O, Berlin

Earlier this month I headed to Berlin to check out S.LOW Projekt, an in­ter­dis­cip­linary art pro­ject span­ning the summer months or­gan­ised by my mas­ters su­per­visor Ricardo Climent. While I was there I got to see the latest in­carn­a­tion of Sam Salem and Patrick Sanan’s Pond Life series, ex­hib­ited at Projektraum Schwarz in the gallery-studded area Neukölln. This is an au­di­ovisual work fea­turing a tank of water as a pro­jec­tion sur­face and two hy­dro­phones that provide the gen­er­ative soft­ware be­hind the work with a rough es­timate of where any agit­a­tion in the water is. This means people can splash about and af­fect the small neon creatures that ap­pear to be in­hab­iting the tank. Here is an in­ad­equate pho­to­graph from the in­stall­a­tion, but check out Sam & Patrick’s web­sites for videos and more information:

Pond Life III @ Projektraum Schwarz

The great thing for artists in Berlin ap­pears to be the wealth of cheap space to work in, much of it in old in­dus­trial build­ings. One strand of the S.LOW pro­gramme took place at N.K., a sound-art com­munity on two floors of a dis­used factory that has half a dozen stu­dios and an empty floor for larger events that looks won­der­fully broody when deserted:


Probably the most in­cred­ible thing I saw in Berlin was Innen Stadt Außen, an ex­hib­i­tion of works by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson at the Martin-Gropius-Bau. If you have heard of Eliasson, it is prob­ably be­cause it was he who put the enormous sun in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. I re­member thinking at the time that I couldn’t un­der­stand what the fuss was about (not being able to visit it myself) — it was just a big sun, wasn’t it? That’s the kind of re­ac­tion I�������������ve had when trying to ex­plain the works at Innen Stadt Außen to people, breath­lessly, ur­gently, be­cause it was awe­some. And I use that word in full un­der­standing of its ori­gins. No cam­eras were al­lowed in and the ex­hib­i­tion web­site is woe­fully in­ad­equate, but pic­tures prob­ably wouldn’t convey the ex­per­i­ence anyway. Try this de­scrip­tion: there was an in­cred­ible 10-minute piece of video-art which fea­tured a white van with an enormous mirror strapped to its side driving round Berlin. Doesn’t really spark the ima­gin­a­tion, does it? In short the problem with words here is that all the ideas were of ex­treme sim­pli­city, de­scrip­tion be­lies their im­pact, but their ex­e­cu­tion was con­sist­ently breath­taking. Trust me, if ever this man does any­thing near you. Go.

Perhaps it’s worth noting that — des­pite the clearly touristy, vis­iting ‘events’ as­pect of this post — Berlin is a truly great place to hang out. Having rushed head­long into sight­seeing, felt my legs grow tired and lose all sense of time and loc­a­tion in the Jewish Museum (which is, by the way, an ex­cel­lent building), I dis­covered that the bars and cafés of Kreuzberg and Neukölln were quite spec­tac­u­larly laid back and that my sand­wich came with a salad with kum­quats and cranberries!!!

A good ex­hib­i­tion I could take photos of was FischGrätenMelkStand cur­ated by German artist John Bock at the Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin, which con­tained a collage-like am­al­gam­a­tion of art­works built into a large scaf­folding maze. Here are some half-built houses, which were tangled in the web of artworks:

Half-built Houses at FischGrätenMelkStand, Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin

There are a few more photos from this ex­hib­i­tion and N.K. on my (brand-new) Flickr page, but one last thing to share here is some­thing that is infinitely geeky, but ex­citing for me. As some may know, I’m a bit of a Helmut Lachenmann ob­sessive and here, in this maze of con­tem­porary art and ex­tremely stale pizzas, in a small glass case, were two pages, on loan from the Paul Sacher Stiftung, of ma­nu­script sketches from the great man him­self. Perhaps it was just their in­con­gru­ence in the tangle of art, but it seemed slightly thrilling. Though visu­ally un­spec­tac­ular here they are:

Helmut Lachenmann Manuscript at FischGrätenMelkStand, Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin

This entry was written by Chris, posted on Friday, 27 August 2010 at 9:24 pm, filed under Odds & Ends and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • Microbiography

    Chris Swithinbank is a British-Dutch com­poser who works with both acoustic in­stru­ments and elec­tronic sounds. He is cur­rently a stu­dent at Harvard University with Chaya Czernowin.
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