Exhibition Roundup (Berlin) - May

I've been on a five week Residency at Ard Bia Berlin since the second of May. So my monthly exhibition round-up is of exhibitions in Berlin not Dublin for a change.


There were two exhibitions at Ard Bia while I've been here. The first was by the Icelandic Love Corporartion who are pictured above. The centrepiece of the exhibition was a video wearing a tent/dress pours tea with her feet.

The second was by The Centre of Attention and involved the attendees at the opening acting out scenes from a film called "Darling". The unedited material recorded at the opening formed the main part of the exhibition. The Centre of Attention are creating a low budget cover version of this film with a changing cast of amateurs. Other scenes from the film have been previously been shot in Glasgow and Stockholm. I had my reservations about the project having heard the basic premise in advance but the experience was interesting and enjoyable.

I was generally dissapointed by the quality of work on display in most of the private galleries I visited. I saw an Olafar Elliason show that was little more than a series of slickly assembled optical tricks and numerous others show ranging from inoffensive and forgettable to the truly awful. One exception was the Galerie Max Hetzler which showed an impressive exhibition of Mona Hatoum's works in their temporary space in Wedding. The gallery is a large, gritty, industrial space that thankfully has not been given a coat of white paint. There was a range of Hatoum's work on display including large scuptures, photograph, works on paper and a large installation pictured below.

She also showed a work called "Hanging Garden" at the Daad Gallery.


I saw a number of interesting photography shows in Berlin. The four nominees for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2008 were showing at C/O Berlin. I enjoyed the work of  Esko Männikkö (pictured below) and Jacob Holdt though I'm unsure of suitability of the Holt's work to the context of an art exhibition. Holdt travelled America as a hobo in the 70s meeting, befriending and photographing some of America's poorest people. Holdt does not consider himself an artist and shows contempt for the art world and the display of his images in museums (though he does obviously allow it). He seeks to expose the injustice and he believes racism inherent in modern America and gives lectures on the topic accompanied by his images. His website  features his images accompanied by personal anacdotes, letters to his friends and family and quotations. I missed this contexualisation when I saw the images at C/O (there is a board with thumbnails and some text but only in German).


Also at C/O was Magnum photographer Alec Soth's exhibition Paris/Minnistota. The Soth was commisioned by the French "Fashion Magazine” to photograph fashion shows in Paris. Soth was happy with with the quality of the photos he took in Paris but not with their "conceptual vacuousness".  So he expanded the series back home in Minnesota using amateur models or placing designer products in landscapes. However for me this fails to make the work less vacuous. The photos of landscapes become like a "Where's Wally" game of trying to spot the tie or the shoe or the handbag.

More interesting was Soth's exhibtion Dog Days, Bogota at the Galerie Wohnmaschine with runs concurrently with the C/O show. The photos in this body of work (one of which is pictured below) were taken in Columbia during the two months it took for the adoption of Soth's Columbian daughter to be finalised.


Across the road from the Galerie Wohnmaschine at the Pool Gallery there was another interesting photography show - New American Fables by Amy Stein (see picture below)


There was some great work on show at the Hamburger Bahnhof. There are four large paintings and sculptures by Anselm Kiefer (pictured below), numerous works by Beuys, photos, objects and the film from Mathew Barney's Cremaster 1, sculptures by Anish Kapoor and lots more.


They were also showing a retrospective of Wolfgang Tillman's work. I'm not a big fan of his work and found the exhibition a bit disjointed. The title of a previous show by the artist read "if one thing matters then everything matters" which seems to sum up his pluralist attitude to the medium of photography. However I would have prefered to see a more cohesive, selective body of work. The installation is a jumble of images some framed, some just tacked on the wall. There are abstract images beside more traditional photographic images with no aparent relationship between the two. The exhibiton did feature some interesting individual works. The piece I most enjoyed a very simple video which just shows peas boiling in a pan but makes for surprisingly compelling viewing.

The big show in Berlin at the moment is the Berlin Biennial which I thought was very poor. It was full of bland, boring, international art mostly from relatively little known artists. I went to three of the venues in one day and it was quite a slog to get through so much nondescript art lacking in excitement, creativity or personality. There are over 50 artists participating in the Biennial and I  liked only 5 of the artists' work. 

However I won't focus too much on the negative and will just write a little about the work I did enjoy which was located at the KW Institute in Mitte and the Skulpturenpark Berlin_Zentrum in Kreuzberg. 

Susan Hiller's piece at the Neue National Galerie did not appeal to me much but her sound piece What Every Gardener Knows was my favourite piece in the Biennial.   The work is a compostion of various tones derived from Gregor Mendel's laws of genetic. The composition is played every 15 minutes and the speakers are located under a pile of rocks and rubble on which the audience can sit or stand while the sounds reverberate around them (picture below).


Also at the Sculpture park was Lars Lamann's funny and disturbing documentary about a woman in love with the Berlin Wall which I have already written about here.

Zhao Ling's City Scene presents us with a series of small events from oridinary life in Bejiing. A man falls of his bike and is helped by to his feet by another man, two men filmed from a rooftop argue and threaten each other with improvised weapons, an Alstation comically attempts to have sex with a much small dog at the site of the future Olympic village while numerous cyclists stop to observe.

Kohei Yoshiyuki's series of Black and White photograhs titled Park is on view at KW. The photos show Japanese people in the seventies having sex or watching others have sex at night in a park. The photos are voyeuristic but not pornographic. Two examples are pictured below



Finally, I enjoyed the Polish artist Ania Molska's two projected videos at KW (pictured below). The videos are projected side by side. The first features a group of men erecting a scaffold-like sculpture in a muddy field in Poland. The second shows an upside-down squash court into which numerous balls are fired from some source off camera. The workmen talk throughout the process of constructing the sculpture. One of the workmen tells another not to curse so much as he is wearing a microphone and "that bitch can hear everything we say". Once the sculpture is erected it serves as a platform to present the men to us. They arrange themselves on it and introduce themselves. The piece is effectively a portrait of these men.   

 The scaffold-sculpture is also presented at the sculpture park. This is superfluous in my opinion as the structure itself has little appeal outside of the context of the video.