An exhibition of Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, curated by Niels Betori and Barbara Prokop
Berlin is rough and dirty, constantly crashing into its own limits and celebrating a kind of glamour that doesn’t have much in common with what the term usually gets associated with. In a volatile, sweaty manner, the dreamt-to-death clichés of the New York of the sixties get reanimated by cheap means, long enough until the real New Yorkers add themselves to the mix. Eventually, nobody knows who’s imitating whom anymore and everyone starts to believe in this image of the alleged metropolis, the way it appears in the magazines, at least until they are sober again.
However, in rare, reflected moments it can happen that the glamour of the new Berlin - which is hardcore because it has no other option - reveals itself as a survival strategy developed by those trying to evade from the maelstrom of brutal provincialism and Cosmo political daydreaming, all the while knowing that they can’t ever escape it. This strategy is a balancing act between conscious critique and a less conscious celebration of what already exists and of what could potentially exist. (Press Release)
During the weekend openings in Berlin, I decided to find myself at the Kunstraum/Bethanien in Kreuzberg.
Walking through the corridor leading to the entrance, I was hit by numerous flashlights, proposing what was still to come.
There are two important aspects to this exhibition. The first being the works themselves, and the fact being the artists have studied together (mostly under the same class of Katarina Sieverding). Some whom have just graduated, and some still attending the University (U.D.K.). All the artists have been living in Berlin for the last years, although not all are German. Second being the attempt of the two curators to execute what they would call “A new piece of art, curated by us (as curators) and as artists”. The curators/artists showing numerous works themselves in the show. After attending a talk with the curators, I have decided to concentrate on the art works themselves, as I feel you will be disappointed with the highly prestigious aspects of the curators.
A work by Heinz Peter Knes, shows a young male lying naked on a typical Berlin apartment interior, wearing a “kafia” to his face and looking at the viewer. Even though the work (b/w photograph) is huge and printed on cheap commercial canvas, it maintains a subjective and personal feeling of the “model” playing with the sexiness of the image. In the same room a large-scale c-print of the artist (Pola Sieverding, “The thrill of it all” 2006 c-print 140x120 cm) wearing a black t-shirt saying “Rich and famous”, while wearing a black mask over here face. The harshness of the flash lights reflecting the black mask try to be rough, but at the same time I feel a great sense of vulnerability of the subject. In another room she shows another work (Pibullz 2002, c-print) of here sitting between 2 pit bull dogs in front of a rusty back round. Again I feel the strong tension between the representation of her and the “image” she produces. I will later ask here about my feelings.
On the neighbor wall, a beautiful work by Urlich Urban (Untitled 2004), and I think of Jeff Wall's “The destroyed room”.
Walking through the young and sexy “Berliners” who attended this opening I enter a room with 4 monitors (black boxes), and sit in front of Andy Warhol eating his burger, and a brilliantly matched girl sitting next to him drinking what seems to be a coke out of a Burger’s King paper cup (Eat me 2005 Friederika Hamann). She drinks “with” him and occasionally gazes at him, wandering what they are doing. I would have liked to eat an apple pie at the same time.
Later on there would be a party - “Ich weiss du kommst aus mitte” in the left section of this amazing building, combining Basso, Cookies, Marzahn-Wear and Möbel-Olfe. The curators, wanting to bring a broad aspect of the music scene in Berlin. Lets just say it was a great ending of the night!
I guess what I felt most was although all was trying to be very sexy and strong, there was a great sense of sensitivity and vulnerability in most of the works, and it is an interesting chance to see young Berliner artists showing together in one unique space.
Participating artists: Ivan Boskovic, Friederika Hamann, Moritz Hirsch, Heinz Peter Knes, Malte Lochstedt, Christian Meier, Angie Reed, Sabina Rein, Pola Sieverding, Urlich Urban, Christine Woditschka, Rommelo Yu, Niels Betori Diehl and Barbara Prokop.
A small talk with Pola Sieverding…
ME: I was wondering what you think about this feeling I have from your images?
SHE: Well, I think that it is about this tension between the “strong” representation of the image, and what actually lies behind the surface. It is very important for me that the image has an impact as an image, and then after a while you start to think about the subconscious of the image.
ME: Is it important that it is you in the photo? Do you feel it is a self-portrait?
SHE: It is important even though if you don’t know me personally you couldn’t really recognize. It’s more about my presence in the time of the photograph. I see it as a per formative action that I play during the session. Even though it is me in the photo, I try to have an outside perspective. It’s not about me, but I am performing the act.
ME: Where was the “Pibullz”, work made?
SHE: In the United States , they are American pit bulls.
ME: Do you feel your mother (Katarina Sieverding), has an influence on you?
SHE: I have a very strong relationship with my mother, and of course she has influenced me, but I feel we work in different areas, and she has always given me the freedom to work the way I see things. I think also this is here ideology of teaching. She tries not to influence the students in saying what is true, and what is false (or right and wrong), but also she doesn’t believe in “having the only answer”. My father has also influenced me.
ME: I have to say that she is quite unique in here way…
ME: Where do you have your American accent?
SHE: I was living in for some months, but actually there they said I have a British accent…
Exhibition Duration: April 28 until June 10, 2007.
Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, Mriannenplatz 2 Berlin.
Phone: +49 / 30 / 90298-1455
Opening times: Daily 12:00 - 19:00
Director: Stephane Bauer
Ariel Reichman Lives and works in Berlin/Jerusalem. He was born in 1979.