Critics’ Picks

View of “Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs: Defying Gravity,” 2018.

View of “Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs: Defying Gravity,” 2018.


Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs

KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art
Am Sudhaus 3
March 25–July 15, 2018

The Swiss duo Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs began their first major artistic collaboration with the series “The Great Unreal,” 2005–09, a photographic account of a road trip through the US. Investigating the limitations of documentary photography, the pair frequently manipulated the natural landscape, introducing self-made constructions. “Continental Drift,” 2013–16, acts as its counterpoint; though similarly invested in the fine boundary between documentary and fiction, the travelogue charts their travels east—to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, among other places. These series, alongside a new body of work, are on view in “Defying Gravity,” a survey of Onorato and Krebs’s career over the past ten years.

The exhibition space, a former power station in the Neukölln district of Berlin, provides a setting appropriately replete with a history of urban renewal. The 16-mm film Blockbuster, 2012, depicts a construction worker hammering on distant buildings—an illusion that recalls tourists “holding up” the Leaning Tower of Pisa. In fact, the sounds of clanging metal are not the soundtrack of the film but are the result of mechanized mallets pounding behind the projection. The artists’ use of nondiegetic sound finds its visual analogue in the film Fire, 2016, where aspects of the image, rather than the sound, are incongruous with the cityscape. The artists constructed and set aflame wooden scaffolding that mirrored the outlines of the buildings behind them. Their new group of sculptures, “Verwachsungen” (Adhesions), 2018, also employs the vernacular of grid and environment, this time with tree branches that puncture metal grates. Onorato and Krebs’s work ultimately reveals an essential element of documentary practices—realism always involves an element of fabulation.