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  • Writer's pictureHenrietta

Berlin Art Prize exhibition shows the big issues that concern Berlin-based artists

Updated: Apr 3, 2019

Topics relating to feminism, human body, nature, politics, culture, technology and gender are among the major issues that Berlin-based artists are focusing on at the moment. The opening exhibition of the Berlin Art Prize showcases nine Berlin-based artists from seven different countries- from Venezuela to Madrid, from Croatia to Ireland- who are nominated for the Prize. The three winners will be announced on September 28th. I do have a few personal favourites.

The nine nominated artists for the Berlin Art Prize are Monika Grabuschnigg (1987, Vorarlberg) whose sculptures remind me of French artist Laure Prouvost’s boob fountain. Their nudy-pink glazed hues exude femininity, but I feel a sense of imprisonment. The mouth that spits water into the soapy fountain, the eyes engraved in the sculptures seem as if the mouth and the eyes have lost their function, their ability to see and to speak up; just like how a woman struggles to express her own thoughts in a patriarchal world. Other works which address gender identity include Irish artist's Doireann O'Malley's video installation which displays an intimate conversation between a transsemiotic, gender-neutral man and a psychiatrist. Also, Markues' watercolour works combined with a parachute installation examines the topic of feminism, gender and identity in our current society.

Among my favourite are installation works by Ana Alenso and Arthur Debert. Ana Alenso (1982, Caracas)’s installation titled 1,000.000% presents a specific socio-political issue. The Venezuelan artist's work demonstrates the hyperinflation which wrecked her country's economy in a humorous and intelligent way. At the centre of the installation sits a tall glass container which mimics a lotto machine, but the numbered balls are replaced by Venezuelan Bolivar cash -which are now worthless. Once the 'lotto' machine is activated, the surrounding oil barrels send different messages relating to the reasons for the hyperinflation, from protestors' sound that comes out of the oil barrel labeled as BP to black balls- hinting pollution- being blown on a Total oil barrel. The work is not just timely and humorous but it is also able to explain a complex issue; this is perhaps a good example of how artists can present socio-political context in contemporary art.

Arthur Debert (1990, Paris) uses a chess game to experiment with 3D modelling and how technology can assist art making, in this case, automated performance. Among the installation works are two central works that need some explanation, although I only partially grasp the technological part of the process but I will try anyways. One work titled Impressions (k5e3) shows the development of technology from a collaboration between the artist and his father Luc Debert who developed 3D images of a chess game 25 years ago. Since then the AI Deep Blue beating the Russian chess player to which the artist now is able to print the 3D images that Luc Debert developed with 3D technology. The work is paired with Yojimbo, an automated performance of the chess game developed by the artist father. Arthur Debert's chess game project examines the potential of how technology can influence art-making and the future for art and technology. Unlike Arthur Debert, Nina Wiesnagrotzki also challenges the future with a series titled Chinese Seismic Investigations, but asks the question of the future livelihood of human beings and nature.

Nina Kurtela (1981, Zagreb)’s video-cum-live performance investigates the our everyday routines. Alanna Lynch (1978, Montreal)'s laboratory-like installation consists of insects, human hair and urine, among some of her medium. According to the artist, she seeks to 'balance feelings of disgust and fear with an aesthetics of care.' Lorenzo Sandoval (1980, Madrid) demonstrates a Berlin problem: a housing shortage. It investigates the impact of changes in society on space and human condition.

These topics are not exclusive to Berlin-based artists, contemporary artists from all over the world are focusing on similar issues. The Berlin Art Prize exhibition shows that Berlin is not just the centre of art production but a place where ideas are still flourishing and art is still evolving, towards a positive path.

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