Critics’ Picks

Home Climate Gardens (detail), 2003.


Janice Kerbel

Galerie Karin Guenther
Admiralitätstraße 71
May 28–July 31

In works like Bank Job, 1999, a meticulously researched plan for a bank robbery, or Bird Island Project, 2002–2003, which used a website to sell time-shares on a nonexistent tropical island, Janice Kerbel has demonstrated a knack for inventing detailed fictions that subtly turn reality on its head. At Guenther/Borgmann the Canadian-born, London-based artist revisits the criminological territory of Bank Job. On a drawing of the gallery’s blueprint, she’s carefully rendered “sight lines” and “sound lines”—that is, every axis along which an intruder could move without being given away by shadows or creaking floorboards. Visitors are invited to follow the paths of the would-be cat burglars; like an ironic joke at Conceptual art’s expense, the work effectively seeks to dematerialize the viewer. In Home Climate Gardens, 2003, she imagines new ways in which the natural and built environments might coexist, observing the light, temperature, and humidity conditions of commercial and domestic spaces and devising unique gardens for each one. A series of drawings propose, among other things, an office planted with orchids, a cactus grove in a student dorm, and a rotating restaurant with bordering miniforest. The drawings seem to prioritize lucid visual communication above aesthetics, but Kerbel’s graphic, pseudoscientific style leaves that much more room for viewers to conjure their own images of her alternate realities.

Translated from German by Emily Speers Mears.