*This is the second of four writings exploring how art builds community locally and internationally. Interdisciplinary collaborations create new connections. While current political leaders debate the validity of facts, artists unite, and support truth.
Berlin is a complex yet compelling urban hub filled with distinct history and style. Orderly yet chaotic, art arrives in diverse venues from private galleries to public institutions. The environment asks challenging questions and delivers masterful concepts. Could this city be the epicenter for contemporary art?
The gallery scene probes aesthetics with a conceptual punch. For example, the Beware of the Seductive Traps of Spiritual and Psychic Power exhibit by Seungmo Park conquered. Brilliantly displayed and curated by MAGIC BEANS gallery, Park’s artworks are a gesture to a fleeting humanity. During my visit, the PICTOPLASMA conference featured seventeen exhibitions throughout Berlin. A highlight was Benjamin Vedrenne’s Playful Randomness that allowed visitors to interact with digital content. The experience was truly unexpected and engaging.
The Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin impressed beyond its massive scale. From the institution’s catalogue: “The exhibition Hello World aims to reflect the character of the collection, marked by these complexities and multiple ruptures. Instead of construction a linear history-as-it-happened of twentieth- and twenty-first-century art, individual works and groups of works provide points of departure for a wide range of different narratives.” The conceptual writing was sublime in an effort to analyze the structure of a “global” museum. Heaven does exist.
Museum highlights included new and familiar names to my western perspective. Entering a grand warehouse courtyard, artist Alfredo Jaar’s (Kindness) of (Strangers) neon installation mimicked the movement of migrants from South to North. Jaar: “Our society is blind. We have lost our ability to be affected by imagery.” Meanwhile, Duane Hanson’s Race Riot sculpture comprised of synthetic resin and fiberglass brings to life unfortunate realities in America.
Artist Matthew Buckingham documents the possible future of Mt. Rushmore in The Six Grandfathers (also known as Slaughterhouse Park, Cougar Mountain, and now Mt. Rushmore), in the year 502.002 C. E. photograph. From Buckingham’s website: “Geologists believe it will take approximately 500,000 years for the portraits of the four U.S. presidents carved on Mount Rushmore to erode and become unrecognizable…As its power to represent fades, the paradox of Rushmore’s meaning as a ‘shrine to democracy’—on land stolen from the Sioux and carved by an artist who was an active member of the Ku Klux Klan—intensifies…”
History and identity reverberated with the video installation Laibach, Geburt einer Nation (Birth of a Nation). According to e-flux, the band Laibach was part of: “The NSK art collective was formed in 1984 in Yugoslavia by three groups active in the fields of visual art, music, and theater…Crucial for NSK’s operations and its development were collaboration, a free flow of ideas among individual members and groups, and the joint planning of artistic actions. In 1992, the NSK transformed into the NSK State in Time as a response to the radical political changes that were taking place in Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe at the beginning of the 1990s. In addition to organizing projects such as temporary embassies and consulates, the NSK State in Time also started to issue its own passports in 1993. Currently, there are approximately 14,000 NSK passport holders around the world.”
Leaving the museum, Mladen Stilinović’s bold pink banner An Activist Who Cannot Speak English is no Activist honestly clarified bias in institutions. Today was a marathon of art, history, and endurance. The only translation I want to see is equality for all: one artwork at a time.
From the I’VE GOT TIME interview, Mladen Stilinović: “When I say that art is nothing – I am thinking of the social role of art. Here art means nothing, and not just since today. But this nothing is important because it is a form of freedom that is outside the main system of society. Actually, inside this system, which does not permit of voids, this nothing is very important. Everything has some purpose, but art does not. Except in me as artist.”