September 13, 2015

Take Me! Me! Me! Me! How Contemporary Art Can Bring About A Bad Mood

Okay, admittedly, I was in a slightly bad mood before I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art this morning. But the art on show made it significantly worse. I’m talking about the exhibition that features the yearly award to four contemporary Berlin artists. During the upcoming Berlin Art Week one of these four will win a prize. All four of them had six months to produce their art work for the show - I’m talking about Christian Falsnaes, Florian Hecker, Anne Imhof, and Slavs and Tatars. So this morning I went to the museum to attend an interview with these awardees. And that’s where the headache started. First of all, the acoustics sucked. And second, the first five questions were directed towards one and the same artist, who then talked about the artwork in the show, assuming we had all seen it. Nope. After five minutes I gave up the hope that anything comprehensible would be transmitted in the next hour and left (yeah, my attention span is so much worse on Sundays).  

Instead, I went out to check the exhibition of those four awardees. As usual, each one exhibits in their own separate space. Don’t ask me why they never join forces, make one big exhibit out of it, collaborate in some way, talk to each other, whatever communicative people tend to do -  I don’t know, it’s a mystery. What comes about are four exhibition spaces that hit you in the face with: Take Me! Me! Me! No: Me! 

Let’s start with Slavs and Tatars - I don’t understand their art, I don’t get it, I can only see that the artists do their best to be cool. And they also try hard to be intellectual - in a way that makes everybody feel stupid - you know that kind of intellectual? Slavs and Tatars tend to make a big deal out of “research” (of course they have a kind of newspaper in the show, surprise surprise!). It’s a trend nowadays, artists being researchers and scientists. I mean, as if it’s not plain normal that you do some research before you start creating your art. Why make such a big deal out of it? Artists seem to be looking at science for, as Grayson Perry put it, some “borrowed importance”. After seeing the work of Slavs and Tatars, a friend of mine came up with a great German word: the “Sammelsurium” - which means that you throw some stuff together in the assumption that (tatatata!) a hidden connection will arise. For this art installation Slavs and Tatars copied the aesthetics of Marcel Broodthaers. No doubt, they intend this to be an intellectual move of some sorts, one that creates some augmented meaning. To me, it reveals their incapacity to create a form of their own.

In the next space there is Anne Imhof, who is copying Tino Seghal. Similar to Slavs and Tatars this space projects a cynical and cool atmosphere. Red Bull, cigaretttes, buttermilk, two crawling performers and two crawling tortoises - yeah, you get the picture. In the space I see the same sound panels as in Florian Hecker’s installation. Have we been sponsored?

Floran Hecker’s sound installation is spread over two spaces, decorated with green and blue sound panels (one is absorbing, whereas the other is reflecting the sound). The sound might be interesting, just not my kind of thingy. But I can say something about the aesthetics of the space. It is not minimal - it is clinical. 

Going from there, opening the curtain, I entered in Christian Falsnaes’ interactive installation. Two projections on opposite walls of the space, showing some workshop where people are touching each other, doing exercises, laughing, looking at us, etc. On top of that, an overvoice commands you to look at things, do things, feel things, think things. The voice is the unpleasant one of airports and hospitals. In short, those spaces that you don’t want to spend your time in if you can avoid it. Interactive art can be a pain in the ass. My friend’s first reaction when he entered the space, was: “Lass mich in Ruhe!”


  1. Oh I'm so happy to hear you think this as well sometimes..!! Sometimes one wants to roll one's eyes and say "I should have stayed at home taken a nice bath and read a book or gone for a walk, I would have learned more about the world and it would have been a more meaningful aesthetic experience that this....

    1. I know! Afterwards I went in nature, and I was like, nothing can beats nature, not even art. :-)