Berlin review

Loved

Robert Jackson – Untitled

Huge work seemingly directly on the wall of the Hamburger Bahnhof gallery. Thick and brightly multi-coloured paint, painted in spirals by rotating the canvases, face on to the wall.

I love the textures and patterns created in the colour by the thickness of the paint, and the apparent role of chance in how exactly the piece turned out. The behaviour of the paint. Also, the implication of huge movement (the spinning of the canvases on the wall) feels very dynamic. Plus the gorgeous huge range of vivid colours. The work just feels BIG to me on multiple levels.

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Tobias Truebenbacher – Ignis (student project at the Bauhaus Archiv)

At first I didn’t really notice this artwork, I was just browsing, but once I read the pamphlet and paid attention it really intrigued me. The piece itself is a device which converts temperature difference (created by eg burning a tea light) into electricity, and makes the electricity available via a USB port and a lamp. It’s sleek, and the texture of the lamp and the other parts are also appealing in terms of tactility, but what really interested me is the pamphlet which described and illustrated the process of research, prototyping, and final production. It’s both beautiful+informative to read, and conveys a huge amount of work (I’ve emailed Tobias to ask to buy a copy, to have for inspiration).

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DDR Museum – the whole dang thing!!

Information playground. I really love the approach this museum takes towards what it is to be a museum and present information. A very large proportion of the information was interactable in some way, from drawers to open and boards to flip, to children’s books and clothes to handle, a car to try driving, and a fully decorated flat to explore. I could only find one ‘do not touch’ sign in the whole museum. It just completely disregarded the traditional model of the museum as a silent and detached place where there’s no tactility and zero interaction with the information.

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Postcards in the Hamburger Bahnhof

Ideally here some sunshine would touch your face – Laure Provost

YEAH YEAH YEAH

Don’t kill me I’m in love (Bruno Nagel?)

I don’t know why I love these. They just really grab me and are inexplicably emotive. Somehow the combination of words and colour/format has a very strong effect on me. I just spotted them when I was ambling through the shop, and ended up spending a few minutes with them on the spot and doing my own versions later. It felt important to put them through the prism of myself.

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Bronze cast molehills – Andreas Eriksson (Boros Collection)

These are casts of mole hills from Eriksson’s yard that he’s immortalised in bronze. I liked them initially just because of the humour of suggesting that moles had come up through the 3m concrete floors of the Boros bunker. But they’re also really interesting from a skill/method point of view, as they preserve an intense level of detail. That makes me want to touch them, and it’s annoying that you can’t fulfill that tactile interaction, although I suspect that it would be a confusing interaction because although they look like dirt, they’d actually be solid and cold, being bronze. The tour guide Jan did mention that they’re unhelpfully heavy.

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Diane, by Giona Mottura

I stumbled on this little book just browsing in a bookshop and didn’t know why I was drawn to it at first, I think it was just the photography aesthetics. It turned out to be a multilingual documentary photobook about the life (and partially the transition) of trans singer Diane, who lives in Switzerland.

I love it because of her energy and honesty, also the aesthetics, and because it enacts that experience I sometimes get in trans literature where you read someone saying something that you yourself could have written word for word. Imagine opening a book and finding a part of yourself.

“The point of this work lies in the desire to tell a very charged and complicated story, doing it in a natural human and genuine way, like the way Diane deals with her choices”. Giano Mottura

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Hated

Communication Museum

‘Hate’ is a bit strong, but I didn’t like it, mostly because I couldn’t find anything about the future of communication. I wanted to know about research into the future of mobile phones, Skype-type technologies, augmented reality etc, but the museum was primarily about the history of communication (eg, the post service), and a bit about the present. The part which pointed most towards the future was a special exhibition on secrets and their power in communication, but nearly everything in the museum (including this) was in German; they tried to provide an English version of the exhibit via an app you had to download. But in my opinion the app wasn’t well integrated with the exhibit, and I kinda just ended up reading the English off the app and not interacting with the exhibit or the museum at all.

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I really viscerally disliked the ‘Demon’s Brain’ exhibit at the Hamburger Bahnhof (Agnieszka Polska)

I didn’t even look round it properly but it made me so creeped out I was even holding my sketchbook up so the images couldn’t get in my head. It was installed in a huge hall with no lighting and blackout curtains, in which there were large screens showing videos as if you were walking into an abandoned mine or something, as well as a soundtrack of narration and breathing and animal noises (as far as I remember). It was certainly powerfully effective, I just don’t like being scared.

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The Last Image at ℅ Berlin (exhibit about photography and death)

I thought this exhibit was really poorly handled and presented, and because of that it was really upsetting, as well as not being effective at presenting information. They seemed to take a really academic approach to the content, as well as perhaps being quite rushed, which meant that the written information provided was very theoretical and difficult to understand, and it didn’t provide adequate context for a lot of the photography. I frequently found myself googling photographers or events to try to figure out what a set of photographs was about (eg, I had to google Mark Morrisroe to learn the significant context that his death was from AIDS complications). This made the exhibit very inaccessible, as well as failing to provide any warning as to what you were about to see (also, I didn’t see any kind of 18+ warning anywhere, neither for this exhibit on graphic death, nor for the one upstairs on sex).

This ties in to my second issue with the exhibit: it was absolutely far too insensitive, especially for an exhibit about such sensitive subject matter. Imo, they tried to do too much, and included graphic photos of (eg) Holocaust and lynching victims right next to murderers and criminals. It’s disrespectful to the dead and their families, and I think it’s partly due to trying to be too academic in the approach. Further, they didn’t provide any info about what you were about to see, so the viewer was unprepared for these graphic contrasts.

They should have narrowed their focus (rather than covering death masks, deathbed photos, AIDS, the opioid epidemic, the Death Night, JFK, executions of criminals, cancer, the Holocaust, Jim Crow lynchings, car crashes, and more), included fewer photos and more information (both context and warning), and generally approached the topic with a lot more respect for the subjects rather than just detached academic theory.

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Materialism in general tbh, but eg the materiality sculpture exhibit at the Hamburger Bahnhof

I don’t like this because I have a general issue with art that works with ‘resistant materiality’ and physicality but won’t let you touch the art: cuts off the material from having any tactile impact on the viewer. What is the point of materiality when the material can’t be touched. If your work is supposed to be about the impact and presence of the material, surely it can’t fully do that if the viewer can’t touch the work. I understand that allowing work to be touched will shorten its lifespan, but what’s the point of it living forever if it never achieves what it’s supposed to?

Generally, the model of the museum has completely abandoned how important the sense of touch is in humans experiencing things. We’ve lost track of how important tactility is.

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