Berlin Day Three

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A late start! The history buffs got up early to walk to the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charley. We others slept in. But our curator suggested that I trot to the shopping center across the street to see an installation by John Chamberlain, a tower of crushed cars.  (Since 1999, CAS has raised and contributed more than $1 million in artwork value to the Tucson Museum of Art in consultation with the curatorial staff. Acquisitions include works by John Chamberlain…)  TMA’s Chamberlain is only a foot or so tall, but cost many K.  Imagine how much this behemoth must be worth. The Tower of Klythie is in the Q Shopping Mall Gendarmenmarkt.

After breakfast, on a rainy, grey day, we took a coach to Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, “an international cultural centre [our guide, Jill Sheridan, is a private curator in London, so her spellings are English] where there is an artist-in-resident programme, workspaces for professional artists and it is an exhibition venue.”  Christoph Tannert, the director and project coordinator of KB, gave us background information and the tour.

In 1974 the defunct hospital [Hospital Bethanien: “Bethanien” was then a common name for welfare and healthcare facilities, most of which were run by church organisations, as it evoked the Biblical town in which Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead] was scheduled for demolition, but the opposition of political interest groups sharpened public awareness for the building’s history, thereby paving the way for preservationists to propose a series of redevelopment plans. Among them was Dr Michael Haerdter, the founding director of the Künstlerhaus Bethanien GmbH and its managing director until 2000. Under his leadership the institution grew into an internationally renowned project and presentation platform for contemporary art.1

They moved in 2010 into a building that had manufactured metal chandeliers.  There are 400 square meters of exhibition space, but they have no permanent collection.  And in the basement are a wood and a metal workshop, complete with three trained workers and an engineer to work on the machinery for the artists.  Wow!  When I was in architecture school (with many more than 25 students), our wood shop was about the size of my living room.

There are 25 studios which face the courtyard.  Artists come from all over the world – this year from Japan, Egypt, Korea, Canada, Norway, German, Sweden, Thailand, Cyprus, New Zealand, the USA, the Dominican Republic, the Netherlands, Taiwan, Australia, Switzerland, and Denmark.

Pets and kids are forbidden.  Each artist has a 75 sq.m. exhibition space.  They are supported for one year by grants of 1500€/month plus material costs.  The foundation is supported by the UN, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), the EU, universities, cities (such as Berlin), countries.  In the US, Texas supports one artist each year.  This is the studio (one room, divided in half) of Joey Fauarso, from the US.

There are 600+ artists in residence all over the world, such as MoMA PS1 in New York and the London docks, both of which started in the 70’s.

The Künstlerhaus Bethanien is also an active publisher. Since its foundation it has produced over 300 books, catalogues and magazines covering a wide range of topics, exhibitions and projects.2 This includes publishing a bilingual magazine each year: BE.  To BE or not to BE.  Or BErlin.

Elizabeth Hoak- Doering, who gave us a talk in her exhibit, psycho- pomp, has a fascinating backstory.  She was born in Philadelphia, earned a BA magna cum laude in Anthropology at Amherst College, an MAed at University of the Arts, in Philly, and a MFA in Sculpture from Boston University, after which, in 1997, she traveled to Cyprus on a Fulbright scholarship!  She moved to Cyprus in 2006, the only person, who I have heard of, who actually left the US because of Bush.

In 2011 she was selected to represent Cyprus in the 54th Venice Biennale.  She teaches Figure Drawing at the University of Nicosia, in both Greek and English.

There was a 98 minute out-of-focus video of a ride on the Ostsee Highway (Rostock to Wismar), which is made from reused slabs of the Berlin Wall in 1990.  (There was a lot of concrete to dispose of.)

She quoted a poem by Hilda Doolittle, but I didn’t write down the reference.  Perhaps Cities:

…That the maker of cities grew faint
with the splendour of palaces,
paused while the incense-flowers
from the incense-trees
dropped on the marble-walk,
thought anew, fashioned this —
street after street alike…

And she spoke of political freedom – how people express themselves.  But you need her description to appreciate these drawings.

Hoak-Doering’s Berlin works are devoted primarily to the recent past, traces of which she has been offered abundantly in Berlin. In Gesundbrunnen she explored the texts and drawings scratched into the air-raid bunker there as thoroughly as the signatures and messages from prisoners in the cells of the Stasi prison, Hohenschönhausen. Hoak-Doering did not copy, re-draw or photograph the inscriptions – which have often survived only in fragments or have been painted over in places – with any documentary intention: instead, she took the signs, engravings and inscriptions from their background by tracing and frottage, using this in turn as a pattern for a re-enactment of the unknown writers’ gestures and a focus on the surface as a transmitting medium. The direct ‘copies’ were left for the memorial site’s archives.3

Daniel M Thurau‘s exhibit is entitled It’s Only Rock’N’Roll (But They Will Play It At McDonald’s).4  One example at left.


Orawan Arunrak‘s Exit-Entrance. I just took a shot of the entrance curtain.  I can’t get the sound from this website, but it has the text of the conversation.  Here is the description:

All the artworks featured in the exhibition are are the visual and sound elements of a four-language conversation. It is presented in the form of installation of pattern images on the wall, which were designed from a conversation in Thai, German, English, and Vietnamese. It is the conversation between 10 people: a Thai monk, a Thai nun, a Thai anthropologist, a Thai woman, a German woman, a German anthropologist, a German man who ordained in a Thai temple in Berlin, a Vietnamese nun, and a Vietnamese woman, all of whom live in both Asia and Europe.5

There are gallery rooms for artists who live in Berlin.  One is Riccardo Benassi (whose work, if you google him, is all over the board); we viewed his Sleep’n’Spleen.  (We missed the acousmatic sound installation4 because we were not there during usual gallery hours.)

This is part of what is left of The Wall.  We have driven by this a few times, but I never took a photo, except for the graffiti.  (This from the internet.)

Lunch at Ubersee. Then a coach to the Springmeier-Gnyp Collection, where Marta Gnyp (she an art advisor from Amsterdam) and Giovanni Springmeier (a Berliner) live.  Much of their collection I didn’t care for; photos only of what I liked. The building, from 1903, survived the bombings (WWII). Even wallpaper in one room from 1903, but the chandeliers, one Murano glass, all new. Note: most buildings in Berlin are post-war, but some built with modern design, others to recreate demolished buildings.

This intricately beaded work by Raul Nieves, a Mexican artist, on their mannequin.  Below, a photo (from W) of the artist with some of his works (see this collection’s costume on the right) for this year’s Whitney Biennial.  (OMG – its website is totally disorientating!  Read this interview in his queer underground safe space from W – he’s fascinating.6

Petra Cortright, from Los Angeles,  does digital paintings created from a single master file of internet-sourced imagery.  I took this photo of a painting, printed on aluminum, which appears to be from the Zero-Day Darling exhibition.

Over the last few years, Cortright has been using Adobe Photoshop to make paintings, lightly hacking both the technology and the intended social use for this program—as an image-editing platform, Photoshop is frequently used to alter the appearance of women in photographs. Using websites like Pinterest, she sources colors, patterns, skin tones and other fragments of images. These elements are, then, integrated into the hundreds of abstracted layers that make up her work. This multidimensional process and hacking of visual language via technology was also a large part of her earlier video work, where she would “layer” software, manipulating the programs to create new visual effects and experiences.7

This is interesting, but you have to check out her website!

Old master, 1690 (neglected to write down name, but not one of the Biggies), portrait of woman with embroidered dress, of tulips. Reminds us of Tulip Mania, beauty used for speculation, as many are buying paintings today. (A painting by the late artist Jean-Michel Basquiat just sold at auction in New York for $110.5 M! )

One piece of Danh Vo‘s recreation of the Statue of Liberty.  We had seen a whole room of them on a private visit to Museion Bolzana in Verona two years ago.8

We the People, more than twenty fragments of monumental copper invade the fourth floor of the museum. The pieces reproduced life-size parts of the Statue of Liberty [as the original, out of copper, two pennies thick], an icon symbol of America, which is then revived dismembered.

In the ancient play, Medea, by Euripides, Jason leaves Medea for a Greek princess of Corinth, so Medea takes vengeance on him by killing not only his new wife, but her own children too.  This painting , by a German artist, whose name I did not get, depicts her bathing one of the children before she murders them.  (Whale bone in front not connected.)

Claire Tabouret‘s painting, The Blue Queen, 2016, from her show, Battlegrounds, which was shown at the Bugada & Cargnel, Paris, France.  You can see it better on their website (scroll down)9.


Portrait of English schoolboy (pimples and all) by Dutch photographer Rineke DijkstraKnown for her stark, engaging portraits, she often focuses on particular communities of people with an emphasis on capturing the awkwardness and self-consciousness of adolescence. “With young people everything is much more on the surface—all the emotions,” the artist observed.10  I’ve seen some of her Beach Portraits somewhere, but can’t remember where.

A beautiful tapestry by Ghanaian artist Serge Attukwei Clottey, made from Jerrycans (5 or 12 liter plastic containers used for carrying water), although not as complex as those by fellow Ghanaina El Anatsui, who has gained international attention for his tapestries made from soda cans and bottle caps, and who I had mentioned in a previous blog.11)

Based in Accra and working internationally, Clottey refers to his work as “Afrogallonism”, a concept thTat confronts the question of material culture through the utilisation of yellow gallon containers. Cutting, drilling, stitching and melting found materials, Clottey’s sculptural installations are bold assemblages that that act as a means of inquiry into the languages of form and abstraction.12

On, by coach, to Karin Sander‘s studio.  She sold 180 pieces of this wall at Basel in 1999.  It was wallpapered in canvas, and rectangles were cut out and then were then fit into dozens of differently sized clip-on frames and displayed in a top-to-bottom salon style: not paintings on the wall but  the wall hung as paintings.13 The walls are now going to be taken to Switzerland. The canvases sold between €4,000 and €10,000!

She also tacked canvases on a building to collect graffiti.  (Photo of her at left, below two of the graffiti-ed canvases.)

More recently, she has done scaled figures, 1/10 scale (you have to search for the dog).  She used a scanner to measure people, then a 3D printer to recreate them.  The first generation were monochromatic.

Then came the second generation, and all museum guests were scanned at an exhibition in Dusseldorf.

Sander created these Lilliputian figures by first recording her subjects in the round with sixteen digital cameras [there is one machine in Germany that does this three-dimensional photographic body-scanning, usually for the fashion industry], then feeding the images into a machine designed for making models and prototypes. From this photographic matrix, the machine sprayed layers of plastic according to the shape of the person at 1:10 scale, which was then painted with an airbrush.14

The third generation captured the colors as well.  This young girl, about 6″ high, in the artist’s studio.

A person is scanned with a 3D Whitelight Scanner [seen at right], and by selecting their own gesture, pose and accessories, visitors can shape these representa- tions of their own figures. The 3D body scanner reads the whole surface of a person’s body. The data is then transferred to an inkjet printer which three dimensionally builds the figures layer by layer according to the whitelight scan. The “mirror image” is completed… in either grey tones or color with all the details of the original person’s pose and appearance. The artist refers to these works as self-portraits.15

I am fascinated with the concepts she comes up with.  This for an installation in Berlin:

…At five different upstairs sites… Sander removed the wastepaper baskets next to the desks and cut perfect circular holes in the floor at the exact places where the bottoms of the baskets had been. At each hole a small metal railing was installed to prevent people from injuring themselves. For the duration of the exhibition, gallery employees were instructed to throw away paper trash as they normally would. But rather than filling receptacles, the trash drifted down to the floor below: a slow rain of paper from on high, a gravity-induced information flow, falling “messages” that made you consider the mysterious people at work above…16


She affixed vegetables to the wall in Kitchen Pieces.17

She mailed blank canvases.  The postal service wasn’t sure what to do with some of them.  In one case, a postal worker sliced off the previous label. (Yes, these sell for a lot.)


Recently she has been learning to melt glass.

After freshening up our our hotel, we had dinner at Hugo’s Restaurant, the East Boardroom, on the top floor of the InterContinental hotel, with a panoramic view of the entire city.  The food was marvelous and beautifully presented.  (I stopped taking photos of food.)  A lovely ending for the day.


2 Responses to “Berlin Day Three”

  1. Kim Blair Says:

    I like the Thurau‘s painting with the dog on the porch! Very interesting. This looks like a fabulous trip. Enjoy!

  2. Jim Says:

    I am surprised you did not view the famous Berlin museums and famous works of architecture.

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