February 4, 2016

What Would Jennifer Do? Nr. 2: All About Love

João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva in KW, Berlin

It was a Friday night, freezing outside and cosy warm inside. I decided to stay home. After reading Patti Smith’s M Train, I  can now admit that I too watch detectives, but unlike Patti Smith I watch only the traditional ones like Hercule Poirot, Inspector Morse and Columbo. So that night I watched a show in which Poirot sees an art exhibition he clearly dislikes: “It’s most educational.” I remember Miss Marple saying something similar: “It’s most enlightening!” Haha, both are much worse than the usual “it's interesting.” Meanwhile my friend Will was being brave and was so nice to keep me updated with WhatsApp about his gallery hopping route. He started at Duve and ended a few hours later at insitu. “Courageous,” I messaged him, feeling a little envious. “I love art”, he replied. 

A few days later, under better weather circumstances, I was on the road myself because I’m an art lover too. I made a great discovery, which I have to tell you first. The café of the Boden Museum is beautiful! There’s nobody there, no tourists, and you can sit underneath that majestical roof and the service is just wonderful (this is a secret tip, only for readers of this blog <3). Artist and art blogger Akane Kimbara joined me since we were determined to write the second part of our WWJD-series, which started last November. Akane told me that our friend Jennifer had told her to see the show at KW. The downstairs exhibition was by João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva. The hum of the many 16mm film projectors created the sound of lawnmowers and when I closed my eyes I was back in the Belgian country on a summer day. I could see why Jennifer likes these filmic meditations. The projections are beautiful and zen. But I’m afraid I have a perverse mind, so I was only thinking that this was too beautiful: put an old camera on a turtle for a while, slow down the time, make it silent, and it’s bound to be beautiful. Akane agreed there was lack of “tickling” of some sort. 

That’s when Akane told me her theory about this “tickling” quality of art. You can find it in art made in Japan, Iceland, and Switzerland. The similarity between the three countries might have come about because of the geographical isolation (even Switzerland is like an island in Europe). I would add that also the volcanic chemistry might connect Japan and Iceland, but I’m unsure if Switzerland has some - it must since they have the Alps, right? Other big art theories were discussed, inspired by Akane’s recent gallery hopping with Jennifer in New York. You see, there’s a generation of female artists around 40, with Alicja Kwade on top, which takes cold materials like sand, marble, glass, gold to make their flawless art and then afterwards peppers it with some philosophy. I believe that these female artists want to counter the reduction of women artists to their body and biography. This trend sells very well, which is obvious if you work with materials that are high on the conventional list and you refuse to make them flawed. Then there’s generation of male artists around 40, who make well executed objects and then choose the most poetic titles to give the work some mystical glance. This we saw on the second floor of KW in a show by Michael Müller. Take the title “Oral / Mango Milk and Sweet Smoke,” which basically refers to a cigarette but box. This generation of male artists are perfect exhibition makers, because they create images for galleries, installations for museums, and some little pieces for collectors. Very agreeable, indeed.

Lada Nakonechna at Eigen +Art Galerie

So far the theoretical part of our tour. We crossed the street to Eigen + Art Galerie, where I had met the Ukrainian artist Lada Nakonechna the week before at the opening. I had been impressed by her appearances, because there is this centered quality to her being, and I was curious to see the art. Made in contemporary Ukraine, Nakonechna’s work is about barricades, demonstrations, and war. Still, this is not “political art”: no direct war images are to be seen. In her theatrical installation Nakonechna abstrahizes coldly and sensually at the same time, which makes you freeze, as if holding you back so you can gather your calm. How different is the noise I encountered at the Christian Jankowski’s exhibition in Contemporary Fine Arts. I can’t deal with this high voltage of an art work, it screams too much. I can’t explain it exactly but it’s seemingly outrageous art work, which is so neoliberal capitalism to me.

Talking outrageous anti-art, Dada is now 100 years old. I talked about this with Wolfgang Müller, who wrote this week about Dada for the newspaper Freitag (buy it tomorrow!) and he told me that he didn’t think Dada was an anti-art. He used some adjectives that I have never before heard mentioned in the context of Dada: ethical, humanistic, and liebevoll (loving or caring). As a curator I know about curare (caring), but I’d never thought before about art being loving. Wolfgang told me that art is not out to violate or offend, to be hurtful or abusive.  As it happens, I’ve been reading a lot about love lately. I have this idea that 2016 is all about love making, the action of love, the one that takes place in collaboration and communication, in intimacy and generosity. It was in bell hooks All About Love that I came upon love's greatest definition: “Love is an act of will - both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to, we choose to love.” In my last WWJD I talked about sex. Well, love making is still close, but it's getting more satisfactory, isn't it? 

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