Art I saw in Berlin
I was so excited to finally explore Berlin, the renowned art capital, all the street art, museums and simply breathe the creative vibe. There's even a "museum island"! Since the 90's, after the fall of the wall, the cheap - or free - rent and abandoned spaces attracted hoards of young emerging artists, that have grown and developed their craft in the German capital. There is such a great variety: mediums, scales, high and low brow art. Fancy paintings with ornate frames are just as amazing as some of the incredible pieces painted or glued on the walls of the raggedy warehouses of Kreuzberg. 5 days was not long enough to see and experience it all, but we did manage to squeeze in a museum, where we discovered fabulous new artists, a few tours and promenades decorated with street art.
Berlin welcomed us with rain, what a great excuse to take refuge in the Hamburger Bahnhof, the city's contemporary art museum. The building is the former terminus of the Berlin–Hamburg Railway, so you can just imagine how interesting the architecture is! I love exploring museums and photographing my impressions, the people around, finding reflections, and playing with the architecture. Social media has made this very easy and I'm always fascinated to see stories and posts about the art world all over the globe.
Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Anselm Kiefer and Robert Rauschenberg, amongst others hung in the east wing. These guys are pretty well known, their work is shown in the most prestigious museums, and I'm still marveled by their pieces. But we've heard enough about them, so I'll focus on my new discoveries. On the first floor, we found the work of Raimund Kummer: Sublunar Interference. Such a beautiful title, promising really interesting content. For Kummer, "any site can be a potential site for art", and he's right! Art is everywhere. Art is about light, color, texture, connection and perspective. You don't necessarily need much to create something amazing, and more often than not, less is more. That's why I really enjoyed a slide projection called Sculptures of the street (1978-79), a collection of urban film photographs. The simplicity of the project, with beautiful compositions of dirty streets and construction sites was surprisingly captivating. Very wabi sabi. Finding beauty in the imperfect, the asymmetric, the rough, in a dirty corner or a pile of colorful trash. There is a sense of intimacy, creating a personal connection with something broken, elevating it, making it visible and dignified. Plus, I'm always amused by the old school projectors and the possibility of playing with shadows when you stand in front of it.
His project More light (1991) didn't fall short of amazing either. Touching on the topics of sight and blindness, this glass floor sculpture, reflecting the neon lights of the ceiling was hypnotizing and so photogenic. The exhibition ended in a little dark room filled with carousel slide projectors, projecting hundreds of unexposed film slides on its 4 walls. Being in that room heated by the machines, with the constant loud noise of slides automatically switching, in a room filled filled with cables and a whole lot of nothing was very overwhelming, in a great way. A sense of nostalgia and empty memories that each visitor could fill with his own.
It was still raining, which wasn't a problem for two art lovers, excited to see more despite the museum fatigue in our legs and Eddie's jet lag. We decided to check one more exhibition: Moving is in every direction, "tracing the history of installation art from the 60's until today". So yes, as you can imagine, this included a lot of fantastic pieces, 3500 square meters of art to be exact. I've been feeling more and more intrigued by installation art lately. The strength and often interactive nature of these set ups, make it such a great medium to create a deeper connection between the artist and an increasingly diverse audience. This was an incredible set up. A series of containers lined up one after the other, creating individual spaces for the many and diverse installations. Overwhelming, tiring, but just fantastic. 3 pieces captivated me a little more intensely than the others. Isa Genzkens confronted us to our own body and surroundings with her giant mirror walls, standing strong and tall in the middle of a room. Parallel to each other, these 2 giant constructions were not only a great Instagram photograph opportunity, but an invitation to explore your own self, to become aware of others around you and play with reflections. We spent a good amount of time here, and we weren't the only ones. There's something about mirrors and self perception that is fascinating to human beings, and even more so in this increasing self centered society, where we curate on a daily basis the reflection we want others to see.
I stumbled upon Pipilotti Rist's Remake of the Weekend (1998) behind a curtain. A big dark room with piles of rocks and sand on the floor. Projected onto these, sequences of distorted videos add color to the black that surrounds you. A dreamy music track in the background helps create a peaceful atmosphere. It felt like I was walking through my own blurred, fragile memories. Rist's succeeded to create a comfortable poetic space, where I couldn't help but smile and let my mind wonder while slowly walking around the little islands.At once surreal and so simple.
But perhaps the most fascinating was Bruce Nauman's Room with My Soul Left Out, Room That Does Not Care (1984). At the end of the long hallway, a tinted door led to a brick walled room with a black construction in the middle, a structure of interlinked corridors in the shape of a cross. The room felt dark despite the windows and cold even though the temperature hadn't dropped. An orange glow illuminated the black corridors. The whole thing was slightly nightmare-ish. Walking through I felt claustrophobic, a little uncomfortable and insignificant. The whole experience left me with an odd sense of existential isolation.
I don't understand why museums don't encourage visitors to use their cameras more, to play and to touch the art, like they did at the exhibition at the Kraftwerk, where Olympus' perspective playground took place. Visitors were encouraged to rent cameras at the door to interact, create and play with the installations. Museums are usually "don't touch, don't talk, don't disturb" places, which is so paradoxical when talking about art. Think of Jackson Pollock, almost dancing in a trance on top of his gigantic canvases or Yves Klein's models, physically printing their bodies covered in paint. Art can be so fun and loud. It should be discussed and touched. I'm not saying everybody should go put their dirty hands on all the masterpieces at the MOMA, but it would be beneficial to set up ways to to connect better with the pieces. Ru, our alternative tour guide recommended we check out the exhibition at the Kraftwerk. If our flight was going to be cancelled, there was no point in complaining about it, so we decided to take advantage of the opportunity to explore this amazing space. It really was like a playground for art and design lovers. Surreal sets inviting the public to be a part of the set up, a colorful maze of geometric shapes to get lost in, a light box of LED lights to make you feel like you entered another dimension or a glittery monster of serpentines hanging from the ceiling that danced when you pushed a button were some of the sculptural installations and light works. A truly amazing experience, especially when accompanied by another photographer and art lover. Such a wonderful visual treat.
But you don't need to visit a museum, an exhibition or a gallery to be able to enjoy art in Berlin. Abandoned buildings, huge warehouse walls or the open sides of buildings have all become canvases for street art and graffiti artists. The Berlin Wall itself has become one of the largest open-air museums in the world. Known today as the East Side Gallery, the remains of the wall that run along the Spree river are covered in colorful and poignant pieces discussing topics like tolerance, religion or racism. If I have to be honest, I was a little disappointed by it. After all the hype around it I hoped for much more impacting art and much less disrespectful sharpie signatures. I was actually more drawn to the murals of contemporary artists around town.
It's safe to say the city did live up to the expectations when it comes to art and creativity. And what's even more amazing is how much is out there that I didn't get to see! I'll have to come back soon for more!