Dante Macht Kunst

Text and pictures by Cyrus Smith

In the ongoing "How Did I do It" Series we will get artists to talk about their experiences while pursuing "the dream" of an artistic career. Canadian Cyrus Smith talks about the waiting in line outside the Kunsthalle project last week. 

What would you do for a 2meter square spot on the wall in the Deutsche Bank’s new Kunsthalle exhibition space? I discovered this to be a questionable negotiation. To celebrate the opening of Kunsthalle, the Deutsche Bank has invited curatorial demigod, René Blok to exercise his power by hosting an open call to all artists who produce wall-based art. On a first come first serve basis, any artist can submit artwork up to 2 square meters. Macht Kunst is a short 24 hour exhibition, and the works will be arranged by Blok himself. I guess that was enough yum bling for me to toss a piece their way. The following events transpired on Friday, April 5th 2013:

8:32 am: I awake to see a photo ‘posted’ by the Kunsthalle showing a line outside their door of 30-40 people. Woops! I thought I would be early. I don’t have to eat breakfast, I mean how long will it take?

9:37 am: I make it to Unter den Linden and see a line stretching over 200 hundred meters, which quickly grew to well over 300. Thousands of people from Berlin, elsewhere in Germany, and Poland join as ‘15 minute’ fame hopefuls. Despite the gloomy weather, the atmosphere is calm. I laugh my way to the end of the line. Laughing at the amount of people in front of me, but more so I laughing at myself. Am I crazy to join this? No, just unemployed.

10:14 am: I meet my good spirited neighbours and we watch the seemingly endless stream of people joining the line behind us. There is a real mixed bag of art here too. Largely consisting of big canvases, photographs, prints, and collages among other objects. Now while it’s good that painting never died, some of these paintings need to be buried or cremated. Sorry. Anybody can bring their work here, and so it seems literally every caliber and skill set of artist brought with his or her own brand of wall art. However, it remains an interesting spectrum showing levels of satisfaction.

11:50 am: The line is moving at a snail’s pace. First maintaining a15 meter per hour pace, but now it is really slow. I just keep thinking about René Blok, and that I’ve been through worse.

12:48 pm: A spokesperson makes his way along the line announcing that the Kunsthalle is now full. It was inevitable. There is too much art. And what about the rest of the weekend? The gentleman explains that they are deciding on another exhibition to possibly take place at Tempelhof Flughafen and continue to receive the work. It isn’t the same thing. I’m starting to contemplate my presence here.

1:20 pm: The gallery is giving out free coffee and chocolates. I decide to stay a little longer.

1:57 pm: Our group has moved about half the distance to the gallery doors. The Kunsthalle announces they will now repeat the same theme for a second exhibition at the end of April, during Berlin Gallery week. Even better.

dream catchers 2009 - Cyrus Smith, acrylic and collage on paper

2:24 pm: I am wrecked on free coffee and chocolate. I start offering the Unter den Linden tourists a chance to take their picture with a ‘real’ artist for 5 euro, but they don’t really get it. A number of passersby ask what is going on and if the works will be for sale etc. I begin to think about people. Some people don’t think about art until they see a long line of it in bubble wrap. Actually some artists have their paintings exposed, dragging them in the muck of the street. They can’t all still be working on them can they?

2:30 pm: A man playing leapfrog towards the front of the line pauses near us. I notice his massive unwrapped canvas is still wet, and watch him peeled off a big blob of hospital green paint. Gross. This whole thing is starting to feel savage and barbaric.

3:11 pm: There is a growing astringency in my body from caffeine and sugar that is making me hallucinate. It feels like the line is not moving whatsoever. I swear it’s getting darker. Friends of friends are cutting in line ahead of us. Everywhere are iPhones and video cameras. A radio is playing Edith Piaf. Students start hanging their art on some of the construction barriers. Donuts, sugar, wine. This is gridlock. A little snow falls, then rain. Reality sets in and I am cold.

3:55 pm: The gallery announces they are providing free hot soup for the artists. Am I dreaming? The soup is really salty but I was about to grab a half eaten brötchen out of the garbage so it’s okay.

4:42 pm: The soup brought my stamina back. Our group is dancing with enthusiasm like tribal warriors. We can see the entrance. Wow, has it been seven hours? We are so close, but it feels now like waiting outside Berghain on New Years Eve - will we still get in? My faith is being tested.

5:07 pm: The group is escorted into the lobby. It feels as though we made it to heaven. Our disheveled bodies, looking and feeling like they’ve been through the circles of hell, arriving now paralyzed at the pearly gates of the Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle.

5:20 pm: Processed. That was fast. I feel cheap and used, but more elated as I spill aimlessly onto the street. I can barely walk. The day is waning. I already miss the line and what it represents. The amount of people here is a startling testament to the amount of creatives in Berlin. I can only now feel sorry for the Kunsthalle Preparators.

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