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Berlin
 
20150202123223-16394932031_4b205182f1_k
Haus der Kulturen der Welt
John-Foster-Dulles-Allee 10, D-10557 Berlin, Germany
January 28, 2015 - February 1, 2015


Transmediale Festival's 2015 Exhibitions Bring Artist Labor and Bodies into Focus
by Nadja Sayej


“There is a lot of freedom to being a freelancer,” once said journalist Don Gibb. “You get to work any 13 hours of the day you like.”

The same can be said for any self-employed entrepreneur—including artists. Much is to be learned from this year’s “Capture All" edition of Transmediale, the annual digital art festival famous for its screenings, performances, exhibitions, and conference that hash out media art every year in Berlin. This year the festival's main exhibitions, held over the past four days in the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, included artists whose work deals with alter egos and privacy, but also offered a smart take on the endless stream of internet-based work culture, a subject close to this author's own heart.

Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Invisible, 2014. Courtesy of Transmediale Festival exhibition CAPTURE ALL. Photo © Paco Neumann

 

Heather Dewey-Hagborg presented one of the smartest pieces in the show with Invisible (2014). Fashioned as an infomercial, she created a kit for protection against biological privacy. “The Erase Spray” allows one to remove their DNA from a wine glass, while “The Replace” adds DNA noise. At Transmediale, she revealed the recipe and instructions for her piece, which is open source and is launching a new website for community research into bio privacy.

(left) Zach Blas, Face Cages, 2013–2015. Photo: © Julien Paul. 

(right) LaTurbo Avedon, Commons, 2015. Photo © Paco Neumann. Both: Courtesy of Transmediale Festival exhibition CAPTURE ALL

 

 

Two visually stunning pieces included Face Cages by Zach Blas (2013–2015), which takes medieval torture devices and fashions them as metal masks, and the avatar-persona LaTurbo Avedon’s video Commons (2015), which is a curated collection of video clips from the artist's friends and followers.

Jennifer Lyn Morone’s Jennifer Lyn Morone Inc (2014) transforms the artist into an imperfect corporation, spouting out motivational videos and business-speak. If she were actually selling a product in the videos, including clear links for downloading and fee information, she might well be successful with such a branding mechanism.

Time and Motion: Redefining Working Life, Installation view, 2015. Courtesy of Transmediale Festival. Photo © Paco Neumann

 

Speaking of selling, HKW's lower level featured a guest Transmediale exhibition entitled Time and Motion: Redefining Working Life, which really hit a nerve. It looked into labor in the digital era, though to me, it showed how technology can make people broke. With home offices, we spend so much time online, but how much of that time is actually productive or profitable? A few examples spell it out, starting with the pioneering piece by Taiwanese artist Teching Hsieh, One Year Performances 1978-1986, including the durational Time Clock Piece daily selfie.

Tehching Hsieh, One Year Performance 1980-1981, Punching the Time Clock. Photo: Michael Shen. © Tehching Hsieh. Courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery

 

Oliver Walker showed One Euro (2014), a multi-channel video that documents how long it takes several people in places all over the world to make one euro. Some videos are one second; others go on for an hour. It puts the world economy into perspective, including the wage of the artist—how much did he receive to exhibit this video?

Our lives are no longer the standard eight hours of work, eight hours of rest, and eight hours of play, as Sam Meech points out in Punchcard Economy (shown at top). He used data collected from people’s working hours in the digital and creative industries to create a knitted banner with a design made from digital glitches fused with old school punchcard systems.

Ellie Harrison, Timelines, 2006, at Time and Motion: Redefining Working Life. Courtesy of Transmediale Festival. Photo © Paco Neumann

 

The wizard-behind-the-curtain piece was Timelines (2006) by Glasgow-based artist Ellie Harrison, who color-codes her productivity, showing how much time she spends on pitching projects and writing proposals versus actually making art. This is a stark contrast to the romantic image of the artist we hold so high, but what can be done? This show is the first step in recognizing one of the art world’s biggest problems: the financial independence of artists. The answer lies in increasing our financial education, spending time learning more about personal finance. But also, to speak up as these artists have, and continue to do something about it.

 

Nadja Sayej

 

Nadja Sayej from ArtStars* Books writes about the business side of Art and how Artists can get their shit together.

 

(Image at top: Sam Meech, Punchcard Economy, at Time and Motion: Redefining Working Life. Courtesy of Transmediale Festival. Photo © Paco Neumann)



Posted by Nadja Sayej on 2/2 | tags: conceptual artist labor video-art time and labor transmediale festival 2015 capture all transmediale digital

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20150204181831-groupshow_4a
Group Exhibition
carlier | gebauer
Markgrafenstraße 67, D-10969 Berlin, Germany
January 31, 2015 - March 14, 2015


If the films are the walls, what are the windows?
by Nicole Rodríguez


It’s laid out like an obstacle course of sensory imagination—works mindfully scattered throughout the space, hung on walls, towering like disembodied limbs amidst the void, protruding from their designated places threatening to shape shift.

In conjunction with the German premiere of British filmmaker Emily Wardill’s When You Fall into a Trance at carlier | gebauer, the artist has curated an adjacent group show in conversation with curator Jesi Khadivi, who joined carlier | gebauer late last year. I hear your voice reflected in a glass and it sounds like it is inside of me responds to and draws thematically from the film, incorporating works that gesture at the topic of proprioceptive disorder, the inability of bodily stimuli to register with the brain. Wardill’s film is the exhibition’s point of origin and, borrowing the very technique it so frequently employs, the exhibition acts somewhat as a distorted reflection or extension of it.

Emily Wardill, When You Fall into a Trance, 2013, video still, 72 min. © Courtesy of the artist & carlier | gebauer

 

At 72 minutes, When You Fall into a Trance examines the correlation between body and mind in both concretized and visceral ways. At its surface, it’s an examination of the complex relationship between neuroscientist Dominique and her patient Simon. Simon has been diagnosed with impaired proprioception, a condition that has crippled his neuro-motor ability to perceive the position of his own body. In practical terms, he lacks the ability to move the parts of him that he cannot see—if the lights were to go out, he would collapse. The feelings of uncertainty implicit in the condition are amplified across the film. Characters experience moments of clarity, only to be consumed by a fog once again.

Although the artist has presented the film in a dimmed room with viewing chairs and a large projection screen—the typical atmosphere for a convincing theater experience—it is not all engrossing. Wardill has paid particular attention to the stagecraft of her film, pairing intimate moments with methods of acting that remind viewers of their active watching of the film and the construction of its narrative through interpretation.

Emily Wardill, When You Fall into a Trance, 2013, video still, 72 min. © Courtesy of the artist & carlier | gebauer

 

Then there are the distorted visuals. At once a filmic reference for Simon’s condition—or the alienating sensation produced as a result of it—the distorted biomorphic images lend the film a tinge of distrust. The film's warped images, necessitating a double-take, are key visuals echoed in two black and white photographs by Hungarian-born photographer André Kertész, who is included in the group repertoire. The two images from his Distortions series (1933) depict female figures reflected in distorted mirrors—a significant detail that points directly back to the film and to Kertész as a historical influence on Wardill and her own use of undulating distortion mirrors in the production of her film.   

The initial link from When You Fall Into a Trance to the greater exhibition, explains Kahdivi in an interview with ArtSlant, stems from a question Wardill herself had posed to the late Ian White in the title of an artist book they made together in 2010: If the films are the walls, what are the windows? While meditating on this thesis and reviewing works by carlier | gebauer’s artists, the exhibition began to emerge piece by piece, “taking on a life of its own, beyond framing the film,” Khadivi explains.

Mood was an important element of the installation. We didn’t want it to be too polite or beautiful, instead we hoped that it would read as slightly off-kilter. The placement of Tomasz Kowalski’s sculpture with the disembodied prosthetic holding the cane and the never-ending scale in Peter Coffin’s video Untitled (Shepard Risset Glissando Shirt) was intended to immediately make the viewer aware of their own body—in a way that is not necessarily comfortable—and to strike a kind of perceptual shift upon entering the threshold of the exhibition. 


I hear your voice reflected in a glass and it sounds like it is inside of me, 2015, exhibition view. @ Courtesy of the artists & carlier | gebauer

 

With both the group exhibition and the full film there is a profound sense of investigation—not a call to learn, but a provocation to remember something so inherent in all of us.

This nagging questioning, a poking-prodding sensation, leads a viewer to drown in rhizomatic thinking where you find a connection and lose it again—a constant picking up and dropping that lends the project a strong sense of honest credibility. It’s a feeling imbued by the investigation between both Wardill and Khadivi, that if audible would sound like “trailing sentences, long pauses, ideas pilling atop one another,” as Khadivi put it.

One thing that came up a lot in my reading and my conversations with Emily regarding the exhibition is how neurological disturbances not only upset the balance of perception, but also shake the very foundations of one’s identity. What then differentiates a man from a machine? Or a human from an object? In light of these questions, see Tomasz’s sculpture as a sort of absurd conductor of a gang of misfit toys—animating biomorphic objects and romantic machines. 

Possible mind-body relationships triangulate in the exhibition: what is a head without a body? A body without a head? These are simple, almost goofy questions that strike at the core of how Cartesian thought proposes that the essence of our identity lies in thought—thus privileging the mind over the body. Other thinkers, like Michel Serres, claim that the body has an intelligence proper to itself—its own way of knowing, storing memories, solving problems—and that the body will also “know” before the mind. 


I hear your voice reflected in a glass and it sounds like it is inside of me, 2015, exhibition view. @ Courtesy of the artists & carlier | gebauer

 

Wardill’s film may have been the exhibition’s genesis, but upon completion of its tandem collection, the film’s primacy is called into question. The two elements become symbiotic. To quote Khadivi once more, “If we were to take one work out of the constellation, the entire installation would fall flat, I think. It’s intentionally constructed to feel like a scenario on its last legs—but it’s also meant to be funny.” 

 

Nicole Rodriguez

 

(Image at top: I hear your voice reflected in a glass and it sounds like it is inside of me, 2015, exhibition view. @ Courtesy of the artists & carlier | gebauer)



Posted by Nicole Rodríguez on 2/4 | tags: photography video-art installation sculpture Proprioception cartesian duality

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20150217131214-michelberger

The Freelance Cafe Guide: Berlin
by Paul Hanford


You know who I'm talking about: sipping the dregs of an hour-cold flat white, hidden amidst a fortress of MacBooks and Moleskines, using a public cafe as their own personal workspace. Yeah, you've see them—you may even be one of them. And I confess to you: I too am one of those people.

It wasn't always like this. I used to rent a studio space. It was cold, smelled of fish (from the market below) and the WiFi was more selective than the bouncers at Berghain. More and more often, I found myself bunking off to work in the nearest cafe, and what I found there was inspirational: life in flux. For many in the position to work remotely, cafes offer a constantly shifting hub atmosphere. Pay rent in coffee and lunch and never read another post-it note about whose turn it is to buy milk ever again.

As it happens, I'm in Berlin once again, and so to compile the first in an ad hoc series into the world's best laptop-friendly cafes for freelancers, I'll start from where I'm currently sat, which is...

 

Sankt Oberholz
Rosenthaler Straße 72A, 10119 Berlin
U8 Rosenthaler Platz
www.sanktoberholz.de

This is it. The Citizen Kane, the OK Computer of laptop cafes. And I’m not just talking Berlin. The legitimacy of spending long amounts of time working in a cafe is validated by the amount of plug sockets on offer; here, it is plug city. I'm sat along one of the chunky benches that fold along the lower floor (there are two floors) as the huge windows spray in swathes of natural light from the busy Rosenthaler Platz and the staff spark like a team rather than a collection of mismatched haircuts. Every time I get here I feel like a passenger on a happy caffeine-fuelled ship. Hub experience at its best, as good for people-watching as it is for deadline-crunching.

 

KaffeBar
Graefestr. 8, 10967 Berlin
U8 Schönleinstrasse
www.kaffeebar-berlin.com

Key benefit of hot-desking: without being tied to a rigid office, you have a responsibility to yourself to find the cafe that suits your mood (and workload). KaffeBar is ideal for mornings. Located a cigarette's walk from Schönleinstrasse U Bahn in Kreuzkölln’s leafiest grid, KaffeBar is clean and cozy yet spacious enough to find a bit of desk or sofa to get a couple of hours' work done, if not a whole day. I say mornings, because like Climpsons in Hackney or Grumpy’s in Greenpoint, it has that feel of waking human traffic: charge up with their delicious eggs benedict and a green super smoothie, read the papers, do your emails, and move on.

 

Tischendorf
Friedelstrasse 25, 12047 Berlin
U8 Schönleinstrasse
www.tischendorfe-berlin.de

Hidden gem alert. Seriously cute tea room, a Beatrix Potter’s lair of mismatched vintage furniture and curated bric-a-brac. Being polite to staff and other customers, I don’t think you’d want to push more than a few hours here. However, as an afternoon choice, it makes a great double bill with the nearby KaffeBar.

 

Betahaus
Prinzessinnenstraße 19-20, 10969 Berlin

U8 Moritzplatz
www.betahaus.com

A short walk from Kottbusser Tor, Betahaus, in the heart of Kreuzberg, offers both a laptop friendly cafe as well as (like Sankt Oberholz) private studio space. Being set off the road, it has this University canteen feel and can get extremely busy—so if you're up late you run the risk of hunting for a tiny bit of space wide enough to work on. It has this rather charming wooden raised seating area in the middle of it, like a treehouse. They do fantastic chai lattes and if you order lunch, you have to listen out for your name being called out over a muffled tannoy—which some may not find as charming as I.

 

Michelberger Hotel
Warschauer Str. 39/40 10243 Berlin
U1 Warschauer Str
www.michelbergerhotel.com

Disadvantage: it's a hotel, so the clientele is more likely to be flux in travel rather than a settled Berlin hub. Advantage: the design! It has book cases, it has a zebra-striped bathroom. Detail. Detail. Detail. The Overlook Hotel reimagined by Wes Anderson. And how you react to that description totally determines if it’s your cup of latte macchiato or not.

Paul Hanford

 

(Image at top: Michelberger.  All images: Paul Hanford)



Posted by Paul Hanford on 2/17 | tags: Michelberger Hotel berlin wifi freelancing berlin cafes Betahaus Tischendorf kaffebar Sankt Oberholz freelance cafe guide

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