin charger, Torcuato Ruiz del Peral, 1760
Death and the cripple, Mathew Weir, 2009 (Wunderkammer Olbricht)

In Galerie Xavierlaboubenne we were personally guided by Anton Stoianov (not entirely coincidentally our host this week; top artist, top host!) through his solo show which this time consists of a series of paintings within the layers of mirrors. Stoianov is an artist who doesn’t easily repeat himself and reinvents himself every time. From the gallery website: “Escaping the repetition of stylistic ideas, Anton Stoianov continues to develop new modes of painting through aesthetic inventions. Anton Stoianov’ s apprenticeship at the Glaser-Innung Berlin for the last two years inspired paintings with ecological miralite revolution mirrors, made of silver instead of lead. The tension between control and hazard of the material produces unexpected layers and seductive-repulsive combinations. The muddied chromatic explosion on cold reflector hints upon the critical reality of planetary doomsday.”

Anton Stoianov at Xavierlaboubenne, on view until November 10
Anton Stoianov at Xavierlaboubenne

At Galerie Michael Reid we saw Equinox (the equinox is when the sun shines equally on the earth’s northern and southern hemispheres) by Christian Thompson. In his photographs, constructed with the utmost precision, in which he himself merges into compositions and seas of flowers, he becomes nature, or rather Mother Nature, herself. Clasped in his hands on sticks are the cut out silhouettes of German settlers who, in the 19th century, took their booty in Australia. Christian himself was there to explain his work, which was an enrichment I can’t repeat so quickly here, but the exhibition text comes close. A link to it can be found at the bottom.

Christian Thompson in front of his work (on view until Oct. 27)
Christian Thompson, detail

VERY is a new temporary project space in a garage in Berlin Gesundbrunnen. It is being run by Silva Agostini, Dirk Bell, Mariechen Danz, Ai Kurahashi, Sarah Schönfeld, Nils Peterson and Anna Zett.

Here we visited the exhibition “Digesture” where a.o. Kinga Kielczynska was present with a new car installation overgrown from the inside, this time with content from her immediate environment (earlier I reported for J&T on a variation of this work during the last Manifesta in Palermo). At closing time the work was driven into the garage, where I think it showed off best.

Kinga Kielczynska, "Mad Son" 2018, Very - Project Space
Left: Mariechen Danz, Digestive System (map toxin) 2015 - Right: Kinga Kielczynska, "Mad Son" 2018, Very - Project Space
Beny Wagner, video still "Outside" 2017, Very - Project Space
Digestible map / program, Very - Project Space

In the evening we visited the Bärenzwinger. The former bear enclosure of the Berlin City Bears has been open since September 2017 as a cultural site for site-specific contemporary art in Berlin-Mitte and was now occupied by Mariechen Danz, Johannes Paul Raether and KAYA, with three continuous performances in the linked indoor and outdoor residences of which I will highlight one:

“In Mariechen Danz’s “Womb Tomb – Coral Concern” in the outdoor compound, the clay figure “Womb Tomb“ has been laid out. Containing bark mulch from the ground of the enclosure, the sculpture carries the last DNA traces of the bears. Throughout the course of the exhibition, it absorbs information from the environment in multiple stages. As part of Danz’, KAYA’s and Raether’s intricate interactions, visitors are invited to interact with the sculpture together with the artist and contribute to its transformation process by writing their worries on paper scrolls, the so-called worry scrolls and injecting them into the damp clay. After these interactions follows a drying and burning process that incinerates the bark mulch and the worry scrolls within the figure, leaving in its place a coral-like fossilisation. “active ashes (weather map Schnute Maxi)“, a spinnaker fabric with digital prints by Danz, KAYA and Raether is stretched over the “Womb Tomb“ as a protective layer.”

Johannes Paul Raether "ZewaArena Ash Diamond Halbzeug []" in Bärenzwinger
KAYA "– KAYA_YO-NAH YO-HO (Healing performance for a sick painting)" in Bärenzwinger

In Hamburger Bahnhof a large video installation of Agnieszka Polska, winner of the “Preis der Nationalgalerie” was shown. The point of departure for the work is a collection of fifteenth-century letters addressed to Mikołaj Serafin, the custodian of Poland’s salt mines. The videos shown on multiple giant screens spread across the equally huge space available for it, told the story of a young messenger tasked with delivering these letters on horseback. I stayed too short in the installation to take the whole story to me, but it was a pleasant alternation of an animated fantasy world and images that reminded me of knight series from the 80s.

Baselitz greets us upon entry with "Volk Ding Zero".
Good old Kiefer on the way to Polska

In between we passed by Future Gallery where Estrid Lutz under the title “Toxins” showed “collages and sculptures which are designed from a broad range of high-tech, resistant and lightweight materials including Kevlar, honeycomb aluminum, carbon fiber, fiberglass and epoxy resin. The materials are commonly used when manufacturing satellites, automobiles, or large-scale communication devices.”

And to top it all off, we also made a round at the fair, Art Berlin, which took place this year at Flughafen Tempelhof.

And sometimes it was less
and sometimes more.
"More", at Kleindienst Leipzich >> Christoph Ruckhäberle, Malerei für Moritz, 2018
"Less" (in this case is more), Brian Eno
Berlin Art Week
And of course there was much more and more and more to see, but my eyes were finished and it was time to go home.