October 13, 2017

Preis der Nationalgalerie, Female Panels, and Who's gonna Win?

Panel at Me Collection for the exhibition Portrait of a Nation

I always brace myself before I go to the talk of the Preis der Nationalgalerie, which happens every two years. I know that the sound will be wrong. It always is in the back space of the Sarah Wiener restaurant (the sound quality is not any better in the restaurant itself, it's exhausting to have even a conversation there). And also, I mostly get upset thinking about the set-up of the exhibition: each artist taking up an own space so that they never cross each other's territory. But this time I was quite excited about seeing an all-female panel: the four artists Sol Calero, Iman Issa, Jumana Manna und Agnieszka Polska moderated by Alya Sebti, the director of the Ifa Gallery. An all-female panel is rare in the history of Hamburger Bahnhof. Actually, I doubt it has ever happened before. Only one week before I had been claiming to three female artists of Dubai, Zeinab Al Hashemi, Amna Al Dabbagh, and Afra Atiq, at the Me Collection that in Berlin I rarely to never see a panel about a group exhibition being represented by three female artists on stage. They had looked at me in surprise. In the interview, moderated by Arsalan Mohammad, they sparkled. There was laughter, spontaneity, even chatting about the breakfast in Dubai. 

However, last night at Hamburger Bahnhof the talk was so serious, quite tenacious to follow, and certainly no fun, so I left before it ended. I was wondering if this is so because we think we have to be deadly serious to be taken seriously and to show authority. It reminded me of the European workshop "For Women Scientists to Advance" in which I participated in my twenties. It was advised to me to wear a suit during a job interview, otherwise a woman doesn't convey authority. I was wearing the damn suit on my subsequent interview for Fulbright but that didn't prevent them (male jury) to tell me up front that they didn't send people to the US to go on vacation. It was the platinum blond hair that betrayed me. 

So, who's gonna win the art price? I guess it will be Sol Calero. It's the most multimedia, inviting-other-artists, performativity work of art. It checks all the boxes of what we want nowadays. But I want to have a look again at the work of Jumana Manna. She talked about how she made sculptures depicting muscles, pointing at how muscles absorb music. I was intrigued, this was strange, and although I've only been in the exhibition for a second, I remember those muscles are ugly big things on which my eyes lingered for a second. I like a good dose of ugliness, like Brutalism in architecture. I think we kind of need some good ugliness again in the art world (ugh Alicja Kwade / Jorinde Voigt overdose). Bring that shit in!  

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