Critics’ Picks

View of “Karin Sander,” 2011.

View of “Karin Sander,” 2011.


Karin Sander

Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.)
Chausseestrasse 128-129
March 5–May 1, 2011

Karin Sander’s latest exhibition is the sort of show that sets skeptical hearts hammering. It is made of one material––trash, slowly accumulating in mounds on the floor. Plenty of art doubters will walk in and turn right around, wondering where it all went so wrong. But for Sander’s admirers, the exhibition demonstrates a rare gift: the ability to create minimal gallery interventions that have effects far greater than the sum of their parts.

Sander has cut five holes in the floor of NBK’s offices above the gallery. The holes are located where wastepaper baskets would otherwise have been, and she has asked NBK’s employees to behave as though the receptacles were still there. As a result, paper falls through the floor and into the gallery. On a basic level, the work exposes the inner workings of the institution. But in doing so, it also reveals the lives of its staff. Which one of them, for instance, took that train trip from Nancy to Strasbourg? Or went to a book launch on a Saturday night in February? One also wonders whether the crew have started to self-censor. And if so, to what extent are they undermining the work, or actually improving it?

Visitors aren’t immune from Sander’s control either, as she forces them into an anxious choreography. I wanted to look straight up through the holes; but to do so would have meant trampling through the waste, which somehow didn’t seem right. Going upstairs was even more disconcerting, as the NBK team went about their business unperturbed by my presence in their workspace. NBK’s rubbish then, is Sander’s gold: the raw material for an intelligent, funny installation that produces giant piles of doubt and vulnerability in those who truly encounter it.