Tuesday, 24 August 2010
Would Magritte laugh or cry?
When Moebel Horzon launched its shelves it insisted they were only bookshelves. Plain, simple shelves, being sold to make money. Nothing to do with design. Nothing clever, nothing conceptual going on here, just some MDF and a few rightangles.
And it worked - every design freak in Berlin owns a set of these shelves, and just in case you missed the joke, they put a pipe in their shop window, for all those not there to witness the design-denial issued at the start.
Magritte's conceit has been re-used and re-issued ad infinitum by product designers and this is the Berlin version. At least it's inverted.
Monday, 23 August 2010
Generated in real time by seismic vibration sensors, the sounds are the concrete's experience at that time, its physical movements as you're standing next to it listening to its inner life, stimulated by passing underground trains and more subtle atmospheric traffic like lifts and aircon, converted from feedback vibes into noises.
Whilst tweaking the gallery space on the ground floor, the architect Arno Brandlhuber, whose offices are now in the building, told me that he got the idea at an architecture festival and subsequently invited the artist Mark Bain to come up with a permanent sound installation - which he did, and called it Bug.
Also based here is the magazine 032c which holds exhibitions and parties in the gallery...
Friday, 20 August 2010
Hackney Council has been dishing out disused retail spaces to creative projects with some magical results:
www.bannerrepeater.org - A pop up library and bookshop in the old waiting room on Hackney Downs station. Waiting 13 minutes for a train in London is infuriating. Unless you have an art library to hand. Which is free and full of hilarious zine comics and white-space-filled weighty tomes produced in indy publishing companies in Berlin. Simple and effective. I love you.
www.postedprojects.co.uk - A micro-museum to the fading era of non-digital mail. Artworks by Brit Art femmes Tracey Emin and Polly Morgan, among others.
www.somethingandson.com - A farm in a townhouse. Rasberries growing in the salon! Chickens pecking on the roof! Fish swimming in the café!
It swears it's more of a bar than a gallery, but hanging new pictures every single day is enough exhibition installation work to qualify as the latter, at least for the duration of the Kreuzberg Biennale throughout which this daily changeover continues. Add the quotidian displays to the 'permanent' collection on the ceiling and you've got almost as many artworks as you have beers within its three tiny rooms.
The night I sampled, named Happy Birthday Charlie Sexton (for the simple reason that it was actually the guitarist Charlie Sexton's birthday... and there was cake...) was curated by Dora Csala and displayed her classmates' work from Visual Communications at UDK. The low-fi aesthetic of The Forgotten Bar and the work on show that night matches Dora's photography, shown above wallpapering the front of the bar.
Unpretentious and continually under construction, this non-gallery epitomizes the spaces popping up around the Kreuzberg / Neukölln border (Kreuzkölln if you must) - fun, DIY and getting hassle from the neighbours for spilling out onto the street.
Built in 1847 and a hospital until 1970, Bethanien, in Kreuzberg's Mariannenplatz, is one of the longest squatted buildings in Berlin. First occupied in 1971 in protest to proposals to knock it down and replace it with social housing, the 450 square metre sprawl of neo-Gothic brickwork has since become an arts institute. It now contains Kunstraum Kreuzberg, the BBK Berlin printing studio, media arts lab Künstlerhaus Bethanien, and the Friedrichshain Kreuzberg district music school.
After the increasing officialdom of recent years had progressively aggravated defenders of building's public ownership, a bunch of squatters reclaimed one wing, now inhabited and decorated in the clichéd, graffitied, punk squat style, accompanied by a thriving veggie patch and Drop City style communal outdoor spaces beside caravan-cum-shacks.
The art programmes, restaurant and visitors continue, resulting in a rebel/institute dynamic that might offer a lesson in a social arrangement of dialectic harmony. That the re-squatting is supported by the institution is seen by some as an act of guilt resolution by those previously anti-establishment artists connected with Bethanien who have since found success and now happily exhibit in commercial galleries and state supported institutions.
The Glasgow School of Art final MA show, Definite Article, is currently exhibited in the main gallery space. Rosemary Scanlon's naive-looking, watercolours of uncanny scenes entitled The Hunt, Looking Glass and Say What What Way (below) are some of the show's highlights.
Other stand out works are Fiona Burke's untitled collages masquerading as paintings and Kaifeng Chun's XX washing powder stencil on the floor (both below).
Despite some questionable curatorial choices, like splitting up work by the same artist and opposing it across the mezzanine, the show responded to the grandeur of the space with professional polish. The squatters next door empty the historic hospital arches of some of their institutional hauteur, but nevertheless the columns and covered courtyards of the building give an establishment air that requires living up to.
The loudest piece in the show is Ellie Harrison's series of popcorn machines representing financial crises of the past century. From the Wall Street Crash in 1929 through the US Recession of 1937, the UK Crash of 1973, Black Monday in 1987, the Japanese Asset Price Bubble of 1990, Black Wednesday in 1992, the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, the Russian Financial Crisis the following year, the Dot Com Bubble of 2000 and The Chinese Correction in 2007 until the Credit Crunch of 2008, the series of popcorn makers is activated in a time sequence corresponding to the years.
The lumping of the Dot Com Boom in with the 1937 US Recession is dubious, but less so the metaphor of puffing and exploding a basic foodstuff into fluffy pieces which are dramatically vomited onto the floor, only to be swept aside. Whether astute, amusing or crass, the result is a sweet smelling show.
Thursday, 19 August 2010
Friend of Coco Chanel, Salvador Dali, Maria Callas and Elsa Schiaparelli, interior designer Duarte Pinto Coelho surrounded himself with talent and beauty for the best part of the twentieth century. Before his death last month at the age of 87, he applied his eye and knowledge to the Finca Cortesin hotel in Andalucia, his last project.
Fenced off from the horrors of the Costa del Sol, the Portuguese decorator's experienced hand lifted what could so easily have been another bland 5-star out of ubiquity and elevated it to an atmospheric space with treats tucked into the corners and spilling from the plasterwork.
Highlights (above) include wooden millinery blocks, faded tapestries and embroidery, Manuel Canovas fabrics, an Arabian-style cut and painted ceiling, a leather-topped cards table with mother of pearl inlays, numerous well-worn grey-painted wooden doors and lampstands, and a jolie-laide miniature crystal totem on a polished gemstone table.
Duarte said he learned his trade by observing the grand Parisian homes of Baron Alexis de Redé and Barons de Rothschild in the 1940s, from which he picked up the conventional style that won him contracts with the Spanish royal family. He later worked on the restoration of artworks and ceramics for the National Museum of Decorative Arts, Madrid, and was awarded two medals for his contribution to Spanish artistic culture.
He started early, as he explained to the Portuguese magazine Faces, “When my parents went out, I would change the house, moving things here and there, and when they returned they never scolded me, because the changes were always for the better ”.