by Judith Vallette // Aug. 18, 2020
At the entrance of the exhibition ‘local talent’—presented at Sprüth Magers and curated by artist Thomas Demand—Olafur Eliasson’s orb of colorful, pulsating light ushers visitors into the space, demonstrating the exigency of the works on view. The pieces in this exhibition, besides being united based on the artists’ residence in Berlin, are all decidedly playful and invite us to engage and interact. Omer Fast’s ‘Beckmann’s Rope’ video plays on a mobile phone glued along the stairway up to the second floor, tempting passersby to bring it to the lost and found for recuperation. ‘Cluster #5’, by the same artist, similarly creates a moment of doubt, appearing to be, in size and shape, a menacing hornet’s nest.
The works, though some were created before corona hit, are all imbued with new meaning in relation to our experience of the pandemic, especially locally. Ceal Floyer’s ‘Untitled’—a strip of plastic from the torn away hole of plastic bags offered in supermarkets for produce—reminds us of the lack, the briefly undersupplied grocery stores. Andreas Slominski’s ‘Ich esse kein papier’ (I don’t eat paper) is a sliver of stale bread almost entirely covered by a label reading 750g, placed in a glass vitrine. There is a clear antagonism between labeled prosperity and the minuscule carb commodity, which became widely sought-after at the height of the pandemic in Berlin. Within the same room, Sam Durant’s ‘Another World is Possible’ protest sign, backlit in neon blue, hangs high up on the gallery wall, shining down on the other pieces and emphasizing their connection to recent political events.
Upstairs, the humorous approach to this serious subject matter continues to flow from piece to piece. Jason Dodge’s ‘Untitled’ mise-en-scene work covers the entirety of the ground with glass jars, shards of broken glass, forks and the occasional pearl necklace strewn across the floor. Connotative of chaos, destruction and consumption, the piece captures a moment of stillness after loss and uprooting. In stark contrast to the disarray present on the ground, a geometrically composed painting of an airport terminal ‘DJ ZV (1)’ by Corinne Wasmuht causes us to reflect: where did the people who left this mess go? The piece also suggests the shifting meaning airports and travel now hold. This freeze-frame of a moment is presented in parallel with Akinori Tao’s ‘Ein Mas des Leben’ (A measure of life), which presents two bowls of milk, one of which has the added ingredient of a drowning moth. Ripples from this struggle cross the boundary and point to deeper reflections, like how certain actions can become profound in their consequences. Altogether, the works presented in ‘local talent’ are sure to both amuse as well as inspire deeper consideration of our current moment.