May 31, 2017

Silly Poems

I started writing poetry during my residency in Italy. That's what solitude does to one! I always thought that poetry was too hard: one has to write half finished sentences that have to be deep and meaningful and mysterious and, at its best, full of pain. But that was a misconception on my part. One can do silly things with poetry, and after meeting Anna Bromley last Sunday, who is doing a PhD on the qualities of silliness (to say it broadly), I think I might be doing something that has some meaning after all. 

Here's a silly poem I wrote about Sarah Lucas' crocs:

to write a poem for Sarah Lucas
for the crocs she was wearing on the opening day
how they remind me of my dentist
and other professionals 
standing on their feet in that solid kind of way

is the croc a shoe for women? 
no! they have the air of unisex
so practical it’s quite un-arty 
exactly wrrrong 
that’s what Frank O’ Hara
in his Lunch Poems would say 

are crocs made out of plastic?
how everything is plastic 
even the car rented in Italy
driving around in a machine made out of plastic
reduces your sense of stability 

to write a poem for Sarah Lucas
maybe I should let go of the shoes?
I’ve never written a poem
I tell my friend
he says it’s easy
just add  
“na so was!” “ah ja!”  here and there to a sentence
which will turn it, at least in German, automatically into poetry

May 29, 2017

Deswegen!!! Gob Squad's Kitchen (You've Never Had It So Good)

Best theatre piece I saw in a decade happened last Saturday. At HAU Gob Squad performed Kitchen. I'm writing this so you know that they are performing another piece upcoming weekend at the Volksbühne and you should be there.

In the year 2017 Gob Squad turns back to the exciting moment of 1965 when "everything is just about to happen. Pop, subculture, feminism, drugs, bright lights, and sex about to rock the world like never before." They do so by reconstructing Andy Warhol films like Eat, Sleep, Kiss, Blow Job, Screen Test, Kitchen, in which Warhol taped people around him doing stuff. Are they authentic? a journalist asked, to which Warhol responded: "They're faking it, until it becomes real." 

Gob Squad did it. At the end of the piece all the actors have been swopped by non-actors of the audience performing Kitchen on screen. Who would have thought that Warhol films can be reenacted for real and sincere? 

When the audience first enters the theatre, it's taken backstage behind the scenes. This is the only time this evening, they tell us, that you will see something 3D. 

Let's do postmodern dance à la Anne Imhof, an actor proposes, and they start twitching their bodies on the kitchen table. Best parody ever. 

Gob Squad gets it. People doing superficial random stuff on film, like kissing, eating, sleeping and it means something. The piece ends with the word "deswegen." 

In 100 years people will look at this footage and say: "Deswegen..." (ah, that' why...) 

May 17, 2017

Deutsche Tiefe. Anne Imhof at the Venice Biennial

Germany came in second last at the Eurovision Song Contest so everybody in Germany was so happy when it came in first at the Venice Biennial. When Sandra Kim won the Eurovision in 1986 with singing “J’aime j’aime la vie”, it was the first (and last) time Belgium won. Still proud of that.  

I remember that one scene in Pina Bausch’ Palermo Palermo that I saw last December in Berliner Festspiele. A women in the possession of uncooked spaghetti screams: “I don’t lend them and I don’t give them away. They are mine.” Women, hysteria, spaghetti, Italy are the familiar images here conveyed. But something is broken in that scene. There’s a little something off that leaves me confused. 

Anne Imhof puts a spoon and soap in the space. Spoon and soap are as banal as spaghetti, but with Imhof they're intendedly presented as (who knows why) subversive tools. For Pina Bausch spaghetti is spaghetti and at the same time it’s not.

Is art about obscuring things, about making things so-called mysterious, as if the world isn’t exciting enough? You could call that entertainment.  

I see images and video excerpts and read some reviews on Anne Imhof’s Faust in the German Pavilion in Venice. They have a déjà-vu effect: I recognize the people in those images, their posing, and the situations they’re in. Reality performed as it is. I describe it to a friend, who says it sounds very Biedermeier - tableaux vivant that affirm the society we’re in. I read on Wikipedia that “Generation Biedermeier” is a term for the mainstream of the younger generation in 2010, one that prefers security.

Anne Imhof releases us. This is pleasing. With Pina Bausch’ spaghetti woman we may laugh - it’s the only thing we can do. 

Imhof knows the ropes and this creates bluff. She uses fixed images and leaves them intact - even stabilizing them some more. The Dobermans are an allusion to the Nazis, so says Monopol - “Nazi” is referred to in each review I read. Poor dogs - you put them in the German Pavilion with Faust music and they turn Nazi. By the way, Hitler’s dog Blondi was a German Shepherd, and Heinrich Himmler had one too.

An allusion to violence comes across as an allusion to violence. Narcissism orchestrates itself as narcissism. The enigmatic stages itself as enigmatic. The mystic is trying hard to be mystic, etcetera.

May 13, 2017

Secret Thoughts in Italy

I’m not at the Venice Biennial this year. Instead I’m watching birds at a residency in Piedmont. But some things you don’t have to see for real to know what it’s about. “Venice Goes Crazy for Anne Imhof’s Bleak S&M Flavored German Pavilion” Artnet writes. Instead of on a rope, Imhof’s dancers are now moving (still like toads) on a glass transparent floor in the German Pavilion. Same same neoliberal capitalist stuff. The smug vain posing of the dancers totally goes on my nerves. Honestly, don’t you feel like going there and give them a slap from left to right? 

The review in Artnet News is very fitting. Read this text and tell me what the author is saying really. What freedom? Whose freedom? These kind of reviews make me feel sick in the stomach:

“Her brooding set pieces seem to capture the anxious mood of our time, where the freedoms that we enjoyed and took for granted for so long seem to be about to topple down. Imhof’s work may be “sexy” but it is not “pretty,” and neither is contemporary life for many. The dark beauty she conjures up is like a new Gothic style for our age: romantic, sublime, and terrifying. Because despite its formal fancies, its underlying themes hit very close to home.”

Another secret thought: Hans Ulrich Obrist is a sleeping pill. 

May 1, 2017

Berlin Gallery Weekend: Give Me That Fur Coat!

Exactly wrong shoes. Photo: Akane Kimbara

Sarah Lucas took the air out of Gallery Weekend. Two weeks before the art hopping event was happening, she had a blast in the new gallery space of Contemporary Fine Arts in Charlottenburg during the Easter weekend. Just for the fun of it. Rarely does the presence of the artist matter in exhibitions - it distracts or disappoints more than it adds. But Sarah Lucas was wearing those shoes that were exactly wrong, she had a sparkle in the eye and it was clear that she was in for some good trouble. During the opening night, because of Easter, or maybe also in the bigger realm of things, the artist took off the shoes from visitors for a washing of the feet. Loving humility and bad-ass work never came together that well in an exhibition.

Bad-ass art work. Photo: Akane Kimbara

So who could care about another Weekend? I couldn’t, so I booked a flight to Italy for the sake of Renaissance and good weather. I did see something before I left the Berlin scene. On Friday afternoon I made a quick stop at the Anselm Reyle’s show of König Gallery: big shiny sculptures that look fancy and that’s kind of it. Later I visited an overcrowded KOW where I was excited to see the work of Candice Breitz. I glanced at a video in which Alec Baldwin was acting for a reason that escaped me and then suddenly for no big reason (I mean, I like Baldwin) I couldn’t be bothered anymore about Breitz, so I moved on to Eigen + Art. 

Artist Nick Fudge, me and Sarah Lucas

At Eigen + Art,  Olaf Nicolai decorated the gallery as a way of marking it as a space where value is created. I wished it had been the artist himself carrying the chain of crystal glass as a neckless. Wouldn’t it have been more self-reflective or at least a gendering of some sort? It reminded me of Grace Jones who told Andy Warhol off when he tried to convince her to collect diamonds like Marilyn Monroe instead of fur coats: “AW: Diamonds would look great on you. GJ: Well, I don’t think I could get away with it. I would be held up in the street. But no one comes over to me and says ‘give me that fur coat’.”

Finally I got on my way to see Kim Sooja at Kewenig - it had been the big promise of the night but I gave up after passing by Contemporary Fine Arts in Mitte where I saw some abstract paintings on sale. My friend continued and she wrote me later that Sooja’s work is “soooooooooooooooooooooo good”. Quiet and meditative, she told me, and at the same time strong. For any further updates on the Weekend, I encourage civic journalism in the form of messages here below. Talk to you later, alligators.*

* your answer: “In a while crocodile.”