Magazine article Artforum International

Pawel Althamer: Neugerriemschneider

Magazine article Artforum International

Pawel Althamer: Neugerriemschneider

Article excerpt

It was just like old times in Berlin: scarred walls adorned with rusty nails, loose electrical wires, and saggy wallpaper; a broken skylight where the rain had come in; an old sink hopelessly plugged with dirt; a car seat crowning a pile of earth; dusty beer bottles, cobwebs, and some old magazines in a box. After trashing the gallery's exhibition space, Pawel Althamer left it open 24/7 and put up a brick wall to seal off the office, where life continued as before. The Polish artist's gesture transformed the white cube into a living museum that revived the era after the wall and before gentrification in Mitte. Like some Berlin equivalent to Colonial Williamsburg, the installation allowed visitors to take a nostalgic walk through the city's past and to experience an economic and architectural history that was supposed to have been quickly eradicated and gladly forgotten.

For Althamer to trash one of the most design-conscious galleries of the late '90s might first appear as a critical, if not political, intervention. Apart from contributing to gentrification, the gallery and its once-pristine walls had seen everything from Jorge Pardo's parquet flooring to Olafur Eliasson's science-fair projects, from Michel Majerus's walk in paintings to Elizabeth Peyton's pretty people. Althamer erased this recent history, returned the space to its former dilapidated state, and pretended that the gallery had never renovated it, let alone moved in. Indeed, the brick wall--apart from exiling the gallerists to the back room and inviting the public to use their exhibition space around the clock--seemed to suggest that the past and the present could only trespass upon each other.

But make no mistake: Everything, from the rust to the cobwebs, was fake. While destroying the space, the artist also built in a few details that did not belong to its past. …

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