Everything about about Comedy Club is kept low key. The location and the general information is minimal; it’s an exhibition in an attic room of a semi-disused warehouse in the Neukölln. It’s organised by Jens Einhorn, Anne Fellner and Burkhard Beschow, features work by 13 artists including Sofia Restorp, Alex Rathbone, Tamina Amadyar, Robert Brambora, and Santiago Taccetti among others and runs in parallel to Berlin Gallery Weekend, April 29 to May 1.
At the top of a stairwell, beside the doorway, a toy butterfly skewered on a curved wire rod circles around the opening of a large crisp packet from a hidden motor inside. Crumbs beside the packet release oil into the concrete dust. It is a work by Paul Barsch. I am lightheaded and seeing stars because the exhibition is at the top of a long spiral staircase that scales the corner of the mostly abandoned building. The sculpture has a smoother mechanism but remains positively lo-fi in its technics, like a hand drawn animation superimposed over 35mm film. In its cyclical dance, a comic gesture, perfected in this automaton, indicates the threshold of the show; the bouncer.
Past the doorway, a skinny tubular structure, one of several of Erik Larsson’s ‘Beach Bums’ works emerges from a mound of sand. Jammed into each other with shims of banknotes; currencies I can’t make out amongst other domestic debris. These notes serve a function to wedge and physically support. Behind this work, a punk and his dog sits in a little scene with their backs against a large modernist object by Lin May Saeed. A haggard host welcoming us to the venue, its crude white plaster legs bleed rust from their internal armature. Alongside it are the words “WR 6603 ART BRUT” written in paint on the ground. The paint is older, inflicting my reading of the sculpture in such proximity; the punk in a moment of disdain contemplating ‘Art Brut’ in huge letters at its feet.
These words and numbers, along with other wall drawings and graffiti in the attic were made in the early 2000s. I piece together a narrative through my conversation with the organisers of an artist who went by the name of Dada Reiner. Two manifesto-like texts by Reiner were found in a stairwell dated from 2001, they included his views on the art-industrial-complex and his methods of practice. The texts have been brought into the space of the show and left on a beam to be read. It is confusing perhaps for the art viewer in search of an exhibition text, but this derailment and the possible co-option of Reiner’s politics is part of the routine at the club.
In the second room Tilman Hornig’s rear painted window frames feel nostalgic and inward in this scenario, their materiality put under scrutiny by that of the attic space. In the adjacent eaves the room is part sectioned-off by a wire mesh, a white rectangle of fabric creates a quick-fix wall divide, and inside this is a salon of small paintings by Real Positive. Unknown schematics, wires gridding the surface of a canvas. In another work I make out wind turbines, or stars collaged from pills and silver foil, a gritty future.
Against a landscape painting by exhibition organiser Fellner, two crude cars made from tin food cans travel in static motion alongside an improvised wall. They’re part children’s toys, part anachronistic prototype, forgotten and resigned to the loft. The metal, cut and torn into vehicles, feels like a dark critique of our modern aspirations and tragedies. A video with clips from Disney-Pixar’s computer-animated comedy adventure film Cars and a text describing the tin can’s journey make up parts of this installation by Fellner & Beschow. Like with Saeed’s art brut punk, there is a contemplation of the future through the tendencies of how we interpret and fetishize the past and its production values, at times with fairytale simplicity.
Comedy Club is short and sweet but its jokes are long-winded and bitter. It feels timeless, in that it occupies a crusty building and shows emerging art. Timed with Berlin Gallery Weekend, the character of many of the works and the precarious rooms they inhabit turn in on the official market-driven programme with a critical gaze. Sub-cultural systems of practice as affect, historical assimilation, spun out. As one of the organisers jokes, it’s an ‘underground’ show but it’s above us in an attic.**