Critics’ Picks

View of Henrik Olesen, “Hey Panopticon! Hey Asymmetry!,” 2018.

View of Henrik Olesen, “Hey Panopticon! Hey Asymmetry!,” 2018.


Henrik Olesen

Schinkel Pavillon
Oberwallstrasse 32
September 21–December 1, 2018

Continuing his interest in Foucault, which has featured heavily in his work since the 1990s, Henrik Olesen has staged his first solo show in Berlin in some years in the panopticon-like room of the Schinkel Pavillon, a former GDR building offering a panoramic view of the city center. Today, the room is filled with sculptural objects, including Plexiglas and wooden boxes silk-screened with images in neon colors, as in No Mouth No Tongue Box (all works 2018), alongside mundane consumer products such as cardboard boxes and milk cartons that function as ready-mades, painted over by the artist. The Discipline and Punish Box! features a photo of a public spanking on cardboard, evoking a grunge Warhol or even Olesen’s own former student Danh Vo. One is reminded of Merlin Carpenter’s “The Opening,” the series of actions and paintings executed during the financial crash ten years ago in which the viewer became implicated in the art-industrial complex.

The exhibition abounds with references, like a supermarket for midcentury queer theory—Artaud, Ashbery, Burroughs, Althusser, take your pick. Robert Morris’s Untitled (Box for Standing), 1961, is remade in Exit/ Portal. An oversize, clear Plexiglas “M,” titled Referring to: The Master-Slave-Dialectic!, dominates the room while blending into the space in its transparency. The invisible grip of power? Outside, in the city, the Folsom leather-fetish-pride fair is opening up, with participants performing similar power roles. Olesen uses the structure of the Schinkel to map these histories and remix his own work, projecting a kaleidoscopic gaze back onto the city’s panorama.