8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art taking place at four venues until 3 August

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8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art taking place at four venues until 3 August
Carsten Höller, 7,8 Hz (The Color of Gold), 2001/2014. DMX lighting control system. Dimensions variable. © Carsten Höller / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014. Installation view at the department of South American Archeology of Museen Dahlem. Photo: Anders Sune Berg.

By: Juan A. Gaitán

BERLIN.- The 8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art takes place at four venues: Haus am Waldsee, Museen Dahlem – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, and the Crash Pad . Haus am Waldsee and Museen Dahlem are located near the south-western edges of Berlin, while KW and the Crash Pad can be found at Auguststraße 69, in the Berlin-Mitte district. It has been important for this edition of the Berlin Biennale to only engage with spaces that are already dedicated to art and culture, as we think that continuing to seek out seemingly abandoned or derelict spaces for exhibitions no longer reflects the reality of Berlin. These four venues were selected not only for what they (already) contain, but also because of how they contextualize the objects within them, and therefore influence the ways in which visitors think about and view art and understand the place of cultural production today.

Haus am Waldsee is the starting point of the Berlin Biennale’s suggested route. This venue—which was originally constructed as a private villa—has a fifty-plus-year history as an art center. From the mid-1940s until the late 1980s it was one of the most prominent institutions of contemporary culture in West Berlin, but it now lies on the periphery of the epicenter of cultural institutions in Berlin. In this venue, the visitor finds installations by six artists. There is also a space dedicated to A Private Collection , a suggestion that in our current thinking about the public sphere and art’s place in it, we haven’t entirely abandoned thinking about art’s private function. Artworks, after all, begin in the private space of the artist.

The complex of Museen Dahlem has two separate stages—one from the early twentieth century and one from the 1960s. It houses three different institutions: the Museum für Asiatische Kunst and the Ethnologisches Museum, which will move together to the soon-to-be constructed Humboldt-Forum in Mitte (2019); and the Museum Europäischer Kulturen, which is set to remain there. The 8th Berlin Biennale’s presence in Dahlem installs a fourth dimension—focused on contemporary art—in spaces that aren’t being used by these other three museums during the duration of the 8th Berlin Biennale, but are nevertheless found within them. All born out of the Enlightenment and Humanist episteme to varying degrees, these four institutions represent distinct approaches to material culture and notions of art. But beyond this, they provide an occasion to engage with the nature and history of display and with the function of the museum—or of the cultural institution more broadly—today.

KW Institute for Contemporary Art is the traditional epicenter of the Berlin Biennale. Located in Mitte, it is example of the well-known and widely discussed transformation of the city, from divided and derelict to highly populated and gentrified. The Crash Pad is located on the first floor of the front house at Auguststraße 69. It is a room designed by Greek-Norwegian artist and architect Andreas Angelidakis as a visual note on the invention of Classical Antiquity and its effect on the political imagination of the modern nation-state. It is also the site of most of the program of the Berlin Biennale. The main exhibition building of KW, at the far end of the courtyard, holds a total of 17 installations. The exhibition architecture is designed to bring forth the propositional quality of the artworks.

In the process of developing the 8th Berlin Biennale, the curatorial work has been focused entirely on building a coherent framework that treats the city of Berlin as an example but doesn’t essentialize it, and which allows for the fifty-plus artistic positions to be presented on their own terms, unencumbered by an overarching theme or thematic thread. The overall exhibition is focused on the individual artistic positions, while the curatorial work represents the process of thinking about the conditions, places, and architectures that provide context to the exhibition. We are convinced that in the framework of a contemporary art exhibition, the relationship between the different works should remain tentative, so that the role of the exhibition is to enable the development of the viewer’s autonomy in her or his own encounter with art.

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