Building Character


Left: Artist Julieta Aranda. Right: Artist Eva Grubinger, dealer Johann König, and critic Jörg Heiser. (All photos: Ana Finel Honigman)

“I AM SAD and sentimental tonight,” Julieta Aranda said at the start of the two-night Irish wake a fortnight ago for the Building, the multiuse space that the Mexican-born artist established with Anton Vidokle and Magdalena Magiera. “I was up all night printing photos from past parties to pin on the walls. I was holding them and thinking, ‘That looks like so much fun. I look so drunk in these.’ But we always wanted it to be a moment. We never wanted it to become an institution.”

Despite that intention, the Building grew into a long-term hub for Berlin’s art activity. Vidokle originally rented the Platz der Vereinten Nationen 14A in 2006 to house unitednationsplaza, a yearlong “exhibition as school” that he organized after the Manifesta scheduled to take place in Cyprus was canceled. After unitednationsplaza, the Building emerged, and the space became a nonprofit site for lectures, screenings, performances, and everything in between. Alongside the art and conversation, the Building also hosted the e-flux video-rental project and a well-stocked library. The events always had an intense academic dimension, but downstairs, hidden in the basement, was a bar with silver walls and a bacchanalian vibe where Berlin’s sexy art nerds exercised or acquired social skills and killed excess brain cells.

So as the final hurrah before members of Berlin’s art community disperse to other basements, bars, and buildings, a series of lectures and boozy all-night festivities, drawn together via an open call to the community of regulars, buzzed around the Building. From the more than two hundred proposals submitted, organizers selected Christopher Faulhaber’s lecture, “Reterritorialization of Transit Space: A Short Guide to Project Art,” a talk by Florian Göttke about images of toppled sculptures of Saddam Hussein, a film screening by Aykan Safoğlu titled “Incompleteness of the Narrative,” and a late-evening climactic discussion with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Elena Filipovic commemorating Obrist’s 2008 book, A Brief History of Curating.

Left: Critic Alix Rule with artist Michael Portnoy. Right: Artist David Levine and critic Gideon Lewis-Kraus.

“Pedagogy as Potentiality in Reverse,” a workshop organized by critic Alix Rule, drew more than forty attendees the first night, including artist Cyprien Gaillard, writer Gideon Lewis-Kraus, impresario Michael Portnoy, critic Andreas Schlegel, and cult pin-up Eden Berlin. Rule handed out paper, boards, and drawing supplies so each of the participants could make one five-minute and twelve one-minute sketches of Cecile Evans, a dancer/actress-cum–video artist. “I hardly noticed being naked,” Evans said when she was back in her normal art-opening attire. “The sound of so many pencils on paper generated a real sense of intimacy for me—maybe even more than my nudity.”

On the final night, images of the past were revived with a screening of Buckminster Fuller Meets the Hippies in Golden Gate State Park, a 1967 documentary of the eccentric architect addressing a crowd of attentive flower children. “An incredible mirroring effect,” Aranda said upon seeing nearly three hundred people—including artists Carsten Nicolai, Elmgreen & Dragset, Christoph Keller, Bojan Sarcevic, Annika Eriksson, and Anri Sala—huddled on the floor watching the screening which, without a break segued into an entrance by “friend of the fam” Obrist.

After Obrist’s talk, the crowd filed downstairs to hear La Stampa, the Building’s band-in-residence, made up of Frieze’s Jörg Heiser and Jan Verwoert and COMA gallery’s Thomas Hug. “They’re not ironic, like a New York band would be,” Aranda confided. “They are belly-up vulnerable. And it was good. I danced.”

“We did everything we could,” Vidokle summed up. “Now it’s over,” Aranda said. And with that, the Building became just another building.