Critics’ Picks

View of “Sauer Power,” 2018.

View of “Sauer Power,” 2018.


Slavs and Tatars

Kunstverein Hannover
Sophienstraße 2
November 17, 2018–January 27, 2019

Many of Slavs and Tatars’ previous installations, such as RiverBed, 2017, champion books through cozy communal reading spaces. In the largest room of this exhibition, “Sauer Power,” one finds a sharp departure from these earlier works. In Underage Page (siamese), 2018, for instance, the visitor straddles a metal pole at an awkward angle and is forced to stare at the wall like a naughty child, only able to glimpse fellow visitors via peripheral vision. Books are notably absent in the show, though words do populate the room: Changed Names (Ukraine-Evpatoria), 2018, for example, documents the metamorphosis of a city name in Crimea, a timely nod to the perilous power of words to mutate geographies. On the plush pastel carpet Hamman from the Hood, 2017, there’s a quote from an avid critic of the Enlightenment, Johann Georg Hamann, who warned against its dependence on reason.

If the central room presents pitfalls of logic and language, the rest of the exhibition offers an antidote through fermentation, the theme of the artists’ latest work cycle. Fermentation occurs not through the individual so-called genius who begets books but through the collaboration of bacteria. By gazing in a mirror in Figa, 2016, or gathering around a bar table in Pavement Prose, 2016, visitors can “work” the works like bacteria transmogrifying a cucumber into a pickle. Sitting in the final installation, one wonders if an ayran machine will be enough to spark discussion or, as the artists’ video Hamdami, 2016, puts it, to “put [our] lips onto the botoxed, bruised lips of history.”