This year I started the Gallery Weekend tour with the largest side-event, NgoroNgoro, an exhibition with works by over 150 artists – including Mark Manders, Shirin Neshat, Marlene Dumas, Anri Sala, Martin Eder, Alicja Kwade, Anselm Reyle, Marie Steinmann, Gregor Hildebrandt, Sophia Pompéry, Julian Rosefeldt, Michael Sailstorfer, Björn Melhus, Marius Bercea, and Nasan Tur – on a vast 6,000 m2 artist studio complex in Weissensee.
This project, with no commercial background, was initiated by the artist Jonas Burgert and his fellows Andrej Golder, Christian Achenbach, Zhivago Duncan, John Isaacs, Andreas Mühe, and David Nicholson. As expected, a very diverse range of artworks were shown, many were good, some were great.
Upon entering the courtyard of the former GDR factory, with a mix of old and new buildings, you face one of Michael Sailstorfer‘s early works, “Elektrosex“ (2005) – an installation inspired by Constantin Brancusi’s “The Gate of Kiss” – composed of two street lamps opposing each other in the form of arch. At irregular intervals the voltage comes up in one of the lamps, and once it is high enough, an electric spark jumps from one lamp to the other; then the circuit closes. “The same occurs between humans”, explains Sailstorfer.
Two steps away from Sailstorfer’s work you find yourself at the base of a monumental eight meter endless column by Gregor Hildebrandt, titled “Säule”(2018), made out of moulded vinyl records elegantly casted in bronze. The sculpture is part of his series of columns rooted as well to the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi’s work, one of most important artists of the 20th century.
In the same yard you also see perhaps the smallest work at NgoroNgoro, “Impianto” by Jeewi Lee, a work that makes reference to conservation practices, and was created during her fellowship at Villa Romana in Florence and borough to Berlin to be „implanted” in a building wall.
Once you move in, crossing the large-scale studios of each of the artists, it gives you feeling of a utopian space filled with a wild combination of works, mediums, and artists internationally established or local who’s works coexist without name tags, nor ordered by a type of narrative.
NgoroNgoro presents a generation of artists represented by its diversity, which is reflected in the use of a different mix of technologies, while also working with defined media, such as sculpture, painting, drawing, or video installations like Julian Rossenfeld’s or Shirin Neshat’s.
The Iranian-born artist and filmmaker, Neshat, shows a work that is part of a trilogy of video installations entitled “Dreamers”. Neshat is powerfully stating the poetics of video and intimacy, as she invites you to emphasize with the aloneness and grief of an unknown woman, a single female protagonist whose emotional and psychological narratives remain on the border of dream and reality, of consciousness and sub-consciousness.
In front of her video there are moments when you are literary facing the act of looking someone else in the face. Her work has another aspect, it refers to the socio-political agenda of migratory culture and reminds us how often we fail to face people who go through loss and sacrifice.
Another work that caught my attention was Mark Manders’s installation of expressionless sculpture faces with stylized anatomical features, typical in the ancient Greek art. The artist has a misleading way of using materials and fragmentation of form. The grey contourless figures apparent to have been formed by hands shaping soft clay, are actually made of painted bronze.
Shifting between the exhibition rooms I found a small paiting by Marius Bercea, an artist from Cluj who’s artwork reflects a surreal situation through the use of colour and forms of architecture.
The NgoroNgoro principle was simple, a radical exhibition where artists invite other artists to show their works, with no curators, no barriers of inclusion, where also „ugliness” has its place. “There’s a free spirit here,” said Jonas Burgert, who showed four paintings himself.
A look back at some of the exhibitions still on view after Gallery Weekend
My program proceeds with the welcoming reception for the Gallery Weekend at the Staatsoper Berlin, followed by a guided tour in the solo exhibition dedicated to Louise Bourgeois, an icon of feminist art ”The Empty House” at the Schinkel Pavillion.
Bourgeois’s selected works from the past two decades of her life show a sensibility for corporeality and gender, revealing a continuous examination of birth and death. The works deal with the central themes of her life, a self analysis that links to her creative process – a parallel “form of psychoanalysis”. Her personal relationships and conflicts inform her work. Bourgeois is representing mostly the female body in its various aspects of evolution and decay, offering privileged access to her forms of mental mending.
Also in the Mitte quarter you can check out ”Back to Nature?”, on view until mid-August 2018 at Frieder Burda Salon Berlin, an exhibition that deals with changed concepts, and images of nature in contemporary art. The curator, Patricia Kamp, explores the question of the contribution of art in ecological debates with works by Camille Henrot, Timur Si-Qin, Tue Greenfosrt, Sissel Tolaas, David LaChapelle, Laure Prouvost, Tim Eitel, Nikita Shalenny, and Flavio de Marco in dialogue with Georg Basezlitz’s ”Eschenbusch II”.
The Norvegian artist and “olfactory master”, Sissel Tolaas has created a smell-mapping installation. She reproduces and archives the scents of oceans in her collection, which can awaken quite subjective memories in the people who smell it, but at the same time her work represents a snapshot full of geographical, cultural and historical references.
On a Saturday morning, after a PR-Event with BMW at Soho House, my next stop was KOW gallery to see the ”El Otro, El Mismo / The Other, The Same”, the first solo exhibition of the Cuban artist duo Los Carpiteros in Berlin.
Marco Castillo Valdes and Dagoberto Rodríguez Sánchez are influential voices in contemporary Latin America, and have been operating since the early ’90s, documenting changes in contemporary Cuban society through art. The exhibition at KOW combines sculpture, films, and new watercolour paintings by the artist collective.
A short walk away from KOW, I dropped by Galerie Neu, featuring a new series of works by Yngve Holen, but I also took some time to see ”Not to Belong to Themselves” at neugerriemschneider – an exhibition with hanging sculptures made out of glass and bronze by Mario García Torres.
On my way to the west part of Berlin I stopped by the König Galerie, where Claudia Comte is on show with her immersive environment installation ”When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth”. In the main space of the gallery, a multi-channel video installation and twenty spruce trees suspended from the ceiling offer an analogue perspective of time. Each wood is revealing a bronze sculpture in its carved reliquary. The use of wood, marble, and bronze but also digital material create a juxtaposition between old and new, one where past, present, and future interweave.
I couldn’t miss out WENTRUP gallery showing ”Muster”, an exhibition with two new series by Nevin Aladag – Social Fabric and Jali.
Aldag’s new sculptural works with titles like Jali Arrow, Jali Ring, or Jali Tree refer to the net or grid as a structuring element in Indian architecture. The installation was shown also at documenta 14 in Kassel, and represents a delicate abstraction of building elements that often imitate forms in nature such as a branching-out treetop. The ceramic tiles, which are stacked to create a screen-like wall, contain repetitive patterns and abstract structures.
My final stop of the day was Tanya Leighton, which hosted Oliver Laric’s latest video ”Betweenness” (2018) and a new group of a cast of pigmented resin sculptures, all titled ”Hundmensch” (2018), depicting a figure with the head of a dog and the body of a human, holding a smaller dog in its arms. Laric reflects, through his work, on the beliefs about authorship and authenticity, inquiring the form of replication. The ”Hundmensch” sculptures have a beguiling nature with a layer of symbolism that has been derived from a melding of sources, from prehistoric to contemporary – by using 3D models to cast their forms.
My Saturday evening ended with a drink at the Outset after party at Kino International. During Gallery Weekend you can literally feel Berlin’s excitement rising in the air, and finding your way around crowds of people may not be the ideal way to view art, that’s why I totally recommend to pay a visit to the galleries in the upcoming week.
All photographs by Maria Nitulescu, (if not differently indicated).