Croy Nielsen

Olga Balema @ Croy Nielsen reviewed

8 June 2015

Who doesn’t end up a cultural cannibal? There is no such thing as a new idea; even this is not a new idea. Everything is recycled, including the cells of our own bodies, and if we squint resolutely enough, we could believe that our creations are not just memory-tinged collages of everything we’ve ever known, that arrant originality is not an absurd event at its very core. Denial is important. But the more we ingest, the more we see and feel and read and love, the more vital flesh we bring to the table; this is important too.

“One eats in conversation with others. One becomes subsumed by one’s context,” writes Tess Edmonson in her introduction to Cannibals, Olga Balema’s recent show at Croy Nielsen. The small, almost improvised gallery is strewn with soft PVC plastic bags filled with murky, copper-coloured waters in which various materials swamp and decompose. From certain angles, they resemble body bags, or bags one’s body would be thrown into if it was already dismembered, the wiry bits already removed. Slumped against the white walls of the gallery, the sculptures are completely devoid of life and yet uncannily human—the paradox survives even in decomposition.

Installation view, Cannibals (2015), Croy Nielsen. Courtesy Croy Nielsen.

The nine sculptures, all titled either ‘Threat to Civilization’ or ‘Border/Boundary’, are themselves the cannibals; they have ingested the materials of other, former sculptures and lie listless on the floors of the gallery, their clear, plastic skins exposing their gluttony. “The round bellies of some are greedy and full, pregnant from autoerotic absorption,” Edmonson writes, while “[t]he latex skin of others is concave around the scaffolding of sharp and unnatural growths.” The consumption neither begins nor ends with my visit; the cannibalized parts transform their consumers from within, releasing rust and dye from their steel and fabric parts into the clear water, gradually turning it tawny and black throughout the duration of the exhibition.

Alongside Edmonson’s introductory text is a paragraph from Maggie Kilgour’s From Communion to Cannibalism: An Anatomy of Metaphors of Incorporation. Bodily needs betray our vulnerability, she notes, and expose the carefully crafted appearance of autonomy as an illusion:

The need for food exposes the vulnerability of individual identity, enacted at a wider social level in the need for exchanges, communion, and commerce with others, through which the individual is absorbed into a larger corporate body.

Without others, we cease to exist. Better yet: we feed on others to nourish ourselves.

OB_Installation view_Cannibals_2015_Photocredit_Joachim Schulz_Courtesy Croy Nielsen_1
Installation view, Cannibals (2015), Croy Nielsen. Courtesy Croy Nielsen.

What did Balema feed on to give birth to Cannibals, and was it the same feast as that of Serbian artist Ivana Basic? The similarities are striking—the abstracted, flesh-like shapes, the haunting simplicity of their material loneliness; the frozen moments of “life into matter”, as Basic says, or “economy of fungible volumes”, as Edmonson write. The permeability of the human body is not a unique or even contemporary idea, but its execution in the works of the two artists is almost literally cannibalistic. Who fed on whom, and who was nourished from it?

Later in her introduction, Edmonson states that food scarcity during periods of overpopulation is “really the solution to its own problem”. That those who “obey the tenets of the cannibalism taboo” will be the first to die. Eat or be eaten, she whispers. The statement seems extreme, scandalous, but of course it’s not. They are just the cannibalized words of Jonathan Swift in A Modest Proposal in which he tells us: “I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled.”

See more exhibition photos on the Croy Nielsen website. **

Olga Balema’s Cannibals is on at Berlin’s Croy Nielsen, running from May 1 until June 13, 2015.

Header image: Installation view, Cannibals (2015), Croy Nielsen. Courtesy Croy Nielsen.

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Olga Balema, Darja Bajagić &c @ Croy Nielsen, May 1 – Jun 13

30 April 2015

Berlin’s Croy Nielsen is opening up two simultaneous shows this weekend, with a Olga Balema solo show and a Darja Bajagić and Aleksander Hardashnakov joint exhibition both running from May 1 to June 13.

This will be a fourth solo show for Amsterdam-based Balema, titled Cannibals, at the Berlin Gallery. While she hasn’t released any information about the themes or particular medium of the show, we can probably expect more found-object sculptural installations that have graced her previous exhibitions.

Meanwhile, Softer Than Stone And Sick In Your Mind opens at Croy Nielsen’s Apartment space, with Bajagić and Hardashnakov joining forces for the shared exhibition. As with Balema, there is no official information released yet about the exhibitions, which is all the more reason to check it out for yourself.

See the Croy Nielsen website for (limited) details. **

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Gallery Weekend Berlin, May 1 – 3

30 April 2015

Gallery Weekend Berlin is back for another run in Berlin this weekend, running at various locations throughout the city from May 1 to May 3.

There’s a lot to see, both in terms of events and exhibitions. Anna Zett, Mikkel Carl and Pakui Hardware are among the artists taking part in the Gislind Köhler-curated Crystal Readings at Soy Capitán. Other great shows include the fascinating (and poisonous) *Echoes* by Marguerite Humeau at DUVE, as well as Darja Bajagić and Aleksander Hardashnakov‘s Softer Than Stone And Sick In Your Mind at Croy Nielsen.

Then there’s Athena Papadopoulos‘s solo show at Supportico LopezIda Ekblad‘s RELOAD at Galerie Max Hetzler, and screenings by Mario Pfeifer and Renzo Martens / Institute for Human Activities at KOW.

Other not-to-be-missed ones include: Ape Culture at HKW, Alex Vivian‘s Scenes at Sandy Brown, the High Pressure Systems group show at KonzulatField Vision by Christian Jankowski and Jon Rafman at Future Gallery, and Windowlicker at Center.

See the Gallery Weekend website for details. **


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The Armoury Show 2015 + Independent NY, Mar 5 – 8

5 March 2015

This weekend brings two huge international art fairs to New York City: The Armoury Show 2015 and the Independent NY, both running from March 5 to 8.

The Armory Show contemporary and modern art fair takes over Piers 92 and 94 every March in central Manhattan, and this year brings a few different selections for the fair. On Pier 92, one can find the modern selection with galleries like Whitestone and Moeller Fine Art. On Pier 94, one can find the contemporary selection, with exhibitors like Galerie Valentin, The Breeder, P.P.O.W and OHWOW, as well as the Focus selection titled Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean (MENAM) with EOA.Projects, the Armoury presents selection with C L E A R I N G among others, and the not-for-profit exhibitors like Glasgow International  and Whitechapel.

Meanwhile, Independent NY is taking over its fair share of NYC, with over 50 international galleries and non-profits representing fourteen diffferent countries. Some of the exhibitors overlap with The Armoury Show, like C L E A R I N G and Real Fine Arts, and others include Berlin galleries SociétéCroy NielsenTanya Leighton, Neue Alte Brücke and Galerie NEU, as well as Mexico City’s House of Gaga and artists like Jeanette Mundt and Timur Si-Qin.

See the individual art fairs for details. **


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