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May 2008, the 5th Berlin Biennale For Contemporary Art


  Ahmet Öüt, "Ground Control", 2007/2008, Asphalt, 400 sqm

Art does not exist – and that is why I sacrifice my life to it.
Notes on the 5th Berlin Biennale For Contemporary Art

“The non-existence of God is for me not an obstacle but a precondition to believing in God. I am an atheist believer," and further, "God is for me not a being, but a word for what can happen between people. Someone says to you, for example, 'I will not abandon you' and then makes those words come true. It would be perfectly alright to call that [relationship] God." 1

It goes without saying that art is not a noun. Spending 5 seconds with a singular piece in a show is perfectly enough (excluding, by its nature, time-based media). That is how much attention span we can give to an object. What we receive in return is process.

In his review of the 1896's Berlin Trade Exhibit Georg Simmel relates how “In his Deutsche Geschichte Karl Lamprecht relates how certain medieval orders of knights gradually lost their practical purpose but continued as sociable gatherings”. Simmel's article serves as a source text for the BB5 exhibition, revealing more than mere cynicism of art-socialites and opening-goers. What it brings to light is the relevance of a metaphysical experience in perception of art, not only possible despite the dryness of contemporary art pieces, but necessary.

Art happens only after you leave the exhibition, when one is left with an afterimage. When Things Cast No Shadow – the title of BB5 describes the process in a shrewd yet pawky way. Minds being the light, things must be shadows themselves, only specular ones. This Ping-Pong affair is nonhierarchical.

 Lars Laumann, "Berlinmuren", 2008, Video installation, 27 min, color, sound, loop

 The interaction is rapid. Art is removed from the object and becomes a cognitive experience. In the process analogous to Hendrikse's theory, a true art piece abandons the piece for the sake of becoming art. Szymczyk and Filipovic, curators of BB5, seem to have long accepted the fact. Outstanding, memorable, groundbreaking – neither of those adjectives relates to the works in the exhibit. They simply are. The cornerstone of BB5 is the idea of an architectural walk of ideas, a cognitive tunneling for art as a process, not an object.

  Janette Laverrière, "Mirrors and bookshelves by Janette Laverrière",
 exhibition conceived in collaboration with Nairy Baghramian, March 20 – April 6, 2008

 Locations for venues were chosen to create a spiral effect, as if it were a spinning row of seats around the aforementioned Ping-Pong table. From Mies van der Rohe's Neue Nationalgalerie, an anti-white cube with transparent glass walls; through he former Death Strip running along Berlin Wall, now named Skulpturenpark Berlin_Zentrum, where spontaneous piles of dirt and rubble intertwine with works made for the Biennial (“[a] paradoxical fulfillment of Mies’s dream of an endlessly flexible exhibition space” 2); through the lofts of a former margarine factory adapted for KW Institute for Contemporary Art; to Richard Paulick's tiny Schinkel Pavillon, which plays at being a reconstruction of a building, but in fact is a complete invention. An ultra-historicist bricolage, ...a hybrid of GDR modernist style and a play on the ... language of neoclassical architecture ... codified in the nineteenth century by the same Friedrich Schinkel whose work ... had given an important impulse to Mies’s practice” 3. All fluctuating amidst the constellation of night venues spread throughout Berlin.


 Paola Pivi, "If you like it, thank you. If you don’t like it, I am sorry. Enjoy anyway",
 2007, Aluminum, fiberglass, rhine stones, 520 × 1427 × 27 cm 

BB5 does not manifest a disbelief in art, as many may think. It does not make a statement at all. What it does is present a mode of thinking about art as an experience rather than matter, relationship rather than expression. Art no longer contains – it can only be contained. It no longer exists – it can only come into being.


1 - Klaas Hendrikse, Believing in a God Who Does Not Exist: Manifesto of an Atheist Pastor.

2, 3 – Adam Szymczyk and Elena Filipovic, When things cast no shadow.

Bartek Kraciuk


Bartek Kraciuk is a freelance writer in New York.
bartek@kraciuk.net

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