Berlin Roundup
              Emily McDermott
              Since the beginning of last year many artists have turned inward—or at least towards their immediate surroundings. Last week, during Berlin Art Week and Gallery Weekend Berlin’s Discoveries edition, over 70 exhibitions (some long-delayed) opened in the city’s galleries, institutions, project spaces, and private collections, featuring both established and emerging artists. The themes addressed are wide-ranging, but one recurring motif is an introspection expressed in portraiture: not necessarily in the figurative sense, but in using the framework of an exhibition to present a close study of one’s own identity, of a place, of an environment. Reflecting this idea most overtly is Alicja Kwade’s exhibition “In Abwesenheit (In Absence)” at Berlinische Galerie. Here, the artist moves away from her usual cosmic explorations of time in favor of a show that is most clearly read as a self-portrait. 314,000 sheets of pale purple paper are printed with her fully sequenced DNA, with the 0.1% of letters that differentiate her from others bolded. Many sheets line the room’s towering walls, while thousands more are encased in bronze archival boxes. Twenty-four speakers are arranged on a giant black steel ring suspended from the ceiling, projecting Kwade’s heartbeat as it rises and falls. Bronze molds …
              Berlin Roundup
              Matthew Evans
              Berlin affluence is an oxymoron that might describe something in the big gap between pilsner and champagne, or pork schnitzel and sous-vide. Events like Berlin Art Week and its commercial fair abc art berlin contemporary have been pushing the German capital onto the national and international buyers’ tour for nine years now. It remains an odd positioning, as Berlin isn’t an obviously digestible city for many collectors; it lacks their creature comforts: the ubiquity of restricted access and unaffordable prices with enough locals who can afford to keep them that way. And art fairs (not to be confused with life) are most successful—and most distracting—when the rich feel hungry and foot the bill for the entertainment. But it’s an important exercise to distinguish between wealth and security (not to be confused with fear). The former is an uncertain orgasm of contrasts, which has become aesthetic cliché, while the latter is more interesting and maybe even radical today. Without the pressure (and pleasure) of fast and fat capital in recent history, Berlin has profited from this advantage, and although events like abc might be experimenting to revise that, the city still remains at one remove, which is a privilege, because the …
              Peter Fend’s “to be built”
              Elvia Wilk
              At first I had the feeling I was missing something when I encountered the documentation of unbuilt works by Peter Fend at his show “to be built” at Galerie Barbara Weiss, organized in collaboration with the project space Oracle. The drawings, prints, collages, and documents on display, mostly from the first 20 years of Fend’s practice, are billed as projects meant “to be built,” but if they’re really instructions, they’re hard to follow. For example, Delancey Street goes to the Sea, II, III, and IV, a series of quite beautiful collages from 1979, declares “CON ED / NO MAJOR GAS LINES DOWNTOWN,” with text overlaid on an aerial shot of lower Manhattan, followed by “SEA GAS INSTEAD,” the proposed solution. Red and orange lines drawn over the image demonstrate how waste pipes could be extended from Delancey Street across Brooklyn and into Jamaica Bay, and sea gas could be sent back again. Sounds like a good idea. But how, exactly, would sea gas get made from the waste? Could you really lay a pipeline in a straight shot across an entire borough? Who would finance the project? Wait, what’s sea gas again? Fend is probably best known for his founding role …
              Geta Brătescu’s “Atelier Continuu”
              Ana Ofak
              Benno von Archimboldi—the mythical writer in Roberto Bolaño’s 2004 novel 2666—used to draw algae as a child. The meticulousness with which the boy captured the greenish pulp he encountered on his prohibited dives in muddy waters extended into his writing as a grown man. None of this is known to the group of literary critics who devote their lives to Archimboldi. They roam the world in search of snippets of information that might enrich their meager outputs. No institution will ever come to help them. The fictive search mirrors contemporary aesthetic politics in an eerie way. After post-communism fell ill, when ideological etiquettes no longer fit Eastern Europe, the art world’s interest in the region’s manifold visual territories has grown in inverse proportion to the understanding of its context. Due to the homogenization of taste, Eastern Europe appears like a treasure trove, set apart from the corporate consolidation of aesthetics. One wonders if all of its Archimboldis will ever receive the attention they deserve. Among the artists from Romania, Geta Brătescu (b.1926) is the grande dame of Conceptualism. Her work has established a discreet, object-bound, almost poetic presence in the country and elsewhere. It has been in the spotlight for several …
              Mai-Thu Perret at Galerie Barbara Weiss, and Berlin Art Week Highlights
              Ana Teixeira Pinto
              Brought to you by Kulturprojekte Berlin, the producers of last year’s “based in Berlin” survey, Berlin Art Week is a mayoral initiative funded by the Senate Chancellery for Economics and the Senate Chancellery for Cultural Affairs, which seeks to make up for the loss of the ill-fated Art Forum Berlin by labeling the week around abc (Art Berlin Contemporary) as if some sort of extra cultural activity is actually taking place. Most of the city’s institutions are listed on the Art Week’s website, but for anyone who lives in the city, it feels rather paltry to see announcements featuring shows which opened weeks, even months ago, re-branded to sound brand new. It would seem that pretty much everything else in the city, which is being radically redesigned for the benefit of the leisure classes, is being marketed to the occasional tourist or the potential investor. But to begin rather with a nuanced comment on the city as a haven for real estate speculation, we recommend seeing how architect Arno Brandlhuber flooded the basement of his own signature building on Brunnenstrasse for the show at KOW, “Im Archipel,” which runs concurrently at n.b.k. (Neuer Berliner Kunstverein), in one of the few de …
              Laura Horelli’s “The Terrace”
              John Beeson
              From the first, Laura Horelli’s exhibition “The Terrace” is a movement backwards; a complex history is laid out for us to enter and reconstruct. Along the wall leading away from the gallery’s entrance is a series of six images and texts entitled Terrace of European Single Person in Kileleshwa (2011), which reveal information progressively. The first photograph depicts a young girl entering from a terrace, where a woman sits on a wicker chair before a backdrop of exotic plants. To the left of that photograph is a text describing a house topographically, designating spaces as private, public, or those used by the domestic staff. To the left of that is the house’s architectural floor plan. Next is a black-and-white illustration from a book depicting that same terrace from the first photograph, but as seen from the garden beyond it. Then we see the original version of that photo in full color. Lastly, we encounter a text revealing that everything we have just seen pertains to the Finnish artist’s childhood home in Nairobi, Kenya. The series appears to have been developed from a method at once inquisitive and analytical, based on personal understanding as well as empirical research. Such is the variable …

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