Guilty. I'm an artist who moved to Berlin to chase the dream like everyone else. Now it seems I can't walk into a Space without bumping into a highschool fling or their best friend's brother. In the past few years Berlin has aquired a beautiful mythos as existing as one of the central international hotspots for artists to flock to. Now it is experiencing a sudden convergence of Australian artists who, buoyed by the booming Australian dollar, are taking up residence in the run-down breeding ground of bourgeoise bohemia that is Berlin. The question is, what are we all doing here? Well, making art of course, right?
I visited the new show at Kunsthaus Bethanien, home to one of Berlin's largest and most illustrious residencies, which focusses on a particular group of Australian artists currently working in Berlin. A Perfect Day to Chase Tornadoes, curated by Australian ex-pat Kim Fasher with support from artist initiative SuperKaleidoscope and the Australian Council for the Arts, is an ambitious show. Taking its title from a song by country singer Jim White, the exhibition seeks to explore the nature of 'the chase', bringing together the work of those whose own pursuits have led them to Berlin.
With work by fourteen young Berlin-based Australian artists, spanning two floors, the show presents an diverse array of viewpoints, mediums, subject matters and techniques. Walking through the exhibition I wondered, what makes this Australian, aside from the artists themselves?
By no means are any of the works a self-conscious exercise in (national) self-definition. Rather, the audience is presented with a collection of work that lies open to interpretation. Landscape, unsurprisingly, stands out as a unifying theme in this exhibition. Like a tornado tearing through the countryside, these fragments from an Australian shore are swept up in a foreign environment. Bruniges' interactive sound installation, 'Tornado Sequence' is a simple and powerful piece that draws the audience into an immersive sonic landscape; stemming from a single microphone and wind machine, the installation manages to heighten and draw the viewer's perception of the entire exhibition space into a sound piece apparently in eternal conversation with itself. Photographic work such as Sarah Mosca's quiet meditation on space and Christopher Horder's infinitely layered stained canvasses draw the viewer further into questioning the enigma that is the Australian cultural and physical landscape.
Of course this isn't just about a bunch of Australians creating work in a vaccuum. With such a large contingent of Australian artists in Berlin, it's also interesting to look at the influence a new city and scene has on the work. In A Perfect Day to Chase Tornadoes one of the prevailing Berlin aesthetics 'driven, practical, DIY, an unfinished look' creeps through. It is an emphasis on concept over surface, which, when successful, as evident in Bruniges' installation, adds an unpretentious immediacy and underscores the intent of the work.
SuperKaleidoscope's exhibition offers a glimpse into the eye of the storm, provides a taste of what all these artists are doing here, and invites a closer examination of how their work is interacting with their new environment. With more and more emerging and mid-career artists dipping their toes in the North Sea, however, the question remains: what does it mean exactly to be a young Australian artist in the international contemporary art scene?
A Perfect Day to Chase Tornadoes 8th-17th October 2010 Kunstquartier Bethanien Studio 1 Mariannenplatz 2, D 10997 Berlin