“Safety Net” – a juxtaposed term hinting at feeling safe inside a net, waiting for those who hold the strings to play out their next moves – is the title of Erratum Galerie’s show. The term might apply to characters that make up this exhibition too; as they all come of age in this space we call the art world.
Also trying to make their way in the Berlin art scene are the show’s young curators Nina Kettiger and David Hanes who have invited three artists to give their take on the “Safety Net”. The works presented here are very distinct and interpret the topic very differently. For instance, Per Mertens’s work, which literally cascades down the wall, makes the transition between wall and floor with a 3d rendered printed cloth that’s reminiscent of the Moon’s surface. Coincidentally, it was only last September when Nasa suggested there might be water on Mars. Mertens even entitled his work “On Survival Mode” thus bringing the ever-trending sci-fi ideology closer to our realities, proposing we can continue our “world” elsewhere.
Artist Annabelle Arlie uses found objects as if they were compressed artifacts of our modern western world. Her garish aesthetics are made up of oversized euro-bill-adorned calculators, faux rocks with built-in speakers and solar-panelled light-up owls. These have been turned into shrine like objects, with names such as “Black Energy” and “Rescue Kit”. The works seem at odds with their original intentions of offhand consumption and disposal in an act of western gluttony, now they seem to take on an unearthly power. Arlie has carefully considered the arrangement of these found objects, through colour, shape and motif. Anyone who’s ever dropped into a one-euro store can see the works are made up of the latest stock but the compositions resonate so strongly. As works, it’s hard to see the pieces as singular readymade item again, “netting” consumer consumption is Arlie response to the title it seems.
Heath West’s work has a more traditional feel to the topic of nets: four brightly coloured woven canvases hang across the gallery walls in hues of dark blues and neon pink and yellows. Seemingly confident and contained, these works become somewhat more complicated when you notice that the titles of each canvas is a song title from the American punk rock band the Misfits. Often seen as the progenitors of horror punk, the band have been synonymous with outcast teenagers throughout the world since the 90s.
Despite their difference in form, all the works explore the coming-of-age spirit in a post-internet world. Could this also nod at what happens to the pre-89 generation? They are not digital natives; they are the ones who shift between the old and new ways. They still remember the dial up sound of the internet before MSN opened, or their mums telling them to get off the internet in order to free the landline phone. But really we are all learning the rules and codes of the new elite world of the technological network. Smelling like teen spirit is perhaps just as relevant as it’s ever been.
Text by Penny Victoria Rafferty
“Safety Net” is at Erratum Galerie, Berlin, until 9 January 2016. The show will be on until 11pm on 17 December 2015