Making Sense of Berlin Art Week

10/08/2015 06:18 pm ET Updated Oct 08, 2016

The ephemeral nature of human constructed walls...


...touching human hands during the 15 September "STADT BILD: Allan Kaprow Fluids 1967/2015," a reconstruction of the 1967 Allan Kaprow Happening, "Fluids".

This opening night event of a 2015 Berlin Art Week marked by collaboration between institutions was a terrific symbol for Berlin, now 26 years into its ongoing urban project of reunification.


The ice house constructed behind the Neue Nationalgalerie, dedicated to the art of the 20th century, attracted an opening night crowd in search of 21st century art forms.

Kaprow's interactive imprints on 21st century art were visible throughout the city -- from the Neue Nationalgalerie in the former West Berlin to the Hamburger Bahnhof in the shadow of the imprint of the former Berlin Wall...


...where Ahmet Ogut's "One Ordinary Happening" saluted Kaprow's "Fluids" while quenching the thirst for audience participation in the art piece.

René Block is on hand with talks throughout the fall to extend the meaning of it all while claiming his well-deserved title as (r)evolutionary...


Nasan Tur's "Time for Revollusion" in the relevatory Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (NBK) "Ich Kenne kein Weekend! Archiv and Sammlung Rene Block," a collaboration with Berlinische Gallerie.

Block's astounding "out of the box" art archive extends beyond gallery capabilities, except perhaps in boxed form...


The international avant-garde curator's archive on view in the newly reconstructed Berlinische Gallerie.


The flow between the tension of opposites informing his Block's fluxus experiments revealed in this installation view at NBK in Mitte.


The archival documentation of Kaprow's 1976 "Sweet Wall" Happening in the divided Berlin.

Along with extending the Kaprow homage from constructing ephemeral (melting) walls, an authentic success story about breaking down walls between east/west was just a footnote in a catalogue. Macoto Murayama, a Japanese artist discovered by this critic at the 2014 Positions...


...returned this year with KOSMOS in a public institution, the Botanical Museum Berlin.

The opening of KOSMOS was celebrated with the electronic musician Claudio PRC performance in the center of the jungles recreated in the main Tropical Greenhouse of the Botanic Garden.

Murayama's deserved elevation out of the art fair to the public museum space within a year is a sign of Berlin's movement into a new space for art, a third space that is beyond both the international marketplace and the bohemian creative scene defining the reunified city.

The fact that a Japanese artist unveiled this unifying language for art in Berlin, a city newly defined by its unity of former opposites, reveals Berlin Art Week recognizing its own potential as a gathering place for a new dialectic in global art.


Murayama has integrated technology and nature into a new artistic language associating biology with sacred geometry -- a view into an interconnected universe defined by dynamic and circular patterns.

And speaking of a Third language, Slavs and Tartars, the local stars of Berlin Art Week revealed their tireless process for an ongoing creation for the hierosgamos....


Slavs and Tartars iconic imagery engages the Third space between the opposites of word and image.

...articulating the collaborative effort made by the city and its institutions to newly define Berlin through the integration of a divided past.


The geometric pattern of state planning in Berlin on view in "STAT/BILD: The Dialogic City: Berlin wird Berlin" at the Berlinische Gallery...


...taken up by Slavs and Tartars' migration of language into the object. 'Dschinn and Dschuice" at Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler extends their inquiry of language and symbol into the mesmerizing dynamic solid/ephemeral form of "Reverse Joy".

The two fairs, Art Berlin Contemporary (ABC) at Station Berlin and Positions at the new creative center of Arena in Kreuzberg, have split their differences by way of tactics.

Art Berlin Contemporary (ABC) adopted the artist installation approach:


Thomas Geiger's "Sperling" was one of the most effective and amusing installations at ABC...


...which brought ancient icons into interaction with contemporary life.

Positions took the traditional approach of a gallery showcasing the artists in their stable. This made for a meaningful experience only if the gallerist has the courage to put their unique vision on public display. This was evident in Chimera Project, an experimental Budapest gallery...


...Chimera Project's director Patrick Urwyoler, an art historian, curated a museum-worthy presentation. The newly rising star, Adrian Kupcsik, whose boldly political iconic deconstruction of iconic images (above) penetrates boundaries both in form and content...opposing...


...the seasoned vision contained in Geza Perneczky's geometry of the isolated path of the artist made holistic through his sacred geometry of the circle.

The complementary concept of the fairs mounted in similar vast inner spaces this year revealed two things: a) that international galleries are seeking Berlin as a showplace, if not a marketplace, for their art b) that there are a remarkable amount of international artists based in Berlin and represented by Berlin galleries.

The irony of my own treasure hunt through both fairs is that the passage through the labyrinth of Positions revealed more rewards than ABC, leaving one to wonder about the ominous truth...


This sticker, placed in strategic areas outside ABC suggested that the artists themselves paid for their installations inside the fair.

Positions revealed the movement of the hierosgamos -- the marriage of the 20th century war between opposites (abstraction vs. figuration) is in full swing. The depressing reality about ABC is how few of the featured artists were bold enough to really utilize the space and concept to envelop the visitor in their individual art world.

In the galleries and institutions, a new dialectic born of the very topography of Berlin (made into archeology by the collaborative avant-garde duo Susanne Weirich and Robert Bramkamp) was dominated by the local art collective Slavs and Tartars, breaking down walls of their own.

Working directly with the languages between two barriers, the Berlin Wall and the Great Wall of China, the Slavs and Tartars male/female collaboration took its leadership position in Berlin Art Week 2015, straddling the gallery and institution to disseminate a dialectic of language itself within the increasingly multicultural atmosphere of Berlin.


The circular reading table in the Slav and Tartars exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhof was an entry into their revolutionary approach to new cyclical paradigm. Their nomination for the Preise der Nationalgalerie 2015 provides the public with a rare opportunity to sit and absorb their creations connecting hand and eye with thinking heart.

With his arrival in Berlin, Gabriel Kuri transcended into a 21st century global art star. His aptly titled "An old niche for your new need" at Esther Schipper elevated the 16 September galleries opening night into a high note of excitement.


L.A.-based Mexican artist, Gabriel Kuri, with one of the "I collate, I convey, I comply" series of his first stone sculptures revealing a solid archeological foundation even as the creation discovers its own niche...


...conveying a 21st century paradigm shift within its essential form, integrating the pop dialectic of the everyday object into the archeology of the ever-present origin marrying past, present and future.

Berlin's own multimedia star, Wim Wenders, arrived from the Toronto International Film Festival to open an exhibition of new photographic series...


Wenders poignant series of the decay of American Drive-In were located in a more intimate space upstairs from these large scale views of his "Time Capsules: By The Side Of The Road" at Blain|Southern.


Wim Wenders with Christina Lowe at the opening of his new photography series at Blain/Southern.

Wenders made good on his recent vow to take his very own dialectic of the Third, carried out in his latest film premiered at the 2015 Berlinale, Everything Will Be Fine, a family drama filmed in 3-D with the real-time suspense of Hitchcock that left early audiences dazed and confused.

Dazed and confused is to be expected when a new movement bursts fully into being, tossing all that has passed into the dustbins of history. The unexpected result of Berlin's post-1989 growth pains -- from an international bohemian creative center humming to a techno beat to a new dialectic for international art -- reveals the sense of Berlin Art Week 2015, arriving on the heels of the amazing festival of lights celebrating 25 years of integration.

It is now clear the sense of utilizing Berlin Art Week to inspire international participation in a highly developed network of local collaboration between city officials, institutions, galleries and project spaces to document Berlin's history of difference as a foundation for an integrated future.

The purpose is to make internationally recognizable what its local multimedia art star, Wim Wenders, has known since he graced world cinema with his Der Himmel über Berlin/Wings of Desire, which anticipated the universal icon unifying the divided city in a new century. With that 1987 film, Wenders transformed the local desire to unite a city divided by the human-constructed wall into cosmos.

This linking of erotic desire to unification was highlighted in Berlin Art Week 2015 with the "Proximities and Desires" at ABC. The curated exhibition was a crucial sideline to the main event. It opened with Ana Mendieta -- who sacrificed her life to her courageous plunge into dark cupid -- and hinted at the archeology behind this universal longing with the presentation of an anonymous androgynous head of a king beside Heimo Zobernig's gender-bending videos. There was also the surprise of the timeless...


...Hannah Wilke's 1975 "Hello Boys" as the deserved centerpiece for an exhibition that, at last, brought eroticism as the field of play between gender opposites into the art dialectic.


It is pure Berlin poetry that Murayana's KOSMOS refers backwards to the city's own Alexander Humbolt and yet forwards to Wim Wenders' cinema to place the scarred but healing urban landscape into a new global era.

When walls break down...


...the alchemical conversion takes place, interchanging particle and wave into a fluid third entity...


...on view through the melting ice on the third day of the Happening.


Lisa Paul Streitfeld is a philosopher and art critic based in Berlin. "Making Sense of Berlin Art Week" will be the first in a series of talks on Berlin as the focal point for a new global art movement sponsored by David Hadman's Organization for the Democratization of the Arts. Go to this link for more information: http://odbk.dhadmann.com/index.php/events/making-sense-of-berlin-art-week/

Photo credits are by LPS, except for KOSMOS, courtesy of Frantic Gallery in Tokyo, and used with permission.