Berlinische-galerie-1For my first Stalking of 2014, I headed to the Berlinische Galerie. A big show (Vienna Berlin: The Art of Two Cities from Schiele to Grosz) and the festive low-work, high-family-outing season combined to make me think I could really do justice to the Stalking concept: follow random museum-goers on their own journeys through a show, relinquishing my control over what I see. (Go to the Stalkings tab of this blog for more.)

Finding the right art lover to follow is always a challenge, so the more there are, the easier the task. Approaching the museum, my mouth was practically watering as streams of menschen funneled into the main entrance. “I’ll be spoilt for choice of stalkees,” thought I, rubbing my gloved hands in glee.

How wrong I was.

Picture-taking was verboten in Vienna Berlin. So I had to cower into the photo-friendly “collection” show upstairs – Art in Berlin: 1945 Until Today – sadly smaller and significantly less peopled.

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The trick to my brand of Stalking is choosing a show that is not too linear. If visitors are overly obliged to toe the curatorial line, or if they are just following a chronological order, then their reading is pretty much pre-ordained and there is little interest in stalking them. Clearly, people sporting audio guides are instantly eliminated for this very reason.

What I found promising about the Art in Berlin platform was how it foregrounded simultaneity. It seemed to admit that there was no longer a time-based sequencing of styles post-WW II. It imparted that somehow this art could not be pigeonholed into schools or movements: all artistic explorations, in all media, were occurring at once. The space was split into stylistic “blocks” – Expressive, Constructive, Realistic, Conceptual – within which sprouted certain sub-themes. No chronology. No order. Away we go…

2014-01-03 16.07.56My stalkee first attracted me not only by his unseasonably vivid attire (magenta trousers, shoulder-draped burnt orange sweater) but also by the break-neck speed with which he negotiated the space. Flitting hither and thither, ducking in for a peek at a work like some frenetic bird beak-stabbing the wall, his route through the Constructive, Expressive and Realistic spaces was very much a blur. He finally slowed to a leisurely clip in the Conceptual block (which, truth be told, suited me perfectly).

The first Conceptual sub-space concerned issues of “trauma and memory.” My stalkee breezed past Tacita Dean’s harrowing photogravure series The Russian Ending (2001),

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Tacita Dean, The Crimea (2001)

snubbed his nose at Edward and Nancy Kienholz’s Pawn Boys (1983),

Edward and Nancy Kienholz, The Pawn Boys (1983)

Edward and Nancy Kienholz, The Pawn Boys (1983)

opting instead for a prolonged examination of the wall-mounted maquette of Peter Eisenman and Richard Serra’s Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe (1997).

2014-01-03 16.09.06The Memorial, sans Serra, was actually realized and is on most Berlin tourists’ “to do” lists. Could this be the reason for my stalkee’s pause: real life experience made him cling to its representation? As this question lingered, he lurched into the section of the Conceptual space on “collecting and categorizing.” Paying scant heed to the compelling Pulvairum (2005-07) by Jenny Michel and Michael Hoepfel, which diligently catalgoues dust bunnies and hair clumps,

Jenny Michel and Peter Hoepfel, Pulvarium (2007)

Jenny Michel and Peter Hoepfel, Pulvarium (2005-07)

he segued into the “writing and language” sub-plot, where he honed in on Hans-Peter Klie’s Begriffsbildung/Forming Concepts (1993).

Hans-Peter Klie, Bergriffsbildung (2001)

Hans-Peter Klie, Bergriffsbildung (1993)

Here is a work I probably never would have even glanced at: a series of photographs depicts bowls of alphabet soup offering up varying letter sequences.

tumblr_mxc6s71pXt1szplyno1_500While the randomness of the letter/word/concept formation illustrates the whole arbitrary nature of language and linguistic signs, the series itself seems overly confined, flat and ultimately staged. Maybe I missed something? Anyway, I go where my stalkee leads. And now he is leading to the “city in the mind” sub-theme.

2014-01-03 16.15.46Here he seems to take a liking to Katharina Meldner’s Stadtkarte Berlin (1980-83). This is the first and only time since I started shadowing him that he has actually photographed a work. Meldner’s map is intuitive: it is a topography drawn from memory and imagination. The more “lived” zones are intensely rendered in white, while the less familiar and forgotten areas sink into black.

Katharina Meldner, Stadtkarte Berlin (2003-05)

Katharina Meldner, Stadtkarte Berlin (1980-83)

From here, he spent some time leaning over maquettes, ultimately settling on Beate Gütschow’s S#14 (2005) c-print.

Beate Güschow, S#14 (2005)

Beate Gütschow, S#14 (2005)

This is a photomontage of Gütschow’s work on modernist architecture: she pieced together her research images, complemented by fictive projections, all catapulted into a seamlessly rendered utopian architectural form. A sad sense of decay stirs in this image. It also seems to pack a punch against architectural photography: Gütschow’s creation calls into doubt attempts at reproductions of any architectural reality.

On this reflective note, my stalkee was surprisingly joined by a companion. After jointly knowing nods at Gütschow’s work, they took off, out of the museum, engulfed by the wider Berlin cityscape, full of shadows and promise.2014-01-03 16.18.06

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