Berlin

Endart

neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst (nGbK)

Endart is a typical West Berlin phenomenon—an artist group that has lived, worked, and exhibited outside the established art world, in Kreuzberg (a sort of Berlin equivalent of New York’s East Village), since 1980. The members of the group reject the conventional notion of the artist as a special individual. Close to the Berlin Wall in a rundown quarter of the city with an unusual population mix —pensioners, students, punks, artists, Turkish workers—Endart owns a “gallery” that changes its name and direction for almost every exhibition. Analogously, they work in all the media—painting, posters, sculpture, installation, film, photography, and performance. Their work is a crossover between popular culture and contemporary critical thought, drawing on ideas from Claude Lévi-Strauss’ “bricolage” or on the methods of “ad hocism” (Charles Jencks/Nathan Silver). It is executed with anarchistic freedom, without adhering to a set program. Drastic eroticism, macabre humor, and playing with taboos are at the center of Endart’s production of art, which includes appearances within the Berlin art scene as a rock group under the name “King of Therapie.”

Two years ago, during the Cologne Art Fair, Endart gave a guest performance at the Galerie Paul Maenz that was a resounding success. But this was also the beginning of the problems that have proved symptomatic, as this Endart retrospective demonstrated. Taken out of the context in which this art is made and shown, it lost much of its energy and intensity; Endart suddenly looked well adjusted. This impression was reinforced by the fact that the show was limited mostly to painting and sculpture. A general problem of contemporary art and its mediation to the public became apparent here: is art a phenomenon that always addresses a “totality” of society? Or does it function in a partial context that comprises only certain segments of society? These are particularly pointed questions within today’s information-and-mediadominated society. To keep this society alive it is necessary to constantly “incorporate” the outsider. The art world, as it presents itself today, lives via a “vampirism” that provides it with ever fresh supplies of blood. The question is, how can artists escape this society’s clutches? For—as we can see in countless outsiders—the “ascent” to the general art world is at the same time a kind of descent. By being in the limelight, the outsider is in danger of losing his/her identity. Endart is aware of this danger. Parallel to this retrospective, the group presented a show entitled “Tot im Ziel” (Dead at the goal) in its own gallery.

Wolfgang Max Faust

Translated from the German by Leslie Strickland.