Note: This article was last updated in November 2017.
According to the German culture secretary Tim Renner, the majority of the artists featured in the 2016 Venice Biennale live in Berlin. The city resides continuously on the brink of action. The tension between policing and anarchy, uniformity and debauchery, rules and social unrest, as well as a bristling right wing intimidation is also tangible. This makes it a fertile space for activism, creativity and agency that artists record and channel into their work. Many also come to Berlin for the (still) affordable studios and space that allows them to nurture their practice. When we think of Berlin artists instantly Tillmans, Weiwei or Eliason spring to mind, yet there’s a myriad of other artists, establised or emerging, you’d be surprised live and work here too.
We’ve taken a closer look at some of these artists who have settled in the spirited city
Alicja Kwade counts illusionist “Mr Houdini” as one of her all time heroes. It’s evident in her practice, which draws on thought exercises about space and time. Her imaginative musings ponder “borders between science and suspicion” and are mostly focused on sculpture, though occasionally swerve into other mediums such as photography and video.
Past and future are puzzles to solve in Guan Xiao’s work. The artist uses modern technology to address and unravel her cultural and physical environment by observing the way that audiences process and respond to visual stimuli. Her work comprises cultural artefacts from disparate places that provide constellations of civilisations, regions and eras.
In Anna Uddenberg’s show “Truly Yours”, hostesses, escorts and glamour models enact their ideas and representations of an it-girl. The artist is particularly interested in the dominant visual language shared on social media and other online platforms. In one of her installation works, an embedded television screen presents scenes from the American reality TV show “Cheaters” in which distrustful couples confront their partners about illicit affairs. And for the 9th Berlin Biennale she forged none less than one of the most Instagrammed artworks.
Christine Sun Kim is becoming somewhat of a superstar in the art world. As an illustrator, painter, video and performance artist, Kim has had celebrated residencies at the Whitney Museum in New York as well as an exhibition at the MoMA PS1. Kim, who was born deaf, often collaborates with the musician Devonté Hynes also known as Blood Orange and gave a TED talk about “The enchanting music of sign language” which amassed over 100,000 hits. She will perform at Frieze Live 2016.
With a background in computer science and artificial intelligence, Harm van den Dorpel is widely regarded as a key figure of internet art. His practice encompasses online animations and the dialogue between digital artefacts and physical artwork such as sculpture and collage. His recent online work includes the “algorithmic studio” Deli Near Info and left.gallery which explores different curatorial mechanisms.
Fatima Al Qadiri is a producer and visual artist whose ascension is marked by the release of her mini-mix “Muslim Trance” for DIS magazine in 2010. Her blog “Global .Wav” is also hosted on DIS Magazine and under the separate name Ayshay, she has released a number of EPs on the labels Fade to Mind, UNO and Tri Angle. Al Qadiri is a member of the art collective GCC, who have exhibited at the MoMA PS1, Fridericianum, Sharjah Art Foundation and Whitney Museum of American Art. And of course she was also the cover star of SLEEK 51.
History, time and place frame Tacita Dean‘s films. The English draughtsman, photographer and filmmaker employs a light quality that activates the mystique of her celluloid medium. Her drawing began with storyboards and her penchant for storytelling is often charged by potential encounters and nautical themes. History and fiction enmesh in Dean’s narratives through the prism of temporality and memory.
Isa Genzken’s prolific output of radical assemblage objects has positioned her as one of the most influential artists of the past 30 years. Genzken’s sculptures, which includes three-dimensional work among a spectrum of other media, has placed her at the fore of radical invention since the mid-Seventies. With her recent body of smaller, diorama works and vast installations, she has established an entirely new language of found objects and collage.
Tomás Saraceno is a renaissance man in the sense that he employs all manner of disciplines in his practice. Architecture, engineering, physics, chemistry and aeronautics inform his inflatable, airborne biospheres which are often coupled with soap bubbles, spider webs, neural networks and cloud formations. His structures and installations propose potential models for a sustainable future, often in collaboration with experts from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.