Gropius Bau’s group show And Berlin Will Always Need You lives up to its promises.
Bringing together 19 international Berlin-based artists, this exhibition focuses on those who are concerned with “craft processes”, “power structures in museums” and even the history of the Bau itself. While these sprawling curatorial themes may at first set you in the brace position for something terribly earnest and dry, this show rises far above expectation and reveals a treasure trove of Berlin’s talent.
In reference to the Bau’s brief life as a library, Chiharu Shiota’s ethereal installation of white string woven into an enormous spider’s web littered with books is strung across the atrium. Harris Epaminonda’s assemblages of objects – such as a fake black marble column set in front of a similar patch of the Bau’s own wall – nod to the various restorations done to the building. Meanwhile, Julieta Aranda’s geometric red, white and black painted walls draw on the Bauhaus in a building designed by the movement’s founder’s own great uncle, and Olaf Holzapfel’s abstract patterns hewn in geometric lines of corn couldn’t be much closer to traditional crafts.
Embracing the Bau’s history of presenting ethnographic and archaeological artifacts, Theo Eshetu’s video flicks mesmerisingly through typologies of masks, figurines and religious objects. The restitution of such objects is addressed by Antje Majewski and Olivier Guesselé-Garai in their film about a specific throne from Cameroon, which as one of their interviewees says “is over there in Europe locked up in a jail”. Best in show goes to Haegue Yang’s installation “Chronotopic Traverses” (photo). A bit like wandering into a bonkers folk version of Star Trek, you’re met by a conflation of garlic bulbs flying through the air, a lush jungle scene and a man operating some sort of high-tech medical device. Melded together and printed onto the walls, they are the backdrop to a trio of oversized shaggy black faceless figures and two chin-height effigies made from woven straw.
Combining existing and newly commissioned works that live up to its thematic promises, this exhibition also showcases the considerable talent clearly present among Berlin’s non-native artists.
And Berlin Will Always Need You Through Jun 16