Optik Schröder II. Works from the Alexander Schröder Collection, mumok © Photo: mumok, Stefan Korte
Alexander Schröder began building his own art collection fuelled by his personal experiences and interactions with artists. After studying art in the early ‘90s in Berlin, he soon realised that he was more interested in the work of his contemporaries. Together with Thilo Wermke, he founded Galerie Neu in Mitte while developing a particular understanding of art and the connections between different movements. His intimate knowledge of the art spectrum meant that he was able to formulate collecting as an activity that made buying artworks into a form of intricate dialogue with the artists, an intellectual game celebrating shifting roles within the established system. Twelve years after its first public appearance, a representative selection of his private collection returns in the form of the exhibition Optik Schröder II at Mumok in Vienna. The works on show illustrate some of the key conceptual trends in the development of Western art in the past three decades, and therefore offers a rich artistic spectrum of the critical questions that arose during that time. References to social issues, queer lifestyles, critical investigation of public space and architecture, as well as poetry come together through positions by Bernadette Corporation, Anne Imhof, Kai Althoff and Isa Genzken, to name but a few. This comprehensive overview shows a collection built up consistently since the mid-1990s and based on close proximity to the artists, and sensitivity for new developments. An essential element that’s influenced Schröder’s approach was his encounter and later friendship with the legendary New York gallerist Colin de Land. De Land’s selfless treatment of the artists he represented, as well as his patient, long-term thinking revealed how one can act with increased finesse within the art world. Optik Schröder II illustrates an exemplary philosophy of collecting, focusing on the nature of the contemporary, on curiosity, expertise, and humour. “I let myself be guided through many intimate conversations with artists. If you look more closely at the collection, you’ll see different ramifications, and suddenly it all fits together. I am always looking for a story behind the art.”
Frozen tent for the Antarctic-Biennale 2017, Work + Photo: Gustav Düsing
For most people, Antarctica, the earth’s sixth continent, is so far away that it can be perceived as common heritage, as an agile archive and laboratory, in which a new era of ecological consciousness is being fostered. Antarctica is a geographic end of the world yet central to global debates about climate change. But what are the intellectual and practical coordinates of commissioning art in such a location? Can we even talk about an ‘antarctic imaginary’ beyond scientific discourse? Starting with a screening of Pierre Huyghes’ film A Journey That Wasn’t, the event “Expeditions / Exhibitions” investigates the topic of travels and their presentation. What follows is a discussion between Antarctic Biennale participant Gustav Düsing, author and expert in Huyghe’s work Marie-France Rafael, and co-curator of the Antarctic Biennale Nadim Samman addressing the larger questions at hand. As part of the event, Düsing will reveal his architectural contribution to the biennial: a tent made of frozen fabric as a reference to the most prominent typology that has been used for Arctic expeditions since the 19th century. This event is part of Stop making sense, it’s as good as it gets., an ongoing program developed by Ludwig Engel and Joanna Kamm, derived from a close reading of Tom McCarthy’s novel Satin Island. Artists, writers, architects, theorists and scientists are invited to discuss their interpretations of time through different formats.
A visual voyage reveals the rarely seen inner universe of the religious schools of Shi’ite Islam over hundreds of years, through an harmonious coalition of both recent photographs and historic records. When Naser al-Din Shah travelled to Iraq in the late 1800s, he brought back a fascinating collection of photos depicting not only the Shi’ite holy places, but also antiquities and scenes from contemporary life. Hitherto unpublished, these photographs reveal a cultural wealth that today seems more threatened than ever before. “Insight” seeks to create an awareness for the cultural diversity of the region. These photographs document the continuity of Shi’ite Islam as well as the losses and dramatic changes that have taken place since. Alongside those, Hans Georg Berger’s recent photographs bring a different look on the topic. Intimate portraits and discrete observations of sacred ritual are borne from a stance of respect and curiosity. No other western photographer has delved as deeply into this enigmatic world. Years of listening and trying to comprehend have established the necessary mutual trust to capture the many layers of faith and daily life. The accompanying book published by Kehrer Verlag extends the focus of the exhibition with written contributions on Berger’s approach, on teaching methods at the religious academies, and on the calligraphy which was added to some of the photographs.
Photos: Elias Hassos
If an artwork is damaged, does it continue to be regarded as art? Apparently not. At least not within the gallery and museum system. All marred art inevitably falls into oblivion, but its lack of monetary worth doesn’t preclude its aesthetic and social values. Salvage art—a term borrowed from the art insurance lexicon—refers to work removed from art circulation due to accidental damage. Founded by artist Elka Krajewska, the Salvage Art Institute rescues said objects from the invisibility of perpetual storage by insurance companies, in order to highlight their survival past their total devaluation. The exhibition No Longer Art – which is part of the program Stop making sense, it’s as good as it gets – exposes a fragile contingency at the heart of art’s identity, beyond the capitalist world it was born into. Its castaway pieces are subject to a peculiar and transformative logic, as they are thrown into art’s nether world but are often still relatively intact. Their identity is discarded and, in theory, they emerge as something entirely different.
Irving Norman, M.F.I. Complex, 1981 © Crocker Art Museum Association, Sacramento; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY / Lene Berg, Stalin by Picasso or Portrait of Woman with Moustache, 2008. Courtesy the artist / HKW image by Sebastian Bolesch
After the Second World War, the battle of the systems also involved the arts and culture in a symbolic arms race. One prominent example was the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), an organization founded in West Berlin to consolidate an “anti-totalitarian” intellectual community. The CCF subsidized countless cultural programs from Latin America to Africa and Southeast Asia, developing a network of journals, conferences, and exhibitions that advanced a “universal” language of modernism in literature, art, and music. By 1967, a major scandal erupted: the CCF was secretly bankrolled by the CIA as a form of propaganda to support an anti-Communist consensus in favor of U.S. hegemony. The exhibition Parapolitics: Cultural Freedom and the Cold War is devoted to the global dimension of cultural politics in that era and to the changing meanings attributed to modernism. The artworks and archival materials on show explore the friction between the political instrumentalization of art and artists’ struggle for autonomy. It’s thoroughly illustrated how modernism became a signifier for individual freedom and was tantamount to establishing Western cultural hegemony in the 20th century. Thus, the CCF is in a way returning to its 10-year-anniversary location, Berlin’s former Congress Hall, today’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt.
© Robert Rieger
Advocating for the integration and inclusion of people from migration and refugee backgrounds, and all kinds of minority groups, lies at the core of The Power of the Arts initiative. Through different expressions of culture — like music, art, theater, and dance — a deeper sense of understanding is fostered across the board. This year’s winning non-profit initiatives touch on numerous issues of discrimination and inequality. Label m invests in youth subcultures and the flourishing scene of young talents in Saarbrucken. Sprayers, skaters, rappers; they all herald the creativity emerging from this often underestimated city. Through Weissensee academy’s *foundationClass program, refugees who want to follow an artistic path are given an opportunity to prepare themselves for applying to art schools. In Saxony, Banda Internationale uses music to neutralize hate, tear down prejudices and connect different cultures. A further aim is to render integration successful and create a more open community where democratic exchange doesn’t merely exist as an idea. Meanwhile, Un-Label seeks to do exactly what its name implies: remove labels and fight against putting people into boxes. Discriminatory boundaries and biases are banished using the means of performing arts.
“You can avoid people but you can’t avoid architecture.“
Whether through questions about gender and sexuality, or by investigating architecture’s imposing ability to manipulate our physical actions on a daily basis, Monica Bonvicini consistently explores themes of power and control. Her multidisciplinary approach—videos, installations, drawings and sculptures—touches on identity as well as socio-political and economic issues with a hint of humour. Conceived for the large exhibition hall of the Berlinische Galerie, Bonvicini’s new installation, amongst other things, investigates the term “facade” and its function in the built environment. The institutional viewing space is often the subject of her work and thus, Bonvicini’s site-specific, power-conscious and gendered allusions to the norms of architectural and artistic modernism quite literally operate on the boundary between artwork and spectator.
Poster by Karl Holmqvist
Gathering more than 240 independent publishers in the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Miss Read is dedicated to building community and creating a public meeting place for discourse around artists’ books, conceptual publications and publishing as practice. The art book fair suffuses art, graphic design, literature and publishing and seeks to cultivate dialogue within various thematics, and essentially give impetus to further cross-pollination between disciplines. Like every year, the fair will be accompanied by a series of lectures, discussions and workshops with the common mission of exploring the boundaries of contemporary publishing and the possibilities of the book. Among other events, the renowned ARCH+ magazine will be celebrated alongside a panel discussion on critical architecture theory, utopias and discursive practice. The 5th Conceptual Poetics Day, a recurring element of the bookfair, will explore the imaginary border between visual art and literature in the form of readings, lectures and performances.
In a small village close to Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso, arts and culture take center stage as contributors to the growth of a country and its younger generation. Initiated as an idea in 2009 by the German artist and theater director Christoph Schlingensief (1960-2010), the international art project Operndorf Afrika provides a platform for cultural encounters, workshops and collaborations. Schlingensief envisaged the initiative as a meeting place where people from different backgrounds are able to work as artists and exchange views. Over the last few years, that seed has grown from mere abstract plans into a full-fledged community that includes sustainable homes, education, health care as well as a bedrock for the area to evolve its singular artistic expression and set an example the world over. Operndorf is essentially a center where ideas can be cultivated as people from across the globe merge in one location. Here art paves the way to a thriving community, cross-cultural dialogue and much-needed postcolonial discourses building up a new image of Africa.
“The Operndorf is a project that arouses hope – hope that there can be a relationship between Europe and Africa, which is based on reciprocity and not on dominance. Hope that culture can contribute to the development of children and the development of a country.” — Horst Köhler, former Federal President of Germany