Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do



Potsdamerstreet 81b
10785 Berlin
Tel. 0049 (0)30 25 46 09 44




"Fertility" - Exhibition since 9th of September 2011 

When coming up the stairs to the top floor, one has to ring the bell before being let in. Once inside this special measure seems to make sense. The office of the gallery is down the corridor and around the corner so that anyone entering cannot be seen right away while in that very corridor there can be found hanging some very precious works of art.

Jonathan Borofsky, "Human Structures" Photo by Boudewijn Payens

The main rooms are right underneath the roof. Tasteful is the fact that the beams supporting the roof are left standing as they are really, namely naked. Their natural colour is a good contrast to the clinical white surrounding. It stirs ones imagination even before having looked at any of the pictures of this special exhibition having to deal with 'fertility' in terms of rites evoking more thoughts than laughter. This is because art forms shown in real terms can also be grotesque if not tasteless. They seek to evoke some emotional response but really address the cognitive level so that the human level is missed out. That is especially the case with the picture depicting nun like women lifting their skirts to show their vaginas.

Marina Ambramovic - "women in rain#2" Photo by Boudewijn Payens

The text accompanying the exhibition explains the intention of the contemporary artist Marina Ambramovic. The print "women in rain #2" (2005) is taken from her video work called 'Balkan Erotic Epic'. Show are traditionally clad women. By showing their vagina in the direction of the sky, the intention of such a painting is a wish evoke a claim that the old Balkan belief in human sexual organs in need to secure the fruitfulness of the earth is still of relevance today. This claim then ties together the overall theme of 'fertility' of the exhibition as it may turn out to be a search for another kind of fruitfulness through the arts.

This particular painting seems to take one step further in the direction of showing a double sense. For the contrast is not so much between the past and the present, but between tradition and nakeness. If not an affront to tradition, then something like a claim in the power of rites which can evoke and provoke over and beyond the limits of eroticism. One has to be aware of moral borders to understand the intention of the artist.

Aesthetically speaking, if it is true that artistic freedom to express the nude has reached a classical sense ever since Duchamp has let her descend naked down the stairs to signify his concept of beauty, then new outlets are needed if to avoid appearing if not merely rude then very similar to just a crude pornographic piece. If the arts need to seek another outlet, then what would be the solution in times in which anything goes and nothing more manages to raise even an eyebrow.

The arts must escape this style of doubleness if they are not to become entangled in 'evoked provocations' and 'provoked evocations'. To evoke the Right to show something directly makes only then sense when not a provocation, and vice versa provocations are only good, so the claim of wise politicians, if they prove to be fruitful i.e. people adopt and adapt to the idea that something needs to be done and can be done to alter the course of history considered otherwise to be a mere fateful lawfulness with mankind unable to alter its course. That then would give the picture some power if it manages to evoke compounded wisdom.

'Shadow over sexuality' Photo by Boudewijn Payens

But critically speaking, there is much to be asked why such images especially in a society having gone wildly astray in terms of sexuality? Instead of images spread by the media people do seem to reflect much more upon the deeper contents of news especially when having deep implications for what is happening in their own private surroundings and more so if they have experienced something similar in their own life. Meant are the news about wide spread child abuse within the Catholic Church, but not only there, while abductions of young girls to force them if not into marriages then into prostitution are only countered by many Eastern European women being lured to the West, if only to end up in the new business of slave sex. And then there are the incestual mispractices, the latter the case when a father in Austria sleeps with his daughter for years and she gives birth to one child after another while the neighboring society around him does not seem to notice anything - apparently. That lack of perception in society needs to be dealt with by the arts for it indictes a lack of attentiveness just as the small book by Enzensberger about the 'radical loser' shows how few in the neighborhood seem to anticipate when suddenly a family man turns violent and begins to shoot down his entire family before turning the gun upon himself. Always the neighbors are shocked by disbelief for he was for so many years such a 'nice man'. Historically speaking, one does not need to remind that many claimed after Germany had gone through the years 1933 till 1945 that they had not to have seen the Jews disappear. All this and more marks a cultural crisis and especially a lack of human attentiveness as to what is not normal, but abnormal behavior. Apparently the images flooding the minds through the media do not allow for a clear perception based on a distinction between a ficticious normality and a reality which is really an outcry of humanity.

Hence the question is really when looking at the picture by Marina Ambramovic if her version of realism made acceptable by a touch of humor turns out to be something like shocking evidence that the arts can still move things. Yet if not mountains are to be moved, but those who disbelief the power of old rites and myths, then they seem to stand a chance when in front of this picture to take a second look at these old belief systems. For the picture does seem to wish to prove that ancient beliefs are much stronger than the believed in rationality of modern i.e. normal times. Thus the non-secular aspect in the painting is like an reincarnation of the Balkan wisdom as being something basic, if not subtle in its old forms. It borders on a primitive attestment that all kinds of beliefs and myths do still exist and even closer to reality of present times become ever more important especially if these fertility rites are ignored but all methods applied in agriculture prove to be ineffective to uphold the fruitfulness of the earth.

When pondering such a possibility, it seems that this direction of art has set itself a mythical task. It entails subtle questions about old-new capacities to manipulate people into believing the wrong things even when it can amount to an abuse of female sexuality. This then is not primarily a moral question. Rather it is meant to be a critical remark extended into the philosophical question of how things are perceived, and this neither out of an idealistic or phenomenological point of view. Rather the departure point has to be the practical question of how deceptive can be images claiming one thing while in reality something else is intended? It is like the priests who pretend to safeguard the innocence of children and especially of boys by letting them serve at the altar, when this religious ritual around the altar serves the purpose of distracting the congregation from the real intention. As we know by now church practices are a good cover to satisfy own perverse sexual needs. Canetti called it 'Verblendung' - public deception by believing in the one thing while in reality other things are happening.


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