Soundsystem Despacio, New Century Hall, Manchester International Festival, Juli 2013 © Rod Lewis / Guests at Studio 54, New York, 1979. © Bill Bernstein, David Hill Gallery, London / Installation views, Photos: Mark Niedermann
Nightclubs and discothèques are hotbeds of contemporary culture. Since the 20th century, they have been centres of the avant-garde that question the established codes of social life and experiment with different realities. Interior and furniture design merges with graphics, and art with sound, light, fashion and special effects to create a modern Gesamtkunstwerk. Night Fever is the first exhibition to give a comprehensive overview of the design history of the nightclub, examining its cultural context from numerous perspectives. Examples range from Italian clubs of the 1960s created by the protagonists of Radical Design to the legendary Studio 54 where Andy Warhol was a regular, from the Palladium in New York designed by Arata Isozaki to more recent concepts by the OMA architecture studio for the Ministry of Sound in London. Featuring films and vintage photographs, posters, flyers and fashion, the exhibition incorporates music, light and spatial installations to take visitors on a fascinating journey through a world of glamour and subcultures – always in search of the night that never ends. In a night that never ends, the exhibition begs the question of whether the disco culture has evolved into a particular direction.
Jordan Wolfson, Riverboat Song, 2017 (video still)
Employing digital imaging and animatronic sculpture, Jordan Wolfson’s practice is centred on ideas of literal and virtual reality, especially the projection of inner impulses – desire, violence or guilt – into constructed scenarios. At Schinkel Pavillon, Wolfson’s Riverboat Song reveals a surreal nightmare drawn from the banalities and horrors of contemporary life and its online extension. Combining animation and found clips, pop soundtracks and voiceover, the filmic piece revolves around a Huckleberry Finn-style character delivering deadpan statements. Formulaic elements of the internet, such as avatars, memes, clips and mash-ups, coalesce into a dark psychodrama that’s both disturbing and enthralling. Through a splicing of images and a disconnect between image and script, Riverboat Song erases the line between the perverse and the gleeful. The fictive world of animation, which grows more lurid as the video progresses, is contrasted by the found reality of YouTube footage. Throughout his latest work, Wolfson exploits the distortions of cartoon to render the reality of human acts and behaviours without moralizing. The power of Wolfson’s work owes equally to the visceral impact of its complex representations – which slide seamlessly from banal to violent, and from vividly imaginary to scarily real.
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.
Across the world there has been a shared desire to bring the vision of the Bauhaus up to date, but every attempt to revive it is doomed to failure since it was both a forward-looking project and a child of its time. projekt bauhaus critically examines the ideas of the Bauhaus by using its own methods. It will seek to expose the internal contradictions of the Western idea of progress and discuss alternative approaches. The Bauhaus sought a synthesis of knowledge in which the various forms of knowledge—technical, scientific, emotional, creative—would be interconnected. This concept of knowledge was combined with a new pedagogy to emancipate the people, release their potential, and ultimately lead to the creation of a “new man.” As 2019 will mark the centenary of the founding of the Bauhaus, a one-day symposium hosted at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin will bring together great thinkers to address questions of progress and renewal pertinent to our times: Which spaces encourage creativity and innovation? Which sites of knowledge does society need today? And essentially, do advanced laboratories of computer, internet and media companies represent the Bauhaus of the twenty-first century?
© Andreas Gehrke, 2017
An unusual bank building in the centre of Germany, designed by architect Hans Kollhoff in the late 1990s, has been converted into a depot for art and valuables. Seemingly monolithic on one side with its heavy sandstone facade, the mammoth structure flows into an unexpected openness and even relaxedness on the other side. This stems from the enormous glass window designed by Swiss artist Helmut Federle, as well as the interior courtyard covered by a glass roof that, though impregnable, comes across as a light element. Austere calm emitted from the exterior coalesces with a certain domestic atmosphere imparted by an array of rooms inside. There’s a distinct feel for aesthetics and art, and since the new tenants belong to the latter category rather than the monetary world, a harmonizing balance occurs. ZentralDepot offers a safe home to artworks within a climate-controlled setting combining unprecedented security and exceptional design. It goes to indicate that the one does not have to eliminate the other.
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.
© Images: Thomas Meyer – Ostkreuz / big image: Gonzalez Haase AAS
Tucked away snugly between two adjacent buildings, vGGG is a housing cooperative project consisting of three residential units with a “house-inside-a-house” character. Starting from the outside, the building’s location is crucial to its aesthetic qualities. Ohmstrasse, a landmark-protected street, is something of an inner-city island or haven of sorts: its existing structures date back to the “founding era” of Berlin, yet it is surrounded by wasteland, industrial plants and highrises. Its historic provenance, however, makes the addition of modernist-inspired architecture a challenge, due to strict regulations. To resolve this creatively, Gonzalez Haase’s design approach disregards the outside appearance of a building shell and therefore vGGG is conceived from the inside out. The building reacts to its environment on a more complex level, which can only be experienced when one encounters the architecture from within. Inside, one thing is instantly evident: the prevailing feature is the abundance of light entering from every possible direction. From the size and placement of windows, to shortened walls and connective openings between floors, it’s all about unobstructed views and allowing natural brightness to penetrate the rooms. Thus, the industrial charm of the neighbouring horizon steps into the sphere of the private. In turn, the house morphs into a threshold between entirely contrasting urban landscapes. For Gonzalez Haase, conforming to regulations and framework conditions shapes architecture, and can ultimately generate beauty — and in this case lead to a refreshing take on reducing things to their core.
Architecture is not necessarily an activity whose sole purpose is construction, but rather a field for intellectual research and speculation that encompasses an arsenal of numerous disciplines. The emerging generation of the most talented architects and urban professionals in Europe joined forces during the Future Architecture Festival in Ljubljana organized by the Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO). The purpose? To break down walls. Not just physical walls, but also those of imaginary, professional and ideological nature. Through critical approach, architecture is perceived as a means to address the most pressing social and political issues of our times. Essentially, the common aim of all the ideas taking part in the festival is to observe, analyze and change the world we live in. Some of the stimulating topics discussed included James Taylor Foster’s (archdaily) lecture and panel discussion “What is Attention Economy? Why Should I Care?” which unpicked the designed intention behind social sharing and the state of the Internet in 2017 – a reality both fascinating and disconcerting in equal measure. Focusing on future materials, Esen Gökçe Özdamar presented the Bioplarch workshop which proposed new bio-degradable plastic made out of edible components and how it can be realistically used and widely applied in industries and daily life. Of course, one of the fervent topics throughout the whole festival was the reclamation of public space and strengthening communal initiatives. Among others, Kosmos Architects proposed to turn Basel’s underground river into a linear botanical garden, open for the public year-round.
Bureau N’s involvement
As a member of the Future Architecture Platform, Bureau N was invited to host a talk during the festival. We decided to focus on a common thread between our field of expertise — cultural communications — and the overarching theme of architecture. It was quickly obvious that the shared ground we were after was storytelling. Within our practice, stories are an indispensable device that helps us convey messages, if not the underlying protagonist of all our projects. Giving shape to narratives that others can empathize with, or are curious to explore further, is the bedrock of every worthwhile creative project seeking to transmit information that’s understood by more than one person in a powerful manner. In this case here, taking storytelling as a point of departure, we aimed to touch upon the relationship between architecture and narrative, and how space can be perceived through that particular scope. Our talk, entitled “Tales Only Architecture Can Tell” was joined by two theorists and two practitioners: futurist Ludwig Engel whose work deals with urban utopias and future cities; Victor Cano Ciborro of the architectural collective and radical research group Arquitectura Subalterna; scientist and researcher Ana Jeinic who engages in how architecture will adapt to post-futuristic states of culture; and Adrianna Pablos Llona who questions borders, nations and monolithic disciplines. All presented lectures and workshops will be soon available online on videolectures.net
Images: Bioplarch,starch-based bioplastic as construction material by Esen Gökçe Özdamar, Ahmet Bal, Schermin Schentürk / Hidden Park, Kosmos Architects / Tempio di Minerva. Sonic Impression or Architecture as Instrument”, FAKT Architects in collaboration with MAXXI