BY Dominic Eichler in Reviews | 10 SEP 00
Featured in
Issue 54

The Work Shown in this Space

Neugerriemschneider, Berlin, Germany

BY Dominic Eichler in Reviews | 10 SEP 00

A prosperous gallery's calendar should be tuned like that of the Swiss sanatorium in Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain (1929), where 'the smallest unit of time was a month and a single month was almost no time at all'. Group exhibitions are often a way of bridging the gaps that occur amidst regular solo exhibitions; a method of introducing, without necessarily embracing, new artists; a market signal of new alliances; an audition from which one or two star performers eventually emerge. 'The Work Shown in this Space is a Response to the Existing Conditions and/or Work Previously Shown Within the Space III' was a progressive group show that ran for a luxurious period of almost five months. It was not the first of its kind, but modelled after a 1978/79 series of exhibitions initiated by Peter Nadin in his New York apartment, and a 303 Gallery sequel in 1992.

Each artist was invited to add to the work already installed in the gallery. Five of the contributions I saw involved plays on visibility, neutrality and meaningful walls. The first work, Christopher William's Bouquet for Bas Jan Ader and Christopher D'Arcangelo (1991), is a combination solid plasterboard wall, photographic homage and memorial to the artists named in the title. Henrik Olesen's Cornered (2000) - a droll plaster wall painted a pale shade of gallery white, with a newspaper jammed under it and a slit at one end - aimed to demonstrate his art historical and political conscience. A work by Simon Starling, A Room Defined not by its Walls but by a Pump (After Peter Fend, 84 West Broadway, New York, 1979) (2000), toyed with death and semi-visibility: it involved releasing two American cockroaches into a space marked out with Banzol residual insecticide. Heimo Zobernig tacked up a flimsy video-blue wallpaper Ohne Titel (Untitled, 2000), while Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset installed two unremarkable, fake doors, Powerless Structures, Fig 122 (A Room Defined not by its Walls but by its Accessibility) (2000), which straddled a corner and were connected by a silver safety chain.

It was at once a straight forward metaphor for a queer political stance and reminiscent of a Duchampian folly.

Easily the most satisfying offering in the show was Isa Genzken's Marmorsäule (Marble Column, 2000), a rectangular, free-standing column of grained marble tiles - a facade capable of supporting nothing, and seemingly distanced from the show's nostalgic premise. It is an abject piece, and somehow resistant to the scrutiny it would seem to inspire. Its companion piece was a brutally anonymous black and white photograph of Manhattan (New York, New York, 2000).

The remaining contributors contented themselves with smaller gestures. One of the participants of the original project, Lawrence Wiener, ordered an office stamp printed with the words '(&)SO WEITER', to be used at will. Manfred Pernice included a mini-sculpture of scrap wood, Nicht Dose (Non Can 2000), together with a partly censored wall memo. Louise Lawler, who was also in the original project, had the final say. She added unflattering fragments from the documentation of the show to the card announcing its end. The Nadin project bore the subtitle 'we have joined together to execute functional constructions and to alter or refurbish existing structures as a means of surviving in a capitalist economy'. The impetus and context for the Berlin sequel couldn't have been more different, which somehow made you feel drawn to the afterglow of the evocation of an innovative marginal past.

Dominic Eichler is a Berlin-based writer, former contributing editor of frieze and now co-director of Silberkuppe, Berlin.