Noemi Smolik

  • Kris Martin

    I’m rarely won over to a new artist by a single work, but it happened during the recent art fair in Cologne. When I entered the Sies + Höke booth, my gaze was unexpectedly drawn to a gold-plated steel ball, sitting like an afterthought on the carpeting in the corner of the space. This work, by the young Belgian artist Kris Martin, immediately brought to mind images of golden orbs by James Lee Byars, the beauty of their spherical forms intensified by the brilliance of gold—but something more was going on here. I soon learned that this aesthetically perfect object, 100 years, 2004, purportedly

  • “The Ten Commandments”

    Although “Die Zehn Gebote” (“The Ten Commandments”) was, to my mind, one of the best exhibitions in any German-speaking country in recent years, the reaction to it has been muted at best. Some of the more progressive newspapers neglected to cover it at all, while it was greeted by the leading dailies with mockery, as an undertaking not exactly in step with the expectations of enlightened secular society. That said, there are quite a few intellectuals within this very society who, in the face of recent catastrophes (from Srebrenica to Iraq to the explosion of child prostitution fueled by global

  • Marcel Odenbach

    In the late ’30s, Russian poet Anna Akhmatova spent countless days and nights in front of a prison’s gates in Leningrad, waiting in the freezing cold to see if her son Lev Gumilyov was even alive. Another woman there asked: Could one ever describe this? I can, replied Akhmatova, and she soon began writing “Requiem,” one of the most shattering testimonials in world literature. Marcel Odenbach, noticing in Rwandans introverted behavior uncharacteristic of Africans, began to wonder whether this was perhaps a consequence of the 1994 genocide. Later, working in the film archives at the United Nations,

  • Tino Sehgal

    As I write these lines, I can’t help but wonder if I’m betraying Tino Sehgal, a Berlin-based artist whose performances—he doesn’t even like them to be called that—have been garnering attention for around three years. For while performance art depends on having a witness to its existence, be it a photograph, a written report, or carefully preserved relics, Sehgal eschews any kind of documentation. There aren’t even any invitation cards or press releases for his works. Nothing should remain to prove their existence, not even discussions, but then again—how can he prevent it?

    So, yes,

  • Philipp Lachenmann

    The eye is not the only organ that determines what we see. Our acquired knowledge plays a role, as do our experiences, which are stored in our brains as memories. In this sense the cherished saying of the art historians is true: We see only what we know. Philipp Lachenmann studied art history, wrote his master’s thesis on the function of the erotic in the work of Robert Mapplethorpe, and even now remains in a certain sense true to the questions of the art historian: What does this image tell us? Why does it tell this and not something else?

    In an exhibition here two years ago Lachenmann conducted

  • Kristen Pieroth

    In her recent works, the young Berlin-based artist Kirsten Pieroth is concerned with invention—in particular, with the most famous inventor of them all, Thomas Alva Edison. The long title of Pieroth’s Berlin exhibition, “I regret that a previous engagement prevents me from accepting your kind invitation to dinner at your home, on Thursday evening, September seventeenth,” is taken from the inventor’s correspondence. But is the reason Edison gives for declining the invitation true? Or is it merely an invention? The artist put this question to the scholar in charge of Edison’s papers, who thought

  • Corinna Schnitt

    Many people are familiar with the Schnittraum in Cologne, a small storefront in the middle of the city repurposed as an exhibition space that became a favorite gathering spot for young artists, students, art critics, and aficionados in the late ’90s. Few realize, though, that the founder of this space, Corinna Schnitt, for whom it is named but who no longer participates in its activities, is herself an artist who has a series of rarely seen short films to her credit. This screening of two films from 2003, Living a Beautiful Life and Das Nächste Mal (Next Time), was the first time any of them

  • Hans Schabus

    As a child, I was fascinated by the idea of experiencing the interior of my own body, my imagination fired by children’s books about tiny people who wander through the human anatomy and view the individual organs from within. When I saw Hans Schabus’s video Der Passagier (The Passenger), 2000, three years ago, I suddenly remembered these childhood imaginings. Through a camera attached to a toy train moving along a track that mercilessly travels not only through empty spaces but also through the walls, I saw the interior of the wall that had been broken open. Like a worm inside a body, this train

  • Magnus von Plessen

    The name Magnus von Plessen often comes up in discussions of new painting from Berlin—but how many people have actually seen his paintings? They’ve yet to be exhibited in Berlin itself. In 2001 they were shown at the Neues Kunstmuseum Luzern; then, last winter/spring, there was a small exhibition at K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen near Düsseldorf. Now his most recent paintings have been shown in Zurich—the first-ever gallery exhibition for this painter, which might be explained by the fact that his production is limited to just a few paintings a year.

    Von Plessen’s earlier works were

  • Nina Könnemann

    Rarely have I felt so lost as in viewing the videos of Nina Könnemann. Lost, because I couldn’t determine the place or the time period in which they were filmed, or even what was taking place in them. Were the events I was observing real, or had they been staged? In this footage, reality seemed to blend into fiction—or was it fiction turning into reality? In this, her first gallery exhibition, Könnemann, who studied at Hamburg’s Hochschule für Bildende Kunst (Academy of Fine Art), shows young people running around in artificially lit spaces, subway stations, perhaps. They seem to have been

  • Stephan Dillemuth

    Standing on a white pedestal was a chair titled Charles Eames für Vegetarier (Charles Eames for vegetarians; all works 2002), put together with twigs found in the woods. A vitrine built of branches painted white displayed garden gnomes made of clay and coated in layers of crystallized sugar. The piece was called Grasbrüder im Fleisch der Sonne (Grass brothers in the flesh of the sun). A huge black silhouette, titled My Life as Isadora Duncan, hung across the middle of the room; a wrecked model, the Entwurf für Reformkathedrale (Model for a reform cathedral), in reference to the designs of

  • Alexej Koschkarow

    The art of Alexej Koschkarow, a Belarussian who recently graduated from the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, is something quite out of the ordinary. Katharina Fritsch felt so challenged by Koschkarow’s baroque, kitschy images that she invited him to participate in a joint exhibition at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf in 1999, where he erected a park landscape with hedgerows among which nestled bronze statues of strange adolescents masturbating. “What’s this supposed to be?” was a question often heard during that exhibition. In an interview, Koschkarow himself spoke of his feeling of confinement and of

  • Robert Linsley

    At first glance, Robert Linsley’s abstract images, reminiscent of the ’50s, seem harmless. But are they? They pose far too many questions for that. For example, how were they actually made? Are they the result of a technical process or of the artist’s handiwork? They seem too smooth to have been made with a brush. Could they have been airbrushed? Printed, perhaps with a computer? But then the color wouldn’t be so vivid. So what kind of paint is this?—too shiny to be oil, too dull to be enamel. And the forms of the colored areas raise more questions: Are they abstract, or do they depict

  • Florian Slotawa

    It all started when Florian Slotawa, then an art student at Hamburg's Kunsthochschule, decided he didn't want to create, install, or produce any more artworks. Plagued with doubts about his art studies, he began taking photographs of the objects in his flat: furniture, dishes, clothing, silverware, even the bottle opener. Adding information about the object's acquisition—then later about its resale—its condition and importance, he drew up a book resembling a catalogue raisonné. Finally, he installed his worldly possessions in a room at the Kunsthochschule for several weeks.

    Next he

  • “Neue Welt”

    Let’s say this much up front: In the welter of theme-based exhibitions, “Neue Welt” (New world) is exceptional. But why? After all, it is concerned, as the curator, Nicolaus Schafhausen, states in the catalogue, with “the redefinition of the public sphere, the positioning of the individual in a spectacularized society, and the effects of a globalized economy”—that is, with themes that nowadays nearly every ambitious exhibition pursues, though usually with only middling success.

    What concerns Schafhausen is the redefinition of the public sphere as a “metaphor for a complex system of

  • Cosima von Bonin

    Cosima von Bonin's art is dry. And it's not easy to decipher. This is as true as ever of the exhibition organized by the Kunstverein's new director, Yilmaz Dziewior. In itself, being cryptic is no indictment—at least according to Theodor Adorno, who called for modem art to be unintelligible. The idea was to make it harder to co-opt. But is that the case with von Bonin's art? Apparently not. The edition of mushrooms she made for the Kunstverein, in green loden or orange felt stuffed with foam, sold out immediately. In Germany, von Bonin is one of the most best-known artists of her generation,

  • Joan Jonas

    AFTER A CAREER OF SOME THIRTY YEARS, Joan Jonas is being rediscovered. True, in 1994 the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam gave her a retrospective, but although other artists have always thought highly of her, the general public took little notice. This time it's different: Following her enthusiastically received retrospective in Stuttgart, where she has taught at the local art academy, her films were shown at the Kunsthalle Basel; the Stuttgart exhibition then went on to Berlin, where it was shown in the Neue Gesellschaft & Bildende Kunst. And so one might ask, how did it happen that this artist

  • Jitka Hanslová

    JITKA HANZLOVÅ was born in what was then Czechoslovakia and emigrated to Germany, where she studied photography. While still a student in Essen, she began to travel regularly to Rokytník, the northern Bohemian village where she grew up, photographing old friends and acquaintances and producing a series that she named after the village, 1990–94. Next, Hanzlová devoted herself to the place where she was now living: a housing project in Essen that was built for working-class families in this industrial area. Hanzlová walked around the place with her camera and photographed her neighbor. These

  • Günter Umberg

    How is color to be applied to a surface? Günter Umberg, an artist living in Cologne, has been asking that question for thirty years now. In the process he has concentrated on a single color, black, with occasional forays into others. Until about 1978, Umberg mixed his pigment with damar resin before applying it layer by layer to a wood panel, sanding each layer before applying the next. To achieve even greater depth, he then changed his painting method. Today he brushes the dry pigment directly into a moist layer of damar previously applied to the panel, often mixing other colors into the base

  • Kasmir Malevich

    WHY DID KASIMIR MALEVICH, whose name has become the very embodiment of abstract painting, end his life's work with figure paintings and portraits that strike admirers of Suprematism with pure horror? Why this treason against the square? Not even this exhibition of works from the collection of the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, the largest show to date of Malevich's late period, can offer an answer. But what if it was not treason at all? What if this development was inherent in the painter's work from the very beginning?

    The exhibition contained many depictions of peasants, whom Malevich