The 15th Istanbul BiennialA Good Neighbour is taking place at venues across the Turkish city, opening September 16 and running to November 12.
Curated by artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset (Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset), the curatorial premise poses a series of questions asking if a good neighbor is, “a stranger you don’t fear,” “from a neighboring country,” and “leaving you alone,” to name a few. Levels of intimacy and distance are are explored through the concept of the acquaintance.
The Berlin-based artist presents a new body of work for her first UK solo show that addresses the contrast between “clinical representations of science, conservation, and heritage alongside the natural ferocity of decomposing organic matter”. Pariset questions notions of sustainability, whether ecological, cultural or emotional.
The motivations for what should be preserved or discarded are an underlying conflict between collective and individual interests, as the preservation of data and critical waste management is an increasing concern.
In addition to the formal and material experiments with new sculpture and photographic image distribution, Pariset incorporates organic properties, such as live mealworms together with home-made bio-plastic.
On the way to new London gallery Union Pacific, there’s a health and wellness centre called Zen Clinic. It’s a title that’s emblematic of the the all-too-familiar contradiction of late-capitalist desire, where the privileged fallacy of ‘self-actualisation’ comes in the cryo-packed quick fix of commodity spiritualism; of body and soul subsumed by industry. It’s an idea that has occupied the minds of gallery founders Grace Schofield and Nigel Dunkley for a while now, the latter of whom explored the Western business model for Eastern metaphysics as part of the N/V_PROJECTS-curated The Fulfillment Centre at the The Sunday Painter earlier this year.
In bringing together the work of artists represented by Union Pacific, as well as those artists’ friends, and those artists’ friends’ friends, for its inaugural exhibition – aptly titled Union – a thematic thread, birthed from the eighth hexagram symbolising ‘holding together’ in the Ancient Chinese I Ching and borne along the Union Pacific railroad enterprise, emerges. Perdo Wirz‘s ‘Dials’ (2014), a rubber hose meant to be used as a pipe of sorts to be shared at the exhibition opening but turning out to be toxic is chained to the outer front window as a means to be taken, only to have the gallery roller-door down, blocking the potential for artefact and appropriator to come into contact.
Adriano Costa‘s simple sculptural addition, a concrete filled bottle with its plastic promise of ‘Little Miracles’ (2014) weighs down a pillow’s soft center, while Yves Scherer‘s tantalisingly jarring baby blue Tatami mat and perspex in the wall mounted ‘Sirens (Sauereien)’ (2014) glares across and down at Olga Balema‘s ‘Untitled’ (2014) fountain. Steel beams engraved with fragments of cryptic diary entries rust under a stream of water splashing indiscriminately out of its bucket and onto the gallery floor. Companion piece ‘Untitled (shaky blood stone)’ (2014) looks across from a corner; a motorised piece of red and hardened epoxy glue shivering in the chiseled niche of a solid granite block.
This is all a fairly familiar feeling of hybrid cross-cultural and corporate tropes drowning out any sense of individuality. Downstairs and in the dark Julie Born Schwartz‘s subjects in the ‘Love has no reason’ (2014) video literally embody this commonality by becoming transformed by the masks made from images of other people. Jan Kiefer‘s ‘Base: biz fed ecb’ (2014) sculpture nearby features a miniature model of the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, lovingly engraved into copper beech wood and topped with a traditionally made cone-shaped candle by Matthias Huber.
Back upstairs Max Ruf‘s ‘The monuments proved visible in the morning’ (2014) looms in three panels of paintings of corporate logos rendered unrecognisable in its abstract landscape that’s less location and more time and motion. Aude Pariset‘s inner anxiety of being a house guest is externalised in the woozy movement of an inkjet print on dry and cracking rice paper for ‘Bedroom Posters (To Leave)’ (2014). The gallery guestbook suspended beside it evokes Constant Dullaart’s thoughts on the ‘consumer experience’ of 21st-century travel: “hitching a ride is Uber, hospitality is Airbnb, and when you are interested, you are a follower”.
Another Kiefer screens a looping slideshow of brands and popular icons from a macbook. These are handpainted with black acrylic, then digitised and reconfigured into a childish stream of animal cartoons rendered familiar via repetition and reminding its audience: the religion’s in the ritual. **
The documentation of completed art works is usually a closed affair. In the case of Breathing Kevlar, Perforated Skin, the documentationwas the content of the exhibition, which led to a series of bewildering encounters and borderline perverse scenarios.
V4ULT is a project space run out of a studio on Adalbertstrasse, one of the hippest hubs near Kreuzberg’s Kottbusser Tor. Billed as a “performative group show”, the exhibition’s description was otherwise opaque. The blurb read as an ad for Screen Ops Tactical Gloves –hand wear that allows you to use touch-activated electronics while working in “tactical environments”. The relation between the gloves and the show was never explicitly illuminated but the almost poetic perversity of the their description might provide the missing link.
Photographer Mikko Gaestel documented the artworks, for the two-hour exhibition. Several people –friends or benevolent assistants of the artists –lined up in a dark, bare room with the works in hand, ready to be photographed by Gaestel. In the far corner of the room, a one person-wide, brightly-lit closet served as the backdrop for the shoot. The objects were photographed in the hand of their guardian, while visitors could peer into from over Gaestel’s shoulder. The whole thing proved a curiously voyeuristic experience.
The objects to be displayed, though largely unassuming, took on a fetishistic character in the context of their documentation. Martin Kohout’s ‘Sticks: Class A’(2011) looked like a cross between a wind instrument, a weapon and a ritualistic divining rod. The ‘Based on Memory’(2012)Euro coins by Anne de Vries were exhibited enticingly in the palm of their bearer’s cupped hands, like a semi-religious offering. All the while, Hanne Lippard’s familiar voice filled the room, as her audio narrative ‘Dings (Horrorscope 2014)’ (2013) –a series of prophetic reflections on suffocating office atmospheres mixed with astrological truisms –emanated reassuringly from a laptop on a table. It was played on V4ULT’s website (where it can still be seen), the background pattern of Naja Ankarfeldt’s accompanying video, ‘Things’ (2013), meshing seamlessly with the wallpaper itself, giving rise to the V4ULT tag line that “the URL continues IRL”. The site becoming personified –in lieu of the artists themselves –as participant among the performers in the room.
Conceptually, the exhibition was excellent, which made it almost unbearable to experience in real life (conceptual art often only being recognizably good when reflected upon in its wake). There was no indication of how to behave in this strange domestic space, no division between visitors and performers, and seemingly no one ‘in charge’. Witnessing the documentation of an event –before or in the absence of the event itself –produces a sense of fruitless anticipation. This unrequited feeling lingered beyond the one night show, a sure sign of seductive success. **