Art Update Mitte

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In October and November Gallery Quest focused on good old Mitte. Galerie Sprüth Magers showed Germany’s pride, conceptual artist Hanne Darboven (1941-2009) in the former ballroom downstairs and the speedy movies made by American artist Ryan Treycartin (1981) upstairs.

Hanne Darboven, Geografy, I, II, III (1986) @Sprüth Magers Berlin

How would you visualise time? It’s enormousness, its elusiveness. It’s rhythms, cycles and flows. The ups, downs, highs and lows. The now, the (n)ever.

Hanne Darbovens work is basically an inventory of possibilities. She shows us different systems that represent time and also invented her own. On view is the massive and overwhelming work Geography I, II and III (1986) which shows us parts of an encyclopedia. In a pre-internet world, it represented a certain paradime- the common knowledge belonging to a certain time period, in a certain place.

It has an index but instead of showing that what is collectively agreed upon, it shows the personal, the individually chosen. It’s as if you would select only the words that are relevant to you.

In the next room, another system to represent time is on view, a Korean calendar of the year 1991. Weekdays are black, Saturdays are blue, Sundays and holidays are red. On each sheet, Darboven has written heute/today and crossed it out again. It is the paradox of time, it is always today and at the end of the day it is gone.

Hanne Darboven, Korean Calendar, 1991, detail @Sprüth Magers

The calendar is the system par excellence to visualise time and to show us that time is just a construct that humans invented. It depends on where you live what a calendar looks like. When you look carefully, you can see that actually two calendar-systems have merged together here. The Korean calendar comes from the Chinese one, and is moon-based. This calendar though starts on January first. It is the Gregorian, sun-based calendar, that has become the world calendar (an  example of the succes of christianity and world domination of the west). Still,  the Chinese New Year is visible in February, with the days marked in red.

That the calendar is a human construct that differs from society to society (sun- or moon based) (fixed or rotating), she emphasises also in noting down her own construction of date notation. The first of januari 1991 becomes 1+1+9+1=12, which  is translated in ten u-shaped wave lines plus a line with two u-shapes.

Going upstairs, at first glance the contrast between the two exhibitions is enormous. Actually, we see another time document, in this case belonging to the zero’s.

Ryan Treycartin, Re’Search Wait’S, @Sprüth Magers

Ryan Treycartin grew up during the nineties, the period of reality television, like MTV’s The Real World, Big Brother, in the nineties and early zero’ and after that the You Tube generation of do-it-yourself/help-vlogs, etc.

MTV’s The Real World (1992-2016) is everything but real. What we see is people trying to be something in front of a camera. A cumulation of that ‘something’ is the domain of Treycartin. The work that is on view called Re’Search Wait’S, part of the diptych Any Ever (2008-2011), is a collection, an encyclopedia as you will, of these different types of performances, that are just not… real.

“Let’s make some new people” one of the characters says. Online, you can be whoever you want. Gender is fluid, as a subscription that you can cancel, als the artist puts is in this interview. Image-wise, everything in the video is thrown in your face, in very fast montage, with people in high pitched voices dressed in bright colors, talking some kind of whats-app language. The images rotate at an enormous tempo, like an visualisation of the internet itself, with too many tabs open in your browser. 

Although I get that his work is annoyingly overwhelming, the biggest achievement in his work is making th whole concept of “otherness” ( to perceive someone as something else) obsolete. There is no norm, no normal anymore. 

Alexandra Baumgartner @Wagner + Partner

Galerie Wagner + Partner was so kind to open its doors early for our group so we could visit  the foto works and installations by Austrian artist Alexandra Baumgartner (1973). The basis of her work form found images or objects, which she adapts by either removing vital information, or covering this up. For example the work Circles (2017) shows a lady taking a stroll in the woods. On three places in the image, a shape in the form of a circle is removed, cut out. The lady is now faceless, the viewer is left to fill in the blanks.

Alexandra Baumgartner, Circles, 2017

Baumgartner operates according to the concept of Punktum, described in 1980 by French philosopher Roland Barthes in his book Camera Lucida, about photography. According to him, a photo can give you two sorts of information. On the one hand, the so-called Studium, which gives you general information about what is depicted. The Punctum on the other hand is the personal point of attention, there where your eye goes, the path it takes.

A good artist is aware of the Punctum, s/he controls is, manipulates it if need be. In real life, the brain is your artist. It selects for you what you see, based on your interests. There is simply to much information in the world around you. Although you might see everything, your brain selects what gets translated. This is called selective perception. For example after buying my first car, a Toyota Starlet, I suddenly saw them everywhere. Of course, they had always been there, they just had no meaning to me before.

In the small space from Edizione Conz in the passage to KW-Institute of Contemporary Art, we had the chance to get acquainted with works by the (like so many woman artists from her time) long ignored Sari Dienes (1998-1992). Originally from Hungary, this woman has led a fascinating live, leading her from Boedapest to Vienna (studying dance), Paris and Londen (studying art, philosophy and math) and finally to New York, where she arrived on the third of September 1939, the day that World War 2 started, and having a Hungarian passport, she was (in hindsight luckily) stuck there. 

Sari Dienes @Edizione Conz

Not only was she an incredible talented draughstwoman she also was a forerunner in the art of the assemblage (where everyday objects got integrated in art works), with artist like Robert Rauschenberg and John Cage coming to her studio. For example her Sidewalk Rubbings from the early fifties, where she made direct prints from the streets of New York, as some kind of abstract city portrait. 

On the third floor of the former Jewish Girls School we visited two exhibitions, starting with Galerie Michael Fuchs. French artist Theo Mercier showed his collection of… rocks. They are artificial representations of nature, used in aquariums and terrariums all over the world. 

Theo Mercier @Galerie Michael Fuchs

Mercier has been collecting fake nature since 2009 and shows us what it looks like if it’s mass produced. He present his findings on a stage-like setting, like some kind of 3D still-life, It is no longer nature, it has become culture.

Next door, in Salon Berlin, the satellite space of the private Museum Frieder Burda in BadenBaden, two exhibitions are on view. First of, Mexican artist Sonia Gomes (1948) works with textiles and objects that she found or that where given to her. There is already a (hi)story in these materials and in combining them, a new one is created.

Sonia Gomes @Salon Berlin

Two realities that have been knotted up, just like her childhood was. Her parents were not married and came from different backgrounds. Her mother (black, poor, spiritual) died when she was three. She was placed in the care of her father (white, rich, catholic) where she grew up. Gomes reworks, binds, knots the fabric intuitively to the objects and to each other, resulting in contradictory associations. It can be a net, but also a dreamcatcher. It can be an uncomfortable stretch or an enormous amount of flexibility. 

In the back of the Salon, the photo serie Rwandan daughters by German photographer Olaf Heine (1968) is presented. It has been 25 years since the genocide that killed almost a million people. About a quarter million women where raped (80% of the survivors). Estimates are that 2000 of them got pregnant. This photo series is a tribute to the strength of these women and their daughters.

Rwandan Daughters by Olaf Heine @Salon Berlin

The photo series shows the mothers with their daughter near or on the place where it happend. There positions (how they stand, if they touch each other, is there eye contact, etc) tell the viewer a lot about their relationship.

Rape is still a taboo in Rwandan society. Most of the victims are treated as outcasts. They live in rural areas, are poor, most of them saw their husband got killed in front of their eyes. These children are their everyday reminder of what happend. It is not often that hate and love come so close.

The series is also a tribute to the daughters. They were unwanted. They also represent the future of Rwanda. In society, they are not viewed as victims, but as the daughters of a murderer. Growing up and learning where you come from, having siblings whose father was killed by your father. How to break these trauma’s? 

The photo’s show a turning point. In Rwanda, several organisations are caring for these women, helping them to deal with their traumata. They stand in front of a camera, they have faced their past and are now showing the world. To remember.