Nina Möntmann

  • Wael Shawky

    The final installment of Wael Shawky’s video trilogy “Al Araba Al Madfuna,” 2012–16, proposes a kind of resolution to the first two parts. In Hamburg, the gravity of its purpose was evident the moment the visitor entered the gallery: The room was bathed in a deep-blue shimmering metallic deep-blue light, anticipating the mystical palette of a video projected floor to ceiling. Blue, silvery, and washed-out magenta hues predominate in the film, which is set in and around the temple of Pharaoh Seti I in Upper Egypt, thanks to a peculiar technique the artist has employed, of subjecting the digital

  • Nina Beier

    I am writing this on Monday, July 14, the day the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, announced that Greece’s withdrawal from the EU—the dreaded “Grexit”—had been averted. The euro zone’s heads of state have agreed on a comprehensive package of spending cuts and reforms that lays down humiliating conditions that Greece must comply with in order to get new money going forward. The writers Maurizio Lazzarato and David Graeber have analyzed the moral and political dimensions of debt and demonstrated that people tend to respond coolly to the suffering of others who are in debt.

  • Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri

    In their exhibition “The Paths to the Common(s) Are Infinite,” Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri explored the great themes of the era that began with the 2008 financial crisis—the all-pervasive power of money, the disciplining effect of debt, and the unavoidable question, How can this world continue to exist? In the past few years, these issues have spawned a growing body of literature and occupied many a TV panel discussion, but Anastas and Gabri approach this complex of ideas through intimate formats that demand more sustained attention, such as long video interviews and extensive notes.

    Papers

  • Wael Shawky

    Wael Shawky’s elaborate filmed marionette piece Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File, 2010, based on the history of the First Crusade at the end of the eleventh century, was one of the most impressive works at Documenta 13. The second part of his planned video trilogy, Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo, 2012, was recently shown as part of the Berlin exhibition “Wael Shawky. Al Araba Al Madfuna,” curated by Susanne Pfeffer.

    The battle continues: In this second installment, Aleppo’s ruler agrees to mount a cross on the minaret of the city’s Great Mosque; Jerusalem burns; heads roll on both the

  • Ulla von Brandenburg/Malin Pettersson Öberg

    In 2010, Ulla von Brandenburg made Chorspiel, a video in the form of a “choral play.” In this Ibsenesque family drama, a grandfather, grandmother, mother, and daughter move like pieces on a chessboard in front of a drawn backdrop that shows an open field near a forest, reminiscent of the settings of Lars von Trier’s films Dogville (2003) and Manderlay (2005). The interactions among these figures are characterized by ritualized gestures, such as the loosening of a tangle of yarn they pass between them. Rather than speaking, they lip-synch to the singing of an offstage choir, which gives them an

  • “Not Easy, to Save the World in 90 Days”

    “Born in Batman”: Gallerygoers have surely cracked a grin at this line on wall labels for Fikret Atay’s work. In the video Batman vs. Batman, 2009, Atay has finally addressed the comical name of his hometown, situated near Turkey’s border with Iraq. The video features Hüseyin Kalkan, the mayor of Batman, as a superhero who takes David Nolan and Warner Bros. to court over the ownership of the name Batman—hoping to invest the winnings to ameliorate social problems in the downtrodden Turkish town, an enterprise doomed to failure. Atay sheds light on the local politics and problems of southeastern

  • Edith Dekyndt

    In 1977, copies of a golden phonograph record filled with sounds bearing witness to human civilization and Earth’s flora and fauna were shot into space onboard both Voyager probes; they have been hurtling through space and time ever since. It will take forty thousand years for one of them to reach another planet, where—at least this is the hope—it will give whomever or whatever it finds there a notion of life on Earth: They will hear Bach and the Beatles, greetings in more than fifty different languages, and the sounds of the surf and a beating heart. The Belgian artist Edith Dekyndt has picked

  • “Horn Please: Narratives in Contemporary Indian Art”

    Curators Bernhard Fibicher and Suman Gopinath have selected some two hundred works from the ’80s to the present, including better-known artists—Atul Dodiya, Anita Dube, Raqs Media Collective, and Vivan Sundaram among them—and promising figures who have not yet received much exposure, such as Gigi Scaria and experimental filmmaker Ayisha Abraham.

    Modern Indian art represents a continuation of rather than a break with the country’s tradition of figurative narrative painting, or so this exhibition proposes. To make this case, curators Bernhard Fibicher and Suman Gopinath have selected some two hundred works from the ’80s to the present, including better-known artists—Atul Dodiya, Anita Dube, Raqs Media Collective, and Vivan Sundaram among them—and promising figures who have not yet received much exposure, such as Gigi Scaria and experimental filmmaker Ayisha Abraham. The show’s title is taken from signs on Indian rickshaws and trucks

  • Akram Zaatari

    When the Hamburg gallery Sfeir-Semler opened an exhibition space in Beirut two years ago, it began to show the work of artists from the Middle East, including Akram Zaatari, one of the founders of the Arab Image Foundation in Beirut. The foundation’s aim is to research and archive the photographic history of the Middle East; it holds the collections of numerous photographers, including the archives of Hashem el Madani (born in 1928), which contains approximately 150,000 portraits. For his exhibition in Hamburg, Zaatari selected and reprinted images from the archive of Madani’s Studio Shehrazade

  • Nina Möntmann

    AT THE KABUTARKHANA intersection, a major traffic nexus in Mumbai, thousands of lights sparkle on buildings silhouetted against the night sky. These strings of lights, the kind normally used for festivals and weddings, are everywhere at the crossing, illuminating the General Post Office (a glorious example of Mumbai’s Indo-Saracenic architecture) and adjacent stores and restaurants, draped over trees and across streets, blinking on and off. But while these lights might look like the trappings of an extravagant civic celebration, they actually comprise artist Ashok Sukumaran’s Glow Positioning

  • Yael Bartana

    A group of young Israelis have devised a strange game: Two players act out the role of the police or other representatives of state authority, while the others use their bodies to form a tight knot; the “police” then try to extract individuals from this mass. Yael Bartana’s 2005 video Wild Seeds depicts this seemingly cheerful and carefree game against a breathtaking scenic backdrop. Yet when we see the English translation of the game’s Hebrew dialogue in a second projection, the game turns into a parable of the Israeli occupation of those territories, which hide in the overwhelming landscape:

  • John Armleder

    In John Armleder’s object-based works, the exhibition space always plays the role of a catalyst. Thus it was clear from the outset that a site-specific work at Y8 (Y stands for yoga, while 8 is the street address) would be a particular challenge and that he would produce a work quite unusual for him. The concept of Y8 is that, far from being the familiar “white cube” constructing art’s autonomy, it places art in the context of yoga, which in practice means that daily classes take place in the exhibition space.

    In contrast with the formal clarity typical of Armleder, this time his found objects

  • Katya Sander

    Changes brought on by the gradual dismantling of Western Europe’s welfare states are giving new urgency to questions about the function of public space and its potential uses: How are surveillance and control structured? In what ways does the hierarchical organization of public space become apparent? How is “the public” produced, and what roles do its participants play? Such questions came to the fore in the three video installations by Danish artist Katya Sander shown together under the title “The Most Complicated Machines Are Made of Words.” What Is Capitalism?, 2003, shows the artist conducting

  • Henning Bohl

    Kabuki fascinates us with its emotional intensity, achieved through splendid costumes, expressive song, and complete mastery of the body. It is less about the expressive potential of complex plots than about the virtuosity of the performers, their faces covered by masks of makeup that grotesquely mimic facial expressions. The narrative sequences, which follow a strict set of rules, provide the framework for the formal principles of the theater, which always remain the same. Henning Bohl adopted Kabuki as frame of reference for his latest work, Theater Heute (Theater Today), 2004, and, in his

  • Die Universität ist eine Fabrik

    The opening at the new Kunstraum of the Universität Lüneburg was unwontedly overcrowded. Maybe it was because this small, very rigorously conceived exhibition was curated by Roger M. Buergel, the freshly nominated curator of Documenta 12. Only now is the Kunstraum, an annex of the university’s cultural-studies program, being characterized in the press as the “new king maker in Germany” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), although long-term projects with artists such as Andrea Fraser, Christian Philipp Müller, and Christian Boltanski and curators such as Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Astrid Wege have

  • “After the News”

    Our idea of documentary—images or reports reflecting the facts as closely as possible—is constantly being undermined by manipulative or suggestive tendencies in the media. It’s not necessarily conscious propaganda per se; the very conditions of transmission ensure that the event is altered in the telling. Documentation goes hand in hand with interpretation. The increasing ambiguity of the genre has nevertheless had a positive effect inasmuch as the domain of the professional journalist has been breached, allowing an influx of strategies from ethnography, political activism, and personal journal

  • Silke Otto-Knapp

    The way catastrophes are reported in the news regularly prompts discussions on the formative influence media images have on our understanding of these events. Much less is said about how our notions about paradisiacal places, unspoiled wilderness, or the oases of the leisure class are also created largely by images from TV, movies, and newspapers. Those who have never been to Las Vegas can imagine it as a glamorous nonplace, far from reality; Los Angeles, to those who don’t know it firsthand, is the palm-lined mecca of the stars

    Silke Otto-Knapp, a German artist who lives in London, works with

  • picks January 22, 2003

    “Creeping Revolution”

    This exhibition proposes that a “creeping revolution” is taking place under the seductive surface of a certain use of the decorative. Its underlying project is to reconcile politically committed artwork, which often adopts a “low-key” aesthetic, and art forms that are emphatically rooted in the image. For artists like Lily van der Stokker, Wilhelm Sasnal, or Silke Otto-Knapp, an approach to a social phenomenon is not stated explicitly but flows instead into a colorful allover camouflage; a wall painting with pink flowers; or a watercolor of palm trees in many shades of green. Many works—such as

  • Michaela Melián

    The Kunstverein Springhornhof, in the Lüneburg Heath of northern Germany, has for over thirty years focused on the theme of landscape and art, including site-specific works. As with some earlier projects here, Neuenkirchen’s proximity to the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen was a point of reference for some of the works in Michaela Melián’s exhibition “Triangel.” In machine-stitched “drawings” based on photographs from her trip to the memorials at the concentration camp, Melián outlined her motifs: train tracks that remind one of the Nazi deportation trains packed full of people, but also

  • picks December 16, 2002

    Thomas Demand

    Whoever thinks that Thomas Demand’s photographs—with their exactingly detailed, almost life-size, remarkably real-looking cardboard-model subject matter—verge on the obsessive will be pleasantly surprised by this Munich exhibition. Carefully curated by Susanne Gaensheimer, the show emphasizes the moments of narrative found in Demand’s reconstructed rooms and locations, while allowing his films their autonomy. In Demand’s first film, Tunnel, 1999, the camera moves through the set of an underpass, reconstructed from media photographs of the site of Princess Diana’s fatal accident. One hears the