David Meskhi

Galerie für Moderne Fotografie
Schröderstrasse 13
November 9–January 28

David Meskhi, Nonexistent Spot No 02, 2013, ink-jet print, 5 x 8".

In David Meskhi’s photographs, the juxtaposition of opposites, in terms of form as well as content, is always in the foreground. The thirty photographs currently on display can be read as a movement study of the body: Alternating black-and-white and color exposures present male gymnasts in training put into dialogue with photographs of skateboarders in the open air. Even if images such as Nonexistent Spot No 02, 2013, recall the Californian skater scene at first glance, the surreal, brutal backdrop in Meskhi’s photograph, an abandoned concrete spot reminiscent of a landing strip, points to his focus on the youth culture of his homeland, Georgia. But unlike the current fashion for taking inspiration from post-Soviet culture—as in the work of designers Gosha Rubchinskiy or Demna Gvasalia—the photographs here, with infrastructural ruins in the background, make reference to a social burden tied to political circumstances.

While in the skater series space is ordered by horizon lines, it all but dissolves in the series “Abstract Body 01-12,” 2016. Bodies appear to be weightless, freed from any gravitational pull. Furthermore, the images, taken in a gym in Georgia, are very nostalgic, and subtly homoerotic moments permeate. What is intuitive in skating is a matter of discipline in gymnastics, but at the heart of each is a brief moment of suspension. Meskhi’s images have moments of tension in which such lightness takes on more complex meanings, given the geographical and sociopolitical backgrounds against which these scenes play out. The act of letting go offers these youths the possibility to take a stance and relate to their environment, as well as a chance to escape it.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.

Melissa Canbaz

“The Others”

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

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.

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.

Louisa Elderton

Florian Hecker

MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst
Domstraße 10
November 26–February 5

Florian Hecker, Modulator, 2012, CD player, speakers, sound. Installation view.

One of the most radical museum exhibitions of recent memory is by sound artist Florian Hecker. On display is not an image but a stripped-down gallery space of dark brown brick columns and two long rows of windows that flood the space with natural light. A ballet of electroacoustic motifs and sonic patterns emerges from fourteen of Hecker’s signature small black speakers to build an eight-hour choreographed digital orchestra of previous and recent works, which include NnNd (Auditory Scene Synthesis), 2009, and his two Documenta 13 contributions, Chimerization, 2012, and Chimärisation, 2012.

The exhibition originally premiered at Culturgest in Porto, Portugal, in fall 2015, and it encompasses Hecker’s compositions from 2004 to 2016 through a sequence of sixteen sound pieces plus Modulator, 2012, installed in a separate room. The sixteen works featured in the main gallery are informed by concepts of synthesis, analysis, and resynthesis. One follows the other to form a multichannel surround-sound experience that immerses our senses. These synthetic sounds and vibrations fly through the space like invisible ghosts and create an experience and environment that is profoundly stimulating, even physical, thereby elaborating on ideas central to 1960s Minimalism.

This stunning and sometimes disorienting show radically challenges our listening habits, producing a “participatory dramatization of the auditory process,” as British philosopher Robin Mackay puts it in the catalogue for the show, and encouraging us to broaden our expectations and open ourselves to new frequencies.

Vivien Trommer