July 29, 2016

Summer Musing: Put Yourself In The Position-Art

On Sunday I had just an hour to check out the UdK Rundgang, which was a pity. It was also a pity that it was at 11am: it's no good to go to an art school in the morning. So I walked around a bit in the entrance hall where the master works were on display and I didn’t see anything, literally, it seemed to be all white or something, or just boring - I guess both. Then I got lost in the long labyrinth halls of the UdK looking for the Zipp class. Instead I came upon Ai Weiwei’s class that (no surprise) worked on the topic of refugees. Already its mise-en-scene was a clich├ę: a heavy black curtain at the entrance and inside it was all dark. I backed out immediately. I'd rather come upon the art work by Elias Johansson but I missed out on it. It's a good persiflage on Ai Weiwei’s refugee art and I had seen it the day before on the  Facebook page of artist Ming Wong. You remember Ai Weiwei's awful photograph in which he takes on the pose of the three-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body that washed up on a beach near Bodrum? In general, I have a dislike for this kind of “put yourself in the position” art.  And more specific, some clear words about social hypocrisy in art have been spoken by artist, activist and cultural critic Nine Yamamoto-Masson (I talked about her great blogs before), also on Facebook:

“Hey privileged artists: stop using marginalised people as art material for rich white people and plug your poverty porn as your "artwork" in commercial gallery shows & when applying for art funding. Do not go around barge in on already existing community/solidarity projects by communities you are not a part of and steal their projects from them and claim them as yours, and give interviews to art media and other saviours about what a great saviour you are, get off on your tears, and collect that sweet donation money you divest from people who do REAL and non-racist/non-queerphobic/non-classist/non-ableist solidarity and empowerment work.” 

July 21, 2016

Summer Musing: The Fetish of Performance Art

I am thinking about my visit to the new wing of the Tate a few weeks ago. There was a space dedicated to Rebeca Horn’s performances. It showed accessories that were used during Horn's performances and it did so by putting them into display cases. My friend remarked it's interesting how performance items are often turned into fetish objects. I think he's right. There was something annoying about it - this emphasis on the material and the wish to turn every little thing into Art. Now I’m thinking it might have been better if they hadn’t used the display cases, which would have given those objects a more random look, as simple leftovers of what once was, something casual, like clothes lying on a chair. I’ve been reading a lot of Walter Benjamin lately and now I'm seeing the potential of revolutionary energy that appears in the “outmoded”, in that what is obsolete. 

July 15, 2016

Summer Musing: Innovative and Young

Last Tuesday I participated in the Pecha Kucha night at Haus am L├╝tzowplatz. Topic was the importance of art for the future and “innovative” was a word that was dropped a lot. It seems to be used mostly as an equivalent for “young artists”.  But are “young” and “innovative” synonyms? “Jung ist jeder der keinen Erfolg hat,” said a friend of mine (“Young are all those who don’t have success”). Haha, i guess it’s true. Once someone starts having success you stop calling them young. It’s up to you - do you want to stay young forever?

July 10, 2016

Summer Musing: All Depends on the Sun

Sometimes certain details stay with me after having seen an art work, it might be a feeling, an image, a sound, a movement, a word. A few weeks ago I saw (or was it hearing?) a sound recording by Silvia Ploner and Nicolas Perret at the Grimmuseum titled All Depends on the Sun. The duo went on a field trip to Lapland to track down the sounds that are said to occur simultaneously with the aurora, although this has not been verified scientifically and is an issue of controversy. I guess it’s something similar to the phenomenon of elves in Iceland. Ploner and Perret talked with people who are convinced to have heard these sounds and tried to describe them. The sun seems to play a crucial role in the occurrence of the sound and there is this one sentence in the interview that is still sharp in my mind: “The sun has been very lazy lately.”

Summer Musing: Drawers for Art

Last week I visited the new wing of the Tate in London. The display shows diversity, both geographically and gender-wise. This is something a museum like Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin can only dream of (last year, after Friedrich Christian Flick gave about 60 art works of white male artists to the collection, things got even worse). But I was also a bit annoyed by the curating at the Tate. As always, the Tate shows its collection by topics, as if without categorizing thematically nobody would be able to make sense of the art. The topics are so unambiguous and random that you can put the art work easily into a drawer. That bores me also visually. I started with “Living Cities” on the fourth floor which showed an art work that was literally a city map on the floor. I blame it to the topical curating that the art looked so one-dimensional. But it’s rare that an art work can defy and survive a categorization like that. A good example is Dieter Roth’s huge garden sculpture in Hamburger Bahnhof. Its contract says that only family members (who happen to live in Iceland) can install and deinstall the work, which tends to take a few weeks. That’s why the Dieter Roth sculpture stayed on for years, until this summer, spreading out its trash in the middle of the Rieckhallen, disobeying every topic that was going on around it. It was such a wonderful sight in the Wall Works exhibition: to be inside of the institution and to say, fuck it! Anyway, I do understand where the Tate’s curating is coming from: it has to be visibly educational in order to argue its value in a society that thinks: “The sheer waste of the European Union spending taxpayer’s money. They’ve just spent 13 million on art of taxpayers’ money. That says it all, doesn’t it?”

The Louis Bourgeois Room was awesome.
Such a pity they put those nostalgic hay pictures
behind these awesome sculptures of Ana Lupas.

City view from the new wing at the Tate

July 2, 2016

The Street Artist. My Trip to Nizhni Novgorod

The thistle by Artem Filatov

I was only for one day in Nizhni Novgorod and it was totally worth it. It’s actually not that far. I thought Moscow would be hours flying, but basically, it’s like going to London, who would have thought! Nizhni Novgorod is near Moscow and its new airport opened this year.  I spent 7 hours in it since my flight was cancelled on my way back and I think I’ve never been in a public space that is so spick and span.

My good time in Nizhni Novgorod started already during the drive from the airport to the museum Arsenal. My host, the curator Elena Belova, showed the art deco architecture, the compounds built for workers in the 1920s, and a Piet Mondrian-style house. Even Lenin said hello.

The car trip was followed by a walking tour with the street artist Artem Filatov, who took us to the beautiful wooden houses in the city center, mostly neglected and uninhabited, waiting to be torn down and replaced by commercial buildings. I must admit that I never gave street art much thought. In Berlin I’ve never cared about aerosol spraying youngsters at Mauerpark or wall paintings like the one on the facade of the taz building (with its huge penis, ugh), and even the art on that touristy stretch of the Wall that still exists leaves me cold (because it’s ugly). 

Probably the oldest wooden house in Nizhni Nowgorod
Behind these pine trees...

... is hidden this beauty in ruin
Chess players on the roof of this beautiful uninhabited art deco building in the city center

Yet Artem Filatov told me he doesn’t want to use the city Nizhni Novgorod as a canvas: “I want to arouse consciousness but not by making a bad impact on people’s life.” Street art is according to Filatov not a “cool thing”. Nor does Filatov thinks street art's aim should be to fill the city with art on social and political protest. He doesn’t want to paint in the language of social public announcement but in the language of art. “Street art is about understanding places,” he explained to me, “how they behave with the people living there.” 

So starting in situ, with respect for the inhabitants, Artem Filatov uses the wooden houses as a surface for his art and uses rollers and brushes instead of Aerosol. Most rewarding is to him when he sees that his art work is preserved by other city dwellers who share the mindset of the street artist. The wooden fence, for instance, on which Filatov depicted a thistle, was repaired by somebody, preventing it from falling down. The thistle, so Filatov told me, is a humble weed but a very resilient one, covered with little sharp thorns. It has a very stubborn and invasive root system so that if you try to remove the plant from a piece of ground, chances are that it will be back next year. I find this very promising indeed. 

This wooden house survived investors who surrounded the place with high-rise. 
Street art by Artem Filatov

Recently Artem Filatov started making objects, like this billboard in a field where not long ago wooden houses stood, for now the construction of a new building is being stopped because of protests of the inhabitants surrounding the place.
Street art by Nikita Nomerz