Critics’ Picks

Santiago Sierra, Object Measuring 600 x 57 x 52 cm Constructed to Be Held Horizontally to a Wall, 2001–16. Performance view, König Galerie, Berlin, 2016.


“The Others”

Alexandrinenstrasse 118-121 St. Agnes
November 12–January 22

With this curatorial presentation, after having been selected to curate the 2017 Istanbul Biennial, Elmgreen & Dragset are cementing their identity as artist-curators. Occupying a former Catholic church, the exhibition directly responds to its architecture, bringing together fifteen works by twelve contemporary artists who reimagine the portrayal of the body within Christian iconography.

The Catholic tradition favors emotive images of Christ, images that show him in positions of suffering and pain, his body beaten and stained with blood. By contrast, this show is a monochrome and almost sterile experience, with cold hues of black and white recurring throughout. Andres Serrano’s photograph Black Jesus (Immersions), 1990, famously undermines typical representations of Jesus as white, while Elmgreen & Dragset’s Reversed Crucifix, 2016, is akin to a scene from a bondage room, as a human-size figure is strapped rather than nailed to a cross in a reversed, submissive pose. The crucifix form is further reinterpreted by Santiago Sierra, whose Object Measuring 600 x 57 x 52 cm Constructed to Be Held Horizontally to a Wall, 2001–16, is supported by two low-paid workers—sweating as the heavy bar rests upon their shoulders—every Saturday during gallery hours. Perhaps most subtle and affecting is Aidan Salakhova’s abstract sculpture Pieta, 2016, featuring the Virgin Mary as a white veiled form clinging to a black draped one, merging both Islamic and Christian imagery.

In a society where Christian morals underpin law and policymaking, these artists highlight our renewed climate of fear toward difference, and the currents of antagonism between religions and ethnicities once more driving a politics of otherness.