Monday, July 25, 2011

Making Mirrors: Von Körpern und Blicken (of Body and Gaze) NGBK, Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst e.V. Oranien Str. 25 D-10999 craniv bo

Making Mirrors: Von Körpern und Blicken (of Body and Gaze) NGBK, Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst e.V. Künstler/Artists Sonia Barrett, Jean-Ulrick Désert, Farida Heuck, Wayne Hodge, Rajkamal Kahlon, Wolfram Kastner, Phillip Metz, Oliver Walker/Dave Ball, Serfiraz Vural, Pasquale Rotter, Daniele Dause, Manuela Ritz, Oranien Str. 25 D-10999 craniv boyd.


Tucked behind a storefront for a bookshop that appears to have a selection of coffee table books on current art and design, is a non for profit exhibition space, called NGBK, Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst e.V. Currently on view there is a small group exhibition, inclusive of just over a dozen artists, the kind of presentation that non commercial art exhibition venues, for art-made-recently tend to do best.  It is a thematic exhibition that showcases artists who are making societal commentary on the narrowly focused or overtly broad topic depending on your world view of race and prejudice, as felt locally in Berlin, Germany.


The artworks, that are saddled with the awareness raising task, which both their creators, and the organizers of this exhibition give them, are of diverse materials, from Text piece to polychromatic plaster sculpture, back to video installtaltion to cordoned off scatter art. Every thing from painting and coloring books to mirrors and collage is on view and all art-works introduced to NGBK's public, are in service of challenging normalising stereo types and bias as it relates to people of color.


Visitors are confronted with San serif letter forms scaled at about eight hundred and sixty four points, (big type!) a questionnaire on the wall that poses a series of queries with ostensibly no wrong answer, that in their existence provide German and English speaking visitors with a frame of reference to look at the rest of the art that follows or a cryptic background to form a lens tinted with race related questions. Big letters that ask viewer to reflect on their own self awareness, and position in „Racist" society, should you need more time you can lift and take a photo copy of the questionnaire, provided by NGBK, to think over the „leftist" survey taken from Eske Wollrads book „Weißsein im Widerspruch: Femininistiche Perspectiven auf Rassismuss, Kultur und Religion"


If you want to wear on a daily basis a polemical re formulation of sentiments found in the survey questions you can purchase a white cotton tee shirt, by artist Farida Heuck, at the information desk for fifteen Euros. These fashion items, with German words in boxes that look like the European Union advisory labels, on Cigarette packaging that tell people more or less that smoking will kill them. „Seitdem ich weiß bin, muss ich nicht mehr als Putzfrau arbeiten!" reads a message on one cotton tee shirt, and it is quizzical statement. Although it confronts issues surrounding labour and race, the tee-shirt does so with simplistic means.


Wayne Hodge paints a neoclassical bust of a woman black and adorns the figure with big plastic or rubber black-person-negroid lips. Idealistic cultural by -product of an era when racialist and nordecist thinking was in its germination stages i.e. the 19th century, and laying some thick oily looking black paint over it. Mr. Hodge has included this work in an oeuvre titled Negerkuss, performances where he kisses statues and objects. The bust on a pedestal, however, looks like a remnant. Despite that it is a statue, its small scale provides this instance of Wayne Hodge's artwork with the character of, thought provoking afterthought.


Rajkamal Kahlon, makes paintings and cynical coloring books, the paintings if you cant afford to by them have the same content of the coloring books and are designed to be one cohesive unit. Coloring Germany has one painting where the 16 federal states of Germany and the state capitals are named after cities in the Middle East and Central Asia. The mid-format painting is purposely evocative of a child's coloring book. Quirky hand writing announces and contradicts the names like Mosul and Kuwait, along with suggestive colorful textile patterns that stay neatly within reunified Germany's current federal frontiers. In another painting, the paid piper, of Teutonic folklore, leads figures in burkas, one, on camel back, the clear juxtaposition is flatfooted, yet totally in line with Hamburg's recent tradition of painting as bad joke or just plain bad.


The video installation, with interviews three to eight minutes in length,  where strangers of the educated creative cast in Berlin are invited to a dinner party and participate in a modest artistic experiment, seeking to divorce visual, and auditory hallmarks of a persons character, from content of speech.  Via a system of video surveillance, microphones, ear pieces, and a pairing of actual actor at the dinner table who was obliged to utter and repeated the content of the unseen speaker in another room, who saw what was transpiring via live video feed. The multi player game like work although doubtlessly fun to participate in for the privileged or willing invitees, is, in its current dry incarnation, decidedly not fun to look at. Oliver Walker and Dave Ball pit social networking against, reality television, and even though it is three television monitors six grey seating boxes and one neutral modernist wall diagram. The work Dinner Party looks like a great pilot for a new reality television show about young 20 to 40 somethings in Berlin.


Worst in show goes to the artist Sonia Barrett,  her work: Und wie Heissen sie A wie Anton, who with a participatory wheel contraption rimmed with low cost plastic framed mirrors, adjectives and cut out photographs, retains the air of science fair project. The work that requires two or more participants to maneuver and report to one another is awkward in both design, choice of materials and premise. Color computer printouts of black and white people, mirrors on the opposite sides a office chair positioned in front, give a confused, ugly, inelegant, look to „social space" type art installation.


For visitors with numismatic inclinations the installation of Jean-Ulrick Désert, could provide significant visual titillation. Many thin coin like objects are pinned on a red velvet background, and there is one gold colored coin amongst the predominant field of silver. It is the most retinally rewarding art in this polemical exhibition, that being said it still is flat.


An art exhibition assigned to invoke pre-conceived, ideas of judgement, race, surroundings, or social-standing that viewers may or may not posses. In general: awkwardness, and inelegance of means clutter the treatment of this race polemic. Individual artistic positions in this thematic exhibition, the charged topic: race, are muted and muddled, hot-button issues, that NGBK re-covers, if not exacerbates, in Making Mirrors. by craniv boyd.  

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