The press release reveals little of what to expect, providing only a quote from performer Grace Jones, “But still, built into me was this button – when pressed, the button would save me. I don’t know if I was in charge of this button, or if someone somewhere praying for me was in charge of it.”
At first glance, the works on show in the Ausstellung 61 group exhibition, starting during Berlin Art Week on September 16 and running to October 10, don’t seem to have much in common. Rare photocopies of 80s feminist forebears, an old mattress from an early Exile project space in Mitte with a profile picture printed on it… The participating artists span a broad spectrum and it could be that the three week exhibition is more of an introduction to what will come, as well as what has been. It’s the first show in the gallery’s new space at Kurfürstenstrasse 19, and its press release comes with an ominous selection of images of deep sea creatures accompanied by the words: “AT THE NIGHT THE CREATURES COME UP FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR OCEANS”.
“Normally I don’t like hallway art but this one fitted in so well”, Exile organiser Christian Siekmeier says while standing in front of Patrick Fabian Panetta’s colour blocked painting hanging between the two exhibition rooms and titled ‘00:03 min. / Gavin Brown’s Enterprise (September 2014)’. The artist records himself browsing through online museum and gallery sites that are becoming more and more interactive and complex. After investigating his own mouse movements through these sites he then chooses a detail that he then paints. In this case the result is rather minimal, equal big black and green surfaces.
Most of the other works are also wall pieces, Erik Niedling’s Pyramid Paintings series were produced when the artist chose to live like it was his last year on earth. Burning his belongings and previous works, he then used their ashes as material for new ones. In ‘Untitled #2’ (2014) he spread the soot on the canvas, folded it repeatedly until he was happy with the outcome. In materialising the sort of brutal self-criticism that can happen in an artist studio, unsatisfactory works would be burned again and would in turn become material for the future.
‘ooooo’(2012) by TM Davy is a series of five square paintings containing a sphere in varied lighting, hung up with uneven space between them and creating tension between the repeated subject. ‘Escultura de Verano (Poéticas del Objeto)(2012)’ by Spanish collective Aggtelek is the only sculpture in the first room. The fragile yellow structure with a collage of travel-related images attached to it was originally a part of a larger showcase-like installation, with each object being inspirited with ideas about the present.
Nathalie Du Pasquier, one of the founders of the postmodern collective Memphis, is mostly known for her extravagant patterns that are still a source of inspiration in contemporary design. Since 1987, her focus has mostly been on oil painting and ‘Futures (Mazinger)’ (2007) is a colourful example of it, featuring an animated robot in a domestic situation. Meanwhile, a mixed media collage by Polish-German artist Katharina Marszewski, ‘She’, hangs with its title’s text written on a blue background beside it.
In another room, New York-based minimal artist Kazuko Miyamoto poses in front of an unfinished open-cube sculpture by Sol Lewitt as part of a performance. Miyamoto lived in the city during a time of growing critical awareness and political engagement among women artists and ‘Stunt (Performance at 181 Chrystie Street, 1981)’ is a unique photocopy documentation of a performance from that period. Gwenn Thomas’s ‘Documentation of Joan Jonas Performance Delay Delay’, (1972, printed 2012) shows a group of people in the act of drawing white circles on an industrial site in Manhattan. Thomas often documented Jonas and other performance artists and is probably best known for her portraits of experimental filmmaker Jack Smith on the set of his sexually ambiguous and “controversial featurette” Flaming Creatures (1963).
Jordan Nassar works with his background as an Arab-Polish-American, developing his own style of embroidery based on the cultural heritage of these countries, resulting in the subtle and fragile works of ‘Untitled’. Tote bags lie open on the floor, disposable gloves filled with colourful biodegradable materials are lit up inside of it. Martin Kohout’s ‘Skinsmooth Hover Hand NEG’ (2015) slowly melts, resulting in colour and form of the sculpture. The Czech-born, Berlin-based artist has exhibited similar works in Grunewald forest, where they eventually became part of the earth or were eaten by wild animals. It’s a fascination with the object that drives a lot of Kohout’s artistic concerns, something he explains in a two part video interview with aqnb and Video in Common taken earlier this year.
A dirty flower pattern mattress lies in the corner of the Exile space with two A4 photocopies carefully placed on top of it, two others are situated on the exhibition room’s heater. ‘Pansy Parker’s profile picture- at Ausstellung 61. Exile Gallery- 16.09.-10.10.2015 (A4 prints, window, mattress, neon lights)’ (2015) is a site- and time-specific installation. The prints show the same photo in different sizes and similar to the title display the materials in the work and floor plan. Christophe De Rohan Chabot became interested in Parker Tilghman’s identities; the drag persona as well as their self-portrayal on social media. It could have something to do with the latter artist’s involvement in the public backlash to Dries Verhoeven’s Grindr performance, ‘Wanna Play?’, where the Dutch artist projected private conversations from the networking app on an LED panel from a container outside HAU in Berlin. The motive for Chabot’s paper print remediation of the Pansy Parker profile photo is unclear but, like the rest of the images in Austellung 61, it makes a strong claim to the idea that there’s more to a pic than its pixels. **