BY frieze in Critic's Guides | 17 MAY 24

What to See Across Europe in May

From the dark world of Pierre Huyghe’s AI installations to Silvia Rosi’s vibrant portraits of personal histories

BY frieze in Critic's Guides | 17 MAY 24

Pierre Huyghe | Punta della Dogana, Venice, Italy | 17 March – 24 November

Pierre Huyghe, Camata, 2024, film still. Courtesy: © Pierre Huyghe, by SIAE 2023; Galerie Chantal Crousel; Marian Goodman Gallery; Hauser & Wirth; Esther Schipper and TARO NASU; photograph: Ola Rindal 

A pale tetra fish swims around a vast obsidian tank, while another bobs on its side at the top of the water, perhaps ailing from debilitating swim bladder disease (Circadian Dilemma [El Día del Ojo], 2017). Nearby, Zoodram 6 (2013) consists of a smaller container in which a hermit crab lumbers under the heavy weight of its shell: a hollowed-out, resin version of Constantin Brâncuși’s early modernist bronze Sleeping Muse (1910). The crab’s twitching antennae is seemingly the only one of its appendages able to move under the art-historical load on its back, both a protection and a burden.

Though other lifeforms creep around these rocky terrains, including arrow crabs and starfish, a strangely comforting sense of loneliness pervades Pierre Huyghe’s solo show, ‘Liminal’, (a collaboration with curator Anne Stenne) at Punta della Dogana, itself an isolated building on a blustery Venetian promontory. After reading the exhibition’s accompanying text, I learned that some of the tetras are blind, a genetic mutation resulting from their species living in underwater caves in Mexico for millions of years. The tank is fitted with switchable glass that responds to its surroundings, flitting between a view of illuminated rockery and complete darkness. All the details here feel carefully connected, but its living inhabitants do not. – Sean Burns

‘Echoes of the Brother Countries’ | Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany | 29 February – 19 May

‘Echoes of the Brother Countries. What is the Price of Memory and What is the Cost of Amnesia? Or: Visions and Illusions of Anti-Imperialist Solidarities’, 2024, exhibition view. Courtesy: the artists and Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; photograph: Hannes Wiedemann/HKW

In recent years, the former German Democratic Republic (DDR) has been the subject of a reappraisal that, while not seeking to redeem the stiflingly authoritarian state, has attempted to present a more nuanced overview of its social and cultural realities. Such is the case with ‘Echoes of the Brother Countries’, which explores relationships between the DDR and socialist states in the Global South; the experiences of students, contract workers and political refugees who came to East Germany from across the globe; and the significance of these connections for present-day Germany. – Harry Stopes

Fatima Moallim | [tart vienna], Vienna, Austria | 26 April – 1 June

Fatima Moallim, 2024, installation view. Courtesy: the artist, Belenius, Stockholm, and Galerie Elisabeth & Klaus Thoman, Innsbruck / Vienna; photograph: © Galerie Elisabeth & Klaus Thoman /

The Swedish expression att kasta sig, meaning ‘to throw oneself into something’, is a fitting choice of title for one of the six drawings currently on display in Fatima Moallim’s solo exhibition at [tart vienna], the project space of Galerie Elisabeth & Klaus Thoman. The self-taught, Moscow-born, Paris- and Stockholm-based artist works quickly, without making preliminary sketches. The largest piece on show, Untitled (all works 2024) – in which black and blue lines swoop across a 2 × 2.5-metre linoleum support – is one of several the artist made directly in the exhibition space shortly before the opening. – Ramona Heinlein

Silvia Rosi | Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, Italy | 28 April – 28 July

Silvia Rosi, Disintegrata di Profilo (Disintegrated Profile), 2024, fine art print on Baryta paper. Courtesy: © Silvia Rosi and Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia

It is possible to exist in several places at once, but not without a certain loss of integrity. This is the slippery notion that Silvia Rosi attempts to unpack in ‘Disintegrata’ at Collezione Maramotti, the artist’s first institutional solo show in Italy. Born in the nearby town of Scandiano to Togolese parents, Rosi is known for her use of self-portraiture to probe questions of personal history, identity and nationality. She continues to mine these themes in ‘Disintegrata’, which opens with a series of photographic works that considers migration through sweeping visions of the Italian landscape. Rosi, and at one point her mother, are pictured walking then resting in sumptuous kelly-green grasses (‘Disintegrata nel Paesaggio’, Disintegrated in the Landscape, 2024). Seamlessly installed alongside these photographs, so that the unfocused eye might mistake them for still images, are video works that quietly trace the path of the wind through the grass or the artist’s own movements as she glides across the screen. – Reuben Esien

Cao Fei | Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany | 13 April – 8 September

Cao Fei, 'Meta-mentary', 2024, installation view. Courtesy: © Cao Fei 2024, Sprüth Magers and Vitamin Creative Space; photograph: Simone Gänsheimer

Descending a ramp into Cao Fei’s exhibition, ‘Meta-mentary’, my eyes adjust to a space saturated with bubblegum pinks and blues. To the right is a gigantic, blow-up octopus (Asia One Octopus, 2024), a badminton court and a large mobile phone-shaped screen playing Fei’s 2022 documentary about the metaverse, from which the exhibition takes its name. A few steps beyond the ramp, I lie down on a foam-covered platform to watch Duotopia—1st Edition (2022) shown on an overhead screen; in it, Fei’s octopus-humanoid avatar, Oz, floats in front of a mothership. Lying here, I feel as though I, too, am on a UFO – one that acts as a physical manifestation of a metaverse utopia. Yet, upon proceeding to the show’s next section, a darkly dystopian feeling overtakes this candy-coloured vision. – Emily McDermott 

Main image: Silvia Rosi, Disintegrata dal Parrucchiere (Disintegrated by the Hairdresser) (detail), 2024, fine art print on Baryta paper. Courtesy: © Silvia Rosi and Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia

Contemporary Art and Culture