Press Recap: Winter – Seasonal review on art reviews, interviews, essays, etc. // non-proof-read

  • 19.02.2018

On the front-page of ‚Die Welt‘,

the eyes of Da Vinci's Mona Lisa occupy half of the sheet. On page eleven, Manet’s ‚Dejeneur sur l’herbe‘ illustrates a reportage on Airbus and Boings. On page twenty, Bartholomäus Springer’s ‚Venus and Adonis‘ stand next to an article presenting a study on exhaustion in the German job market. On page thirty-four, a depiction of the 2000-years-old Venus from Willendorf places herself in the middle on an interview by Boris Pofalla with Jeff Koons, who took over of the entire layout of the newspaper on November 16th, 2017.

BP: „Dear Mr. Koons, after doing a selection for our artist’s newspaper edition (…) [you said] ‚Is not about me, it’s about the reader‘- what does that suppose to mean? JK: „(…) I didn’t want to show only my own artworks and lend my brand to ‚Die Welt‘. I thought it would be better to take artworks along with me, that posses their own power. Art has its own power.(…).“

Koons refers to the randomness of images on daily newspapers, as lacking a relation between each other. The iconoclastic way he refers to reporting photographs with an informative function, and the way he displays art works from the past centuries near his own pieces without any other purpose than arbitrariness, is celebrated by ‚Die Welt‘ as an annual collector’s edition. The intervention in ‚Die Welt‘ does not only takes along with him the artworks to which he refers on his new collection of handbags for Louis Vuitton ‚Masters‘, but also the brand and galleries themselves, advertising prominently on the same edition. A day in the life of Jeff Koons is remembering what kind of power he refers in his artworks.

On its December edition, TEXTE ZUR KUNST

published an artists statement by Linda Stupart that would count as a counterpart to Koons hypercapitalist activism. It’s called Didacticore and deals with a new moment/movement, ‚kind of hardcore, politicized didacticism, a particular readability, visibility, and ironic reestablishment of boundary integrity (skin) for contemporary art that might 'separate' it from its dissolution into capitalist life, (…)[where] contemporary art has a tendency, (…) to behave like Marcel Duchamp reading Vice magazine.‘ To this lack of boundaries, which Stupart calls abjection, she adds:





‚But the art is not the worst‘

Dietmar Dath wrote an essay on the FAZ about what Marx would think about the current state of culture and politics. Starting with a comparison between Shakespeare’s concreteness on the persons, moments and settings he described and Schiller’s lack of a - in Marx words - philosophical system, Dath explains that for the author of ‚Das Kapital‘, the biggest mistake of theatre dilettanti is to convert individuals into megaphones of a certain zeitgeist. What has gone wrong with contemporary artists? Dath does not respond to the problematic, but suggests a sharp answer:

„Poor artists wait for the system to change, reading through their quarterly capitalism-critical art-fairy cheese magazines or analogue stage reviews, suppressing a socially constructed yawn and - though they know that the economic basis of their dreams will remain lifelong narrow - secretly believing such stupidity, which is a thousand times more implausible as all what Marx and Engels wanted to erase from the intellectual Germans ideas of their generation in "The Holy Family" and ‚The German Ideology‘: Stupidity like ‚Ideas are the new money‘, ‚Protest is when everyone talks about it‘ or ‚everyone is an artist‘.

Power and Shame

Is the title of Peter Kümmel's article on the suspension of Matthias Hartmann as director of the Burg Theater in Vienna. Sixty members of staff accused him of machoism and of spreading anxiety in the working place. Although they do not accuse him of sexual abuse, many abusive situations have poisoned the atmosphere on stage. ‚Will this ever change?‘ asks Kümmel rhetorically. The staff declares:

„A rehearsal could be interrupted by Hartmann requesting an almost exclusively female cast, asking whether they would swallow the sperm during oral sex and whether that would contradict a calorie-conscious diet.“

What would Valie Export say?

In an interview for Monopol magazine, Saskia Trebing asks her if art can do something more than just collect symptoms of sexism and political rightwing radicalism like the online-activism and the #metoo debate do. Export responds:

„I think the online discussions are good and right, as they are bringing so much to light that would otherwise remain unsaid. On the other hand, I see the Internet developing as a manipulative space. People like to be manipulated, because they do not want to decide for themselves, and this tendency is favored by the anonymity of the internet. Ultimately, the sexism debate is always about real bodies dominated by male power. (…) A diagnosis. That would be to show the sick body of society. Art can not cure the diseased body, but it can show changes that make the diseased body obsolete.‘

How can an artist preserve his autonomy in a hierarchical art business?

How to survive the Facebook overwhelmingly hybrid media life? A couple of pages further on the same Monopol January issue, Daniel Völzke delivers a fine portrait on the 32-year-old Neil Beloufa, whose solo show at the Palais du Tokyo just opened, drawing a balance on the state of the art system, where Beloufa perceives a growing discomfort. It is not just the widespread experience that any kind of system criticism is immediately absorbed and instrumentalized by the system. No, writes Völzke, Beloufa blames the artists themselves:

„The independence we claim cuts us off from society. After centuries of ‚distributing official images of power to the lower classes or criticizing power‘, artists stood today between ‚the powerful and the powerless‘ (…). That's why the lower classes are not interested in us. And they are right! So we talk about their discontent, even though we mean our own resentment. But the poor do not want to see their discontent. And the elite consumes the discontent of the lower class through the arts, so they are spared to get in direct contact. We artists separate classes from each other.“

Holly Herndon goes to a fitness studio

and gets inspiration from The Cranberries: How easy music was in the nineties, how complex it is today! As part of the worldwide sui generis ten-days-long electronic music festival CTM, Holly Herndon and her ensemble gave one of those concerts, writes Kolja Reichert for the FAZ, that are to be always hoped for, if one ever believes in the progress in popular forms. Reichert describes accurately how it sounds, namely 'as when machines learn to compose':

„Here, a loose collective of individuals seems to work not only on artistic, but also on life forms. One can see in the artists’ exuberance and in their fashionable decisions, that they are curious about all the upheavals and power shifts digitization brings. They know about the best tech blogs, encrypt their own cell phones and manage - just before bedtime - their Bitcoin sites. Additionally, they create music that helps to understand and appreciate the transformation of existing standards.“

„Do I enjoy attention? Sure! Is being a famous artist fun? Absolutely!“

Jordan Wolfson confesses 032c magazine how much he enjoys being the superstar he is right now, and how difficult and insane is to make art. 'Harder than you ever fucking imagined'. Thomas Bettridge mentions Wolfson’s Tesla, narrates a picturesque story of an ambition driven career making in New York, and quotes David Zwirner as he gave Wolfson a disproportionate amount of money to produce ‚Female Figure’. The piece was a 2014 a bizarre and unique spectacle in his gallery. A year ago people needed to have appointments to see it at the Stedeljik Museum. „It was almost a monument to this digital Zeitgeist, fit for a generation that could closely relate to the condition of being welded to a mirror.“

Considering Wolfson’s half naked white-and-blond-woman-robot wearing a carnivalesque witch mask a monument of my generation seems pretty much depressing, and somewhat monetary value-accelerating rather than socially fulfilling. But in an issue where Frank Ocean is the main topic, the anonymous group Berlin Kidz are celebrated for its graffitis, videographer and train-surfing, Wolfson’s macabre basic concept of what real violence really is, seems to be beyond good and evil.

Jean-Michel Basquiat – Superstar?

The impressively characterless, non-critical article of Rose-Marie Gropp about Basquiat’s solo show in Frankfurt for the FAZ can be read as a copy of the press release the virtuously Marketing-competent communication department of the Schirn Kunsthalle:

„In the Schirn you will encounter an artist who will finally be snatched away from oblivion. It is clear how explosive was left by his work and how deeply it reaches into the bowels of America and kneaded. And there is at the same time the proud temperament of a young black man in the eighties, who self-confidently stages himself as a Picasso in 1984 and yet vehemently brushes through the face of the old Picasso on his watercolor ‚Young Picasso, Old Picasso’“.

Regrettably, the exhibition obliterates any current context for Basquiat’s relevance.

(Why is BLACKNESS not a thing here?)

Alone the speech of Eleanor Nairne during the opening: She cornily mentions her arbitrary decision of taking Basquiat as her chance to curate her own project at the Barbican Centre, when she was asked to do something, whatever she wanted to. Mourning about the emptyness of a review placed in one of the major newspapers of Germany is knowing that it will take gigantic measures to take Basquiat out of the white hegemonic art historical production of celebrities. ‚Boom for Real‘ is a plain retrospective by Dr. Dieter Buch­hart and Elea­nor Nairne from the Barbi­can Art Gallery, London in collaboration with the Schirn in Frankfurt am Main, which exposes the measurements of iconic exploitation of artists figures.

Welcoming Kitsch with 'legs wide open'

Peter Richter is disappointed by Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of Barack Obama. Michelle Obama opted to be portraitd by Amy Herald instead. But, writes Richter diplomatically from the far,

„The entry of the first black presidential couple into the Portrait Gallery is, however, a triumph of modernity, because their predecessors were always painted by crossbreed traditionalists, and one does not even want to think about the successor's puppet portrait.“

Nobody touches the golden bear

Jens Jessen defends the 68th Berlinale from its haters in Die Zeit:

The critics of the Berlinale, (…), say: Less is more. That's not true. Only more is really more. Less is simply less, and definitely not enough for Berlin, the only real big city Germany has. And why is it the only big city? Precisely because of its sprawl, its complexity, its inability to have ever provided a sole dominant theme for its habitants. There is never one theme to identify with, and above all, there is no dominating milieu dictating such thing.

Willem Dafoe has played in more than 100 films,

and now he comes to the Berlinale to be honored: Today, Dafoe will receive a Golden Honorary Bear for his lifelong career, and his most important films run within a tribute section of the Festival. Katja Nicodemus describes him in Die Zeit as a soft extremist. When she aske why so many abysmal figures are among his characters, he answered: "As a kid I had exceed a natural inclination to transgression, to people and the rules.

Virtous characters make him suspicious, and when Die Zeit tries to jump on the political train and risks a question towards the '#Metoo-Debate', Dafoe prefers to avoid 'cheap sentences'. "He prefers to talk about the film 'Body of Evidence', in which he plays the ultimate role of a woman and Madonna played the male part. He gushes about Madonna's aggressive sexuality in the 1980s and 1990s: "That was visionary gender politics, the conservatives wanted to kill her spirit, shut up, girl, and get dressed!", quotes Nicodemus.

Deniz Yücel is free and back in Berlin

After 368 days of imprisonment.