Experimental Geographies

"There is tenderness only in the coarsest demand: that no-one shall go hungry any more" – Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia (1974: 156)

Berlin Roundup: July 28, 2010

1. The future of the Kunsthaus Tacheles remains uncertain. The ruins of the former department store on Oranienburgerstrasse were first re-occupied in February 1990 and it now looks like the 30 or so artists that still work in the building face eviction. The HSH Nordbank (primarily owned by the City of Hamburg and the State of Schleswig-Holstein) was one of many German banks that received a public bail-out package in the wake of the financial crisis. In an attempt to re-balance its books it is now trying to capitalize on some of its more lucrative assets including the land on which Tacheles is located. In the latest turn of events, the occupants of Tacheles are now threatening a hunger strike. Wherever one stands as to the significance of Tacheles for the counter-cultural scene in Berlin, its demolition would undoubtedly serve as yet further testimony to the fulsome gentrification of Mitte. The degree to which Tacheles and other similar projects have themselves contributed to the very gentrification that they putatively contest is a matter that I will explore in a future post.

2. The winner of this year’s Käthe Kollwitz Preis is the Lebanese-born Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum. The Preis is an annual award that recognises the contribution of an artist to the fine arts. The award ceremony is on July 30th at the Akademie der Künste at Pariser Platz. The Akademie will also be running an exhibition of some of Hatoum’s more recent work between July 31-Sept. 5. This includes 3-D Cities (2008-2010) in which the artist presents a series of textured maps of bombed-out districts of Baghdad, Beirut and Kabul. War-ravaged neighbourhoods are presented here as cartographic surfaces marked with craters and depressions. Other works include the intricate floor installation Undercurrent (2008) and the large-format bronze rosary sculpture, Worry Beads (2009).

Since the 1980s, Hatoum’s work has encompassed a wide range of working methods from performances to installations and sculptures. Questions of violence and corporeal vulnerability have always been central to her practice in which she has come to explore the entanglements of her own personal experience with wider political motifs (most notably in the context of the Middle East). A further theme throughout her work, and especially in recent years, has been the recycling of recognizable everyday artefacts as disqueting – even threatening – sculptural objects. I look forward to the show and will post a review in due course.

3. Michel Serres in Berlin: The French philosopher will be speaking in Berlin on July 30th and July 31st to the theme of Odysseys and Shipwrecks. He will also be involved in conversations with Catharine David and Alexander Kluge on the 31st. All the details can be found here.

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