Looking back on the past year, here is the editor's choice of the most memorable art moments and most inspired art writing of 2011 in Berlin. The ArtSlant writing team captures this city, defined by its up-and-coming-ness, its desperate hipness, and party-town reputation, while seeking out some of the most innovative moments of contemporary art anywhere, from a room slowly collapsing in on itself, to a gallery infested with ants and spiders...
"Doping them with coolness": Cyprien Gaillard's "Beer-amid" at KW Institute, by Mara Goldwyn
...what was indeed—a pyramid of beer cases, I thought for sure this was a performance piece. Cardboard torn to pieces, bottles smashed, beer stench everywhere –the booze-porn frat-boy image of dudes sitting on a mountain of half-drunk beer bottles seemed like a fitting visual answer to the hoards of art tourists I had come past on my way to good old Kunst-Werke. Art as consumption, consumption as art, banalization of everything in ever-increasing-drunkenness, detritus, vomit… yeah. Berlin in summer, I thought.
Keren Cytter, AVALANCHE/Chain Reaction, 2011, HD 5min; Courtesy Christian Nagel Berlin,Pilar Corrias London, Shau Ort Zurich.
Debaser: based in Berlin at KW Institute, by Alexander Forbes
Utter the words “based in Berlin” here lately and you can practically hear the collective raising of hair on the back of everyone’s neck. Like its predecessors in other cities such as “Greater New York”, few agree on what it means to be based in Berlin and almost all say this is not it. The festival’s organizers certainly did themselves no favors, with controversy erupting long before the final artist roster was released...
Jonathan Schipper, Slow Room, 2011, Courtesy DITTRICH & SCHLECHTRIEM and Jonathan Schipper.
Fate of Entropy: Jonathan Schipper's Slow Room at Dittrich & Schlechtriem, by Devon Caranicas
The room is constantly being pulled backwards and downwards, bending and breaking the various objects as they are pulled into the hole. These gradual degradations create a subtle auditory experience in the gallery; creaking wood and ceramic objects clanging together like a perverse wind chime...
Krisstoffer Myskja, Interference Machine, 2011; Courtesy of Galerie Mario Mazzoli.
Pure joy: Automata a Cappella at Galerie Mario Mazzoli, by Mara Goldwyn
...There’s just so much self-referential, narcissistic/parasitic party art. S-RN/PPA for short. Or post-hipster/BFA, materially-unskilled obscure-history-trawling concept-“curation” (P-H/BFAM-UO-H-TC-”C”), you know? But then, you ask, if I’m so damn bitter, why do I keep hanging around?I got my answer today when I...encountered a series of kinetic-sonic sculptures that actually made me smile.
Pierre Huyghe, C.C. Spider, 2011, Spider; Courtesy of the artist & Esther Schipper.
Spiders, ants, and the flu virus: Pierre Huyghe's Influants at Esther Schipper, by Erik Wenzel
Here was a space as stark as the rest of the gallery with a woman seated at a stylish glass table. “Are you the person with the flu?” I asked. On the corner of the table was the list of works including Influenced, 2011, “A person in a space carrying the flu virus.”
“No, he’s on his lunch break,” she replied. Thank God. My response to that piece is so visceral that I can’t even think about the concept of it as a work of art. I can’t imagine anything worse to do when you have the flu than spending your days amongst a bunch of bare white walls with some spiders and ants. Even thinking about it now I’m just worried about getting sick...
(top image: Cyprien Gaillard,The Recovery of Discovery, 2011, Pappe, Glas, Metall, Bier / Cardboard, glass, metal, beer, ca. / app. 12 x 8 x 4,25 m, Foto / Photo: Josephine Walter;Courtesy KW Institute for Contemporary Art.)