October 2008, Peace and agriculture in a pre-romantic ideal landscape, without sublime terrors @ Haunch of Venison
Peace and agriculture in a pre-romantic ideal landscape, without sublime terrors
5 September – 25 October 2008
Haunch of Venison Berlin
The industrial setting of Haunch of Venison Berlin is the site for the reflection of eight internationally renowned artists broadly grouped together under the theme of landscape. Concerns range from the political to the digital, from the spiritual to the imitated and yes, also to the romantic and are articulated in videos, photographs and sculptural installations rather than in the traditional medium of painting.
The slightly long and complex title of the show does actually refer to someone usually associated with an earthy simplicity. ‘Peace and agriculture in a pre-romantic ideal landscape, without sublime terrors’ is linked with ‘The Harvesters’ (1565), Flemish painter Pieter Brueghel’s depiction of peasants in a cornfield.
On entering the gallery space, it is Mariele Neudecker’s installation ‘Faintly falling upon all the living and dead’ that, due to its scale, strikes first. The German artist displays three artificial tree trunks that stretch 366cm towards the ceiling, before being neatly chopped off at exactly the same height. Needless to say that one feels ill at ease at the sight of this piece. Something has gone wrong here since Brueghel.
James Ireland’s works, minimal structures out of steel, glass and plastic, do not offer much of a relief either, as they also evoke a sense of tamed and fabricated nature. Even worse, there seems to be some kind of natural glow coming from within the artifice. ‘All of my dreams’ is the ironic title belonging to one of his pieces that involves a clichéd sunset image and fluorescent light and is a pushy but nevertheless effective rendition of nature and our experience of it having become a mere commodity.
Other works in the show include Via Lewandowsky’s delicate amalgamation of historically and socially loaded imagery and a video by acclaimed artist Takeshi Murata. Consisting of thousands of reworked film stills, the latter might best be described as a digital landscape or a virtual tour de force.
Taking a breath and a few steps up the steel ladder, we come to Swiss artist Jules Spinatsch’s ambitious meditation on surveillance technology and politics, while the rear gallery gives room to a few quiet but compelling pieces of work. Here Stefanie Bühler displays her earth, stone and resin ‘Puddles’ and London-based Israeli artist Ori Gersht delights with his photographic series ‘Liquidation’. Focusing or rather blurring his lens on Europe’s most ancient forest, a site where terrible atrocities took place during the Second World War, Gersht creates a piece that is hauntingly beautiful and deeply chilling at once and through a poetic abuse of his medium speaks a painterly language.
And then there is the work by Ergin Cavusoglu. His video ‘Walking Fog’ does not need to state anything, for the way it embraces its visual subject matter simply asks for receptivity. With a sophisticated camera movement and an editing that is at one with the seascapes and the fog he portrays the Bulgarian artist tackles the notion of the sublime and invites us to get lost in what is both slightly scary and oh so utterly compelling.
‘Peace and agriculture’ brings together a variety of contemporary positions that re-examine and extend the old fashioned genre of landscape art. The diversity of the works is remarkable and the reference to Mr Brueghel, though slightly obscure, is an interesting one. The overall use of new media and sculptural installations certainly gives the show a stimulating touch and while there is a strong sense of mourning and estrangement from nature, there is also the suggestion of a new bond, or at least a fresh way to engage with a classical subject anew.
Noah Becker: Editor-in-Chief