Bärenzwinger, Berlin, Germany 15 Feb 2019 - 28 Apr 2019
Bärenzwinger. Photo credit: Marlene Burz
»It matters what matters we use to think other matters with; it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what knots knot knots, what thoughts think thoughts, what ties tie ties. It matters what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories.« (Donna Haraway: Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, 2012)
The Blue Marble photograph, shot by the Apollo 17 crew in 1972, shows our world in the form of a well-defined planet in black space. This is a fiction – this »one world« does not exist. Incidentally, the image has served capitalist fantasies of globalization, rather than, for example, situational ecological thinking. It therefore seems logical that the term »worlding« initially referred to a literary practice from science fiction literature, with which one stages future scenarios and imagines alternative worlds.
The notion of »worlding« turns the noun »world« into a verb. »Worlding« means world creation. Paradoxically, »worlding« describes a far-reaching practice that is interested in the big picture and at the same time refers to the permanent incompleteness of the world. Even nowadays, philosophers still puzzle their heads over the question of whether we can even speak of »one world« at all. »Worlding« invites the subject to reach the very edge of one’s own perception. And from there, the »world« remains a fictional entity, in that it is – at best – the result of a necessarily unmanageable number of relationships, stories, coincidences.
Many of us sooner or later face the accusation of living in our »own world«, which is associated with the implicit appeal not to indulge in illusions and to face reality. However, this statement, uttered as an accusation, gains a fascinating dimension in terms of artistic practices. It is here that the accusation is true. Artistic practice is “worlding”, in the sense of reconnecting existing, mostly functional or meaningful relationships. The immediate conditions of production are extended by rules and narratives and put into alternative, comprehensive contexts. This does not mean that the connections as such must make sense. Rather, artistic practice, in order to remain genuinely open, must organize itself inwardly and close up, if only temporarily. Artistic practice therefore requires its own rules of action, regardless of whether they are objectively considered real or fictitious, sensible or meaningless, rational or emotional. Otherwise it risks becoming arbitrary.
The exhibition »Worlding It Otherwise or Else« brings together four artists who have intertwined their own pro- duction conditions with those narratives that, beyond the individual works, deeply question the relationship to the world around them. Instead of aiming for a full immersion into artistic worlds, »Worlding It Otherwise or Else« wants to give the viewer space and time to approach the individual worlds. The exhibition does not tell a story, but many, none of which is less relevant, right or true than another.
In her artistic practice, Beth Collar cultivates a fascination for the »Dark Ages«. The »Dark Ages« is an outmoded term, no longer used by historians, which has been used to refer to the period between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance. Collar is interested in the myriad ways in which popular culture has interpreted and fictionalised this era, which it characterises as a time of ignorance, deterioration and superstition.
Presented on a screen at the bottom of a natural-looking pond in the former bear bath right outside the Bärenzwinger, Collar ́s work humorously suggests that it has been there long before the exhibition. The video, which is made up of previously unused footage shot in 2012, becomes a portal, literally and figuratively into an- other time. We see the artist with her body painted in the natural blue pigment woad (as worn by Brave Heart and Queen Boudica), walking the hills of Dartmoor, England. Sometimes standing on top of rocks in the moor landscape, other times eating foraged greens, sucking moss on tress, and cleaning her teeth, the protagonist follows seemingly mundane tasks with a sense of great intent. While the dress refers to past times, it is the activities´ striking ordinariness that make this mythical figure appear as permanently out of time.
In her video-based work, Stephanie Comilang crosses aspects of documentary and fiction filmmaking, exploring themes of community, home, and memory as it relates to specific places. In the two-channel video installation, which Comilang has made for »Worlding it Otherwise or Else«, she uses an anonymous third narrator who transverses both past, present and future and is both inside and outside of the narrative. The drone, with which one of the videos is filmed, allows different perspectives on the space. The other video shows a woman who channels the spirit of Schnute, the last bear to have lived at Bärenzwinger. Speaking from a wholly different world, Schnute tells the viewer about her former home, her everyday life and routines. In these simultaneously playing videos, each installed in one of the outer cages, communication happens through two channels, modern technology and a psychic medium. Comilang highlights the contrasting ways in which ideas, feelings and information are ex- changed both across time, space and species. In the end, Comilang, like filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha, intends to »speak nearby instead of about« those who used to call the Barenzwinger home and – in the process – made a world out of it.
In her practice, Magdalena Los not only acknowledges the numerous frames through which art asserts its status as art, but also joyfully reassembles them, regularly in- serting herself into unruly fictional tales that continually transgress the work exhibited in the space. In the past, these tales have manifested themselves as fake interviews in your very real local newspaper, guerrilla performances at the opening, or the flowers artists may get as consolation price. Her objects, which regularly flash a smile or a twinkling eye, are restless amalgams of a number of discursive, material or temporary references – meaning in Los’ practice, works and their contexts continuously inform each other. Her army of »guards«, as she calls the myriad objects installed in Bärenzwinger, also tells a story, only this time the protagonists are a green screen, tripods and a teleprompter, in other words, all objects whose function usually consists in supporting the staging and telling of the story and which are thus relegated to whatever constitutes the outside of the fiction.
Anna M. Saflarski employs text, image and sculpture to tell stories of transgressions. In her multilayered works, material and immaterial things are continuously made to touch, with the body – and by extension the artist ́s body – serving as a regular site for these conjunctions. According to her own account, she develops these stories in an almost exclusively intuitive manner. For »Worlding it Otherwise or Else« Saflarski has created a model that visitors will quickly recognize as a transformed model of the Bärenzwinger. At once suggesting a disembodied, objective overview, it simultaneously presents a radically subjective projection of the space. Recalling the miniature paper theaters of the 19th century, her model of the Bärenzwinger stages the space as an almost mythical otherworldly place, with the surreal and corporeal imagery invoking the building´s long and at times dark history and the artist’s attempt to make that world into her own.