Critics’ Picks

Sharon Hayes, 10 Minutes of Collective Activity, 2003, single-channel video, color, sound, 10 minutes.


“Regarding Spectatorship”

Kunstraum Kreuzberg / Bethanien
Mariannenplatz 2
November 21–January 17

At first one cannot help but wonder about the datedness of an exhibition that takes as its theme the role of the spectator. To wit, the show assembles Ken Lum’s 2007 installation House of Realizations, which turns visitors into unwitting observers of one another, as well as Sharon Hayes’s reflection on audiences in her video 10 Minutes of Collective Activity, 2003, in which a group watches a restaged speech from the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Elsewhere, one is confronted with documentation of more recent political events, such as footage of Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park, and with artworks that use, alter, and reflect such representations. Some of the most well-known works in this regard are Harun Farocki and Andrei Ujică’s famous film Videograms of a Revolution, 1993, Martha Rosler’s photographic series “Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful, New Series,” 2004, and Bernadette Corporation’s classic video Get Rid of Yourself, 2003.

Certainly, the question of a passive and contemplative spectator turning into a political actor through the conditioning of digital networks has been, as the production dates of many artworks here testify, intensely discussed in the past. Yet it becomes apparent that it is precisely this curatorial return to the recent past that allows for the show’s most important achievement. After Edward Snowden’s revelations of a real mass surveillance system on a global scale, which pointed out the presence of a total and godlike observer, the figure of the politically engaged spectator and its function in the symbolic economy of signs today has to be seen in a new light and must be accordingly reevaluated once again.