Article by Sarah Messerschmidt // April 27, 2019
I began my Gallery Weekend tour strategically: before 6pm, or the official beginning to most exhibition openings. Hoping to gain some coveted crowd-free time in the sublime April weather, I began my tour of Berlin’s Mitte district at the tender hour of 2pm, setting off first to Dittrich & Schlechtriem for Julian Charriere’s exhibition ‘Silent World’. When I arrived, the gallery had barely just opened. Surprised at such an early visitor, two attendants hastily led me into the exhibition space, variously flicking switches and adjusting objects along the way. I was invited to descend into the cool darkness of the basement gallery, and there I was met with the tranquil rhythms of flowing water, burbling away in a square pool while light and mist danced poetically together across its surface.
‘Silent World’ is a subterranean sanctuary, described as an oneiric, imaginary space both uncanny and indefinable, all constructed to conjure the nebulous recesses of the mind. Along the perimeter of the space hang images of nude free-divers suspended in a foreboding abyss worthy of Caspar David Friedrich. Subtlety is key to this exhibition, something not easily achieved among throngs of gallery-goers, and yet the exhibition provides the perfect reprieve from the energetic goings-on in the streets outside.
My next stop took me further along Linienstraße to neugerriemschneider, this time with an exhibition more conducive to Gallery Weekend schmoozing. Housed in a project space toward the front of the neugerriemschneider complex, Rirkrit Tiravanija’s ‘untitled 2019 (beauté esthétique with no shampoo)’ invited gallery-goers to relax for a while, providing free gin martinis and chilled green tea to be consumed from charmingly misshapen clay cups, 100 tiny vessels handmade by the artist himself. Enclosing the plush grey daybed and tatami tea station, the surrounding walls were adorned with silkscreened images of protest, their ochre colour drawing the images closer to the material of the clay works. Typical to Tiravanija’s oeuvre, the exhibition is an experiment in participatory art and constructed social encounters and, with this blend of art gallery mingling and fraught images of political unrest, Tiravanija provides his audience with a perhaps more expansive interpretation of what it means to be “social”.
At Sprüth Magers, the Fischli-Weiss monolith ‘HAUS’ stands impressive and austere in the main gallery. First developed for Skulptur Projekte Münster in 1987, the work has travelled extensively since then, having been exhibited in New York, Mexico City and Zürich, before landing again in Germany for this year’s Gallery Weekend Berlin, in this case as a wooden reproduction of the aluminium original. Standing at a 1:5 scale, ‘HAUS’ represents the artistic duo’s longstanding interest in everyday architecture, yet it is curiously both too big to be a model and too small to be a building. In the adjoining room are various smaller sculptures made of black rubber and unfired clay, materials unusual to the objects they represent, in effect making reference to both the architectural principles examined by ‘HAUS’, as well as the interior conditions of domestic living, and emphasising the transient aspects of every day life.
My final stop was at Galerie Neu, by which time the Gallery Weekend crowds had grown considerably. As visitors filed into the gallery, I stood by the door puzzling over the mysteriously sparse press release, which in poetically cryptic lines, read:
“Who is afraid of what,
what is afraid of whom,
I think there is nothing in these paintings you would not see or miss, if left undescribed,
Besides maybe that it is like with the Mona Lisa,
they look at you wherever you are in the room.”
Inside, Jana Euler’s ‘Great White Fear’ adorns the otherwise blank walls. Unsure about the poem’s significance, my gaze lifted to take in 8 great white sharks erupting in multicoloured bursts on enormous 300 x 200cm canvases, contorted expressions twisting their peculiarly human faces. The euphemisms quickly settled in and I took pleasure in watching other people’s confusion. In a sea of scratching heads, the occasional onlooker suppressed a knowing smile, and I was reminded that often the best art is that which takes a moment to understand.