In the sparsely furnished, dimly lit hall on the third floor of an enormous dilapidated house, bed frames are loosely arranged around ornate plaster columns in irregular rows. The reference to an orphanage, or a dormitory is immediate and obvious, yet the recurrence of digital printing and a wall-mounted flat screen brings your thoughts back to the Berlin art scene.
EDENunlimited/tbc.tbc is a collaborative project by artists Clémence de La Tour du Pin and Antoine Renard and the curators Elise Lammer and Emiliano Pistacchi. It pulls together sound and installation works of 19 artist from 13 contributing not-for-profit spaces. The show holds a strong aesthetic reference to Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster‘s TH.2058 show, which imagined Tate Modern 50 years into the future as a post-apocalyptic shelter, an installation housing rows of bare metal bed frames and remnants of personal effects. Despite the reference though, experiencing EDENunlimited will not be like walking through the eerily deserted isles of an abandoned ward.
Emphasising audio, each of the 13 installation pieces on show have its own aural composition. Technology varies, ranging from a pair of subwoofers, that seem to be hooked up to two-stroke engine oil, erratically amplifying dialogue from de La Tour du Pin and Renard’s ‘I Do It So It Feels Real’ (2014); to a variety of dinky portable MP3 docks; to several straggly in-ear headphone sets. At the far end of the room, a performer reinterprets Jacques Roger’s ‘Audio File’ (2014) on an acoustic guitar. His quiet strumming rises above the conglomerate noise of the show evaporating gently a moment or two later. In addition, the general sound system, a constantly changing, continuous layer in the exhibition ambience, throws a shroud over the space, at times dominating, or sublimating to, the individual pieces.
Selected by Switzerland’s SALTS, Hannah Weinberger‘s moody track featuring samples of running water, dripping pipes and hollow plumbing, ‘Hi’ (2013), evokes moisture and dankness. It lends itself to the damp old walls that house the exhibition. Occasional sound bites emerging from Andrew Birk & Ian Swanson‘s ‘Road Poets Flip Chasm’ (2014), pull and push perception in unexpected directions. A low hush of digital static in the space sounds like insects. A voice advises, “you imagine the smell of it … life feels like static … life feels like not life … like a cot in an institution”. Electric prickles run over your skin like the static ghosts of bed bugs and roaches. A digital reminiscence of this corporeal imagination of the tiny horrors that lurk in dormitories, scabies, lice, contagious skin conditions; digital pricks and burns experienced by those with electromagnetic sensitivity. “You can feel the analogue is about to break.” In this case it is the digital that is breaking, janky systems that run low on battery, or having been set in energy-saver mode are drifting off to sleep.
According to the project brief, “contributing art spaces were selected following a set of secret yet random criteria.” Though we will likely never learn the “secret criteria” on which the show is premised. This exhibition evokes intimacy, it is about revealing what is initially hidden.
Like finding a colony of holographic ants on the underside of a log, each piece in EDENunlimited must be discovered. You crouch against the wall by Aimee Heinemann‘s ‘Greek & Roman Mythology 2003: World Aquaculture & Apocalypse Narratives’ (2014), invited by UK’s Almanac, insert a pod or two into your aural orifices and tune into Heinemann’s voice. Following a lilting narrative, it transports you somewhere else, into a magical wikipedia of bodies and psychologies and smoky experimental skies, the voice tells you, “Strange Galaxies”.
From one thin bare mattress to the next, the exhibition winds through a series of simulated privacies. A text printed on silk, ‘Bind To’ (2014) by V4ULT’s Anna Mikkola and Hanna Nilsson, hangs, shower-curtain-like as an imperfect partition between pieces. Coming upon Jacent Varoym‘s ‘La Sieste (Abyssus Abyssum Invocat)’ (2014), a scene strewn with clothing, a half-drunk glass of wine and a plate of curry wurst, confronting and embarrassing you with these abject remnants of life. Visitors to the space sit on beds and talk in hushed tones. Everywhere you walk, you feel like you’re interrupting. You stop by Andrea Lukic‘s, ‘Who Will Let Her Hair Down When I Cannot Sing My Heart’ (2014) and poke the grimy nub of an earphone into your ear to discover the sound of fire crackling from the imitation flames of wood, pebbles and light bulbs. Though the intimacies are calculated, their simulated viscera is tangible.**
Left to the elements, artworks are vulnerable to weathering, theft or destruction. Scattered across the Grunewald nature reserve on the Western outskirts of Berlin, the first intervention of Stoneroses – an ongoing project by Santiago Taccetti and Mirak Jamal in collaboration with Center for Project Space Festival Berlin -is subject to the same conditions. Though it will be documented and posted online, much of what will take place during the exhibition will not be witnessed. With no scheduled ending, no maps and no physical bounds, one may view Stoneroses by joining one of their tours, or by stumbling upon it.
At the tour meeting point, some visitors wait with blissful expressions, not noticing the time. Others wave their smartphones around in the air and bitch about connectivity until the second tour kicks-off, one and a half hours later than advertised. The show exists in a state of flux, the results of which will be seen, the causes largely imagined, its contingency is virtual.
In a grass clearing between the glittering dune – a remnant of the area’s former incarnation as a sand mine – and a small lake, a common house plant emerges from a swirl of freshly turned earth. Among the muted greens of the native foliage surrounding it, Steffen Bunte‘s decorative perennial looks conspicuous, almost artificial. Its green gives off a toxic glare and the dark sandy earth exposed by its recent installation looks purple against the plastic sheen of its stem. The plant’s leaves are laser engraved with product descriptions from the BMW i electric and hybrid car division. Slick slogans, ‘pure impulse’, ‘life modul’, ‘eco resort’, ‘add-on mobility’ become stand-ins for an urban attitude towards nature. Though made of the same ‘materials’, the urbanite has the feeling of being extraneous or even toxic to the ‘natural environment’. The impression is a posture, an attitude of plastic.
Several hundred metres away and dangling on a wire strung from a branch is Aleksander Hardashnakov‘s ‘Freud Diablo 1’. A few objects twist and turn; the red blade of a circular saw, metal washers, something that looks like a piece of cuttlefish or a mango seed wrapped in gauze. The materiality is rustic, it suits the nature around it, so much so that against the texture and noise of the forest – the leafy undergrowth and optical trickery of shapes in nature – the work sways, limply dissolving into the scene.
We walk on.
A herd of colourful joggers pass by. Our attention turns skywards. Tethered high to the long straight trunks of several pine trees is “World is all of one skin” a work by Ivana Basic. Several cushions are fixed to pole-like tree trunks with wide elastic straps that cinch the cushions through their middles, giving them the posture of a body being slogged in the guts. Basic has marked the satin cushion covers, of an indefinite, visceral colour, with inkjet prints of patterns from her own skin. Their colour, a purplish tone not usually associated with a forest landscape, accords to certain hues of the pine trunks and yet their texture and their fabric pops off the bark. They have the quality of exposure. As if they were objects that have been yanked from the tree’s interior and placed out on display.
The din of trailing conversations is covered by the sound of leaves crushing underfoot. Laid on the forest floor, Jamal’s two part work, ‘Walks in the park – Screenshot 6:20’ is in a process of embedding itself into the scene. As video abstracted into sculpture, the pieces – depicting a negative and a positive of the same distilled image – play with binary as a process of convergence/divergence. The first piece, cast in MDF, is set into the dry leaf floor as if it had been uncovered there. It has a fossil-like quality. The other piece, cast in resin, cracks and crumbles like a non-biodegradable polymer sheet. Both pieces point to an idea about lasting through time.
Almost immediately we come across Taccetti’s ‘Everything that isn’t me’. White plastic rip-ties fixed around tree branches somewhat mimic the trees own spindly brown limbs, jutting out at obtuse angles, mixing in with foliage of other plants to form layered patterns against the sky. The more recent adjunct, unlike the tree’s own, organic, appendages, are straight, white and plastic; reminiscent of prosthetic limbs. Each plastic strip is laser-engraved with the work’s title. Taccetti tells us that this was Einstein’s response to the question, “what is the environment?”, and that this sentence is something of a marker for the entire project. The binary pretends to offer an unambiguous idea of ‘nature’, yet the definition is constantly shifting. From your own perspective you are not ‘environment’, for everybody else, you are.
Walking from piece to piece, nature and art battle for attention. Anything (other than you) could be an artwork; a pock-marked ant-hill, a mossy log, a cluster of yellow mushrooms. At first, the sounds of electric guitar riffs come across as another native element of the forest. We pass by Rubén Grilo‘s jokey riff on the proverb, “If a tree falls in a forest” with his work ‘If Nobody Laughs’ depicting adjacent trees sharing a flat joke about pigs, at an accelerating pace. Perhaps it is the time of day, or perhaps it is to do with our proximity to coeval.gen.in (Clemence de La Tour du Pin and Antoine Renard)’s ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ a continuous six-hour performance of a guitarist practising Slayer songs.
The forest and the tour starts feeling hectic, epic. Nuzzling a papery log, Anthony Salvador‘s ‘http://goo.gl/maps/yeqU3 (I come from a long line of death)’, looks like something somebody has left behind. A time capsule of found objects in a semi-opaque plastic bag. Someone pokes at the objects inside, “a rear-view mirror… sand… is that a dead frog?” We leave the frenzy behind. Sandra Vaka Olsen‘s ‘Transfer Stick Leaf’, two copper sculptures stretch from the ground, bending over ferns like an echo. The sleek metal forms are bedecked with abstract, green toned UV epoxy prints of a leaf with water drops. The piece plays with the aesthetics of what it will become, when the copper oxidises, when it will be covered in morning dew. The piece looks magical, harmonious now, when the sun goes down it will glow.
Returning to ‘base’ the sky is ablaze. A new group is waiting for the next tour. One visitor drains the dregs of red wine from his plastic cup, casts a gaze into the darkening pine forest and says, “Blair Witch project space…” Leaving the reserve, the experience of the exhibition’s final installation, ‘Finding something nice while looking for something else’ by Zuzanna Czebatul, is everything that it promises to be. A heavy concrete bench, standing at the mouth of the forest. **