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Utopia Matters: From Brotherhoods to Bauhaus

January 23–April 11, 2010 at Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin
Following World War I, avant-gardes turned to the utopian notion of harmony they saw in abstraction and optimistically endeavored to ameliorate society through art and design. Utopia Matters: From Brotherhoods to Bauhaus will examine a sequence of international case studies from the early nineteenth century through 1933, when the Bauhaus closed in Berlin and the ascendancy of Fascism and Stalinism curbed or negatively reframed artistic endeavors, and investigate the evolution of utopian ideas in modern Western artistic thought and practice. It will address the movements of Primitivism, the Nazarenes, the Pre-Raphaelites, William Morris and Arts and Crafts, the Cornish Colony, Neo-Impressionism, De Stijl, the Bauhaus, and Russian Constructivism. This exhibition is organized by Vivien Greene, Curator of 19th- and Early 20th-Century Art at the Guggenheim Museum. This exhibition will travel to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice on May 1, 2010. A fully illustrated catalogue with essays by Greene, noted historian Russell Jacoby, and design historian Victor Margolin will also accompany the exhibition.

Utopia and the Everyday

27th November 2009 – 14th Fenruary 2010 at Centre of Contemporary Art, Geneva
This exhibition invites various local players (associations, schools, etc.) to collaborate with artists and collectives who work within the contact areas between art and educational methods. These knowledge exchanges allow contemporary art and its institutions to become a privileged space for emancipation, transformation and educational experiments. Collaborations between artists and partner publics will be carried out in different projects, outside the Centre’s premises, and presented subsequently at the Centre. They will highlight the social, political, and environmental dimensions of these practices.
Curators : Katya García-Antón and microsillons
Image: László Moholy-Nagy, AXL II, 1927 held here
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Allora & Calzadilla, How to Appear Invisible, 16mm film on HD, 2008
The two new works shown by Allora & Calzadilla are the latest in a series of commissioned works that extrapolate on the unfolding historical and social dynamic of the Schlossplatz, the site of the temporary kunsthalle.

Pleasingly, it is the large expanse of the Kunsthalle that is left essentially vacant, with the film work being installed (unfortunately poorly) the entrance area adjacent to the bookshop:

Allora & Calzadilla’s new work ‘Compass‘, 2009, conceived specifically for the Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin, creates a new spatial and acoustic experience. Dividing the Kunsthalle horizontally, a level is introduced, inaccessible to the viewer and reducing the grand exhibition hall to less than one third. Visitors can only hear the vibrations and sounds of an a capella dancer performing a choreography above their heads. The otherwise empty exhibition space is turned into a huge resonating chamber.
The film is quite beautifully shot on 16mm film, if a little indulgent and overly long in places, documenting the last days of the demolition of the Palast der Republik in late 2008. Its saving grace is its protagonist, a German Shepherd dog who is wearing a headcollar made from a plastic KFC bucket. His curiosity and interestedness, and that of the camera that follows him, distinguishes the film from so much other film work made in recent years that takes Berlin/ communism/ modernistic interiors as its subject and beautiful/melancholic as the mood for its sumptuous, elegant and detached panning shots. The KFC bucket, protecting the dog from licking his wounds, is presumably also a discomfort, an annoyance, and a hindrance to proper vision. However the metaphor isn’t overplayed, and as is typical of Allora & Calzadilla’s work, there is that unique and satisfying contrast between functionality and political poetry.
Exhibition at Temporäre Kunsthalle, Schlossplatz, Berlin-Mitte, July 11th til September 6th 2009

 

 

The curatorial premise of Adam Szymczyk and Elena Filopovic was of a ‘diurnal’ biennale, with an exhibition on show during the day, and different programmed events to happen every night. With four different venues, little or no information available on artists outside of the mediation programme, or labels on works, this strategy acknowledged and emphasised the partiality of the exhibition experience.

 

This was to be welcomed in some respects, as I found that I tried harder to engage with the work than I might normally do, especially considering that many of the artists were unknown to me. However, the flipside of this was that when you did get really interested in an artist or a given piece of work, it was difficult to find out more, or even to remember their name. Participating artists are not foregrounded on the biennale website which results of course in a presentation that is much more curator-centric than artist-centred. Which I suppose is not bad in itself, but I know what side my bread is buttered on.

 

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holding-the-hand-of-marx.jpg

[I think this might actually be the thumb of Engels, not Marx.]

Berlin, December 2007

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