by Olivia Ladanyi // May 3, 2023
It is raining and the smell of wet spring radiates from the pavement as I set off on my perhaps overambitious mission to visit 10 Kreuzberg galleries in one evening. The route is a calculated yet simple one, starting on Charlottenstraße and trickling down south towards Kottbusser Tor. After trudging through two underwhelming exhibitions of large-scale abstract paintings lacking in substance, I stumble across Emma Adler’s show at Saarländische Galerie and am transported into a satanic world of burning sage, discarded ultralight down jackets and a gothic shrine-like urinal adorned with screaming heads. Making my way through the eerie forest of scaffolding poles, I arrive below a spidery gaming chair that acts as an extension of the human body, prompting questions about the distinction between the digital and analogue spheres.
As I come out of the menacing smoky interior of Adler’s ‘Holistic Paranoia,’ I blink a few times before taking shelter next door at carlier | gebauer. A lively crowd spills out of the ‘Light Falls’ exhibition where, in stark contrast to the previous show, light is the key element. For this exhibition, Brazilian artist Lucia Koch created a series of site-responsive perforated metal sculptures that make their way across then cascade from the gallery ceiling, as if they were part of the building itself. A window with coloured shutters juts out of the wall and my friend comments that it reminds her of her family house in Spain. This feeling intensifies as we journey through the remainder of Koch’s “interventions.” In the side room, tens of metal boxes with sheets of varying degrees of transparency are screwed in close proximity to each other on a wall. Clearly resembling a block of flats, it is now my turn to comment on the sense of being transported to the claustrophobic architecture of my youth. It is clear that Koch pays careful attention to both the physical and social aspects of urban life and architecture. Her filtered surfaces, which operate as a communication device to connect spaces and people, leave a lingering impression. The throng of Gallery Weekend visitors accompanying the immersive installations, sculptures and photographs only works to hammer this feeling home.
After popping my head into Galerie Barbara Thumm to see Kenyan artist Kaloki Nyamai’s first solo show and marvelling at his loosely embroidered social portraits, I jump on my bike and cycle down to Soy Capitán and Klemm’s, which are conveniently clustered together in the same blossom-littered Prinzessinenstraße courtyard. Paloma Proudfoot’s ‘The Three Living and The Three Dead’ at Soy Capitán has been the most hotly anticipated highlight of my hit list and so I am keen to get inside and see the frieze scenes, which do not disappoint. I slowly make my way around the room’s perimeter to the backing track of music now playing from outside and people groaning about the toilets being closed. Speaking to the artist, she points to one of the scenes, showing a woman (wearing an outfit not dissimilar to her own) standing beside a man (looking not dissimilar to her boyfriend) and prying his chest open with a crowbar. Green shoots sprout from his chest, symbolising emotional growth, she assures me.
In another of the ceramic friezes, rope pours from a faceless man onto the concrete floor, like arteries that don’t stop at the flesh. He is surrounded by five sad, dying sunflowers. Fixed to the main wall is the largest, busiest scene, populated by people with varying levels of organs on display. One man pulls up the skin on his stomach to reveal his intestines, which are being caressed by a seated woman with her back flayed open. Informed by her research into Medieval cultural traditions surrounding death, Proudfoot’s colourful friezes take inspiration from the 13th-century legend ‘The Three Living and The Three Dead’, which warns of the fleeting transience of earthly existence, and the Sicilian fresco ‘The Triumph of Death,’ where death is depicted as an animated skeleton. In this period, death was seen as a personified force, able to interact with the living—an idea that Proudfoot engages with playfully through this show. In the middle of the room is a beautifully-crafted wooden bench with laced red rope, which people hover over like a corpse—unsure whether it is for looking at or sitting on—the irony of which is not lost on me.
Finally, I make my way over to Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler and Galerie Barbara Weiss, also handily located in close proximity to each other. By this point, I am weary and experiencing sensory overload. But on entering Slavs and Tatars’ ‘Hang Don’t Cut’ show, either thanks to the glowing blown glass lamps resembling melons or the small ceramic cup of something strong I received on arrival, I get a new lease of life. Hanging on the walls, mirrors with melon-like textured surfaces invite us to gaze at our distorted reflections and consider the distinction between human and artificial intelligence. People swarm in and out of a carpet doubling as a doorway that leads into the second room, where the theme of aggressive state capture continues. A few doors down at Barbara Weiss, gazing up at Frieda Toranzo Jaeger’s suspended heart—hinged in the middle and taking on the role of an altarpiece—my tour comes to an end. The sun has set but opening night and its crowds show no sign of slowing down and so I return to the Prinzessinenstraße courtyard to soak up the atmosphere for a while longer.
Emma Adler: ‘Holistic Paranoia’
Exhibition: Apr. 26–June 4, 2023
Charlottenstraße 3, 10969 Berlin, click here for map
carlier | gebauer
Lucia Koch: ‘Light Falls’
Exhibition: Apr. 28–June 24, 2023
Markgrafenstraße 67, 10969 Berlin, click here for map
Galerie Barbara Thumm
Kaloki Nyamai: ‘Dining In Chaos’
Exhibition: Apr. 28–June 16, 2023
Markgrafenstraße 68, 10969 Berlin, click here for map
Paloma Proudfoot: ‘The Three Living and The Three Dead’
Exhibition: Apr. 28–June 10, 2023
Prinzessinnenstraße 29, 10969 Berlin, click here for map
Slavs and Tatars: ‘Hang Don’t Cut’
Exhibition: Apr. 28–July 29, 2023
Kohlfurter Str. 41/43, 10999 Berlin, click here for map
Galerie Barbara Weiss
Frieda Toranzo Jaeger: ‘Heart Core’
Exhibition: Apr. 28–June 3, 2023
Kohlfurter Str. 41/43, 10999 Berlin, click here for map