Tuesday, 9 August 2016


as anticipated the highlight of the Biennale  was the all engaging work of Jon Rafman. His VR watched over the Brandenburg Gate and square was harrowing and just extraordinary. http://bb9.berlinbiennale.de/participants/rafman/ Cécile B. Evans was a close second - would you do increasingly bad things to make things better - the phrase from the film is still ringing around in my skull. http://bb9.berlinbiennale.de/participants/evans/ Her work explored our relationship to our 'now'. The Biennale really engaged with the issue of how to display digital work physically (beyond a screen) Watching it in a room while sitting floating in water on a wooden platform accentuate this.  Many others including the work of Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch with their 'adult child play areas' have addressed this, although the work itself continues to perplex and be as confrontational as ever. http://bb9.berlinbiennale.de/participants/fitch/ All the spaces the work was shown in also provided glimpses into Berlin's history and as ever delivered contextual baggage to deconstruct at every turn. The boat ride was a great way to see art and watch Berlin drift by. Last seen in Rome in a show about refugees I have to recommend the work of Halil Altindere - the videos content and text are challenging and give voice to the voiceless. here's his work about Istanbul https://vimeo.com/78545350
There was a monumental show of Carl Andre's work at Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - lots of excellent examples of the 'stuff stacked up following simple repetitive systems' but also some early cut pieces and a selection of the material that he collected which informed the work. http://www.smb.museum/en/exhibitions/detail/carl-andre-sculpture-as-place-1958-2010.html There was also a highly crafted curated visual essay around Joseph Beuys work The Capital Space 1970–1977. This created a web of connections which played off each other. http://www.smb.museum/en/exhibitions/detail/das-kapital.html The huge show of Beuys work shown in a building that used to be a railway station was just awesome. I am a massive fan of the work and ideology and have seen a lot of his work but this blew me away and I felt I understood the work and the man in new and layered ways. Maybe you can only see Beuy's in Germany to really get him. http://www.smb.museum/en/exhibitions/detail/die-sammlungen-the-collections-les-collections.html  Berlin appeared to change and recontextualised every piece I viewed over 4 days.
The Berlinische Galerie Museum of Modern Art had a okayish show of Erwin Wurm's work (the house was fun!) but their permanent collection was astounding and reanimated my love of Naum Gabo. It is a highly curated focused exhibit with excellent examples and as ever the wars and devastation is never far away and in fact frames the curation. They also had an exhibition titled Dada Africa which reframed the connections and made new sense to my understanding.
Of all the 'tourist spaces' visited I was most moved by the holocaust memorial at ..... one starts off chatty and breezily entering low blocks from a bright busy street and then you find yourself engulfed within the regimented towering blocks providing space to get lost but there is also no hiding. The Jewish Museum was less so and felt it was trying too hard to elicit emotion, although the spaces created were physically dynamic.  A quick shout out to the Medical Museum http://www.bmm-charite.de/en/index.html There is a room within the permanent exhibition “On the Trace of Life” that has exhibits similar to those that used to be shown at the Hunterian Museum in London before it was realigned to be 'family friendly'. https://www.rcseng.ac.uk/museums It was life affirming to see such devastating and difficult exhibits.
Berlin itself is such an extraordinary city - it feels as if everywhere you look is being built or refurbished. Trams and trains are efficient and there is no litter on the wide open streets which are full great, cheap places to eat and drink with friendly people - what's not to like.