One month ago I’ve moved from London to Berlin. As a designer, relocating to Berlin comes with an extraordinary load of excitement and expectations for the artistic renaissance the city have witnessed over the past decade or so. Frankly the city propagate a unique energy, with a multitude of young and proactive artists, curators and designer putting together a multitude of events.
Two weeks in, and boom! It’s time for Berlin Art Week, a convention aiming to presents the current trends in contemporary art, discover emerging galleries and artists as well as celebrating internationally established one.
I took a couple of days off work and went to see as many exhibitions as possible to create a comprehensive article for DI’s readers. Here is an excerpt.
Day one starts with a bit of delusion. I was invited to attend the opening of the Kitchen Monument at Berlinische Museum, event that was advertised to be in English. After getting to the site I spent a good 10min admiring the rather impressive inflatable construction. Eventually we sit and after a number of technical problems and a 15min delayed start, to my great irritation the talk planned to be English is instead in straight German. A complete time waste.
Likely, the following day starts in a completely different way with the press preview of Vertigo Of Reality at Akademie Der Kunste. After a warm welcome, the journalists were taken in a guided tour of the exhibition with precious insights on the works in exhibit. The exhibition, that runs till December 14th, 2014, is a journey in the eclectic artistic manipulations of reality enabled by the technological advancement. The exhaustive show portrays different ways in which reality is constructed and deconstructed using different mediums and techniques. Along the lines of Transmediale 2014, the show highlights the importance of resistance and critique of the current surveillance regimes, extreme digitalization and technocratic ideologies we are entangled with.
Trevor Paglen was one of the highlights of the exhibition with a number of artwork throughout the exhibition. Paglen, that was also present at Transmediale 2014, gave a small presentation to the press explaining how he consider his use of cutting edge techniques comparable to old photographer sent in reconnaissance missions to discover new worlds alongside military expeditions. Using large format cameras, long distance telephoto lenses as well as telescopes to unveil the secrecy of the states and the military as well as secret agencies, Paglen provide a new perspective and understanding of our reality.
Julian Oliver, an all time personal symbol of creativity, critique and resistance was also amongst the highlights of the exhibit with a number of works displayed. Oliver, that was also present at Transmediale 2014, was exhibiting Newstweek and Men in Grey. Both projects expose the power of technology as well as the vulnerable reality in which the majority of the population lies.
Newstweek is a device for manipulating news read by other people on a wireless hotspot, the hack allows the writer to remotely edits news without the awareness of other users. I personally see this as a powerful critique on the power of information and who governs them in our mediated reality.
Men in Grey is a video of two men with a suitcase walking around the city, the suitcase has a screen on a side that displays any intercepted message that wasn’t encrypted, hence showing the vulnerability of our privacy and “personal” communications.
Dear Steve, by Dutch performer Stan Wannet is a video letter to Steve Jobs in which a new MacBook Pro is scrupulously disassembled, each and every component down to tiny screws are isolated; the video is voiced through the reading of the letter to Steve Jobs. The reading itself is an ideological critique to the globalized empire of Apple Inc.
I only wished he would have engaged in trying to put it back together!
SpecTres by Sarah Möller is a video installation smartly crystallizing the image-mediated reality we’re all part of. The work collects and displays images from various international news sources in an automated blog. The images are displayed for a fraction to vanish a second later, forever. Images poetically lose their meanings and importance.
I believe, too much information is equal to no information- the same holds true for images.
In The Situation Room, Franz Reimer has recreated a live size detailed reproduction of the situation room where historical decisions are made, decisions that actively affect the life of each and everyone of us. The installation is a walk-in closed circuit video installation that places the users in a replica of the legendary room.
Obviously in the deconstruction of reality, the Oculus Rift plays a major technological breakthrough for artists to experiment with.
Sound self, by Robin Arnott consist of an interactive experience using Oculus Rift to allow the viewer to uniquely decide and construct different 3D DMT-style visualizations in response to the user’s voice. Different sounds is equal to different visuals in a complete 3D space.
The Shoebox Diorama, is the second addition in a series of fantastical dioramas for the Oculus Rift by interactive illustrator Daniel Ernst. The installation physically and digitally transports you on top of a chair tower to experience the vertigo of heights as hardly ever experienced before.
In the game section of particular interest was the provocative game by Gold Extra, Frontiers. Users can decide whether they want to play the immigrants or frontier officers’ role. The game brings about a whole series of questions and critiques of modern globalized world where concepts of nationality might be outdated.
Facebook Misfunct by Bastian Schmidt and Lars Harzem is a funny tweaking of the “almighty” social network. Master’s students from FH Potsdam University have written a script that allows them to turn off functionality of the popular social network and modify them, whereby the power structure and the implicit rules of Facebook become the center of attention.
Olafur Eliasson also had a couple of interesting pieces, Spiegeltunnel and Concentric Mirrors as well as Folded ellipse 60°- very cool visual impact but probably a bit too abstractly conceptual for a simple journalist like me.
Bjorn Melhus, “headhunter” is a funny, critical and provocative installation where a video projection of himself beheaded asks visitors to talk about their view on financial market and speculations, asking questions and alternatives, if there is any.
That was in the morning.
The public opening was scheduled for the evening. Most of my friends were going there, I then decided to follow, also because there was a number of gigs schedule for the night. As I got there I couldn’t believe my eyes. A gigantic crowd was filling every possible centimeter of the entrance, garden and stage area epitomising the incredible hype art have seen in recent year.
Of all the people I spoke to during the evening (and I speak a lot!) only one did manage to actually get inside and see the art works I did luckily see in the morning.
It was important to be there, never mind the art!
One of the most awaited show at Berlin Art Week was most probably the double exhibition at KW Institute for Contemporary Art that saw a celebration of the net art of Ryan Trecartin and the Hyperrealistic CGI of Kate Cooper.
Ryan Trecartin’s Site Visit is a 6 screen video, cheap camping chairs installation, celebrating one of the globally most controversial artist of recent years. The video collection is an unsettling, disturbing, annoying but highly meaningful collection of video clips, poorly designed 3D characters, glitchy shots, Blair Witch Project kind of footage, game-like characters, irritating computer generated voices, celebrity-obsessed gestures, incomprehensible quick talking, over-done make-up, as well as a mystifying over-layered narrative that places the viewer’s, or at least my, mental condition in pure distress and agony. The unpleasant experience is fiercely and meticulously describing modern net culture and society to a great extent and with a painfully striking precision. The reference to modern pop culture and online modes of behaviour are accentuated to the extreme.
Without any doubt this exhibit was the most daring and innovative throughout the whole art week aiming at creating an hybrid new language that tends to blur the lines between participation, authorship, broadcasting and interaction.
Artistic innovation doesn’t necessarily have to wear the mask of beauty or aestheticization, sometimes it is most effective when it describes an unmediated reality.
Kate Cooper’s RIGGED is a two floor video installation showing an hyper-realistic CGI figure of a woman in a not-so-far future. This highly precise and aestheticised work is a fierce reference to the instrumentalization of women in the digital image production industry. Cooper creates a poetic narrative aligning with contemporary mainstream canons dictated by the fashion and beauty industry, the articulated piece of moving image examines our daily relationship with images, appearance and concepts of perfection.
One of the greatest revelation in recent years is the Import-Project Gallery, co-founded by the pluri celebrated upcoming curator, Nadim Julien Samman. No wonder Samman decided to pick one of the many eclectic RCA graduate to impress Berlin Art Week afficionados- this time was up to Marguerite Humeau with her exhibition Horizons to impress German audiences. The exhibit consisted of three magnificent installations ranging from life size tape fighter jet, to abstract 4,5M years ago Mammoth Imperator sounds, to prohibited musical instrument . In plain RCA fashion, Humeau researched and developed to the extreme her original concept reaching levels of absolute abstraction, at times disconnecting with reality. I was personally slightly let down by the inherent conceptualization of some of the pieces but nonetheless rather impressed by the stubborn perseverance and precise execution.
Overall Berlin Art Week was a great success with an incredible number of people attending and exhibits put on by a multitude of excellent artists. Vertigo of Reality remains my personal favorite for the multitude of medium, concepts, artists, critiques, interactive installations, talks and events. If you are in search for something drastically new go and visit Ryan Trecartin at KW, even though the show is likely to induce visual retching to unprepared visitors. Most of the exhibitions carries on for some months, so if you’re around Berlin and don’t feel like another Berghain-sunday-kind-of-thing you can divert you brainpower to explore some of the most interesting exhibitions across the city.