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A First Look: Venturing into the 8th Berlin Biennale Like (post)Colonial Wanderers
by ArtSlant Team


Lost in the Berlin Biennale: A First Look

Sonja Hornung and Richard Pettifer offer their first impressions of the exhibition.

Fifty artists is not so many for a biennial, and we were certainly looking forward to a concentrated and focused set of exhibitions. Spread across three venues, this Biennale sprawls, conceptually and physically.

Sonja Hornung: ‪We caught the train out to Dahlem, west of Berlin, and got rained on. Once we made it into the exhibition you seemed totally uneasy, Richard—why was that?‬

Richard Pettifer: I couldn’t work out what was from the Biennale and what were pre-existing from the Ethnologisches Museum (Museum of Ethnology, Dahlem)—they were mixed together. It made for an unusual relationship with the space. In the labyrinth of the museum, visitors were constantly asking security to show them where the next artwork was.‬

SH: I enjoyed this game that the curators were playing with us. The Biennale exhibition in Dahlem is a kind of parasite. Most works occupied entire rooms, but some worked with the collection itself or its wall labels and vitrine displays (Mariana Castillo Deball's use of archaelogical methods in You have time to show yourself before other eyes, 2014; Wolfgang Tillmans' Eastern Woodlands Room, 2014). Other artists intervened far more subtly in the structure of the institution itself, tweaking, for example, the lighting system (7,8 HzCarsten Höller, 2001/14), or intervening in the catalogue (Danh Vo, 2014)...

This created some interesting clashes. Remember when we encountered the giant Döner Kebab, part of the museum display, and thought it was art? When we finally found the entrance and were confronted with a strange conflict zone of signage from both the Museum and the Biennale? This confusion was quite funny. What does it mean to situate a major art exhibition within the context of a museum? Especially THIS museum, which has its roots in German colonial past and Prussian pride?

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The Gentleman's Guide to Tropical Photography

Guy Parker looks at the concept of colonial wandering in three films at three Biennale locations.

Having read about the historical themes and ideas that curator Juan A Gaitán chewed over while planning the 8th Berlin Biennale, I wondered if I was supposed to feel like some colonial explorer as I journeyed southwest towards Dahlem and into a Berlin kiez less travelled (by a peripheral fellow traveller of the Berlin art crowd, at least). Someone like Alexander von Humbolt, who undertook the first scientific exploration of South America and whose name is to appear on the controversial Humbolt Forum that is also key bee in the bonnet of Gaitán's concept.

Getting out of the train at Mexikoplatz and walking up Argentinische Allee, a leafy avenue lined with villas behind gardens, behind gates—there is clearly a certain kind of money here, many of these large houses have bars on their ground floor windows—I arrive at Haus am Waldsee.

Tucked away in the stiflingly tranquil and well mannered venue is Patrick Alan Banfield's vyLö:t (2012), a two channel video installation in which large screens face each other—one screen depicts imagery of rampantly overgrown woodland that looks at times like tropical rainforest... 

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Sonja Hornung speaks with Agatha Gothe-Snape about her text-based project on the threshold of the 8th Berlin Biennale

An artist rejects the visual to provide words for a Biennale without a title. Since January this year, Melbourne-based artist Agatha Gothe-Snape has been stringing together compositions of words. Her enigmatic phrases appear splayed across the splash page of the Berlin Biennale, placed where you would ordinarily expect to see a curatorial concept. No explanation provided. Title: Untitled.

{EVERYTHING HAS TWO HANDLES} was my first hit. Yours might be something else.




When I interviewed Gothe-Snape I began to understand how it is that, between the square brackets, these nuggety truisms of hers explode into being. The aesthetic presentation of her offerings and the context in which they appear are determined not by Gothe-Snape but by the Biennale curator Juan Gaitán and its design team, Zak Group. She has relinquished aesthetic control, raising the stakes on the words themselves, which must work as stand-alone compositions...

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The biennale spans three locations in Berlin. Here's a map to help you find your way.



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Posted by ArtSlant Team on 6/2/14

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