Critics’ Picks

  • E.M.C. Collard, bud canari, 2015, oil on canvas, 9 x 7".

    “Something huge, something major, something great and disastrous”

    GSL Projeckt
    Liegnitzer Str. 34
    November 18 - December 23

    In this unusual but highly compelling pairing, curator Michael Rade has brought together the paintings of E.M.C. Collard and the texts of Brian Tennessee Claflin, the latter in the form of audio recordings. Claflin was a fixture of Berlin nightlife who ran PORK, the orgiastic performative be-in at the gay darkroom club Ficken3000 until his untimely death in 2014. Less known is his body of work enveloping a diverse array of media, including painting, photography, and writing. In Mumbai and Berlin, text fragments posthumously recorded by performance artist Jasper Siverts, we are offered a glimpse into two modes of narrative being that feel like extensions of Claflin’s modus operandi: the pursuit of a nomadism and a constant questioning and reconsidering of his own life endeavors.

    Collard is a similarly undeservedly under-known artist. In the paintings from her ongoing 2014– series “a genealogy of plants that stand in the shade at night,” she hones in on details of plants that may or may not exist. Flora takes on the character of fauna; here, at least, they live. There’s the clitoral bud canari, 2015, a species from Venus or Mars, perhaps, with blue buds of condensation glimmering on a central yellow orb. With the series extended in a number of works not included here, but in a publication accompanying the exhibition, we see clearly that Collard has brought the still life into the twenty-first century; thank god we have someone to invent nature for us, since it will likely all be gone soon.

    Down in the basement, a final surprise: the song “Bull,” recorded by Claflin, aka PRIX, in collaboration with Snax as a punk-rock ode to Berlin’s gay sex clubs. The pukey squawks emitted by methed-out marys getting fisted in the darkroom backed by a pickup kit of drums, snare, and cymbal: one of the city’s unofficial anthems. Collard’s spindly vines on the wall, twisting to the soundtrack.

    A paean to all forms of organicity—and the rot that impels it.

  • Jill Mulleady, This Connection is Not Private, 2018, oil on linen, 66 x 58".

    Jill Mulleady

    Galerie Neu
    Linienstraße 119
    November 16 - January 12

    It is the twilight hour, a painter’s hour in Point Lobos (all works 2018). Bioluminescence creeps in at high tide as two women crouch at the water’s edge. What does the painter see then? A meeting place of strange currents. A body dries itself after skinny-dipping, another takes a long drag from a cigarette. Moments of respite glimpsed through a chain-link fence. In This Connection is Not Private, a man flips through his phone, while off in the distance the landscape burns, though Jill Mulleady’s figures express no concern for the disaster pictured on the horizon—they stare blankly, obstinately, out at the viewer.

    The hour is one of prefiguration, a speculative moment, and in Self portrait 2066 / Dementia, the artist hazards a glance into the future. We sense the figure’s affliction in her eyes: One has glossed over, and the other appears as if a dark cloud has colonized its pupil. Cradling what looks like a baby lamb, her hands in fingerless gloves, Mulleady’s self-portrait echoes the gravity and grace of Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine (1489–90). This is Mulleady’s kin, but her animal has aged, no longer a cipher of purity.

    The terrain in many of Mulleady’s landscapes is soft and amorphous. For Insomnia, however, edges proliferate—we can imagine the painter waking in the middle of the night to paint each ruffle and crease of her bed. A sleepless night offers up a challenge to depiction: how to keep focus in the face of exhaustion? For now, the ruffled sheet is materially thick—eventually, it will be smoothed out, and the traces of her presence in every fold and indentation lost.

  • View of “Real Doll Theatre,” 2018.

    Sidsel Meineche Hansen

    KW Institute for Contemporary Art
    Auguststrasse 69
    November 3 - January 6

    Following the logic of both magic and design—in which an object changes form while the mechanism of transformation remains concealed—Sidsel Meineche Hansen has become part designer and part sorcerer for her current exhibition, “Real Doll Theatre.” Here, she continues her ongoing research practice into the disciplinary nature of technologized capital on bodies, desire, pleasure, and labor, as well as its estranging, superstitious, and psychological effects. The relationship between Untitled (Sex Robot) (all works 2018), a wooden marionette-cum-beta-type sex robot, and the dolls featured in Maintenancer, a video collaboration with Therese Henningsen documenting the maintenance of sex dolls in a German brothel, is the most acute site of comparison in this exhibition. The brothel’s caretaker fully inserts her arm into each of the doll’s orifices to clean them after use at one point in the film. Meineche Hansen’s sculptural sex robot shares some technical properties with these personified sex dolls—like theirs, its jaw is jointed to only open, so as to prevent it from ever unexpectedly snapping shut. Evoking the way an arachnid moves from side to side rather than forward and backward, the subtle divergence from recognizable human behavior marks the viewer with a deep sense of discomfort. But while the dolls in the film are artificially soft and pliable—so much so that even their fingers can bend right back—Meineche Hansen’s wooden form threatens splinters. Untitled (Sex Robot) is not meant to be an infantilized doll, but rather a strong and agile mechanical servant that may exceed its design purposes.

    The list of collaborators for this and all of Meineche Hansen’s recent exhibitions is long, as her practice relies heavily on a cooperative methodology. Having studied at Goldsmiths Centre for Research Architecture, she owes a lot to the processes of critical design education. Her work departs from this model by playing with incongruities of form: the uselessness of a sex toy made of wood, the semitransparency of molds designed to simulate dense human flesh, the antiquated character of the exhibition soundtrack that recalls Gregorian chanting. All of which serve to highlight her interest in sitting with the strangeness of designed utility, suggesting that perversion lies in the design, not the desire.