Art Berlin Contemporary 2010

Issue no3
June / July 2019
Brussels / Bruxelles

Walking down the beautifully designed garden that leads from the Messe (Art Forum’s exhibition grounds) to Art Berlin Contemporary (ABC) in the Marshall Haus, it feels like walking through a 1950s movie set. Going around the pond, up the steps that lead to the venue, the golden metallic rims of the modernistic Messe restaurant glisten in the sunlight behind us. The Marshall Haus is on its part reminiscent of a James Bond summer cottage.

ABC is held simultaneously next to Art Forum, which is considered as Berlin’s biggest art event, and is literally situated in its backyard. It covers the ground and first floor of the Marshall Haus, comparable to perhaps one fourth of one Art Forum exhibition hall. This smaller size in particular makes it pleasurable. Art Forum’s gigantic scale can be somewhat overwhelming and almost discouraging. ABC’s relatively modest venue is graspable and invites you to take time for every piece instead of scanning all stands and every artist out of anxiety to miss anything.

As initiated by leading people from the Berlin gallery world (respectively Joanna Kamm and Esther Schipper) and with this year’s curatorial leadership of Marc Glöde, ABC counts as Art Forum’s younger, non-commercial and more experimental counterpart. Selected galleries present artists that respond to the chosen theme of ‘light, camera, action’ which at first, apparently means exactly what one would think; a prominent focus on video art and film.

The exploration of film as a bygone medium has several artists thrown back to its inherent qualities. This leads to almost outdated high modernistic experiments with empty film other than the dust scratches that breed on the surface of the celluloid, slowly accumulating over the course of the exhibition (Rosa Barba and Via Lewandowsky). More artists are drawn by this concept of chance. An intense focus on the medium translates further into other modernistic epiphanies: the movement and forms of material such as a piece of rope, the direct copying of objects onto paper that reveal Man-Ray like images (Amy Granat) or 16 mm projector sculptures that articulates an engagement with a historical, Duchampian, almost fetishistic display practice (Wolfgang Plöger).

The clever and witty installed pieces of Dorit Margreiter’s work Set pieces of a possible exhibition (2009) show the humorist side of these forms of display. The pieces in the installation become abstracted props, merging with the given and medially constructed context of the show. Video art on other hand, proofs itself to be a playground for experimentation with techniques and subject matters of which the surreal and almost ridiculously kitchy video images by Ulu Braun and Roland Rauschmeier alias BitteBitteJaJa are by far the most noticeable. More subtle and poetic in approach is Cinemap, the title of Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s selection of 11 films. One of them, entitled Gloria, shows views of a public park in Rio de Janeiro while through subtitles a story is told in the first person, without the sound of a voice. But with a story that lies in between a conscious dream, a weather report and diary confessions it’s impossible to identify its narrator.

In context of the theme of ‘light, camera, action’, ABC successfully presents new work, new artists and new galleries. Its seemingly casual set-up makes for a welcoming contrast with the bigger, more prestigious Art Forum. However, with the two very distinct fairs happening simultaneously Art Forum and ABC provide an interesting but quite intense injection of art and activities in the short time span of four days. Though with insatiability, curiosity and endurance one will get a long way.

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Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 3 — 2019