By Chiara Rizzolo
More intent on raising questions than providing prepacked answers, the 10th Berlin Biennale (BB10) is a perfect blend of “complex subjectivities”, from curatorial team to selected artists“We don’t need another hero” is the title of the 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (BB10) which opened to the public last month (June 9) in five different venues all around the city. This year’s edition was conceived so as to offer a more ‘compact’ event rather than a dispersed big show presenting over a hundred works. Hereby, the curator Gabi Ngcobo and the curatorial team of Nomaduma Rosa Masilela, Serubiri Moses, Thiago de Paula Souza, and Yvette Mutumba, concentrated upon taking their visitors on “a journey confronting the current widespread states of collective psychosis.”
The final result was a selection of 46 participating artists and collectives and only five venues reflecting the position of Berlin as a city in dialogue with the world. By recalling Tina Turner’s song “We Don’t Need Another Hero” (1985), the Berlin Biennale isn’t interested in providing a coherent reading of history or the present of any kind. It rejects the desire for a savior, as the song says. Instead, it focuses on the political potential of the act of self–preservation, “refusing to be seduced by unyielding knowledge systems and historical narratives that contribute to the creation of toxic subjectivities.”
For this reason, many featured artworks are part of a wider project or a body of works, a series. No medium is preferred over the others, sculpture, painting, installations and performance have all the same importance. Different configurations can lead to creative complexities and new meanings: BB10 encourages a conversation with artists and contributors in order to talk – and hopefully act – through art in the attempt to stop the “willful disregard for complex subjectivities”.
The viewer is free to relate and interact with the local contexts addressed and represented in many of the pieces, engagement is high. Berlin comes out as a place open to pluralism even at a time when nationalism and xenophobia are a hot topic.
Until September 9, 2018 the permanent exhibition venues you can visit are: Akademie der Künste at Hanseatenweg, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Volksbühne Pavilion, ZK/U – Center for Art and Urbanistics and HAU2, which serves as a site for two performances over the course of the Biennale. These places were chosen both for their relevance through Berlin’s past and present history.
Here’s the five artists you must not miss at BB10!
Here’s the five artists you must not miss at BB10!
• Basir MahmoodVENUE: Akademie der Künste All voices are mine (2018) is a disparate collection of images, gestures and reminiscences the artist filmed during a single day of shooting with a team of professional actors. All these gestures – already performed in other films – are put together into a long sequence from day to night, transforming the bodies into living tableaux. The atemporality of every single action combined with the new temporal dimension helps escaping dramatization or fiction: the video looks like a vivid painting animated by time.
• Heba Y. AminVENUE: ZK/U – Center for Art and Urbanistics Dreaming of a new map of the world she lives in, Egypt-born artist Heba Y. Amin picks up the ambitious (unrealized) plans devised by the German architect Herman Sörgel in the 1920s to drain the Mediterranean and connect Europe with Africa. Surrounded by maps, recurring symbols and photographs, Amin embodies a fictional political figure who is bringing up the proposal yet again, this time for benefiting the African continent. In her utopian vision, the connected continents could help bring justice to the African people, as well as end terrorism and the migrant crisis. Thought-provoking, The Master’s Tools’ alternative geographies leave us with “an uneasy feeling of insecurity about the kind of a world we are currently inhabiting — and the world we might wish (or not wish) to inhabit.” (Yvette Mutumba, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the art magazine Contemporary And (C&) – Platform for International Art from African Perspectives).
• Lorena Gutiérrez CamejoVENUE: KW Institute for Contemporary Art ¿Dónde están los héroes? (Where are the heroes?, 2015–16) is a three-by-five-meter painting composed of 100 individual paintings. The overall composition, with this colorful, repeating vertical pattern seems to recall the iconic hierarchical aesthetic of the military rankings or “ribbons” worn on uniforms. The minimalism of the paiting avoiding any details, together with its size, is a not-so-hidden allusion to Cuba’s current and past political situation, starting from Fidel Castro until present times. Through the question in its title – Where are the heroes? – the artist leaves us to ponder an answer.
• Dineo Sheshee BopapeVENUE: KW Institute for Contemporary Art A video of Nina Simone’s Feelings performance, an arrangement of bricks suggesting different states of ruination, buckets catching drips of water, and a framed playlist written on a paper napkin – all lit in apocalyptic orange: Untitled (Of Occult Instability) [Feelings] is an environmental installation. Bopape invited also three artists to contribute to her installation: Lachell Workman, Robert Rhee and Jabu Arnell, whose giant cardboard ball suspended from the ceiling, at a first glance might seem responsible for the wreckage. Visitors can pick their way through broken bricks, torn-off metal pipes and streaming screens… The artist’s message is clear: “Yesterday’s hero can become today’s tyrant,” as she said in an interview.
• Sondra PerryVENUE: Akademie der Künste New Jersey–born artist Sondra Perry is a video artist using computer-based media like Chroma 3D blue screens, 3D avatars, open source softwares and found footage from Youtube, installations, and performances to explore different ways blackness has been presented throughout history. Eclogue For No Horizon explores the theme of the science-fiction concept of terraforming, an evolving process after which a planet becomes habitable and allows the survival of the human race. The video installation is spread across three screens encouraging the viewer, together with the artist, to reflect upon how space reacts to different bodies but also how certain bodies can subvert material and psychological boundaries: transforming ecologies through occupation is the first step to make a landscape inhabitable.