After exploring the two art clusters in Mitte (August- and Linienstraße plus the gallery cluster around Rosa Luxemburgplatz), it was time to leave the high art streets and pay Kreuzberg a visit. Is it more alternative or as arty as the rest?
We start with two gallery’s hidden in a courtyard in the Prinzessinnenstraße. First up is Klemm’s, where work by french artist Émilie Pitoiset (1980) is on view. In het work she often uses the exhibition space to tell a story, sometimes surrounding a persona. The title the exhibition “The Vanishing Lady” gives us a clue. It is up to us to glue this person together, to find the traces and fabric a story. Who could this person be?
In the gallery spaces, we see left-overs that are somehow related to her. Cigarette butts on the couch, leather gloves, presented on a shelf on the wall. They look like little sculptures and show different gestures. It is a clean presentation which sort of looks like the leftovers of a shop. Some of them are holding something others are pointing somewhere.
Pitoiset was inspired by Lyman Frank Baum, the author of “The wonderful Wizard of Oz” (1900), who started his career at the end of the 19th century as a window dresser. This was a booming occupation in his time, under influence of urbanisation and early consumerism, which resulted in quit competitive displays.
Baum invented a trick which he called ” The vanishing lady”, showing a life model, seen from the shoulders up, that seemed to disappear in the floor. Each time she came up, she emerged with a new hat that she presented to the growing crowd before the window. In the exhibition space, only the hands, covered in gloves are left over.
We can also wander into the back space of the gallery, normally off limits for visitors. Here we come into the private domain of the vanished lady, her personal habitat where more clues about her can be found. Slowly, this mysterious person is taken over the space.
It is a human habit to describe characteristics to objects. Pitoiset plays with this phenomenon, for example in the black leather stage curtain she designed in 2011 which she called “Giselle“, after the romantic ballet from 1841. The object, home to the theater, is a translation of this tragic love story into this very heavy curtain, sadly hanging down.
All Big Lebowski fans will be happy at our second stop, the neighboring gallery Soy Capitán, where we see the textile works by upcoming Norwegian artist Camilla Steinum (1986). We see three table-like structures with rugs hanging over them. On the wall carpet beaters cast in bronze are hung.
It looks like we walked into an intermezzo, if someone is taking a break from beating these carpets. They are silently hanging there. It could almost be some sort of an dream state, because the size of the tables is bigger than life-size. They look rather ragged and unstable, as if they are cut out of paper. The same goes for the rugs, which are like collages, sown together out of different pieces of carpet. On them figures are depicted, all without heads. They look like they are sleeping. Some sort of headless dream.
The title of the exhibition, “Inspite of chores” as well as the names of the installations, ” Discontent slumber”, “determined nap”, ” Don’t sleep at all”, give us further clues. They remember of a busy life full of lists, deadlines and stuff to do. Sometimes you just want to sleep…
Steinum uses every day objects and traditional materials. Textile art has a long tradition and in the 17th century was considered a luxury good. The same goes for bronze, a material often used for monuments. It is in big contrast to the slick post-internet vibe of drones, screens, light boxes and glossy imagery.
This continues in the third space, Chertlüdde. The group exhibition “An ear, severed, listens”, talkes about the body. And not in a sort of commentary of body culture kind of way, like the need to be fit and drink green slow juice, but in a light and fun way.
On entering the gallery for example, we have to pass through a beaded curtain, made by English artist Zora Mann (1979). A gigantic eye is looking at us from the curtain. We have to touch it to go through. It is made from recycled pieces of flipflops, laying on the beaches of Kenya which pose a huge enviromental problem. The organisation Ocean Sole-Flip the flop collects them and remakes them into all sorts of objects, from toys to household stuff.
After entering through the curtain, we see three pares of ceramic arms coming out of the wall, holding clipboards. They are made by english artist Emma Hart (1974). We can look into there glasses-shaped eyes to get a glimpse of the mysteries they are holding on there clipboards.
Or the “Identititisch” by English artist Kasia Fudakowski (1985). It is called a table but looks more like a giant cross, made out of strips of wood. It is sort of a game, by moving the different arms of the table, you can form different faces.
Fudakowski collected the wood from the surroundings of Berlin, where she lives. For her, wood is an honest material, it is local. In some of the pieces she laid other peaces of wood, like a mosaik. They form a nose or eyes. Other pieces already had face-like features naturally imbedded. The faces you can build are based on people she knows. Is identity something that is fixed, or something that one can build, that one can play with, that is flexible?
After a little walk, we arrive at Duve Berlin, again hidden in a court yard after a door marked “D”. On the second floor we find the exhibition “Tracing remains” by German artist Jens Einhorn (1980). In a different way, he also shows us remainders, relics of a past time, here in the form of paintings.
On the wall see big canvases, made out of different layers of glue, with in them all sorts of materials. From pieces of rope to complete net-structures, topped with car traces. Post-painting, is what Alexander Duve calls them- still in the painterly tradition, but made without a paintbrush.
Here the floor (instead of the rug) ties everything together. It is covered with tar, normally used on the roof to make it watertight, and it has sand on it . Not only do we hear ourselves walking, we also leave traces behind and in doing so become part of the exhibition. At the opening someone even carved a hart into the sand. A second human habit: leave a trace.
We end our visit at the majestic König Galerie, which houses in the “brutiful” St. Agnes church. In the main exhibition space, we find 32 gigantic charcoal drawings, made by flemish artist Rinus van de Velde (1983). They tell part two (part one was recently on view in the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag) of a fictional story about an artist colony, lead by the totalitarian sculptor Isaac Weiss.
The drawings are based on found and composed photo’s and have text underneath them, which makes it work as one big narrative. At first, in the colony, everything is calm, until Weiss proclaims the year of abstraction and everything figurative has to be painted over. Several underground resistance groups come into being but in the mean time, Weiss and his work are still worshiped as if they were gods.
The story is fictional. Van de Velde likes to explore the concept of “the other”, of different artist egos. He places himself in their position in order to better understand. In interviews he calls his work a fictional autobiography.
Again we see the use of a traditional material, charcoal. For Van de Velde this material poses freedom. In the morning, when he comes in his studio, all he has to do he is hang a new piece of paper on the wall and he is ready to start. A much quicker procédé in comparison to oil painting for example. If he doesn’t like the result, he just throws it away.
In this tour we encountered several traditional materials used as image carriers, like ceramics, textile, charcoil, bronze. They where used to display every day objects, like the gloves, tables or rugs. It is a big contrast to the shiny post internet surfaces.