Tag Archives: Art

Inside Fukushima – Part 3

Read part 1 and part 2 first.

I take a last look, tracing the wall with my eyes to where it vanishes into the distance. Visible on the horizon is a tall chimney that belongs to the Haramachi power station, not a nuclear power, but a coal processing plant. Huffing and puffing white vapor into the sky, the smoke proves it is running again. Having been severely damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, the plant was relaunched in spring 2013. I am thus reminded of the fact that the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant was not the only plant accident resulting from the massive natural impact of the earthquake and the Tsunami waves, which reached up to around 30m in some areas. As well as the Haramachi plant, several other thermal and nuclear power plants were damaged by the Tsunami.[1] However, the terrific outcome at the Fukushima Daiichi of a Maximum Credible Accident (MCA) was arguably the only man-made disaster resulting from the natural disaster, human error giving bearing the 3/11 disaster a radioactive triplet.

Condition of Japan’s nuclear reactors as of May 2011. Source: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/bild-764907-219565.html

Along Tohoku’s eastern shoreline the prefectures of Fukushima, Miyagi, and Aomori have nuclear power plants (NPP) that were affected by the earthquake and Tsunami.[2] Aomori’s Higashidori NPP luckily was in maintenance shutdown when the disaster struck. However, the severe aftershocks that came about a month later on the 7th of April with a magnitude of 7.1 caused a power outage at the plant. Nevertheless, plant failure was avoided and the reserve system worked fine.[3]

After initial complete shutdown, as of the 10th of March 2016, only one of the 43 operable nuclear power plants of Japan, the Sendai plant is running again. However, under the guide of President Shinzō Abe’s pro-nuclear political agenda many more are awaiting their restart.[4] The recklessness of such an energy policy seems all the more apparent after the recent 7.0 magnitude earthquake in April 2016 in Japan’s southwest on the island of Kyushu.  What irony to have the strongest earthquake since 3/11 strike so close to Japan’s only running plant. The feeling of discomfort caused by the alterity of this dystopian landscape doesn’t leave me when I get back in the car and we start driving again. We are still outside of the exclusion zone.


On our way closer to the Daiichi, we pass a couple of houses partly dismantled and severely damaged by the natural disasters. The bottom floor pulled away, standing like a stilt house, screen shields in flares, windows and panels removed, like someone took it and shook it violently, outside of the exclusion zone these houses are a rarity now. The areas outside of the strictest no-access zone are already cleaned meticulously. With their superimposed decontamination grid lines they have an almost sterile and orderly feel to them.

Source: http://www.meti.go.jp/english/earthquake/nuclear/roadmap/pdf/150905MapOfAreas.pdf

Throughout the last five years since the disaster, the demarcation lines, zones and checkpoints have been anything but rigidly fixed. The initial exclusion zone of the 20km evacuation radius around the Fukushima Daiichi power plant has been transformed into areas with different levels of access restrictions and security measures. Besides the strictest no-go exclusion or difficult-to-return zone closest to the power plant, there are those that can be accessed for short periods of time, as well as areas where evacuation orders are ready to be lifted. The zone at the core is off-limits to the public, special entrance permits are required to access it and even former residents are only allowed in for short periods of time around a dozen times per year. While you don’t need an official permission the second stage zone is accessible only during day time and any kind of business is prohibited. However, even these demarcations are continuously in flux, and we are surprised to see a checkpoint at a previously accessible road.

A checkpoint into the restricted area.

We revert to using a white lie and the guard grants us access. He notes down our number plate and we are free to pass into the restricted area. There are more carcass-like housing structures here, but I am surprised at how busy this area is, less than 6km from the power plant’s smoldering reactors. There are construction workers around. Former residents digging up their belongings from beneath the foundation walls of their houses that look like Roman ruins now. Even the Geiger counter confirms a radioactive contamination that is less than that measured in some parts of Tokyo. Governmentally inflicted borders are somewhat arbitrary and free to interpretation after all. Radiation doesn’t stick to a superimposed boundary and there hardly ever is a strict division between the here and there, the inside and the outside of the zone; except maybe for the linguistic labels that us humans stick to certain geographic terrains. Instead, the here and there of the Fukushima exclusion zone and the rest of Japan, or even the rest of the world, is metaphorical and hardly comprehensible at all. As I stand by the ocean, the chimney of the Fukushima Daiichi peeking out from behind some trees in front of me, I think about the impossibility of discerning where the fiction the nuclear catastrophe and its zone ends and where its reality begins. Radioactive contamination is elusive, and so are the ecologies it creates. I turn around: this is as close as I will get to the heart of darkness, this time.


[1] https://www.tohoku-epco.co.jp/ir/report/annual_report/pdf/ar2012_p08p11.pdf‘

[2] There are no nuclear power plants located in Iwate.

[3] Besides the Higashidori NPP, Aomori is also the location of the Rokkasho Repossessing Plant, a nuclear waste dump, uranium enrichment and plutonium processing facility.

[4] http://www.nei.org/News-Media/News/Japan-Nuclear-Update

All images and content ©Theresa Deichert, 2016.


Inside Fukushima – Part 2

Read part 1 here.

Saturday, 05.03.2016:

The next day the journey continues towards the shore and closer to the hotspot of the nuclear disaster, the Fukushima Daiichi. More mountain ranges of black decontamination bags are passed. The tallest ones, which measure three or more stories of bags are half shielded by walls of grey-blue panels. At the end of the day it is all about appearance; out of sight out of mind, or so the saying goes. Since day one of the catastrophe, the Japanese government and TEPCO (the Tokyo Electric Power Company) have worked and continue to work hard to “save face.”  To convey an impression of control over the sheer untamable situation at the Fukushima Daiichi and the surrounding exclusion zone seems to take first and foremost priority. There is not only the hard working public relations machine of the electric power company itself, but additionally also a severe lack of credible journalistic reporting by the national press.[1] The latter is due to the structure of the Japanese press system, in which journalists often have to undergo self-censorship in order to secure their jobs and future access to governmental sources.[2] Subsequently, one may notice big discrepancies between the national and the international press in terms of the reporting on the gravity of the ongoing meltdown. However, governmental cover-ups and secrecy are only one of many misconducts related to the issue. Sub- and sub-subcontractor structures (and the involvement of the Yakuza) are determinant of the way workers are employed at the plant and for decontamination work. This results in great salary gaps between individual workers, ranging from exorbitant compensation to a below-minimum-wage payment for some.[3]

Mountains of decontamination bags

Driving past the busy-bee workers, I am told that, while the decontamination workers visible from the highway are required to wear their protective suits and masks, those further away and shielded from sight are not, and often remove the uncomfortable gear during the hot summer months. However, radiation is patchy and unpredictable. Some areas in the vicinity of the nuclear plant measure doses as low as 0.02 μSv/h. The fallout, spread by wind and rain, does not stick to human-imposed zones or artificially drawn borders. Nor does it stay where it once settled. Decontaminated school- and playgrounds are often re-contaminated through soil or dust that is blown in by the wind from other, still contaminated areas, which are often way too close to those decontaminated.

A sign documenting the reconstruction efforts. Taken Saturday, 05.03.2016, 12:02:48

At around noon we make our way towards the ocean. Large plates beside the road document the reconstruction efforts and proclaim that it has reached 91% as of the end of November 2015. Besides a large graphic showing the construction matrix of the tsunami wall, photographs along the bottom of the sign document the development of the area beginning in 1963 (Showa 38) up to 2013 (Heisei 25). Where the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami happened, a photograph is missing. Instead black letters on white ground indicate zero hour. The last square of the succession still remains empty, a blank slate left open for the final photograph, as if to say a bright future is still possible. I sense propaganda on every corner, but I am also not sure whether I have just become overly critical?

The Tsunami Wall. Taken Saturday, 05.03.2016, 12:08:00

Then, close to where the Minamisoma ward of Kitahara once stood, we reach the shore.[4] Despite that it is a sunny day, the landscape seems dismal. Behind us there are fields of Tsunami-emptied land, trees washed away or bend like matches, the larger vegetation reduced to patches that sit like little hoods on the remaining hills. And in front, there it is: the Wall. Defining the view, this massive concrete construction stretches from horizon to horizon, as far as the eye can see. White washed and immaculate, the Wall is something that crept out of your latest science-fiction nightmare, a real life dystopia. Stretching along Japan’s Eastern coastline, each of the Prefectures along the shore have begun to construct tsunami protection walls, which once joined, will stretch more than 300km along the coastline.[5] However, the construction of this protective barrier against nature’s unpredictable forces has been the source of many controversies. While some scientists have argued that it will disturb the marine ecology, others argue that it might not even be effective. Instead of alleviating the effects of a tsunami and warding off the water masses, they argue that the Wall will keep them from flowing back into the ocean, creating a deathly pool of water on the land.

The tsunami wall with the Haramachi power station in the distance, which was severly damaged by the tsunami.

(To be continued in the last part, where I enter the exclusion zone…)

[1] http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/japan-s-nuclear-cartel-atomic-industry-too-close-to-government-for-comfort-a-764907.html

[2] http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/02/25/national/media-national/japanese-media-self-censorship-seen-growing-abes-reign/

[3] https://www.rt.com/news/fukushima-workers-nuclear-yakuza-006/

[4] Close to Kitahara Kashimaku Minamiebi, Minamisōma-shi, Fukushima-ken 979-2312, @37.7095073,141.0023834

[5] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/japan-to-build-250-mile-long-four-storey-high-wall-to-stop-tsunamis-10131013.html

All images and content ©Theresa Deichert, 2016.

Inside Fukushima – Part 1

Friday, 04.03.2016

We start the trip at 9:40am and leave Tokyo headed in north-westward direction. We drive along the highway through Chiba Prefecture and towards Ibaraki Prefecture. After shortly stopping in Iwaki City, we continue to follow the Joban Expressway up North. This highway which spans around 300km in its entirety had been closed off in a 20km radius between Hirono and Tomioka after the Fukushima disaster and was only accessible with an official exemption certificate issued by the government authorities. However, it was reopened to the public on the 22nd of February 2014.[1] Shortly after, the construction of the route Namie to Minamisoma was continued and finished on the 6th of December 2014.[2] The last part, a 14.3 km long stretch between Namie and Jobantomioka was finally opened on the 1st of March 2015. Radiation exposure is displayed at 6 points on this route.

A plate along the Joban Highway showing the outside radiation in micro Sievert per hour. Taken Friday, 04.03.2016, 16:36:08.

Driving along the highway, overhead plates show the current radiation exposure in micro Sievert per hour. Somewhere close to the town of Tomioka (Futaba district) the measurement increases to as high as 5 μSv/h (micro Sievert per hour). To put these numbers in perspective, whereby 10 μSv/h translates to immediate physical danger and an urgent requirement to relocate at once, 5 μSv/h presents a high risk of harm and requires you to relocate as soon as possible; even as low as a number as 2 μSv/h presents an elevated risk and the need to take safety precautions. At the moment of the highest outside radiation the Geiger counter does indeed show the value measured inside of the car as 2 μSv/h. Not only the urgent piercing beep of the counter makes this experience a stressful one, but also knowing that even inside the car, whose metal plates act as a shield from radiation exposure, the radiation is so strong as to pose an immediate threat to human health made me feel extremely uncomfortable. Never having been knowingly exposed to such an amount of radiation at once, for such an extended period of time, I feel like I can sense my body being irradiated. This is of course impossible, but serves as a personal proof of the way in which something so intangible and invisible, and at the same time so hostile to the human organism, could cause severe mental stress and a feeling of being reduced to ones bare and unprotected life. I remember my father’s concerns about this trip and cannot help wondering if, in this very moment, I am doing anything harmful to my potential future offspring.

One of many radiation measurements inside the car. Taken Friday, 04.03.2016, 16:41:50.

The view along the highway is defined by fields whose surfaces have been lowered to a few decimetres. This reduction of surface level is due to the extensive excavation of irradiated soil, which in strenuous, labor-intensive work is dug up and stored in massive black bags. The latter are even more defining of the landscape than the strangely lowered squares of land. The black bags are almost everywhere. Rows and rows, mountains next to mountains of squarish bags bursting full with dirt, once source of life, they are now through the impact of human technology turned into toxic radioactive waste.  I ask myself, from this moment onwards, what is this matter that they contain? Is it nature or is it something else?

Rows and rows of decontamination bags, filled with radioactive soil.

The night is spent at a local Ryokan in Minamisoma-Shi, a city who has been severely affected by the impact of the Tsunami. Being located high enough on a hill the elderly owners’ house was just spared by the hungry flood. However, due to the radioactive contamination all around they had to discontinue their occupations as organic farmers. In an attempt to keep his most prosperous collecting spots a secret and maybe also in a desperate grip on normalcy, the husband, Mori-San, continues to collect the local Hatsutake mushroom. This is a mushroom variety, which is highly sought after, but as mushrooms tend to pull out the radioactive elements from the ground, it will remain inedible for the next decades, maybe centuries. Mori-San and his wife tell stories of how gravely the local community was affected by the disaster. When the Tsunami ate its way inland many citizens evacuated to a Shrine, located at the top of a hill. However, tragically enough, the elevation proofed to low and all of the refugees there fell victim to the merciless waves. Now, tales are being circulated of the ghosts of the deceased haunting the area. Strange instances of ghost-sightings are amassed and shared between residents. Deeply impacting and irreversibly altering everyone’s life, the disaster has entered the oral culture.

(To be continued in part 2 and part 3)

[1] http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=314

[2] http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=442

All images and content ©Theresa Deichert, 2016.

Political Beauty & the Fence of Melilla

“When you strike the word ‘beauty’ and the word ‘politics’ together, you create the spark for a revolution” Philipp Ruch

The memorial comemorating the victims of the Berlin Wall.

The ‘Zentrum für politische Schönheit‘(Centre for Political Beauty) or short ZPS is a Berlin-based association of artists and activists headed by theatre director Philipp Ruch. They describe themselves as an ‘assault troop’ (Sturmtruppe) who aims to establish “moral beauty, political poetry and human liberality.” Since 2010 the group has raised awareness for political matters and unfairness, such as the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. It does so through actions that dissolve the boundaries between art, theatre performance and activism. Floating in a politically charged space that is yet to be securely defined the ZPS’s actions are based on conceptual performances, internet-raised awareness and the public’s willingness to become an accomplice. All of it is translated into direct, often shocking and (thought)provoking action or ‘hyper realistic theatre plays.’

The Berlin memorial after the crosses have been taken down. Photo (c) Zentrum fuer Politische Schoenheit, 2014

1 November 2014, Berlin government district: around lunch time a handful of members of the ZPS armed with a drill and a wheelbarrow dismounted seven white crosses which are part of a memorial to commemorate the victims of the Berlin wall. A couple of days later the white crosses, shown in a video message published by the ZPS on YouTube, resurfaced at the boarders of the European Union. Meanwhile, the ZPS started an Indiegogo campaign to crowd-source the funding of a trip to the European outskirts. The centre hopes to transport busloads of people armed with bolt clippers to the outskirts of the EU to deconstruct the fence that separates the Spanish city of Melilla from Morocco. Leaving Berlin on the 7 November, the day of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, the trip is part of an action conceived of to raise awareness for European boarder politics and the mass of sub-Saharan refugees who in their attempt to travel to and cross the border get killed and injured.

African refugees pointing at one of the crosses (or a look-alike) of the Berlin memorial. Photo (c) Zentrum fuer Politische Schoenheit, 2014

However good the intentions, this kind of political art-activism employed by the ZPS is as radical as much as it is problematic. Firstly, how are they radical? The ZPS’s actions are original and profound. The ways in which the group operates seem to take art-activism one step further to where it has been previously residing; that is mostly in symbolism. Art-activists like Liberate Tate (with admittedly very different incentives for their activism) often engage in gestures of protest that remain inherently symbolic. For example, ‘License to spill’ (2010) saw the group staging an oil spill at the Tate Summer Party to raise awareness for the controversial and environmentally unethical conduct of the oil company BP, the primary sponsor of Tate.

Liberate Tate, “License to Spill”, 2010

In contrast, ZPS complements the symbolic removal and dislocation of the crosses with a direct call for action through its Indiegogo campaign. At the time of writing the campaign has raised around 21.700 Euro, enough to bring two busloads of people to the EU border. Through contributing their money, as well as through the possibility to go on the trip, the general public, you and me, can become an active and vital part of the action. An action which potentially shares responsibility between many and at the same time multiplies impact is, in principle, admirable.

A schematic drawing outlining the cruel mechanisms of the Melilla fence. (c) Zentrum fuer Politische Schoenheit

Nevertheless, there are several problems with the ZPS’s activity. As direct as the act of bringing people to the border and physically destroying the fence is, as much is this act a calculated theatre performance. I would be surprised for Philipp Ruch to be as naïve as to believe that this act will bring immediate improvement to the refugee’s situation let alone the associated policies. Secondly, the comparison that is made between the victims of the Berlin wall and the African refugees is quite simplistic and flawed. While in both cases people are suffering from a type of cage-like border constructed to restrict their freedom, there is a massive difference between forcefully separating a people that belongs together and separating two people with different cultural backgrounds from each other. Just because it says wall refugees on the package it doesn’t contain the same thing. No doubt in both cases human rights were and are violated, however the circumstances are very different. In this sense, the activism of the ZPS is too idealistic and it seems not completely thought through. Nevertheless, it is at least partly successful in the way in which it has already raised a lot of awareness for the issues of the European refugee policy. It remains to be seen how exactly the activism of the ZPS will play out this weekend and next week, and moreover, how the media will react. In any case, I will be following closely.

9 must-see contemporary art exhibitions this November

As I pointed out in my last post, the German cultural season has hit London with full force. Two major museums are showing big retrospectives of German artists. But of course there is a good amount of brilliant British and overseas art currently on display too. Bypassing the super blockbusters of Rembrandt, Turner, William Morris and co, I present to you the 9 must-see exhibitions of contemporary art this November.

Sigmar Polke , Untitled (Quetta, Pakistan) 1974–1978 Glenstone © The Estate of Sigmar Polke / DACS, London / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

1. Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963–2010, Tate Modern9 October 20148 February 2015, This promises to be a grand multi-medial retrospective of an artistic career that span 5 decades.

Anselm Kiefer, The Orders of the Night, 1996.

2. Anselm Kiefer, Royal Academy of Arts, 27 September – 14 December 2014, Kiefer’s monumental work as to be seen in person. It is then that the effect of his massive canvases with thickly laid on, relief-like paint truly unfolds.

3. Mirrorcity, Hayward Gallery, 14 October 2014 – 4 January 2015, This exhibition brings together London-based contemporary artists which are united by a common reflection on what it means to live in the digital age. Although this show has had mixed reviews, it is the first major museum exhibition dedicated to this topic.

Steve McQueen, Still from Ashes, 2014

4. Steve McQueen Ashes, Thomas Dane Gallery14 October – 15 November 2014, McQueen’s new video work is visually stunning and meditative, while the story of the film’s protagonist is tragic.

Ryan Trecartin, Still from CENTER JENNY, 2013

5. Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin, Zabludowicz Collection, 2 October – 21 December 2014, The two artist collaborate again to create a super-modern, hyper-digital immersive nightmare. Trecartin’s schizophrenic films are complimented by Fitch’s grotesque gallery environments.

Exhibition view of Tracey Emin The Last Great Adventure is You

6. Tracy Emin The Last Great Adventure is You, White Cube, 8 October – 16 November 2014, Uber-critic Jonathan Jones of the Guardian loved this tour de force of the female nude. I am curious what the fuss is about.

Shinro Ohtake, ‘Radio Head Surfer’, 1994-95. Courtesy of the artist and Take Ninagawa, Tokyo

7. Shinro Ohtake, Parasol Unit, 12 October – 12 December 2014, The Japanese artist re-appropriates the scraps of our consumer society to intricately detailed laborious works of art.

Zhanna Kadyrova, Latent Forms

8. Premonition Ukrainian Art Now, Saatchi Gallery, 9 October – 3 November, Showcasing art mostly from the period before the recent dramatic political developments , it will be interesting to see if clues and predictions of unrest exist in the works or if this is  only ambitious expectation.

Jane and Louise Wilson. Still from Undead Sun, 2014

9. Jane and Louise Wilson, IWM Contemporary, 15 October 2014 – Sun 11 January 2015, Produced to mark the centenary of the First World War Jane and Louise Wilson’s film explores the construction of narratives of the time.

(Dis)obedient Objects at the V&A

The exhibition entrance
The exhibition entrance

Disambiguation of disobedience.

noun: disobedience
  1. failure or refusal to obey rules or someone in authority.
    “disobedience to law is sometimes justified”

These are not only objects of disobedience, these are objects of defeat and of victory, of pain and of triumph, but most of all of struggle.

They are touching, story-telling objects. They move you to tears, as much as they make you smile, and they embody in every possible way the object agency argued for so vigorously by Bruno Latour.

The danger of objects larger then their physical mass is reflected in the fact, that the museum takes on a design perspective. Expectedly, this is a seemingly fitting stance, possibly pre-determined by the very purpose of its standing as a chronicler and harp-bringer of all things design-related.

Forgoing any kind of explicit political message, staying on the save side, obviously, the exhibition let’s the objects speak. At the same time, the very fact, that they are still moving you deeply and are perfectly capable of telling the story of the human struggle, negates this imposed design-focused a-politicalness.

26 July 2014 – 1 February 2015

Entry is free.

The V&A provides you with a couple of printed How-to guides to take home and make your own ‘disobedient object.’ You can also download them here.

I also recommend the blog that accompanies the exhibition and explores individual objects exhibited and protests represented in more depth.

2014-08-03 13.53.10-1
Papier-mâché puppets from the American ‘Bread and Puppet Theater.’ The political theatre was formed in the 1960’s initially protesting against the Vietnam War and is still active today.


2014-08-03 15.12
The costumes and signs used by the Guerrilla Girls (formed in 1985 and still active) to protest against sexism in the art world and the under-representation of female artists in the canonic museums of the world.


2014-08-03 14.34.23
Examples of spoof newspapers printed and distributed to gain attention for political causes.


2014-08-03 14.26.49
Display of ‘book blocs.’ Signs that resemble book covers are used as shields in protests. These were first used in 2010 in Rome, Italy in student protests against budget cuts and the increase of tuition fees. You can read more about them here and here.


2014-08-03 14.31.21
More examples of protest signs.


2014-08-03 15.02.24
A bike bloc and sound installation using original sound footage from protests, as well as, sound material that responds to the exhibition.


2014-08-03 15.10.07

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.

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.

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.

Maurizio Cattelan, Bidibidobidiboo (1995)
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