by Noëlle BuAbbud // Jan. 22, 2021
Visiting the exhibition ‘Kunst Kann’ at Haus am Lützowplatz was a unique act of participation, unlike any other art-viewing experience of the past year. The traveling exhibition was set to open in early December in Berlin, but was unable to physically open to the public due to increased health restrictions and the indefinite closure of cultural institutions across the city. As a result, Haus am Lützowplatz improvised. Their creative solution was an ‘Avatar Tour’: one of their staff takes a group “visitors” on a first-person tour of the exhibition, acting as their avatar. The audience, via iPad, is placed on a rolling tripod and brought through the space, pausing at each artist contribution and installation to discuss, or ask questions about, the work.
This is no easy feat in a show curated with the intention of an interactive format. The participating artists—Arnold Mario Dall’O, Katrin Hilbe, Christiani Wetter and Nicolas Biedermann, Ilona Kálnoky, Sung Min Kim, Cornelia Lochmann, Arno Oehri, Clemens Salesny, Marco Schmitt, Maria Seisenbacher, Peter Senoner, Nicole Wendel and Martin R. Wohlwend—include with their works a specific learning station and set of instructions meant to act as a pedagogical space for the visitor to try their hand at various artistic processes.
There were several instances during the tour where an overwhelming desire for tactile interaction with the exhibition set in. It is one thing to instruct the guide—your surrogate presence—to write, draw, or play, and another thing entirely to fulfill that interactivity on your own. This was very much the case while looking at Ilona Kálnoky’s ‘Sculpture Sketches.’ Here, Kálnoky invites the audience to make their own sculpture at a workbench stocked with a combination of materials: wire mesh, foam, straw, cotton gauze. They are then prompted to photograph their construction in a similar manner to Kálnoky. Peter Senoner’s aluminum cast of a traditional Italian wood-carved bust is meant to be touched by the viewer and then translated into a drawing on a collective canvas.
Nicole Wendel’s ‘Core Drawings’—large scale graphite drawings with corporal gestures and graphic lines—show the physicality of her process. Wendel’s learning station includes an hourglass and six approaches to drawing for the viewer to try over a three-minute exercise. Despite these obvious physical limitations, the HAL website contains each of the artists’ instructions, should anyone want to try the processes from home.
A few of the artists ask that the audience send them or photograph their results, inviting another form of artist-audience participation. Maria Seisenbacher provides three of her poems: the viewer is then prompted to select words contained in those poems out of a box, and rearrange them on a new sheet of paper. Seisenbacher then asks the viewer to photograph and email her the new poetic combination. Cornelia Lochmann’s painting, ‘Fürchte dich nicht,’ combines rough, gestural brush work using vibrant primary colors, female figures floating in a mystical blue space. Lochmann instructs the viewer to make a collage from a stack of magazines, the subject matter inspired from personal expression related to ‘Motherhood.’ The collages are collected in a suitcase, where, upon the completion of the exhibition, they will be burned in a kind of ritual.
It was encouraging to see a smaller-scale art institution like Haus am Lützowplatz work to develop and implement a way to access their space and exhibition despite limits to in-person visits. This approach also meant that freelance staff remained employed during this challenging time, acting as “avatars” and guiding the exhibition tours. Even if it might frustratingly fuel the urge to experience the works in person, the tour also provides a welcome pause from the day-to-day, allowing insights into the creative practice and process of varied artistic approaches. Haus am Lützowplatz will continue the ‘Avatar Tour’ format for their upcoming exhibition of Margaret Eicher’s ‘Praise the Art of Painting’ in February. ‘Kunst Kann’ is on view in Berlin until the end of January, after which it will move on to the South Tyrolean State Museum for Cultural and State History Castle Tyrol in Italy and Bildungshaus St. Hippolyt in Austria. You can book your own Avatar Tour (in German) here.