I have been to two art events recently which I felt had a “day-trip” aspect to them, in that they involved a certain commitment of time and effort to travel to a never visited before aspect of the city. I think the sentiment above reflects more (my) lazy neighbourhood-centrality, something that can easily set in while living in a big city, more than it describes anything about the actual remoteness of the exhibition localities.
The first was 48 Stunden Neukölln (48 Hours Neukölln), a weekend art and culture ‘festival’ in one of the poorer, largely immigrant, quarters of the city (but in which hype about possibilities for artist-colonisation have recently reached fruition). It was organised by the local city-area ‘Kulturamt’ and showcased the many locally based artists and other cultural-producers in various studios, galleries and off-gallery sites throughout the neighbourhood. Two such off-gallery sites which spring to mind are a church altar, and the top level of a multi-storey car park – however the locating of the work is the thing to returns to memory and not the actual work itself. In fact, none of the work I saw in this event I felt was any good. Not one piece I can think of that stands out as worth a mention here. The best mention would go to the well-intentioned efforts of the local Kulturamt itself in organising an event the attempts to utilise art as a draw for people to a part of their city they may never of ventured to before, and for a short space of time, to activate comprehensively the local base of cultural producers. It is just a pity that this same base of cultural producers was unable to meet the challenge, and actually contribute some high-quality art.
The second event, Palm Fiction, organised by the White Elephant Collective, was a temporary two-week exhibition (with a bar and music stage) in a large former palm-oil warehouse near Ostkreuz. A handsome and dilapidated old building, the site is one where planned development into luxury apartments has been forestalled, and again artists take a moment to utilise the space. So it is transformed into a short-term site of cultural display, that which once-upon-a-time was cog in the exploitation of colonial trade, and presently is left fallow as the building’s speculator/developer awaits a favourable upturn in the trade winds of the property market. A charged site then, ripe for semiotic and critical exploitation, but again no one really steps up to the challenge I feel. Okay, there are brief aesthetic and conceptual acknowledgments of industrial and trade history, or our various relations to far-off destinations, but it is so dispersed in its intentions and soft in its delivery (and not to mention, in the main, badly produced, installed and curated, but lets leave that out for the moment), that it all washed very thin. I feel an opportunity was missed by the artists chosen to exhibit, to really explore collectively the mechanics of exhibition-making while embedded amongst a rich network of power relations and re-evaluations (colonial, property, cultural-tourism). Instead what was presented I think was a desperate scramble by the artists for individual moments of site-specifity, and to wildly varying degrees of success.
Two nice days out then, with interesting locations in Berlin, but a pity the postcards weren’t all that good.