Gallery Weekend // The Mitte Walkabout


Article by Alena Sokhan in Berlin Wednesday, May. 06, 2015

Berlin Art Link Gallery Weekend Review Ngorongoro exhibitionNgorongoro – installation view; photo copyright of Lepkowski Studios, Berlin

My walk through the galleries in Mitte began promptly at 6 pm, Friday evening, when I had anticipated most galleries would open. Even from a distance, as I walked up to Sprüth Magers I recognized the clump of well dressed people milling about on the sidewalk, the familiar beacon of an art opening. Like the rest of the galleries I would visit throughout the weekend, Sprüth Magers was already quite packed.

Berlin Art Link Marcel van Eeden at Spruth MagersMarcel van Eeden – “Untitled” (2015), black chalk and watercolor on paper 18 x 26 cm; copyright of the artist, courtesy of Sprüth Magers

Sprüth Magers already had a lineup of people, from the center of the gallery to the street, waiting for a chance to see Cyprien Gaillard‘s video work ‘Nightlife’ (2015), a beautiful 3D film that explores the artificial presence of nature in urban spaces. I wandered through the gallery first, hoping somewhat naively that the lineup for the film might get shorter while I did so. The top floor of the gallery was filled with polaroid photos also by Gaillard, while the first floor was filled with expressive monochrome drawings by Marcel van Eeden. These drawings explored a period in the 30’s and 40’s when the artist’s hometown, The Hague, experienced a popular fascination with the occult, in response to the spiritual emptiness of urban life and impending threat of war.

Next I wandered my way up to Galerie Eigen + ART, which was so full that people constantly obscured the art and made it hard to get a good look. This ended up being a blessing – the artworks by Martin Eder were convincingly theorized in the press release, but I found that no amount of theory could justify these unforgivably tacky fantasies of sexualized damsels. Making my escape, I headed in search of something stimulating, which I found just down the street at KW Institute for Contemporary Art.

berlin-art-link_renzomartens.jpgRenzo Martens – “CRITICAL CURRICULUM” (2014), Institute for Human Activities; Courtesy of KW Institute for Contemporary Art

In the sunny courtyard people were sitting talking freely at round patio tables with drinks or eating a wurst from a large bbq set up at the entrance. Renzo Martens’ Institute for Human Activities (IHA) is accessible from the courtyard. The IHA provides a meaningful and striking way for plantation workers in the Congo to participate in, profit from and criticise their own neo-colonization. Plantation workers make clay sculptures that are then cast and mass produced in fine quality chocolate, which can be purchased in the gallery. The exhibit is businesslike in its marketing and staging, making apparent the tragedy and farce of globalization and advanced capitalism. Complicated and controversial, the exhibition provokes viewers to question whether art is a form of resistance to these processes or just another manifestation of it.

Struck by this I end up wandering out of KW and up to St. Elizabeth-Church at Invalidenstraße. This old church is now the site for a temporary installation by polish sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz. 83 life sized sculptures of human like forms are arranged in a still and solemn crowd in the large open area inside the church. The space is a pleasant relief from the friday evening hustle of the city, it is quiet and not many people are around.

Renzo Martens / Institute for Human Activities - installation view at KOW Gallery (2015); copyright of Renzo Martens / Institute for  Human Activities, photo by Ladislav Zajac / KOW, Courtesy of CATPC, IHA, KOW,  Galerie Fons WeltersRenzo Martens / Institute for Human Activities – installation view at KOW Gallery (2015); copyright of Renzo Martens / Institute for Human Activities, photo by Ladislav Zajac / KOW, Courtesy of CATPC, IHA, KOW, Galerie Fons Welters

My last stop for the night is KOW Gallery, where at 8 pm there is a strong crowd. The gallery has been opened to the street, allowing visitors to enter directly into the space without the usual roundabout from the back stairs. More chocolate sculptures by plantation workers for the IHA are on display, complemented by a 3 channel film installation by Mario Pfeifer in the basement. The film, titled ‘Approximation in the Digital Age to a Humanity Condemned to Disappear’ is a jarring confrontation of techno music, digital technologies and modern civilization with footage of the Yaghan, who the press release identify as ‘the planet’s most ancient and remote indigenous people’ who are threatened with extinction.

Later in the weekend I went to the Ngorongoro exhibition after it was strongly recommended to me. I immediately regretted not coming here earlier – the 5000 square meters of studios at Lehderstrasse 34 have been transformed into what can roughly be described as an abandoned industrial space turned into a giant art playground.

Berlin Art Link Gallery Weekend Review Ngorongoro exhibition

Berlin Art Link Gallery Weekend Review Ngorongoro exhibitionNgorongoro – installation view; photo copyright of Lepkowski Studios, Berlin

Paint is peeling off the ceiling and entire walls of buildings are missing, a striking image of urban decay filled in every possible way with art works, installations, and projections. Here, art is arranged with a bold experimental energy, responding to the complicated architecture. An authentic rejection of both the ego and the conventions of the white cube gallery, I found this place to be a terrific and inspiring conclusion to Berlin’s Gallery Weekend.

Berlin Art Link Gallery Weekend Review Ngorongoro exhibitionNgorongoro – installation view; photo copyright of Lepkowski Studios, Berlin

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Additional Information

SPRÜTH MAGERS
“Where Nature Runs Riot” – CYPRIEN GAILLARD
“The Symmetry Argument” – MARCEL VAN EEDEN
Exhibition: May 02 – Jul. 18, 2015
Oranienburger Straße 18 (click here for map)

GALERIE EIGEN + ART
“Those Bloody Colours” – MARTIN EDER
Exhibition: May 01 – 23, 2015
Auguststraße 26 (click here for map)

ZAK-BRANICKA
“Bambini” – MAGDALENA ABAKANOWICZ
Exhibition: Apr. 30 – May 04, 2015
St. Elizabeth-Kirche, Invalidenstraße 3 (click here for map)

KOW
“Approximation in the digital age to a humanity condemned to disappear” – MARIO PFEIFER
Exhibition: May 02 – Jun. 25, 2015
“A Lucky Day” – RENZO MARTENS / INSTITUTE FOR HUMAN ACTIVITIES
Exhibition: May 02 – Jul. 26, 2015
Brunnenstraße 9 (click here for map)

NGORONGORO
“Artist Weekend Berlin” – GROUP SHOW
Exhibition: Apr. 30 – May 3, 2015
Lehderstraße 34 (click here for map)
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Alena Sokhan is working on her Masters in Media and Communications at the European Graduate School. Her research interests lie in the topics of Queer Theory, Critical Theory, Film and New Media Art, and Economics.



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