Berlin Art Week 2020 / Kulturprojekte Berlin, König Galerie, Messe in St. Agnes, press tour. Photo: Carolin Weinkopf
While the MuseumFutures symposium organized by ifa in cooperation with re:publica and Museum für Naturkunde Berlin took place via panels, discussion and events both online and off, Times Art Center Berlin — in its first year as Berlin Art Week partner — implemented a parallel online program and catalogue, as well as the use of QR codes in the exhibition Readings From Below. A physical installation by Yuichiro Tamura, Eisenbrunnen (Iron Well), which draws on the history of the building and its surroundings, for example, also encompasses an animated narrative — a ‘virtual artifact’ — accessible via QR code from within the exhibition space, responding to the viewer’s proximity to the installation. The director of Times Art Center Berlin, Bei Xi, pointed to corona as the catalyst for initiating new ways of bringing art out of physical space, while keeping it connected to it, as a broader impetus extending beyond the immediate situation. The exhibition curator, Ariane Beyn, elaborated on this: “We’ve seen a rise of QR codes in Berlin this year because of Corona – a technology that, for example, in China is already dated. We decided to play with the format and build this accompanying digital space, which in a way is an index of art and objects. Perhaps for the future to find.”
Though perhaps not directly influenced by corona, PalaisPopulaire has also introduced a new AI chat feature, called MIA (Museum Intelligent Assistant), for some of the works on view in Time Present: Photography from the Deutsche Bank Collection. Using the audio guide, visitors can engage in a text chat to ask questions and get more information about specific artworks — like Andreas Gursky’s Singapore Stock Exchange (1997) — in lieu of explanatory wall labels. Intended or not, this seems to have the effect of disbursing viewers, facilitating social distancing by more-or-less eliminating the potential for crowding around a single label to learn about an artwork.
The situation created by corona has not only led to different technological applications in exhibitions and events, but has also sparked some new collaborations. Therme Art and König Galerie organized a ‘cultural response to Covid-19’ in the form of a program of talks and events in the courtyard of St Agnes Church during Gallery Weekend. Therme Art commissions international artists and architects for site-specific projects, with the aim of challenging the idea of conventional exhibition spaces and ways of viewing and experiencing art. For Gallery Weekend, they presented a discussion series with a focus on transformation, covering topics such as ‘Breaking Bauhaus’, ‘Creating in Crisis’, and ‘Art as Healing’, which still can be streamed online.
Notions of the exhibition space — of examining its conventions — have, of course, received renewed attention during the pandemic, as exhibiting and viewing art within closed spaces has become complicated. At Haubrok Foundation, however, this topic is explored from the lens of the past, via an analog deconstruction of the exhibition framework in during the exhibition. This manifests largely through printed matter in the form of invitation cards, publications, documents and posters, drawing on the work of conceptual artists from the sixties and seventies.
Installation view: Opus One by Hao Jingban from “Readings From Below” at Times Art Center Berlin. Photo by ArtConnect.
The physical space of exhibitions, navigating through it, has become an even more pronounced element of the art-viewing experience in some cases. The flow of bodies through these spaces at times gives the sensation of being a part of a larger choreography, with carefully orchestrated movements and timing. At some venues this means long roundabout ways in and out of exhibitions and buildings, for example, to avoid oncoming traffic.
Walking through Hamburger Bahnhof’s current exhibition, Magical Soup, is almost labyrinthine, with a system of curtains marked by arrows to direct the flow of traffic from one room to the next. While at nGbK, the idea of partitioning space and creating a flow was implemented through an installation of sheer fabric hangings in soft shades of lavender-pink and grey — titled Raumschneider and designed by Eran Schaerf — which were conceptually connected to the content of the exhibition, but also seemingly fitting the necessity of these corona times. In the first of three ‘scenes’ of the exhibition Radical Passivity, titled ‘Aesthetics of Affect: Pain and Arousal’, the exploration of corporeality and vulnerability is also particularly apt, and leads to an immersive bodily experience in the exhibition space, fluctuating between physical and digital realms.