ArtForum Berlin 2010 is all about high-finish, glossy surfaces and superficiality, as one would expect at any gathering of galleries. But the overall emphasis on polished outward appearances manifested itself in a particularly Central European way. It eschewed what could have easily developed into another iteration of Pop Art consumer aesthetics and instead adhered to textual works.
In these representations-of-graphic-language-turned-art-objects, the messy, convoluted, and at times utterly exasperating art form we call ‘conceptual’ meets the clean, hard edges of design, which long ago purged any suggestion of the human presence. Perhaps due to my background in literature and philosophy I am partial to the language games and visual puns that typify such artworks, but I do believe it can be the best of both worlds. Certainly, design is the proleterianization of art and we can debate if conceptual art is even art as such, and, of course, there are those nauseating fumes, which turn the faces of the young and the idealistic green with disgust (or jealousy) and are produced whenever money and art openly express their love for one another. But all of those admissible qualms aside, I, for one, found it refreshing to see works with both a strong visual presence and some depth of thought negotiating the post-minimalist, post-pop, concept-saturated landscape of today’s art world in an art fair setting.
Of course, any given genre or style is bound to have better and worse representatives. At one extreme you find trite one-liners like Johannes Wohnseifer’s anticapitalist agitprop (Johann König: Stand 124) and at the other Jorinde Voigt’s highly complex yet elegant, visually alluring yet austere grammatical schemata or cartographical grammars, depending on how you choose to ‘read’ them (Klosterfelde: Stand 103 / Parisa Kind: Stand 136). Middling between the two, I chuckled at Ingo Gerken’s photograph of the torn page of a magazine advertisement for an exhibition by Walter De Maria (Pianissimo: Stand 165b) and I kept returning to Erica Braun’s unexpectedly beguiling photographs of dog-eared pages in unnamed books (Lüttgenmeijer: Stand 167a). Even Herman Pitz’s black box resting on a bight yellow wedge of Reclam, thrift-edition literature, although more minimalist and less graphic was still textual in its own poignant way.
Don’t let the uncomfortable mixture of cultural capital and fiscal capital keep you at bay. After Capital dumped Culture a few years back, it seems as though they’ve kissed and made up and are slowly learning to trust each other again.
On view October 7 – 10, 2010
Halls 18-20, Palais am Funkturm, Messegelände Berlin
Entrance through Hall 19 on Hammarskjöldplatz, Berlin-Charlottenburg