Category Archives: Travel

Unendlicher Spass – Infinite Jest

Millenials,  Generation Y, Generation Me – Its demographic spans those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s and I am myself part of it. We are a generation that, according to Jean Twenge author of the book Generation Me (2006), is characterized by a strong sense of community, tolerance and confidence, but at the same time also a sense of entitlement and narcissism. Growing up in a post-Cold War world, we witnessed the delimitation of actual and metaphorical boundaries, the sheer unstoppable increase of consumer culture and, most importantly, the beginnings and the rise of  the internet. Especially the latter was and is, as we all know, the catalyst that would change our lives forever.

Paradoxically, in today’s #YOLO-culture of seemingly infinite possibilities and opportunities, of #self(ie)-indulgence and generally accepted exhibitionism we often find ourselves in a state of perceived immobility and depression. The perpetual hunt for never-ending entertainment, for infinite jest, leaves us feeling empty and dissatisfied – A party that lasts forever is bound to become repetitive.

Peter Coffin, Untitled, 2008
Peter Coffin, Untitled, 2008

The exhibition Unendlicher Spass (Infinite Jest) at Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, named after the book with the same title by David Foster Wallace, is concerned with this I at the beginning of the 21. century, the I of the Generation Me. The I which has boundless options and is simultaneously utterly unable to cope with this abundance. While in today’s world every nobody has theoretically the same chance of suddenly becoming somebody – be it through casting and reality shows on TV or by being discovered on the internet – there is also this sense of longing for normality, banality, and the average. This is reflected in such concepts as normcore, a fashion and lifestyle trend striving for the bland anti-style.

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Still from Helen Marten, Evian Disease (2013), watch the full video here.

Unendlicher Spass is set up in a cluster of rooms, often accessible in more than one way, whereby it is free to the visitor to decide in which order to view the artworks. The curatorial set-up, with no real beginning or end to the display, thus mirrors the infinite self-centred circularity of the Generation Me.

Joep Van Liefland, Video Palace #36 - Archive I (Shadow Hunter), 2014
Joep Van Liefland, Video Palace #36 – Archive I (Shadow Hunter), 2014

Artworks like Peter Coffin’s Untitled (2008) and Alicia Kwade’s Journey without arrival (2012) directly translate perceived immobility or pointlessness. Coffin’s work takes as its model the conveyor-belt packaging system of a New York electronics shop. Instead of goods, Coffin’s belt now transports a bundle of balloons in an endless loop, up and down, and around the gallery space. Kwade’s installation consists of a bike which has been bend to form a circle, making it impossible to ride it in any other way than around itself.

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Installation view
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Maurizio Cattelan, Spermini, 1997

The incessant occupation with the self is dealt with in Maurizio Cattelan’s Spermini (1997) in which the artist multiplies himself into scores of three-dimensional selfie-sculptures, spread out to swarm the walls. In Andrea Fraser’s two-screen video installation Projection (2008) the artist sits facing herself mimicking the patient on screen and the therapist on the other.

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Installation by Claire Fontaine including Untitled (The Invisible Hand), 2011, Untitled, 2008 and Untitled (Tennis Ball Sculpture), 2011
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Alicja Kwade, Journey without arrival (road bike), 2012

While some works, like Francis Alys’ Time is a Trick of the Mind (1998) show a more philosophical approach to the theme of cause and effect and circularity, it is especially Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch’s installation Living Comp (2011), that reflects the dystopian, dream-like state of the Generation Me most up-to-date.

In a sort of sculptural theatre with beds and benches spread across the room, the visitor is invited to consume Trecartin’s film Ready (Re’Search Wait’s) (2010). The piece is a tour de force of a home-quality video showing the artist assuming different roles and engaging in monologues that verge on self-indulgent hysteria. The whole assemblage is fast-paced and overlaid with flashing graphics. The artist presents an exaggerated, but shockingly accurate caricature of the 21 century I.

If you happen to be in Frankfurt, you can catch the last day of Unendlicher Spass (Infinite Jest) tomorrow.

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ME Collectors Room – A Day in Berlin

Imagine you have a day in Berlin. For one reason or the other you want to stay away from the big sites. You may have been many times before, or maybe you just want to save yourself the queuing amongst crowds of tourists in front of the Pergamon Museum or the Bundestag.

Both of these reasons were holding true for me on my most recent visit to the German capital. Having been to and lived in Berlin before, as well as recently having been chewed through and spit out by one of the best techno festivals Germany has to offer, I was in the mood for taking it easy on my last day, before returning to the hustle and bustle of the big smoke, aka London.

Completely by accident, my friend and I came across a brilliant breakfast spot. Sucre et Sel, a French-style brasserie, just off Rosenthaler Platz, that offers a great value-for-money breakfast. When I ordered the Depardieu (€10), which promised to contain a mixed plate of original french cheeses and meat, an egg, bread and a croissant, I did not expect this:

"Le Depardieu"
“Le Depardieu”

Full and content I said good-bye to my friend and walked from Rosenthaler Platz via the Hackische Hoefe towards Oranienburger Strasse. Hidden in the side streets around this tourist strip, bursting with cocktail bars, are many of Berlin’s galleries and contemporary art venues, such as the KW Institute for Contemporary Art. However, this time I gave the former a miss in favour of it’s neighbour the ME Collector’s Room.

An exhibit part of the Wunderkammer Olbricht.
A little cupboard full of wondrous artifacts, part of the  Wunderkammer Olbricht.

On its website, the Collector’s Room is keen to distinguish itself from the concept of the traditional museum or gallery space. While the top floor holds the permanent exhibit of the Wunderkammer Olbricht, a bounty of all kinds of paraphernalia, the bottom floor provides a space for the changing display of themed exhibitions which showcase artworks from private collections.

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Taxidermy, old paintings, all part of the Wunderkammer.

On the day of my visit and still up to the 21 September, the Collectors Room is showing works from the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Collection. Rebaudengo’s is one of the most important private collections of international contemporary art in Europe and has, for instance,  been exhibited at London’s Whitechapel Gallery in 2013.

Rebaudengo’s taste in art ranges from quirky to earnest, juxtaposing a keen interest in art that explores human emotion and psychology with a fascination with the quirky and whimsical. Stanze/Rooms is the focus with which the Collectors Room presents a selection of works that “recreate the idea of the stanza as the personal habitat of poetic reflection.” Hereby, the concept of room is understood as both physical and metaphorical as a place of withdrawal and reflection. A place to contain, to delimit a personal and mental, conceptual or actual space.

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Exhibition view of Stanze/Rooms

The visitor is introduced into the exhibition with last year’s Turner Prize winner Laure Prouvost’s video work Wantee (2013). Set in the house of the artist’s fictional grandfather, this assemblage of close shots of a muddy interior, crazy teapots and deranged furniture with the artist’s own voice recounting her grandfather in a continuous murmur, jointly explores the diverse concepts of room mentioned above.

Still from Laure Prouvost’s Wantee (2013) © The artist

In this vein, the exhibition continuous, each artwork on show presenting its own stance, or ‘stanza,’ on the concept. Maurizio Cattelan’s installation Bidibidobidiboo (1995) and Andrea Zitter’s A to Z 1994 Living Unit (1994) present actual 3D containers of space, Cattelan’s plexiglass cube one that acts as an insight into a satirical alternative universe in which squirrels commit suicide, and Zitter’s in the form of a piece of functional compact furniture/dwelling/suitcase hybrid.

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Maurizio Cattelan, Bidibidobidiboo (1995)
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Andrea Zittel, A to Z 1994 Living Unit (1994)

Actual rooms are juxtaposed with visual reproductions, such as the stills from Cindy Sherman’s films (1977-1980), and explorations of the room as metaphorical. The latter is explored in Sam Taylor-Wood’s work The Travesty of Mockery (1995). The two screen video installation shows a couple fighting, the mental restriction of the two sides of their argument reflected in their physical restriction to the left and the right screen respectively. Fixed by the diametre and reach of the camera shot, each of them is incapable of leaving their designated side.

Sam Taylor-Wood, The Travesty of Mockery (1995)

Undertaking the curatorial venture of gathering a themed selection of works from a private collection can sometimes generate an exhibition outcome that seems forced, one where the works seem to have been pressed into conceptual molds they don’t really fit. Thankfully, this is not the case with Stanza/Rooms. Here the idea of the room has been explored and thought through to the end, enabling the visitor to gain access to a variety of diverse works through their conceptual connection.

Should you make your way to Berlin this summer, I strongly recommend you visit the exhibition, and of course you will have to fuel your visit with a French breakfast at Sucre et Sel.

Stanze/Rooms Works from the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Collection
02 May – 21 September 2014

me Collectors Room Berlin / Olbricht Foundation
Auguststrasse 68, 10117 Berlin, Germany

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 12pm-6pm
Admission Wunderkammer and exhibition:
Regular 7 Euro / reduced 4 Euro

 

The Fondation Cartier Celebrates 30 Years

This Friday I was lucky enough to be able to attend the press view for the opening of the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain’s new exhibition “Vivid Memories” which celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Foundation. For the last three decades, since it’s launch by founder Alain Dominique Perrin and artist César in 1984, the foundation has been supporting contemporary arts. As part of their patronage they have been commissioning great artworks, truly launching several artists’ careers, and holding seminal music and performance events, including a reunion concert between Lou Reed and the rest of the Velvet Underground in 1990.

The Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art, Paris
The Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art, Paris

If you are happening to be around Paris sometime between now and September 2014, I strongly suggest you drop by the Fondation and check out the exhibition. It is housed in an amazing glass structure, designed by star-architect Jean Nouvel (he also designed the Quai Branly in Paris and the One New Change in London). While some of Nouvel’s designs have received mixed receptions, I was positively surprised by how well he incorporated the open glass structure of the Fondation inside a garden. Arriving at street level, the building is hardly visible between all the fauna surrounding it.

Issey Miyake

Issey Miyake
Lamp installation by Issey Miyake in the garden of the Fondation Cartier

In the spirit of connecting the building with its surroundings, the exhibition begins in the garden. Here, emerging from the plants, geometric and at the same time organically shaped lamps by designer Issey Miyake have been installed. Inside the large open exhibition space a selection of artworks from the Fondation’s collection by diverse artists such as Chéri Samba, Alessandro Mendini, David Lynch, Beat Takeshi Kitano, Marc Newson and many more are on display.

Below you can find some more impressions from the exhibition and my experience at the press view.

View of the Exhibition "Vivid Memories"
View of the Exhibition “Vivid Memories”
Bodys Isek Kingelez
Congolese artist Bodys Isek Kingelez’sKinshasa: Project for the Third Millenium, 1997
Ron Mueck, In Bed
Austrian artist Ron Mueck’s In Bed, 2005
Exhibition view with Mark Newson, Kelvin 40 (front) and Issey Miyake, Shadows (back)
Exhibition view with Mark Newson, Kelvin 40, 2004 (front) and Issey Miyake’s lamps (hanging from the ceiling).
View from the 8th floor of the Cartier Foundation
View from the 8th floor of the Cartier Foundation. Next to the Tour Montparnasse a tiny Eiffel tower is visible.
Petit Fours and espresso
Petit Fours and Espresso. The French really do know their pastries.

Vivid Memories – 30 Years of Stories is on from 10 May – 21 September at the Fondation Cartier, Paris. In October 2014 the exhibition will be replaced with a newly created installation by architects Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio. The new display will allow an outlook into the Foundation’s future engagement with contemporary art. I imagine the second part of the 30th anniversary celebrations will be equally exciting as this first survey on the Fondation’s history as a pioneer in corporate patronage.

All photos (except the first one) are my own. Please give credit when reproducing.