Sigmar Polke / Alicja Kwade
3/2 - 17/6/2017
The modern era brought with it a rapid deconstruction of borders and acceleration of mobility, production, trade, and communication. Seemingly without effort, we cross frontiers and time zones. But by the time of postmodernism, Paul Virilio was predicting a paradox final stage of this development: "racing standstill". Humanity threatens to slip into regression as a result of digital communication, in which images are transmitted in real time. The human being stares motionlessly at the flickering screen, which allows him to be “there” simultaneously, anytime and anyplace. However, this ultimately leads to a “momentariness without history”, a coma-like state which the French philosopher characterised as “medial ghettoization”. From our computers or smartphones, we follow the activities of our friends on social networks, or watch reality shows, the latest American series or even wars, refugee flows and the disintegration and reordering of political systems.
Parallel to the major exhibition SIGMAR POLKE. ALCHEMY AND ARABESQUE at Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, Salon Berlin is hosting a show entitled DECONSTRUCTING BORDERS, which combines selected works of Sigmar Polke from various decades with a sculpture by the Berlin-based artist Alicja Kwade. In their own completely different ways, each of the two artists critically address the term “border”.
The starting point of the project, which is curated by Patricia Kamp, is represented by Sigmar Polke’s fluorescent painting Amerikanisch-Mexikanische Grenze (American-Mexican Border), which he made in 1984. Employing the grid technique he had been using since the 1960s, Polke transformed a newspaper picture of illegal Mexican migrants trying to overcome the steel fence to get to the US, into a shimmering composition. While the neon paint seems like poisonous acid, screen dots and the grid pattern of the fence cut through the layers of the picture. Given the current plans of the new US president, Donald Trump, to erect a wall along the entire length of the 3,141 kilometre-long border between the south-western US and Mexico, Polke’s image appears almost prophetic. At the same time, Polke stayed away from the emotional charge of the issue. With his ironic blending of politics and pop, he keeps his distance from the subject and instead, questions both the effects of media images and the observer’s stance.
In our “post-truth” times, in which calls for separation and isolation are growing louder around the world, DECONSTRUCTING BORDERS sees itself as a stimulus to rethink our borders, inward and outward, visible and invisible. Polke’s painting Interieur (Interior) (1966), in which the representative period furniture appears to disintegrate in grid dots, is an attack on bourgeois complacency. His Hütten (Huts) (1999), which appear to fade into streaks, seem like a cool elegy to the notion of protected sanctuaries, just as the Eisberge (Icebergs), which can also stand for social, ecological or emotional aggregate states, melt and dissolve. The manipulated photocopies indicate that we must address both: the ideology of media images and the end of our comfort zones, which we had taken for granted for so long.
While Sigmar Polke (1941-2010) deconstructs visible borders and delineations in his paintings, invisible frontiers materialise in the work of Alicja Kwade (*1979). Her sculpture Reality Zones (2016) is made of metal rings modelled on the lines dividing the world’s time zones. The rings are also connected from West to East and fall to the floor like a fragile chain. The standardisation of time is aimed at simplifying the processes of trade, law, travel, and communication that hold global society together. Yet if we look more closely, we can also see little kinks and dents in Kwade’s time zone rings, where actual country borders run. Time, therefore, is also a question of geopolitics. With her poetic and political work, Kwade deconstructs reality and questions the validity of these conventions.
Museum Frieder Burda I Salon Berlin
Salon Berlin is Museum Frieder Burda’s new exhibition and project space. Closely connected with the Museum in Baden-Baden, Salon Berlin, under the curatorial direction of Patricia Kamp, presents the diverse aspects of the museum programme and the Frieder Burda Collection. The exhibition space sees itself as a forum for international contemporary art, both a showroom and a space for experimentation for Museum Frieder Burda.
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Excerpt from a personal conversation between Frieder Burda and Patricia Kamp, originally published in DER WELT on 15 October 2016. The conversation was moderated by Swantje Karich and Hans-Joachim Müller.
Where can the museum in Baden-Baden go next after a programme that has featured so many big names?
Frieder Burda: I founded my museum 15 years ago. ... But a museum has to live, has to interest people. ... We must break new paths and set trends and not just exhibit pictures.
Patricia Kamp: The nice thing is that I understand what you want. At the same time, of course I can’t do anything that I am not 100% committed to. If an exhibition is not authentic, if a programme is not authentic, there is something wrong with it.
Frieder Burda: That is right and good. If Patricia comes up with a new artist she likes, then we buy some of his or her works, whether I immediately understand them or not. I trust her.
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With topical thematic exhibitions, solo shows and events, Salon Berlin enters into a dialogue with the capital’s vibrant art scene. Its opening represents the resurrection of a proud tradition in Berlin – in a contemporary form, at a historical location, in the heart of one of the city’s most lively artistic neighbourhoods.
Well into the Golden Twenties, the salon was an intellectual free space that brought together the most diverse people: here, the avant-garde met the aristocracy and the banker ran into the Bohemian. Especially in Berlin, it was liberal Jewish citizenry that gave it its legendary reputation. The seizure of power by the National Socialist extinguished the spirit of the salon, apparently for good. Now, Museum Frieder Burda aims to revive that spirit at the School for Jewish Girls. As a meeting place for artists, collectors and art-lovers, Salon Berlin is a place of exchange and discourse.
MUSEUM FRIEDER BURDA | Salon Berlin
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