“Artfan”

ORACLE
Lichtenrader Str. 49
April 11–May 10

Linda Bilda and Ariane Müller, Zu Zweit nach Vorn (Getting Ahead Together), 1995, VHS video transfered to DVD, color, sound, 23 minutes 44 seconds.

From 1991 to ’95 in Vienna, the artists Linda Bilda and Ariane Müller published the zine Artfan for thirteen xeroxed and stapled issues, each in an edition of eight hundred. Their intention was to give artists a voice, including in long-form interviews with the likes of Jutta Koether, Martin Kippenberger, Andrea Fraser, and Fareed Armaly, who were all based around Cologne and New York at that time. The seemingly unedited dialogues were also accompanied by hand-drawn illustrations, photo stories, and reviews.

Situated in an unfurnished apartment, this exhibition gives a retrospective and somewhat nostalgic insight into the making of Artfan. Mainly displayed on dark panels or simple frames mounted on walls are master plans for the layouts, original texts and pictures, covers, a draft of the logo, as well as documenting photos, letters—including one addressed to Isabelle Graw from Texte zur Kunst—and other testimonials to their enterprise’s communication and promotion. The show also includes two videos, the subtle commercial Artfan Production, 1991, which documents, in the style of an educational film, the manufacturing of the magazine, and Zu Zweit nach Vorn (Getting Ahead Together), 1995, which was recorded at the bookstore and publishing house b_books in Berlin. The latter shows a slapstick performance by Bilda and Müller discussing their collaboration on the zine that ends with a cake fight, hinting at the challenging responsibility for such an ambitious project and its effects on handling personal interests and relationships before the Internet, desktop publishing, and network capitalism started to set new standards. Seen from today, it’s not a surprise that the issues of Artfan went on to become valuable collectors’ items.

Barbara Buchmaier

Revital Cohen and Tuur van Balen

ERNST SCHERING FOUNDATION
Unter den Linden 32-34
January 22–May 3

View of “Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen: assemble | standard | minimal,” 2015.

Revital Cohen & Tuur van Balen’s latest exhibition posits works of art in the age of bioengineered reproduction. The playful and speculative nature of their projects leaves the less-scientifically-informed viewer to wonder what is real and what is a hoax. In Pigeon d’Or, 2011, a series of interventions has been filmed in which biologists work together with pigeon fanciers in order to develop bacteria that will modify the birds to make them shit soap. Sterile, 2014, gives us goldfish that have been engineered so as to hatch without reproductive organs; each of the forty-five specimens was produced exclusively for the artists by a biologist in Japan and is considered by the artists to be a work of art rather than an animal. An unplugged machine that is allegedly capable of replicating this process of fish production is also present here, leaving it up to the spectator to decide whether to turn it on.

Can sense even be made, or does it become the ethical foe of scientific endeavor in this brave age of technogenetic discovery? Finally, Cohen & van Balen rented a factory in China for two days in order to manufacture a completely useless product, resembling a cross between a clothing iron, a cement block, and a radio. The point, however, was its means of manufacture: The artists choreographed an elaborate, jerky, and robotic dance for the workers to perform along the assembly line that would lead to the production of the object. The filmed result in 75 Watt, 2013, is a neo-Futurist ballet for an era in which even our most basic functions are soon to be outsourced.

Travis Jeppesen

James Benning

KUNSTVEREIN IN HAMBURG
Klosterwall 23
February 14–May 10

View of “James Benning: Decoding Fear,” 2015.

With its white walls, this latest installation of “Decoding Fear” seems the negative image of the show’s first iteration at Kunsthaus Graz, where sundry objects, texts, and projections were displayed in a dark space. In either iteration, the gallery spaces have felt as sepulchral as the immaculately white, minimally furnished twin cabins at the heart of the show. These simplified, abstract reproductions of the hermitical dwellings that Henry David Thoreau and the “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski constructed at Walden Pond and Stemple Pass, Montana, respectively, are an essay in contrasts, for all their outward similarities.

The inspired, provocative pairing of these two reclusive figures, who both embody attempts at self-sufficient living, plays throughout. Practically every item on display is confronted with its double, starting with a handwritten page copied from Thoreau’s 1854 Walden and one from Kaczynski’s journals, placed at the exhibition’s entrance. In the video Stemple Pass, 2012, four static, half-hour shots of a lush mountain valley in the Sierra Nevada across the seasons, with a replica of Kaczynski’s log cabin built by Benning in the foreground, have their exact counterparts—right down to the videos’ duration—in the lingering shots of a faithful copy of Thoreau’s cabin, in Benning’s first showing of Concord Woods, 2014.

Are Kaczynski’s antitechnological writings, by turns lucid and chilling, the flip side of Thoreau’s dream of self-reliance? By emphasizing the similarities between these two figures—one worshipped, one reviled—Benning appears to suggest that their games of survival stem from the same anarchic and very American impulse.

Agnieszka Gratza