A Weekly Digital Diary
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Letter From Berlin



Willkommen: Hier finden Sie die deutsche Version unseres Briefes aus Berlin!

Welcome to our Letter from Berlin!

This week we continue to focus on new projects and re-opening exhibitions.

On occasion of Isa Melsheimer's exhibition with N.Dash as part of Festival!, we introduce her short video Wasserballett für Marl and reprint from her interview with Collectors Agenda. Isa Melsheimer's solo exhibition at the KINDL closes next weekend, on July 5th.

We want to draw your attention to an exhibition with Karin Sander opening this weekend, present recent interviews with Gabriel Kuri, and also take a closer look at the artists' works in our exhibition PS81E.

Anything you may have missed from our social media channels can be found on Continuity, our digital platform.

Read this in good health.

Film Screening – Isa Melsheimer

Isa Melsheimer, Wasserballett für Marl, 2017, video (colour, sound), mask (cloth, cushion batting, thread, wire, screen), duration 07:48 min
Film still © Isa Melsheimer

Isa Melsheimer's film was produced on the occasion of the 2017 Urban Lights Ruhr Festival in Marl, near Münster. The film was shot on location, in a large fountain that is part of a public square within a building complex from the 1960s that includes the city's town hall. Switched-off in recent years because of damage and financial restraints, Melsheimer had the basin filled with water and staged a water ballet with synchronized swimmers. In addition to the choreography which Melsheimer created in collaboration with the well-known choreographer Frank Willens, the artist produced costumes and masks for each performer.

Melsheimer's video Wasserballett für Marl is both an homage and an ironic challenge to the city to come to terms with their architectural heritage. The artifice of the movements of the synchronized swimmers, a sport popular especially in the 1950s and 1960s, is posed in playful contrast with the architecture of the same period. In the backdrop of the Marl cityscape, the video merges layers of associations: the optimism of the 1950s and 1960s translated into notions of post-World War II urban renewal and the legacy of that project in its somewhat run-down present condition.

It goes to show what you can do with a repurposed fountain. Town Halls can take a little silliness, even as, characteristic of Isa Melsheimer’s approach to all things architecture, it is mitigated by larger issues: urban renewal and decay, a loving attention to the overlooked sometimes idiosyncratic wonders all around us.

A section of Isa Melsheimer's studio with some of the costumes the artist emboidered for the swimmers in her video. Courtesy Collectors Agenda
Photo © Kristin Loschert

In an extensive interview with the art magazine Collectors Agenda in their series In the Studio, Isa Melsheimer also spoke about her project in Marl.

You are among other things interested in the brutalist and modern architecture of the 1960s and 1970s. Last year, you were able to realize this interest artistically in the town of Marl, which is situated in the northern Ruhr industrial region.
Marl, like Fogo Island, is an exciting place. Marl appears as a concrete city, which in its isolation, manifests the character of an island. A large chemical plant and a number of former coal mines brought very much money into the city and construction began on a modernist city hall with an adjacent water pool after plans by the Dutch architects Johan Hendrik van den Broek and Jacob Berend Bakema. At the time, the building was acclaimed, but only thirty years later, the citizens of Marl regard it as ugly. The particular history of the architecture and its impact on the citizens interests me. I had the pool filled with water and invited six dancers in order to make the city a present of a water ballet. It resulted in a video work, which examines the optimism of the time and the idea of wealth in terms of modern architecture. It was especially exciting to see how positively the citizens reacted to my work and how the water pool and city hall shed their reproach of ugliness. With my work, if you wish, I animate buildings. I have also shown the video on Fogo Island.

Is art a sheet anker for places like Fogo Island or the city of Marl?
I think Zita Cobb had this idea when she invested time and money in Fogo Island. Unloved places and seeming ugliness can be transformed by art. A possible reason for this may be the different approach of artists. In my work The Possibility of Ruins I have been involved with buildings that were to be demolished in order to sow their beauty. Thinking of Marl I am glad to know that the city hall is under historic preservation.

The buildings of brutalist architecture are and were considered “architectural blunders”. These perceptions changed only slowly and the aspect of “blunder” disappeared. But why did it take so long?
The preferences of architecture change with the aspirations. Brutalism is considered postwar architecture and its buildings are reminiscent of bunkers or of Socialism. Many people consider it ugly but also as unpleasant. They long for a romanticism of a past, a golden time in order to be able to forget the postwar years. What is considered architectural blunder and what not will be determined by various generations or by time. Currently many people aspire apartments in Paris or villas in Italy, not caring whether they are reconstructed. They love parquet flooring and double doors, even if the parquet is plastic. Perhaps they lack the necessary distance to the war in order to be able to appreciate the particularity of brutalist architecture. The next generation will love concrete floors and see something very pleasant and beautiful in them. By the way, my longings are inspired by the Barbican Estate in London.


Asking with Donna Haraway, is it that the world an active system and every part follows its own aganda? Or does man regulate the environment and the environment merely responds?

We are still living in a man-made age using up resources incapacitating nature. We consume more than is allowed and man is the main actor deciding the history of our world. What is required is the balance between man, nature, and technology about which Donna Haraway writes in her book Staying with the Trouble. In her concept of the futuristic age of “Chthulucene” she declares that human will have to live in close family relations with non-human beings. I thematize these possible intertwinings leaving open whether it concerns displacement, adaption or relation.

The full interview with Isa Melsheimer by art magazine Collectors Agenda can be read HERE.

Festival! #2 – Isa Melsheimer | N.Dash

Isa Melsheimer, Metabolit 9, 2020, ceramic, glaze, 44 x 29 x 27 cm. Photo © Isa Melsheimer; N. DASH, Untitled, 2016, oil, pigment, acrylic, gesso, linen, wood support, 206 x 122 cm. Photo © Joachim Schulz

Festival! A Project by Esther Schipper and Mehdi Chouakri
Opening Saturday, June 27, 2020
Noon – 6 pm
Mehdi Chouakri, Mommsenstrasse 4

Isa Melsheimer | N. Dash

Press Release DE
Press Release EN

Gabriel Kuri

Gabriel Kuri, thermal optimization (with error bars), 2018 (detail), paper, PVC, wood, mixed media
Photo © Jimmy Limit

In a recent exchange with Piero Bisello, Gabriel Kuri spoke about the work of Lucio Fontana, in particular Ambiente Spaziale at the 1951 Triennale di Milano, and parallels with the elder artist’s positions. Published by the online platform for art writing Conceptual Fine Arts in its series At the show with the artist, we excerpt a short passage from the longer conversation.

Piero Bisello: Exhibitions of yours like those in Dublin or Oakville are installations rather than bare presentations of objects. Do you find yourself close to the vision of Fontana in respect to the disappearance of the artwork as an object, something that motivated his installation work, perhaps a heritage of pre-WWII historical avant-gardes?

Gabriel Kuri: This is a good point. I think you may be right in suggesting that at least when it comes to my environments, I align with Fontana´s descent from European pre WWII historical avant-gardes. Speaking in very broad terms (which may sound old fashioned and academic, very 20th century but myself I do not mind) I do believe that art work which is built to last most often comes from within the form. It is the product of hours of forging material, of wrestling with form, of not intending to outguess, but rather learn. The work may aim towards some metaphysical ambition or philosophical disquisition, or even political declaration, somewhere light and even paradoxically formless, but its foundation in form is where it draws its strength.

Exhibition view: Gabriel Kuri, spending static to save gas, The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, 2020
Photo © Louis Haugh

This is probably why I feel consistently drawn to Fontana´s work, in whichever medium. That is because of its implacable sufficiency in form. It is not shy of metaphysics, it is conceptually very ambitious and the easiest way to see this is the declaration of intent carried in his titles since 1949. However his language sits on the most solid of foundations.

Again I will probably sound academic, but I think of my work as sculpture, whatever presentation it may take. I am not comfortable with these works of mine referred to as installation art. Even when my works are enveloping, when they are more of a site responsive environment than a transportable thing, I constantly remind people that I conceive of them in somewhat classical sculptural terms. If the term installation has relaxed and may welcome that which rather than site-responsive gets away with being opportunistic, or a shorthand for pseudo sculptural problem solving, I would like to think that I can distance myself from this.


Gabriel Kuri: Maybe something else that keeps me coming back to Fontana is that although he was an, academically speaking, robustly sufficient artist when it came to the conventions of painting (surface, edge, matter, composition, colour) the locus of his paintings was not the support. His paintings were, in my view, not just comfortable in their undeniable command of the canvas. Their real locus, the place of these works was in fact the threshold, the boundary, a transitional place. His paintings were not referential windows, nor abstract things, they were thresholds. Whatever they did, whatever happened because of them was to be found in a transitional place.

The full text of the exchange can be found HERE.

Exhibition view: sorted, resorted, WIELS, Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels, 2019
Photo © Andrea Rossetti

Already in April, Mousse published an extensive interview Chris Sharp conducted with Gabriel Kuri. Here the subject ranges from the specificity of Latin American art, the influence of Minimalism, to a reconsideration of the use of the readymade by a younger generation of artists.

CHRIS SHARP: I think your work is very Latin American, perhaps just not in the way that people expect. It is so in the way that Jorge Luis Borges or Roberto Bolaño are Latin American, by which I mean that the work of both writers contains an all but encyclopedic frame of reference with regard to (world) literature. Your work is marked by a similarly encyclopedic frame of reference, but with regard to art, or, more specifically, postwar European and American sculpture. (…)

GABRIEL KURI: I take this as an observation, a welcome one, rather than a question. I would begin by agreeing that there is a way in which works of art can feel Latin American without having the immediacy of a certain narrative, aesthetics, or thematic. It should not have to be a question of the aesthetics of the explicitly political, for instance. Latin American art can be rooted, as you point out, in a way that the work is conceived, contextualized, and pitched. It may be a frame of mind, a place for oneself beyond the dependence on direct reference to conventional cultural specificities. I appreciate that you do not find my work citational, because it is not. I would hope that my work looks and comes across as Latin American in some way; it would only make sense if it did, although I have developed a lot of my most satisfying work outside of Mexico. I came of age on the threshold of globalization; I feel distinctively privileged to have substantially experienced life in Mexico before the embrace of connectivity that came with globalization and the internet, and I saw what this new potential started to do to questions of identity or its appearance. In my formative years, we were constantly discussing our concern with the limiting effect of the exoticizing gaze coming from abroad, but I don’t think it is any easier for the younger generations to begin by operating in a field that is seemingly so leveled and connected, where everything seems to be possible, and so promptly. Difference, specificity, and exception—never mind appetite and desire—have a harder time brewing in a leveled terrain.


CHRIS: I am interested in your insistence on procedure, so to speak, and the eschewal of the hand or facture in your work. This points to yet another contradiction in your practice with regard to Minimalism (which shared this insistence) and post-Minimalism (which rejected it). Can you say a few words about your motivations for this insistence?

GABRIEL: Well, I am a maker. Let’s say I am a maker as opposed to just a strategist. I am happy to seek my discursive language within form. I don’t believe that form can be subordinate only to a higher discourse. Discourse happens while wrestling with form: making is formulating, making is thinking. That said, I most often meditate as long and as deep as I can on a certain form and try to keep the crucial process of execution as concise as possible. There is only one right way to formally resolve each artwork, and my practice directly aspires to achieve that instance of precision. I believe the more precise forms are, the more effortless they should appear.

The full interview can be found in the Spring issue of Mousse Magazine HERE.

Gabriel Kuri, untitled (AE DEC 18), 2020, CNC cutout HMPE plastic, engraved and hand painted, installation dimensions variable, height: 66,5 cm (26 1/8 in)
Photo © Andrea Rossetti

Currently exhibited as part of our exhibition PS81E, Kuri’s untitled (AE DEC 18) is an example of such formal precision, using the shape of object familiar and often overlooked. Kuri’s works often include traces of past human activities, such as empty bottles, cigarette butts or ticket stubs that function as signs of spent time, energy or currency — a recurring theme in the artist’s work. In this case the found object, has been scaled to an almost monstrous size, removing all functionality.

untitled (AE DEC 18)
consists of a number of objects in different colors made from hard plastic that have been arranged in a loose grouping. Their shape is taken from a standard fastening clip, a closure best-known for use on packages of sliced bread (but also used to seal bags of fruit and other perishables). First invented in the early 1950s by an American entrepreneur, the clip—colloquially known as “bread clip” or under its brand name Kwik Lok—is a familiar sight in North American grocery markets. Kuri has enlarged the shape and rendered in in thick, sturdy plastic, each inscribed with individualizing letters or a sell-by date.

The artists characteristic combination of formal and conceptual rigor and whimsy surfaced with a recent short video in which he plays ping pong in his studio: Kuri engages in extended play among an assortment of these enlarged fastening clips that, one by one, are felled according to a system of self-imposed rules. It is a playful coda.

Made in confinement in Gabriel Kuri’s studio in Brussels. Much gratitude to Cristian Manzutto for his selfless help with the iPhone camera and editing. And thanks to Jonas Kuri.

Click the image to watch!


Karin Sander ROHKUNSTBAU 25, Lieberose, Brandenburg

Karin Sander, Hannes 1:6, 2002, 3D Bodyscan of the living person, 3D print, plaster material
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2020
Photo © Studio Karin Sander

June 27, 2020 - September 20, 2020
Sat/Sun 12 - 6 pm
Schloss Lieberose
Schlosshof 3
Lieberose Spreewald

This weekend Rohkunstbau opens with contributions by Karin Sander.

25 years of ROHKUNSTBAU! The established art festival in Brandenburg is celebrating its anniversary together with 20 international artists, many of them well-known, from the last 25 editions.

Two decades prior to the countryside movement, ROHKUNSTBAU already looked to venues of retreat, out of the way of the big city hustle and bustle. In the relaxed, summery atmosphere, the festival’s dialogue between art, nature and locals has long since advertised a harmonious togetherness and caring relationship with nature.

Yearly themes such as “Children’s scenes” (2005), “Atlantis” (2009), “Power” (2011), “Revolution” (2014), “Apocalypse” (2015), “The Beauty in the Other” (2017) or “Attention – Mind the Gap” (2018) provided impetus for a deeper understanding of cultural, social, and political interconnections. Castles such as Kulturschloss Roskow, Wasserschloss Groß Leuthen, Schloss Sacrow, Schloss Marquardt and villas like Villa Kellermann in Potsdam were spectacular venues of these exhibitions. For this year’s anniversary, the baroque castle Lieberose, once again, provides a unique mise-en-scene, a stone’s throw away from the Spreewald.

Shaped by the Corona crisis and social distancing rules, this year’s ROHKUNSTBAU motto seems paradoxical: “Tenderness. About Common Living.” The curator of this year’s ROHKUNSTBAU reunion is Dr. Heike Fuhlbrügge. The author and curator supersedes longstanding ROHKUNSTBAU curator Mark Gisbourne in 2020, coinciding with a change of organizers.


Please note: The exhibition will be held under the currently prescribed hygiene regulations. Visits are therefore only possible for 50 guests at a time. You can only access the exhibition with a ticket. Due to the current situation tickets are sold for a one-hour window. The pre-sale will take place online. Please book your ticket/your tickets in advance via www.rohkunstbau.net.

You can find the full press release and list of participating artists HERE.

Exhibition view: PS81E, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2020.
Photo © Andrea Rossetti

A work by Karin Sander is also currently on view in Berlin, as part of our exhibition PS81E. Tischtennisbälle, poliert; Table Tennis Balls, Polished, consists of several differently colored table tennis balls that have been polished to a high gloss. As in the artist's Wallworks that consist of polished sections of a wall, and her series of high-luster polished eggs, the discrepancy between the economy of means and the disproportionate effort needed to achieve this impression of simplicity adds a laconic, dry wit and playfulness to the strikingly sensual work.

Karin Sander, Tischtennisbälle, poliert; Table Tennis Balls, Polished, 2009 (detail), 6 table tennis balls (blue, yellow, orange, green, white, neon red), pedestal, acrylic glass cover
ø 3,9 cm each (ball) approx., 186 x 30 x 30 cm (plinth), 30 x 30 x 30 cm (Plexiglas cover)
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2020
Photo © Andrea Rossetti

Karin Sander
Skulptur / Sculpture / Scultura
Museion, Bolzano
May 30 – September 20, 2020

Since late May Karin Sander’s major solo presentation is on view at the Museion in Bolzano. Designed specifically for the space allotted in the museum, the exhibition features both existing as well as new works created exclusively for the exhibition.

Karin Sander‘s work often humorously refers to existing situations and addresses its institutional and historical context. She intervenes in the structures of the institutions, changes them, highlights facts and invites the public to participate. The apparently familiar is rethought, it becomes the starting point of an exploratory process.

An artist talk with Karin Sander will mark the launch of a new publication featuring a comprehensive overview of the artist’s sculptural oeuvre, published on the occasion of the exhibition, will take place on September 18, 2020, from 6pm.

A 3D virtual tour of the exhibition can be viewed here

Exhibition view: Karin Sander, Skulptur / Sculpture / Scultura, Museion, Bolzano, 2020
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2020
Photo © Luca Meneghel


It's Urgent LUMA Foundation, Arles

Exhibition view: It's Urgent, LUMA Foundation, Arles, 2020
Photo © LUMA Foundation

It’s Urgent!
curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist
with works by Liam Gillick, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, and Anri Sala
From 27 June to 27 September 2020

Médico-Social, Parc des Ateliers, LUMA Foundation, Arles

It’s Urgent! is a project curated by Hans-Ulrich Obrist, which began in 2019 in Denmark. During the elections for the European Parliament in 2019, artists were invited to think about the present and the future with an exhibition of posters on billboards in the city of Copenhagen. The idea then was to make the artists’ works available to the public, inserting them into public life and the community.

At the invitation of Luma, It’s Urgent! continued to grow, and many more artists contributed with their work, which was then presented at Luma Westbau, between Summer 2019 and early 2020. Invited artists from across the world were asked to respond to the question of what is urgent in our time.

This resulted in themes of ecology, inequality, common future, solidarity, anti-racism, and social justice becoming frequently addressed, among other. As the project continues in Arles, we have invited new artists to participate and we will continue to invite more artists for the duration of the display over the summer. Their contribution will create an intimate portrait of the evolution of ideas and concerns, characteristic of the current moment.

The Reading Corner

<b>Isa Melsheimer</b><br>

Isa Melsheimer

Psychotropische Landschaften
Publisher: Städtische Galerie, Delmenhorst
Languages: German / English

Available here

<b>Gabriel Kuri</b><br>

Gabriel Kuri

Publisher: Triangle Books
Language: English

Available here

<b>Gabriel Kuri</b><br>

Gabriel Kuri

sorted, resorted
Publisher: WIELS, Brussels and Koenig Books, London
Languages: Dutch, English, French

Available here

<b>Karin Sander</b><br>

Karin Sander

Publisher: Walther König
Languages: German / English

Available here