Preis der Nationalgalerie 2015

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Until January 17th, you can admire the works of the four contestants for the Preis der Nationalgalerie 2015, on view in Hamburger Bahnhof. Four different bodies of work from the outside, but intrinsically speaking sort of the same: they are all room filling installations in which a specific environment is created to convey a message, by using a multitude of mediums. This is typical of this time: art no longer fits in one specific category, which makes the different fields of study at an art academy rather funny.

On show are two soundworks by Florian Hecker (1975, Augsburg), an activating installation by Christian Falsnaes (1980, Copenhagen), a presentation by the artist collective Slavs and Tartars (founded in 2006) and a performance by Anne Imhof (1978, Gießen), with which she won the price.

Her winning performance is called For ever rage and, as is the thing with performances, it is not on view. What is there is the remainder of the performance, the stage if  you will. In dimmed light (which made the host rather sleepy),  concrete basins stand in the space with boxing balls hanging over them. Bottles with energy drink were standing in corners, accompanied by cigarettes. On the wall there are drawings and etchings.  In one of the basins lays a small screen on which you can see an earlier performance.

Anne Imhof, Preis der Nationalgalerie, installation view, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, 2015. Photo by galerie Deborah Schamoni
Anne Imhof, Preis der Nationalgalerie, installation view, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, 2015. Photo by galerie Deborah Schamoni

The performance is repeated on eight days during the four month exhibition period.  To really grasp the “what” that has won the price, you have to visit one of these. The next ones are on Friday the 5th and Saturday the 6th of November. Watch out: there are performers, turtles and buttermilk involved..

Works by the other contestants are on view, of which the interactive installation Moving Images  by Christian Falsnaes is highly entertaining. Upon entering, an employee approaches you, and explains how it works. You are invited to actively participate within the work, therefore you are becoming part of the performance. The room has screens on both ends. Different kinds of images are projected on them. Sometimes a group of people, sometimes only one. The voice -over gives instructions: to walk, to dance, to choose a screen to look at. At certain intervals, the voice-over stops and you are invited by the employee to approach the middle. There, a group discussion is started between the participants that are present. “How do you feel?”, is being asked.

Christian Falsnaes- Moving Image @ Preis der Nationalgalerie 2015. Hamburger Bahnhof
Christian Falsnaes- Moving Image @ Preis der Nationalgalerie 2015. Hamburger Bahnhof

The visitor is confronted with your wish for being in the spotlights or your lack there of. Will you dance? Will you participate? Do you care what the other visitors think? Do you oblige to the voice over? Do you want to share how you feel?

Through this part of the activating installation, you enter part two: a waiting room with chairs. A curtain splits the room. Behind it you can hear mumbling, talking, sometimes walking. Only one person is allowed in. Inside, a personal encounter is waiting for you with a difficult decision to make at the end. I decided “no” and am still not entirely sure why..

Christian Falsnaes- Moving Image @ Preis der Nationalgalerie 2015. Hamburger Bahnhof
Christian Falsnaes- Moving Image @ Preis der Nationalgalerie 2015. Hamburger Bahnhof

In my last blog entry, I talked about the gaze in relation to the work of Fiona Mackay. In her exhibition Close to at Klemm’s, paintings are staring and peeking at you. Here, the artist, although not physically present, takes this role on him.

He persuades you to do stuff. To take action. You have to make a decision. Are you going along with it or not?