Critics’ Picks

  • WangShui, From Its Mouth Came a River of High-End Residential Appliances, 2018, video, color, sound, 13 minutes.

    WangShui, From Its Mouth Came a River of High-End Residential Appliances, 2018, video, color, sound, 13 minutes.

    WangShui

    JULIA STOSCHEK COLLECTION | Berlin
    Leipziger Strasse 60 (entrance: Jerusalemer Strasse)
    September 12–December 15, 2019

    An energetic fluidity between species, regimes, materials, and genders courses through WangShui’s film and installation exhibition here, which marks their European debut. Pupating silkworms inhabit an elaborate insect-scale cityscape of chromed bath fixtures in Gardens of Perfect Exposure, 2018. Over the course of the exhibition’s run, the larvae will enact the process of first shedding their skin, then building a cocoon of raw silk, a metamorphosis that will be livestreamed and projected onto the walls of the gallery. It’s a useful metaphor for the exhibition and WangShui’s practice as a whole, which, they note, was “born out of a desire to dematerialize a corporeal identity.”

    Though the exhibition takes over the entire ground floor of the gallery, the capacity of its spaces is used sparingly, allowing the works to haunt, rather than occupy, the space. A snakeskin sculpture hangs over a corner of an otherwise empty room, hovering inauspiciously above the doorway. Elsewhere, a ding reminiscent of a game show rings between the rooms, as if signaling transitions on another plane. The sense of having entered in the wake of something seeps into the installations’ architectonics, with one entrance for the mixed-media installation Weak Pearl, 2019, seemingly burst open, with what look like shards of glass and wrenched metal jutting out from the doorframe.

    The show’s central piece and its tour de force is a thirteen-minute video, From Its Mouth Came a River of High-End Residential Appliances, 2018. In it, pensive drone footage takes us through a complex of high-rises on the South China Sea. Curiously, the buildings are designed with gaping voids at their centers, which, the narrator explains, are a remnant of feng shui principles that were banned by the Chinese government during the Cultural Revolution and flourished outside of mainland China, especially in Hong Kong. These so-called dragon gates form a locus for other musings on political and personal transformation, and hint toward the nature of the beast we’ve been unwittingly trailing.

  • View of “Claude Mirrors: Victor Man, Jill Mulleady, Issy Wood,” 2019.

    View of “Claude Mirrors: Victor Man, Jill Mulleady, Issy Wood,” 2019.

    “Claude Mirrors: Victor Man, Jill Mulleady, Issy Wood”

    Schinkel Pavillon
    Oberwallstrasse 1
    September 11–December 15, 2019

    This group show is named after the tinted, convex pocket mirrors favored by British landscape painters from the eighteenth century: Claude mirrors. Reflected through the black glass, a surrounding scene would appear in distilled color with a softened focus and a framed perspective. The tool was popular with travelers and artists, notably the originator of the picturesque genre, Reverend William Gilpin, who advocated for its results, which he called akin to “the visions of the imagination” and “the brilliant landscapes of a dream.”

    Gilpin’s praise could be repurposed to describe the visions exhibited at Schinkel Klause—the basement space within the eccentric, octagonal Schinkel Pavillon—where hallucinatory and allegorical landscapes conjured from the imaginations of Victor Man, Jill Mulleady, and Issy Wood are staged in dialogue. But there is no high color here—rather, there are murky bruises of green and gray, black and blue, rendered in oil paint on canvas, linen, velvet, and even the furry pelt of a skinned rodent. Wood’s canvases depict aliens alongside classical sphinxes, blurring classical antiquity and science fiction into one uneasy temporality.

    Mulleady’s theatrical figures are possessed, too. In the viridescent The Green Room, I, 2017, the protagonist flails his arms, spilling his drink, as if engaged in an occult ritual or visitation. And in Man’s works, his characters have quite literally lost their heads—severed and placed tenderly on anonymous laps, as in The Chandler, 2018, or missing completely, replaced with architectural details on top of impenetrable, latex-clad bodies, as in Untitled, 2015. Charged with the semiotics of surrealism, the uncanny images linger.