by Nadia Egan // May 4, 2022
Blessed with one of the sunniest days of the year so far, I hop on the train and set off into the neighbourhood of Kreuzberg to check out what it has in store for this year’s Gallery Weekend. Beginning my tour along Alexandrinenstraße, I arrive at König Galerie and to what must be one of the largest selections of work on display this year. Lingering outside are small gaggles of people, basking in the sunlight and enjoying the bar set up at the gallery’s entrance. Deciding to make the most of my time here, I grab myself a drink and head inside. Upon entering, the atmosphere is nothing short of lively as visitors mingle with one another and saunter around the works. Situated alongside well-established names such as Alicja Kwade, Refik Anadol and Elmgreen & Dragset, snippets of various artists’ works are placed rhythmically in an eclectic maze in the gallery’s lower level.
Continuing to journey through, I reach the nave of the former church where I find Ukrainian artist Zhanna Kadyrova’s project ‘Palianytsia’ (2022). The work takes its name from the Ukrainian round wheat bread, a word Russian occupiers struggle to pronounce and that serves coincidentally as a codeword among Ukrainians. The stone sculptures take on the form of this bread, displayed either sliced or stacked like burger buns. A short film accompanies the sculptural installation, documenting the creation of the works and giving an insight into the day-to-day life of the artist and her colleagues during the war. Though the burger-like sculptures appear a little comical at first, Kadyrova’s work provides a sobering moment of reflection amidst the buzz of the lower floor.
Venturing upstairs to escape the hubbub, I’m faced with ‘Unintended Beauty’ (2019-22)—a series of large scale paintings by Xenia Hausner. Somewhat fitting for the anxiety of our current climate, the underpinning theme of the show is how beauty and dread interconnect. As I view the works, feelings of strength and feminine power are aroused through Hausner’s forefronting of women.
Though somewhat overwhelmed by the multitude of works I had just encountered, I persevere and amble over to the idyllic courtyard housing both Klemm’s and Soy Capitán. I decide to enter Klemm’s first. Consisting of minimal works, the space feels somewhat empty, with just one large-scale image succeeding at grabbing my attention. The show explores the ways in which images are constructed, with artist and photographer Adrian Sauer digitally manipulating photographs until they become an almost pop-art version of their original self. On first inspection I am easily convinced that the images before me are simply photographs of bricks, yet getting up close and studying the works in more detail, I notice the intriguing twist and appreciate the additional layer to Sauer’s work.
Just a stone’s throw away and yet a whole world apart is Rachel Youn’s ‘Revival’ (2022) at Soy Capitán. Before even entering, the rumble of disco music from within is causing a stir among those waiting to go inside. Opening the door, I enter together into a tropical cosmos of plastic plants swaying in time to the pumping music. Warm pink and orange light colour the room, adding to the jovial atmosphere. In terms of a novelty experience, Soy Capitán comes out on top. It’s not everyday that you get to join in a discotheque of dancing plants and it’s undoubtedly one that everyone will be talking about for weeks to come.
After a leisurely stroll through the leafy Wassertorplatz, I arrive at Kohlfurterstraße and the last stop on my tour—Galerie Barbara Weiss. Here artist Ser Serpas, in ‘HEAD BANGER BOOGIE’ (2022), has taken discarded items such as old furniture and shopping trolleys and transformed them into sculptural installations. Described as finding productivity in objects that had otherwise seemed exhausted, Serpas rejuvenates such objects and presents them with a new form of life. Observing each work is somewhat like browsing through the secondhand store, especially in the gallery’s smaller back room, where abandoned furniture is stacked all around in a messy fashion. Empty bottles and burnt out cigarette butts scatter across a table, while loud, discordant music fills the air. A little overstimulated, I return once more to the quiet of the main space where the sun has begun to stream through the gallery’s windows. Basking in a gentle glow, the sense of rejuvenation is accentuated, bringing freshness and life to the room.
Zhanna Kadyrova: ‘Palianytsia’
Exhibition: Apr. 29–May 20, 2022
Xenia Hausner: ‘Unintended Beauty’
Exhibition: Apr. 29–June 19, 2022
Alexandrinenstraße 118-121, 10969 Berlin, click here for map