Lives and Works in Berlin

Lives and Works in Berlin: The End of Temporary

On August 31, 2010, the Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin (TKB) will close its doors as according to the original concept. With 8 major exhibitions, 3 facades, and other projects involving over 800 artists (though, 566 can be attributed to one exhibition, it seems) throughout the 2 years of its temporary existence, the TKB’s final show is FischGrätenMelkStand, which opened on July 2, 2010, curated and designed by artist John Bock.

"FischGrätenMelkStand," installation view at Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin 2010. Photo: Jan Windszus, © Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin, John Bock. Courtesy: Klosterfelde, Berlin; Anton Kern, New York.

The Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin’s mission statement was simple: to showcase Berlin-based artists in their own city; to create a program that:

shows the diversity of Berlin as a location for artistic production from a range of perspectives. The series of artist-curated group shows examines the complex relations between artwork, institution, and viewer via direct engagement with the artists, their ideas, and their networks.

Based on the success and ideas of 36 x 27 x 10, a large group exhibition conceived by Coco Kühn and Constanze Kleiner, executed in the decommissioned and slated-to-be demolished Palast der Republik in December 2005, the TKB indeed created yet another venue for artists to convene, converse and celebrate. But it’s not been without strife. In June 2009, the Artistic Advisory Board, a group responsible for appointing curators for the exhibitions, resigned rather suddenly and for a brief moment, the fate of the TKB seemed a slightly uncertain, despite having a contingency plan almost immediately. The shift that followed (large group shows, either curated or “presented” by artists — or, in the case of the Karin Sander‘s Zeigen, at least involving a multitude of artists — as opposed to solo “positions” by mid-career artists from Berlin) allowed a much more varied discussion of Berlin’s art scene by opening its doors to a wider swath of artists. Additionally the admission fees were waived for the final year, thanks to Dieter Rosenkranz and the Stiftung Zukunft Berlin, making the privately-funded museum truly free and open to anyone at any time.

An impressive, rambling structure built on a framework of construction scaffolding, the 7 x 20 x 11m jungle gym that is FischGrätenMelkStand (herringbone milking parlor) holds over 150 works in a wide variety of environments by 63 artists.

"FischGrätenMelkStand," installation views at Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin 2010. Photos: Jan Windszus, © Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin, John Bock. Courtesy: Klosterfelde, Berlin; Anton Kern, New York.

With the inside of the TKB being a huge (56 x 20 x 11 meters) white cube (well, rectangular prism), it’s easy to see the allure of building an outsized, massive structure as part of the exhibition and the means to see it. FischGrätenMelkStand isn’t the only exhibition in the program to feature such a structure, but certainly boasts the largest and most immersive one.

Walls, floors, and ceilings are built of rubber tires, stuffed gym socks, a mobile home, sand, pipes, corrugated plastic, bedsheets, rugs, 165 burnt pizzas, plywood, and whatever else you can imagine are used to create the diverse rooms in this wild fun-house that generally hold 1-4 artists’ works. With rooms that could be loosely described as “the music room” or “the erotic room” or “the radio room,” there are indeed strong themes for each of the 30-odd divisions, some peppered with signs warning of assorted dangers. Official room titles like “Verstrickt im 2001” (Caught in 2001) and “Schwarze Suppe im Tinitus” (Black Soup in Tinitus)  sometimes refer directly to a piece in the room — in this case, a sound installation by Nina Canell, The Anatomy of Dirt in Quiet Water.

Nina Canell, "The Anatomy of Dirt in Quiet Water," 2008. Installation view, "FischGrätenMelkStand," Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin. Photo: Ethan Hayes-Chute.

Some vestibules seem to have a more vague description of the contents, as with “Stirnfalte an Fassade” (Crease to Front Facade), a room with chair prototypes by Sven Temper. Then again, there’s the room, simply titled “Afrika,” devoted to various videos and models related to Christoph Schlingensief‘s hopeful project, an opera house in Cameroon.

The "Neslte bau bau" room with Björn Braun's "Untitled(Nest)," 2009 (detail, foreground) and FAT KOEHL ARCHITEKTEN's "Eins ist zehn," 2010 (detail). Installation view, "FischGrätenMelkStand," Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin. Photo: Ethan Hayes-Chute.

Other spaces chiseld out within FischGrätenMelkStand that were indeed worthy of the time spent in them were “Nestle bau bau,” which contained Bjorn Braun’s Untitled (Nest) and a collection of small, hanging, modernist birdhouse-like architectural models by FAT KOEHL ARCHITEKTEN; the SAUGsumpf room, with various cinematic novelties (film posters featuring the German embodiment of Jack London’s Wolf Larsen, Raimund Harmstorf; the armature of the Rock Biter from The Never Ending Story; as well as various articles from Das Parfüm and Nosferatu). “Backstage,” meaning in the HVAC compartment above the staff lounge and reachable via a bridge (from which we can see Julian Rosefeldt‘s charming The Opening projected on the floor below) that connects to the top level of the “meta-structure,” as Bock puts it, we find Matthew Burbridge‘s Artist’s Residency. By far the largest space given to a single artist, the room is filled with a melange of crazed-artist detritus; an artists’ studio/apartment gone wild.

Installation views of Matthew Burbridge's "Artist Residency," 2010, in "FischGrätenMelkStand," Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin. Photos: Ethan Hayes-Chute.

Reminiscent of Bock’s 2004 exhibition at the ICA in London, Klütterkammer, the exhibit stretching from below the ground (in Adrian Lohmüller’s excavation of an L-shaped portion of the TKB’s floor, the artist has dug about 2 meters below the concrete floor, exposing what has been hidden underneath the TKB for the last two years) and extending itself amidst the rafters, even with a balcony (no smoking!) bursting through the outer wall (and in the process, through a portion of the current facade, Carsten Nicolai’s autoR) and the roof, the 20 meter-wide structure takes a commanding hold of, and a few bites from, the temporary structure–in a sense beginning the demolition a full 2 months early.

Installation view of Adrian Lohmüller's "Umzug und Amnesie," 2010 in "FischGrätenMelkStand," Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin. Photo: Ethan Hayes-Chute.

With the TKB’s closing, yet another one of Berlin’s many temporary venues fades away, to be memorialized in artists’ CVs. Not that there is a shortage of such venues, nor is it worrisome to imagine what Berlin will be like without the TKB. Surely, something will come along shortly in this town of ever-changing artistic situations, so it may only be a matter of months until a new “next big thing” comes along to entice and exhibit the artists of Berlin, and the world. However, it is interesting to note, that in a sidebar article on FischGrätenMelkStand in the July issue of Zitty magazine, cultural critic Claudia Wahjudi notes, “Die Anwesenheit guter Künstler ist existenziell für die Kunststadt Berlin. Ein neues Haus nicht.” (“The presence of good artists is essential for the art city Berlin. A new house is not.”) Opinions and speculations on the future aside, the Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin seems to have found a playful and exciting high note on which to end.


On July 5, John Bock gave a humorous, deadpan, aloof, and seemingly off-the-cuff lecture/performance/tour (Vortrag) of FischGrätenMelkStand (with another scheduled for August 30). Standing in front of a live video stream, transmitted via his faithful cameraman Benji, who was sent inside the exhibition, Mr. Bock provided commentary on the labyrinth to the audience, delighting in the works he’d chosen for the show, and explaining their significance. At one point he was saying, “…I like this one- but I suppose that’s the main criteria for the show; that I like the work.”

John Bock- Vortrag

John Bock during his "Vortrag" of "FischGrätenMelkStand" at the Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin, July 5, 2010. Photo: Ethan Hayes-Chute.

Born and raised in Freeport, Maine, Ethan Hayes-Chute now makes art in Berlin, where he thinks about hypothetical domiciles, fantastical isolation, outsider architecture, self-sufficiency, landscape, self-preservation, rusty nails, viewer participation, found materials, daily life, nostalgia, seclusion, sublimity, ad-hoc construction, knick-knacks, craftsmanship, customization, longing and decay. He can often be spotted towing a wagon overflowing with cast-off wood and other special acquisitions.

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