Magazine article Art Monthly

Berlin Round-Up

Magazine article Art Monthly

Berlin Round-Up

Article excerpt

daadgalerie * Blain|Southern * Plan B * Supportico Lopez * Galerie Buchholz * Johnen Galerie * Hamburger Bahnhof

An autumnal Sunday afternoon in Berlin: an occasion, in theory, for strolling reflectively through golden-leafed parkland. Yet the crowd filling the daadgalerie near Checkpoint Charlie, some spilling out of the doorways while waiting for available seats, suggested that a lecture programme linked to a show by the Agency of Unrealized Projects -- brainchild of Hans Ulrich Obrist, the Serpentine Gallery and e-flux -- was the more attractive draw. (Either that or the free wine.) As my companion and I arrived, venerable German theorist and critic Bazon Brock was closing his speech, rising to hortatory platitudes. He'd give way, if not very willingly, to Portuguese curator Ana Teixeira Pinto -- who eloquently scorned the romanticism inherent in 'unrealised' art and went on to critique a culture increasingly allergic to the idea of failure -- and a lively conversation between Obrist and octogenarian Israeli architect Zvi Hecker in which the latter recalled failing to collaborate with Mario Merz due to the distractions of vodka.

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At which point we left, missing both Bethan Huws and Olaf Metzel and whatever the latter had to say about his controversial sculptural pile of crash barriers, 13.4.1981, 1987, being recently reinstalled tucked between two buildings on the banks of the Spree. My German is nicht zehr gut to say the least, but that didn't matter here. All the participants we saw delivered their talks in English, even Brock. As critic Raimar Stange recently bemoaned in print, Berlin is a city whose gallery staffers answer the phones in English now; and in this sense, as much as one might see London as steadily becoming an internationalised art hub, Berlin is making greater efforts. After September's abc art fair, which featured more foreign dealerships than ever, skimming the city's galleries told a related story, though one in which some of the exhibited artists might quixotically be construed as kicking back. At British gallerists Blain|Southern's whitewashed cavern on Potsdamer Strasse, formerly the printing presses of the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, printed language once again dominated: this time via Lawrence Weiner's oracular wall-texts, which espoused an inviting if hazy poetics of the transformative. 'MOLTEN COPPER AND ZINC & TIN BLENDED AS ONE', read one; 'BRASS AS BRONZE'. Weiner, at least, gave his habitual equal weight to the local language, pairing English with translations. Around the corner, Romanian gallery Plan B was showing Romanian artist Adina Popescu, one of whose works, 2014, 2012, was a sound installation exploring the manipulative abuses of PR language by translating Joseph Goebbels's famous 1943 speech in the Sportspalast -- calling for 'total war' -- sardonically into 'German-sounding' English. And in a typically sparse show at Supportico Lopez (originally set up a decade ago in Naples), British artist Michael Dean tweaked his word-driven practice by half-blocking doorways with his propped sculptures, hiding their relief abstractions of typography on the darkened far side, rendering them more unreadable than ever.

Recalcitrant sculpture recrudesced at Galerie Buchholz, where US artist Vincent Fecteau's twisty mid-sized sculptures sat on plinths, sphinx-like, some in gypsum cement and some in papier-mache (though visually it was hard to say which was which), predominantly painted in deeply specific greens, purples, blues and greys. …

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