Thursday, 29 September 2011

New Art Criticism_04_March 2010

New Art Criticism is no longer on-line, therefore I thought to copy and paste my contributions to the former website here. It is mostly exhibitions reviews and I hope you will enjoy the reading!


Some say to have fallen in love with the Berlin at the first sight. 
Personally, the grey sky, the hard icy snow pushed to the side of the broad streets and dotted with dog’s dung, and the strong sense of the actual passage of a devastating war, did make an impression, but it wasn’t love. I might call it sympathy.
It takes two strong legs and a good sense of distance to walk from popular Friederichstraße, passing Check Point Charlie, to the boulevard called Unter den Linden, that links the Brandebourg Gate with Alexander Platz. From the middle of this road, both huge monuments lay small and indistinct at each end. You feel very small in Berlin: it takes a long time to take in the buildings, the geography of the city, to recognize its distinctive European flavour, but to fail in trying to classify it in comparison with the other capitals.

The Temporäre Kunsthalle is in Schlossplatz, close to the so called Museum’s Island: it’s a small, square building that seems to be built out of dark mirrors. It stands on its own, not surrounded by anything else, giving, exactly, this sense of temporariness. When I stepped in I found a library, and two people taking bookings: there was a film program called Auto Kino!, devised by the British artist Phil Collins, and it seemed to be very successful because there were just a few places left. I am told that I had car number five, and at first I thought I misunderstood the language; but no, when I walked in the other room I realized that the huge inside was transformed in an old Drive-In, with second hand cars lined randomly in a semicircle. There was even a Volksvagen van equipped with a pop-corn machine, and I happened to be in it. The number was clearly written on the plate, 005. The comfort of the seat and familiarity of the inside of a vehicle made me temporarily forget why I was there and, with the screen still blank, I almost dozed off when someone else stepped in, on the passenger seat. The situation changed: there was an urge to say something, at least to introduce myself, just to be able to mentally justify being inside a van with a total stranger. But then, the projection begun and I occupied myself with eating caramel popcorn, because, I thought, it was part of the performance.
Drive-Ins were very popular in America during the 50s: a place to run away with your sweetheart and forget about morality for at least a couple of hours. Having one in Berlin, where the weather never did allow that kind of outdoor cinema to spread, was a sort of unique experience. The program run from 5th February to 14th March 2010, and on the 24th of February I could see Ich Deutsche Behorde (22 mins, 1981), by Ezra Gerhardt and Alf Bohmert, and Die Bewerbung (60 mins, 1997), by Berlin-based filmmaker Harun Farocki. The screening was focused on immigration and job interviews issues: the first movie, a documentary, was about the slight racism underlining the first immigration wave in Germany during the eighties. Foreigners were admitted in an office one by one, their footprints and picture taken, like they were mere criminals. They would leave without any certainty of a Visa. Farocki’s movie twisted the argument and unveiled a behind-the-scene workshop about how to be successful at a job interview. I learned that putting the hands on the interviewer’s desk is invading his space, that fidgeting gives a very bad impression, not to mention staying still. My car companion got bored and left before the end; I took the chance to make myself more comfortable, aware of the fact that Farocki’s movies make you unable to leave just until the end. I also couldn’t help but do some other car-spotting: people were enjoying themselves. As a temporary experience in a Drive-In cinema that never existed, they, like me, were having an afternoon out of the ordinary.

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