Article by Alison Hugill in Berlin; Saturday, Sep. 20, 2014
This year I tried a thought experiment: what if I came to abc – art berlin contemporary with fresh eyes, imagining I was new to Berlin and its vast and varied gallery scene? Would I think it was just another art fair? Some good, some very bad, mostly overwhelming and commercially oriented.
It’s true that abc is different: the booths morph into one another, not necessarily confined to their three walls. It’s not always easy to tell what belongs to whom and there’s something liberating in the confusion. Performers weave amongst the visitors, strange booming sounds emanate across the huge space. Yet, in a context in which one artist’s oeuvre must be distilled into a 4 square-metre area, it’s hard to get a full sense of anything. The following is a list of highlights from abc 2014, in no specific hierarchical or spatial order.
Richard Mosse at carlier | gebauer
Irish photographer Richard Mosse’s images are absolutely striking. His ‘Infra’ series is a coup for abc this year, as the hyperbolically hued, hot pink photographs of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo are some of his most famous and most sought-after works. Mosse’s images were captured with Kodak Aerochrome infrared color film, an outdated technology formerly used for military surveillance. Aerochrome film was used to identify potential targets for aerial bombs, by showing a spectrum of light to which the human eye is not capable of discerning on its own.
What results is a flamboyant, hyperreal aesthetic unlike your average photojournalistic fare. carlier | gebauer is also showing Mosse’s Come Out (1966) series from 2011: a collection of arrestingly still photographs of landscapes and indigenous architecture.
Kerim Seiler at Grieder Contemporary
While performance art in the context of an art fair can easily be hit-or-miss, Swiss artist-architect Kerim Seiler’s 1:1 scale, multi-coloured house provided a nice stage for his bizarre actions. The artist stood topless on the porch of his wooden house, ironing his shirt under a neon sign that read ‘Ne Travaillez Jamais’ (Never Work). The piece, Relay (St. Moritz) (2012), was a nice confrontation between architectural design and the Situationist Movement’s grand slogans. The blueprints for the house could be purchased at the booth for €200, on the condition that the purchaser build the house to the exact measures, and photograph it for the artist, thus extending it’s lifespan infinitely. Throughout the weekend, Seiler is erecting a second work in the space, called Le Linge: a kind of clothes line of textiles that complement the colours of the house they encircle.
Sinta Werner at alexander levy
Directly opposite Seiler’s house, Sinta Werner’s architecturally-inspired works respond silently to the loud, brightly coloured construction. Some of the seemingly more traditional framed-works showing at abc this year, Werner’s manipulated photographs are nonetheless as intriguing as ever. The Recurring Fold is a grouping of black and white photographs of ghostly cityscapes, cut and redoubled to create a Baroque effect. Werner “reflects” modern architecture’s rationalism by subjecting it to a completely foreign optical illusion. Werner’s photographs are conceptually heavy, and address complex issues of perception, reproduction, and various architectural movements’ control over the reception of their work.
Yung Jake at Steve Turner Contemporary
L.A. native Yung Jake has been hailed by the media as the art world’s favourite rapper. His inclusion at abc is a breath of fresh air, offering a much needed glimpse into the post-internet brand of art criticism. One of Jake’s latest YouTube sensations, Look is played on a tablet in the booth, while his works on metal adorn the walls. Yung Jake’s online persona is hard to reproduce in this context, but it gives a glimpse into some of the artistic creations happening outside of the Berlin bubble, in a different generational context, beyond traditional media. Yung Jake will be performing live for the Berlin Art Week wrap-up party at Kim Bar.
Camille Henrot at Johann König
Also reflecting on the networked era in which we live, Camille Henrot’s sculpture and video works attack the problem from a very different angle. Her Desktop series consists of skillfully crafted bronze and wood sculptures that are meant to interact conceptually with the desktop, as small objects that contain many ideas. In one case, she has created a juxtaposition between the high art sculpture and a functional tape dispenser, by placing a roll of red gaffer tape into the sculpture, ready to be torn off. Simultaneously, she shows her experimental film Coupe / Decalé, an ethnological film study that has been cut, creating a line that separates the image into two parts. The technique serves to comment on the exportation of cultural imagery through video.
Alison Hugill has a Master’s in Art Theory from Goldsmiths College, University of London (2011). Her research focuses on marxist-feminist politics and aesthetic theories of community, communication and communism. Alison is an editor, writer and curator based in Berlin. www.alisonhugill.com