Simon Starling’s concern with cultural and natural processes of transformation, exhibited in the three works currently on display at Berlin’s Temporäre Kunsthalle, seems especially apt when one considers the broader historical picture of the site of the Kunsthalle and the architectural status of the building itself. Starling is surely aware of the vortex of historical transformation swirling around the adjacent Stadtschloss site, the ephemerality of the exhibition architecture itself, and the relevance of this to the process and product of his work. The work Under Lime (2009), the only new piece created for the exhibition, displays some level of awareness of these facts. For this piece Starling used a chainsaw to cut a branch off of one of the lime trees growing on Unter den Linden, the historical boulevard adjacent to the Kunsthalle. He then converted the chainsaw into a makeshift lift to hoist himself and the branch into the rafters of the exhibition space. The tree branch and the chainsaw pulley system remain as the fixed sculptural form of the work. Unfortunately Under Lime feels more like a passive acknowledgement of the historical weight of its specific site and fails to ask that we rethink this history or critically engage with the dense, complex circumstances of its creation. A second work Plant Room (2008) is a mud brick building, which, owing to its natural cooling system, creates the perfect environment for the exhibition of a series of plant photographs by the photographer Karl Blossfeldt. But Starling is at his best when he is most kinetic and it is the third work in the exhibition that most clearly and strongly expresses the conceptual orientation of Starlings practice.
David Knowles is a musician and researcher living in Berlin. He fronts the video/music project Donkey Kong and has performed extensively in Europe and America. His ongoing writing, research, and performance projects in the fields of architecture, urbanism and new media are documented extensively on his website www.openofficepok.comview all articles from this author