Review: Berlin Art Week 2018

As the art fairs at Flughafen Tempelhof are taken down, the multiple off-site venues around town cleaned, and the hangovers of art people attended to in beds everywhere, Berlin Art Week 2018 comes to an end. This year we saw a handful of festive and one-time performance-related events; unique locations took us from one place in the city to the other, and the party was always going on somewhere.

Agnieszka Polska at Hamburger Bahnhof, GASAG Prize Winner Julian Charrière at Berlinische Galerie and Berghain, Lee Bul at Gropius Bau, Meg Stuart in coproduction with HAU Hebbel am Ufer at Reinbeckhallen; these are just a few of the many headliners of this year's Berlin Art Week. But alongside the many big names, there were also many surprises. The charm of Berlin Art Week is not to immerse yourself in the massiveness and roar of that one big headliner, but also to discover new artists and visit uncommon places. Besides the two art fairs, private collections, project spaces, we also calculated many off-site locations with immersive installations, performances, reading-lectures, and more.

Installation shot 'The Eye of The Dream' by David Oreilly.

A lighted dome suddenly popped up in front of Kunsthaus Bethanien. This mobile architecture is in use as the off-site location of Berliner Festspiele / Immersion for its exhibition series ‘The New Infinity’, in cooperation with Hamburg Planetarium. 'New Infinity' is presenting a series of experimental, unconfined experiences, starting with the work of Irish 3D-artist David O'reilly. His work is a development of his computer game 'Everything". The unlucky ones had to wait a little while before entering the space, but once inside, the world disappeared and O'Reilly's ‘Eye of The Dream’ took you to another dimension. In case you missed it, the dome can still be visited until October 14.

Another immersive installation is that of GASAG Prize Winner Julian Charrière. Combining different types of media, his work symbolises the interaction between anthropogenic and natural transformations. His solo exhibition at Berlinische Galerie reflects on the testing of thermonuclear weapons at Bikini Atoll by the United States through a multimedia installation transporting viewers below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Next to his solo exhibition at Berlinische Galerie, the artist hosted a special audiovisual performance night and release party at Berghain — juxtaposing industrial culture with rave culture, artificial with natural. The 76-minute long, slow moving video took the viewer into the dystopian and paradisiacal landscape of sound, light and nature. There, reality kicked in when the screening of the audiovisual performance ended and the bass started off, abruptly making it clear that visitors were actually standing on the floor of the industrial Berghain, where so many parties have taken place.

Installation view Berkay Tuncay. Image credits: the artist and Display Berlin

The project space scene in Berlin is a unique one, offering an alternative world to traditional institutions and the art market and space for experimentation. The yearly award for project spaces by the Senate Department of Culture and Europe has once again honoured 20 project spaces and artistic initiatives, each receiving 37.000 euros. The Schöneberg-based project space, Display, is one of the twenty project spaces awarded by the Senate Department of Culture and Europe. As part of their exhibition ‘Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)’ with works by the Istanbul-based artist Berkay Tuncay, a reading performance called ‘Just for the Hell of it’ took place. The exhibition itself surrounded the visitor with words, forms and sounds that touch upon modes of reading and viewing, the simplicity of words and the complex image of a situation in which we live or intend to leave. The evening was set up as a series of readings by the artist Berkay Tuncay and his guests Katharina Ludwig, Soline Krug, Samantha Bohatsch, Katinka de Jonge and Liesje De Laet, which resonated with the space.

For project spaces without a space, the off-space c/o Kunstpunkt was once again used as a temporary location during Berlin Art Week. Stay Hungry and NON Berlin — which recently left its former location in Berlin Mitte — used Kunstpunkt as their main location. Stay Hungry presents a site-specific work by the artist duo Pätzug / Hertweck, which focuses on the playful insecurity of everyday spatial experience. At central points of contact between anthropological, architectural and geometric spaces, they place mechanically animated sculptural elements that stimulate visitors to re-perceive and question habits and spaces. NON Berlin features various female artist positions specialised exclusively in Asian art and discourse. The three exhibited artists followed the hidden history of migrants. The exhibitions are still on display until October 7 and two days before closing, on Friday October 5, a performance-lecture by Sumi Jang — who followed hidden body inscriptions in her work “Dead Body Being” — will take place.

Dance Performance '365 routines' by Nina Kurtela at Berlin Art Prize

Next to the awarded project spaces, GASAG Price winner, and Preis der Nationalgalerie, we had the opportunity to witness the winners of the Berlin Art Prize. The prize has been set up as an independent award for contemporary Berlin artists. Its main concept is to stay open to all Berlin artists; names and careers are irrelevant and only the art is taken into consideration by the jury. The unfortunate decision to use The Shelf as a location caused a stream of commentary from the art scene, in which the former premises of Robben & Wientjes was brought to light as a prominent site in discussions surrounding gentrification. On the final day of the event, the artists and organisers thus felt the need to publish a statement critiquing the city’s development as unsustainable, with a lack of independent spaces for art in Berlin. It did not spoil the fun; the winners Monika Grabuschnigg, Alanna Lynch Ana Alenso and Doireann O’Malley all went home with a trophy designed by artist Zuzanna Czebatul.

art berlin at former Airport Tempelhof

And lest we forget, taking place at the site of Flughafen Tempelhof, this season featured over 190 galleries divided over the two art fairs: art berlin and Positions Berlin Art Fair. With its enormous exhibition halls and immersive installations, the venue could not have been a better fit for the event. Large-scale paintings, an airplane wing, an enourmous rock — the art fairs were not just a place for buying art, but also an interesting spot to discover the uncommon. 

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