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Three must-see exhibitions for April

We might be soon heading back into a full lockdown, so make sure to soak up the work of these great artists beforehand. Here’s what you need to know.

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Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven. Image courtesy of Galerie Barbara Thumm

We might be soon heading back into a full lockdown, so make sure to soak up the work of these great artists beforehand. Remember, you’ll need to reserve your slots and present a negative Covid-19 test.

Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven: Life is Perfect

This is one of those exhibitions that makes you scurry home and do some homework after seeing it. Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven’s latest offering at Barbara Thumm is a cryptic but rewarding series of works all made in her signature Perspex and printing technique. The Dutch artist often draws inspiration from favourite books and texts, and this freshly produced series draws from The Book of Pleasures by the firebrand Situationist Raoul Vaneigem.

Taking his different chapter headings, Van Kerckhoven synthesises them into her visual ideas, which are all sharply contrasting. There’s the early Malevich-looking ones and then a highly pixelated piece called Intense pleasure means the end of guilt and of any repression in society. With a clear 1990s aesthetic, it’s odd to think that Vaneigem, who wanted to eliminate capitalism, has had his words turned into purchasable artforms, which are actually a pretty good deal; they’re totally intriguing, with a depth that is hard to quantify.

Galerie Barbara Thumm, MitteThrough April 24

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Photo: Cathy Wilkes Exhibition | BQ, Berlin, 2021 Photo: Roman März, Berlin Courtesy BQ, Berlin

Cathy Wilkes

You’re led to expect something shocking, even brutal after reading the accompanying text to Cathy Wilkes’ latest exhibition at BQ, which in a way it is, but just not in the manner you could possibly suppose. The Northern Irish artist, who exhibited in the Venice Biennale in the British Pavilion in 2019, gives tremendous force to the simplest of objects and arrangements, which through some alchemical process, possess a startling intensity that’s hard to put into words…

In one mixed-media work, an unfathomable interplay takes place between a plaster hat with the colours of the Irish flag, a foil with cotton balls and a photograph of the doomed Tsar’s children on a countryside jaunt. If you look close enough (even better if you’re being guided) it cracks open a world of fears, compassions and forgotten memories. From the engraved glass bowls on the floor to the hanging lithographs of sparse, almost extinguished flowers, everything feels charged, everything fizzes with a significance that stays with you long after you leave.

BQ, Mitte | Through May 22

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Photo: Arthur Jafa, Love is the Message, The Message is Death, 2016. Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York/Rome.

A Fire in My Belly

JSC’s latest exhibition is an ambitious, well-judged and impactful ride through the complexities of societal and personal violence. At the centre of it all is David Wojnarowicz’ chastising video work on modern industrial life, A Fire in My Belly, which lends its name to the exhibition. There’s a great deal to see and a heap of rooms to get through. A Laure Prouvost film is whimsical, then charming, then totally intoxicating. Barbara Hammer’s films are, as always, a wonderful highpoint, dreamy, sensual, angry – what to do when you’re out of sync with the cultural hegemony.

On repeat in the main cinema room is Arthur Jafa’s Love is the Message, The Message is Death, an urgent and explosive introspection on African-American culture. The show has been meticulously curated and there’s always a change of tone, a new room and a new video to immerse yourself in. One of the last rooms you come to features Tracey Emin’s unsettling account of her time growing up in Margate. By the end, she’s twirling around to Sylvester’s infectious disco hit “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)”. It’s joyful, silly – a total release from what came before. It’s a brilliant end.

Julia Stoschek Collection, MitteThrough December 12