Popcorn Culture

Ana Finel Honigman on openings in Berlin


Left: Kunst-Werke's Denhart Harling, singer Inga Humpe, Kunst-Werke curator Susanne Pfeffer, and artist Anca Munteanu. Right: Dealer Javier Peres. (All photos: Maxime Ballesteros)

“I WISH I COULD just curl up with popcorn,” lamented artist Tiphaine Shipman last Friday, the eve of “Lynchmob”’s opening night. Setting up her appropriately creepy video juxtaposing flashes of blinding white light with disjointed shots of herself racing through dark and misty woods—“starkers” but for white socks—she glanced wistfully over to the room where Olivier Pietsch’s pastiche of dreamlike scenes and nightmarish assaults from well-known and obscure films was already up and running. A moment later, though, and she was back to the grindstone, helping curators Christopher David and Emilie Trice install work by thirty artists in .HBC, Berlin’s nineteen-thousand-square-foot former Hungarian cultural center.

Arriving at Kunst-Werke the following night, I remembered Shipman’s words as I snagged a bag of the complimentary popcorn for “Vorspannkino: 54 titles of an exhibition.” I snuggled in to watch the feature-film-length montage of fifty-four opening and closing credits (from Orson Welles reading the names for The Magnificent Ambersons to a sequence of Richard Billingham–esque stills for a film called Mein Papa) cherry-picked by the KW curators for projection at cinema-scale in the main gallery and on smaller screens scattered throughout the upper-floor “kinos.” If there were any Lynch clips, I missed them.

No clear narrative developed; instead, the string of clues and emotional triggers elicited a combination of excitement and anxiety. By clipping the appropriated sections to conform to the limits of legally citable information, KW not only dodged potential copyright infringements but created an academic’s wet dream: a captivating thesis composed entirely of footnotes. Considering that I had struggled the night prior alongside editrixes Francesca Gavin and Annika von Taube through Simon Starling’s deathly dry exhibition about climate change at the Temporäre Kunsthalle, I was happy to be reminded that nerdiness could be cool.

Left: Artist John Kleckner. Right: Artist Dean Sameshima.

Cool seemed the proper appellation for the next stop of the night as well (though it wasn’t quite the nerdy variety). At John Kleckner’s second solo show at Peres Projects in Berlin, “The 40 Seasons,” I found the disconnect between the man (sweet and sunny) and his work (magnificently morbid) utterly disquieting. After working fourteen-hour days for several months to complete the forty drawings and watercolors at Peres, Kleckner claimed he felt “like Rip Van Winkle.” “I only check Facebook twice a day,” he told me with evident exhaustion. “I am so out of the loop. I feel like an anachronism,” he confessed before gallery director Tiffany Noe came to scold me. “I’ve been running around picking up popcorn, trying to figure out where it came from.” “You’re like Hansel and Gretel,” suggested artist Dean Sameshima.

I offered some kernels in apology, and graciously the gallery’s crew left enough for me to deliver to Shipman, who was by then DJing with “Lynchmob” cocurator Trice at the show’s opening. Past the DJs and farther into the exhibition, Stockholm-based artist Gustaf von Arbin created a more morose vibe, with a two-room installation of a cryptic crime scene and investigation area. “Let’s paint the soles of one of these red,” suggested critic Alix Rule, pointing to a series of vintage scuffed heels hanging on the walls and recalling Lynch’s 2007 collaboration “Fetish” with Christian Louboutin. “We’ll see how long it stays on the wall.”

The theme of the night was “surreal.” The wondrous array of work by artists including Douglas Gordon, Zak Smith, Yoon Lee, and John Isaacs (not to mention David Nicholson’s luscious painting of his estranged wife dressed like Marie Antoinette styled by David LaChapelle) was as dark and illuminating as the eponymous director’s own unnerving work. But the all-night vernissage was characterized less by an ominous decadence than a celebratory one, redolent of the moment when Laura Dern as Lula purrs, “This whole world’s wild at heart and weird on top.”

Left: Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin's Angela Rosenberg. Right: “Lynchmob” cocurator Christopher David.

Left: Sleek editor Annika von Taube. Right: Artist Hannes Bend.

Left: Bongout Showroom's Meeloo Gfeller with artist Damien Deroubaix. Right: Critic Alix Rule.

Left: Artist John Isaacs. Right: Artist Tiphaine Shipman.