Paolo Chiasera

Köpenicker Str. 126
April 29–June 17

Paolo Chiasera, Frankenstein 18 BSDM, 2017, painting and monoprinting on plaster on canvas, 71 x 75".

With his solo exhibition opening during Berlin’s annual Gallery Weekend, Paolo Chiasera preempted the hazy state of mind that bustling art consumers might experience after such an event. The artist plays Dr. Frankenstein and creates uncanny chimeras, each composed of two to five fragments taken from works in various mediums by the fifty-four artists whose shows also opened as part of the official weekend programming. In Chiasera’s resulting paintings, some references remain legible while others are dominated and blurred by juxtapositions. The distorted face in Frankenstein 18 BSDM (all works 2017) bears features of the Belgian comic character Lucky Luke and Pinocchio after fusing together works by !Mediengruppe Bitnik, Katja Strunz, Edith Dekyndt, and Michel Majerus. A subtle piece by Bernd Lohaus seems to be tattooed onto a portrait by Roni Horn for Frankenstein 3 HL, the initials standing for the artists’ last names. But not all works are figurative—behind one of Rebecca Morris’s signature grid structures in Frankenstein 12 MK, a pale-blue Robert Kuśmirowski installation is almost completely obscured.

Collapsing oeuvres and techniques, each hybrid mixes al fresco painting with monoprinting on plaster, mounted on canvas. In previous projects, Chiasera blended curatorial and artistic practices by painting imaginary exhibitions or creating mobile display contexts. Here, he constructs a nightmarish scenario of conflation that follows no logic but seems to be directed partly by feverish intuition, partly by algorithm, and could be read as a comment on the dubious power play between artists, curators, gallerists, collectors, and the ostensibly minor visitors.

Eva Scharrer

Kapwani Kiwanga

Galerie Tanja Wagner
Pohlstraße 64
April 28–June 16

View of “Kapwani Kiwanga: Linear,” 2017. From left: Linear Painting #4 Weyburn Mental Hospital (Weybrun, Saskatchewan), Linear Painting #5 Saint Laurent du Maroni prison (Guiana), both 2017.

The saying “If these walls could talk” naturally implies that they can’t. But Kapwani Kiwanga is of a different mind. Her exhibition challenges the assumed neutrality of interiors in an investigation into the psychology of institutional architecture. A black line 160 centimeters from the floor traces the entire wall of the gallery. According to the hygiene standards of Europe, this marks the height below which walls should be washed in order to prevent the spread of illnesses. Consequently, hospital walls, much like society itself, have been divided into two colors: clean and infected.

Kiwanga’s “Linear Painting” series (all works 2017) on drywall curates a history of the two-tone wall colors prevalent in prisons, hospitals, and workplaces. Peach-terra-cotta and blue-green combinations, for instance, were developed by a dedicated color theorist for a Chicago factory to help bolster the efficiency of workers. A benign strategy perhaps, but one which, given the black and brown pairing used in a prison in French Guiana, quickly emerges as a form of social control. The black pigment for the lower half was chosen because it would rub off and thus mark anyone who got out of line. While the light turquoise of a Canadian mental hospital is said to have a calming effect, the transhistorical context established by the series installs “calm” as an ally of “staying in line,” with color as a solution to modernism’s intolerance of difference and liminality. In an intelligent translation of research to form, Kiwanga’s pastel hues emerge as powerful testimonies to division and struggle.

Kristian Vistrup Madsen

Shirana Shahbazi

KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art
Am Sudhaus 3
April 2–August 6

Shirana Shahbazi, [Frucht-03-2007] (Fruit-03-2007), C-print on aluminum, 47 x 59".

While hardly anyone still believes in photography’s claim to truth these days, the medium continues to renew its promise of authenticity. The contention that images, identities, and worlds are constructed has long been evident––even analog photography has for some time now had to account for it. Rather than clinging to that discussion, Shirana Shahbazi’s pictures take as their point of departure the material world, never completely breaking away from their relationship to objects. In this exhibition, thirty-five photographs are seemingly displayed at random, but each’s presentation is deliberate and should be perceived as such. Within the disparate arrangement and heterogeneous imagery, there are still lifes of extreme artificiality and simplicity, including [Frucht-03-2007] (Fruit-03-2007) and [Magnolie-04-2013] (Magnolia-04-2013), as well as examples of geometric abstraction—[Objekt-25-2013] (Object-25-2013) and [Kreise-02-2014] (Circles-02-2014).

Elsewhere are two-tone lithographs of fleeting landscapes and vistas of travel, such as [Wellen] (Waves) and [Wüste] (Desert), both 2014. In the case of the abstract [Raster-01-2013] (Grid-01-2013), a reduction is achieved alongside the creation of a complex play between the impression of flatness and space. Shahbazi’s photographs are all marked by their disparate nature: The images feel controlled, improvised, logical, and baffling all at once. This show can be taken as ironic and, at the same time, as an expression of radical rigor. What is chiefly important here is equivalence, the illusion of classification, and freedom from hierarchy.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.

Melissa Canbaz

Jasmin Werner

Gillmeier Rech
Körnerstraße 17
April 22–May 27

Jasmin Werner, “Sara and Tobias I–IV,” 2017, plastic pavilion window, ink-jet prints on plastic foil, 93 x 50".

Jasmin Werner’s exhibition features mechanical staircase constructions and windows taken from industrially produced garden pavilions. Four of these cheap-looking plastic sheets, which imitate the arc of church windows, are stretched over plastic foil that features ink-jet prints of a biblical couple for the series “Sara and Tobias,” 2017. In ancient times, social status—already defined by money and sexual prowess—was perceived as God-given and sacred. However, not unlike in modern secular times, status could also be achieved by faith and the right investment of erotic energies: While Sara’s seven former husbands were killed, Tobias was able to avoid such a fate by deferring the accursed sexual expenditure during three nights of prayer, as told in the Bible’s Old Testament.

The sheet windows in this series can be explicitly related to the large glass panels of Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, 1915–23, which pictures the modern social machine as driven by repressed desires. However, after the death of God, modern people are believed to be free and equal, and exegesis can seemingly no longer legitimate individual status. Under these conditions, one’s social position appears to be fake, always a simulacrum, but it is nevertheless real. People are still compelled to climb ladders, and we estimate one another according to perceived value. Werner’s machinelike aluminum stairs not only refer to various monumental buildings but can be seen as models for an eternal, libido-driven International, reminiscent of Vladimir Tatlin. In another reference to Duchamp and the phantasm of his Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2), 1912, Werner’s series of sculptures “Ambivalent Ladder”, 2016–17, all of them blocked behind a half transparent green dust sheeting—jokingly labeled Net Work, 2017—function as symbolic images for the technological framework that culturally integrates erotic energies vertically.

Philipp Kleinmichel

Win McCarthy

Keithstrasse 12
April 22–June 24

Win McCarthy, January ’17 calendar (Der Fuß des Künstlers), 2017, foamcore, C-prints, paper, stones, tape, pencil, pins, 37 x 40 x 2".

The top of the checklist reads “FOR ASSEMBLY,” as if to suggest that this exhibition of new works by American artist Win McCarthy is a type of instruction manual. McCarthy, like a TV handyman, lays out the materials: a floor display of wooden sticks, a blown-glass mask, a large yellow toy crane, and a collage juxtaposing a photograph of young people with another of a full-size crane, collectively titled “Staging area” (all works 2017). So, what are we assembling?

Two collages on the wall, January ’17 calendar (Der Fuß des Künstlers) and March ’17 calendar (bits & pieces), would seem to indicate something as elusive as time or a life. January is dominated by a large photograph of the artist’s foot covering several pencil-drawn squares on a yellowed board surface, while others neatly contain figurations of small stones, pictures of friends, and cities. In March, objects and images flank the empty grid, as if still deciding how to arrange themselves for the month, which is already past, implying that boxes were always inadequate hosts for a pile of being anyway. Here, time is a volatile substance, layered, subjective, and intensely unfit for formal organization.

Yet in these works McCarthy gives perfect form to that impossible task precisely by failing to adhere to his purported templates, be they calendars or the shapes of people. Mr. Reticence, a stuffed fabric torso with a blown-glass mask for a face and a single pink shoelace for hair, becomes the mascot for a whole team of similarly botched and taciturn characters. Eerie as well as silly in their fragility, these sculptures remind us that being unclear, or illegible, is not the same as being nothing, just as an empty schedule is not an index of lost time.

Kristian Vistrup Madsen

Adrian Piper

Hamburger Bahnhof
Invalidenstraße 50-51
February 24–September 3

Adrian Piper, The Probable Trust Registry: The Rules of the Game #1–3, 2013–. Installation view.

When speaking with former residents of East Germany, it’s not uncommon to hear stories of deceit, such as family and friends spying on one another in service to the state. Given that history, knotty questions are raised when an American artist’s installation asks visitors to question their trust in oneself and others. This is the provocation made by The Probable Trust Registry: The Rules of the Game #1–3, 2013–, an installation from Adrian Piper, who has lived in Berlin since 2005, after being placed on the United States’ list of “suspicious travelers.”

In this museum’s cavernous main hall, three towering walls have been installed, each footed by a curved desk. Here sit museum attendants, who guide visitors through electronic contracts demanding nearly impossible commitments: “I will always mean what I say,” “I will always be too expensive to buy,” “I will always do what I say I am going to do.” Following the show, a list of the signatories will be kept by the institution, as well as distributed to the participants. While Piper’s early work used public performances to disturb common expectations of propriety, this piece converts the audience into a collective performer, tasked with self-scrutiny.

Though her work is grounded in extensive philosophical study, this piece cuts into the gap between ideals and reality. Most people would love to be “too expensive to buy.” Unfortunately, economic pressure and normalized state surveillance often make such integrity untenable. Piper’s gesture thus tangles a fantasy––solidarity between the righteous––with a more realistic picture of a kinship based in ethical compromise. As a social experiment, this work is a little didactic, even patronizing. But its implications are crucial. Within late capitalism, the boundary between choice and coercion is at best elusive, and at worst an illusion.

Mitch Speed