With the whole of (cultural) Berlin closing it doors, there is nothing else to do but offer you a virtual tour of what could have been a great Mitte in March- Quest!
On this Quest, we would have started at Eigen + Art Lab, the project space of Galerie Eigen + Art which is situated closeby. This would have been our first visit here. I really like the exhibitions in the Lab, they have a keen eye and select interesting artists. In this case three artist who are still studying at the Kunsthochschule in Stuttgart, in the class of Prof. Ricarda Roggan: Julia Schäfer, Nikola Kaloyanov and Kuo Hsin-Hui.
The exhibition coincidentally is called When we were close to the end, which obviously was ment to signify the end of their studies, but now has an ironic after taste. I was most impressed by Julia Schäfer’s (1991) work, which deals with what she calls ‘la recherche du temps perdu’, like for example memories.
How to visualise a memory that is not yours? Schäfer shows a curtain-like work, made out of pictures that look like soms sort of explosions. She collected these pictures from books, magazines and the internet, and put them together in a patch-work order.
In the pictures the artist tries to re-assemble, or re-visualise a memory. Not hers, but that of a 75 year old painter, living in the south of Germany. This woman grew up during the 2nd World War and she had this intensely vivid memory of a bomb explosion. She could describe in detail what time it was, what the weather was like, the colours of the following dust cloud, etc.
The same story is also told through a work on the wall that looks like a calendar. We are even invited to tear of a leaf. Each paper shows one sentence, with four sentences in total. The next sentence already shimmers through the thin paper. As if we reach deeper and deeper into her thoughts. The repetition is like an endless cycle, each time re-living the past.
Although Eriksson also has a tapestry weaving studio in Berlin, most of the time he lives in a remote house in the forest, somewhere near lake Vänern in Sweden. This is where these paintings originated and where most of his inspiration comes from. As you can imagine, they are very difficult to photograph, because they are so dark, which makes them even more fascinating. If you come closer, you will discover more details and when you zoom out, the perspective literally changes and the painting becomes a map seen from above.
They are not landscapes in the regular sense of the word, but more like collages made from different landscape elements, that were patched together. Like a bit of moss appearing from under the snow, or bird poop on a branch. The more ephemeral elements (zoom in) as part of the grand overlaying landscapy scheme of things (zoom out), now woven together under the cloak of darkness.
From high end back to experimental: our third stop would have been the little project space Berlin Weekly, consisting of just a window space. Although the name is a bit confusing, every month, there is another artist featured and for March it’s Dagmara Genda (1981). In the space we see what was originally an ink drawing, now enlarged to giant proportions and hung from the ceiling.
The lines show the middle ground where a classical sculpture meets a comic book. And that is not so far of, because the artist literally draws a line between exaggerated barok garden sculpture and selfie pictures on Instagram. Are they really that different, she asks? Check her own Instagram feed to find the answer.
On the top of the Former Jewish Girls’ School, the gallery of the beneficiary of the renovation of this building, Michael Fuchs, is hidden. Sadly, because of rental issues, the gallery has shrunken and is no longer housed in the former aula of the school. In the one room that is left, there is now a intriguing exhibition of a ‘forgotten’ (read: ignored) painter Yves Laloy (1920-1999).
Originally trained as an architect, Laloy decided to concentrate solely on painting as of 1952, because he wanted to be completely free in his work and didn’t want to make any concessions in his art anymore.
André Breton (1896-1966) promoted his art for a while and counted him among the surrealists, a label for which Laloy didn’t care too much. He even used a work by Laloy as the cover of his boek Le Surrealisme et la Peinture. Here you get to more surrealistic vibe, because most of the work in the exhibition looks totally different. This is where the later added adverb ‘geometric’ comes into play.
There are some architectural references to be found in the patterns, but also rhythms. It could be a musical piece, but also a design for a piece of clothing. Breton linked the work to sand paintings of the Navajo, blatantly appropriating their aesthetic. Some works strangely also have a sort of digital appareance, as if you are looking at a game of pacman.
Colonisation of the mind
Our final stop would have been gallery Sprüth Magers, in the Oranienburgerstraße, where at the moment there is a monumental wall work by American artist Kara Walker (1969) on view.
This is the type of work that made Walker famous, rather suddenly when she was only 25 years old. She uses illustrations from historical books with racist stereotypes. They are cut-outs, like silhouettes en profil. Maybe you made one of these when you were in school, which give them sort of an innocent connotation. They are everything but innocent. Walker uses them to show the shadow side: how people of colour where depicted in foregone eras. She puts these stereotypes together in often very disturbing and aggressive scenario’s.
The same goes for the animation movie, played in the next room. We already saw another example of this during our Gallery Quest in May 2018. The film is designed like a shadow puppet show. Again a technique that feels innocent, even childlike, is used to tell a horrific story. And in both cases the hand of the maker is visible.
The film tells the tale of a freed family, living on Franklin road, six miles from Springfield. The story was noted down by the Bureau of Refugees, Freedman and Abandoned Lands and can still be found in the National Archives (see title).
At that time, slavery had been abolished by law, but not from society. The story tells the brutal details of aggressive, racist white males coming to this families house in the middle of the night, brutalising the family, raping the younger daughter and setting the house on fire.
Walker’s work is a confrontation with the racist society that we still live in. If you want to acknowledge this or not, the reality is that in our collective subconsciousness, these stereotypes still exists. For example the word ’tribe’ brings other visuals in mind than the word ‘community’, although the meaning is the same. The mind has been colonised as well. It is good to realise that.
Let’s be sensible to the language one uses. This is a way to decolonize the mind!