June 5, 2016

The Berlin Biennial 2016: Where Art is "Fun" and Bland


Alright, I’m gonna be really short about this Berlin Biennial, because I have no patience for it. We knew what to expect, the post-internet Biennial of DIS-Magazine, and if you “get it”, good for you, and if you don’t “get it”, like me, it’s just a bland “fun” world. Maybe it’s a matter of mere taste, anyway, art..., so I was thinking after seeing this Biennial. I can just say that I want more from art. Yes, I want some magic, poetry, and beauty.  And yes, I ask from art that it has a vision (visionary at its best). Otherwise, sorry,  it just isn't good enough.

Simon Fujiwara at the Academy of Arts, Pariser Platz

At the press conference the curatorial team explained their concept of the “post-contemporary” - which is one of those new words that has to sound radical. Who still calls things “post” anyway? I tried to distill something interesting out of this “post-contemporary” - but I can only remember that it’s about how there is no future anymore because the future is just more of the same ... blablabla, this kind of cultural criticism has been saying the same since the start of modernity, (and the funny thing is, those cultural critics always think they are saying the newest thing in town). In the “post-contemporary” there is apparently also no time for critical questions anymore. At the press conference the “any questions?” was purely rhetorical.  A friend suggested to ask: ‘What is the brand of your T-shirt?” Very cynical of my friend indeed, but a cynicism that the Biennial curators would dig because their Biennial is cynical at its core. 

At Academy of Arts

Take the show at the Academy of Arts at Pariser Platz. It is curated in a way that everything looks the same as if it’s made by one artist who just took different media. So I feel hardly the need to mention the names of artists. It doesn’t matter, really... I mean, Hito Steyerl’s work was brooding in the basement as if giving birth to all those post-internet clones that spread through the whole building. I saw the artist herself biking to all the venues of the Biennial, probably surveying her off-spring. In the entrance hall it starts with an artist working with suitcases and display puppets. I would like to set one thing straight: only Isa Genzken can pull it off to work with display puppets. Other artists should just keep their hands off. At the entrance hall we were also welcomed by some advertising poster art, one that nicely incorporated diversity (everything I say here is cynical, just you know). 

Academy of Arts

I had some hope about Lizzie Fitch / Ryan Trecartin, but they delivered just more of the same same (= trash videos. Once you have a formula to sell, why change it, right? Easy money, easy fame - bling bling, glamour!) The art work at the Academy of Arts is all about the doubling of corporate design, be it office spaces, advertising, or internet. Doubling is a favorite and easy artistic strategy, one that’s supposed to reveal something by repeating it but in reality it doesn’t involve breaking anything, but leaves everything nicely into place. So safe! So fun! And the money that you get for it, is funny too! 


At the ESMT at Schossplatz, there is some 3D sculpture by Katja Novistkova. It’s bad. The fire seems to suggest a ritual which was probably supposed to work with the magnificent space. No need to say that the architecture outdoes the art. The art work itself looked like cardboard advertising, and I wouldn’t have noticed it at all if I didn’t knew there was a Biennial going on. But that was exactly the idea of the curators, that you wouldn’t know if it’s art or not. Great, once more some curators who have a flat understanding of how art and life should meet.  

At Feuerle exhibition I liked the video by Korpys/Löffler, but I wished the artists hadn’t worked with cell phone blurbs for the text and had used good old subtitles. At the KW there was more of the same art. Yet it was here that I saw one beautiful piece by Alexa Karolinski/ Ingo Niermann, which had emotion in it. Finally an emotion! After all this emotionless art it was such a relief. Also, it was the best kind of emotion: love. I shed a tear right there when I saw it. Yes, this might be a good way to finish: there is a little drop of hope in this big bland Biennial.  
Alexa Karolinski / Ingo Niermann at KW: a drop of hope

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