A lightening quick visit to Hamburg last weekend and with a family reunion to endure, my hopes weren't high for my art seeing chances ... Somehow though, I managed to get in all the highs and lows a gallery-going weekend away can bring.
The not-so bad news first, Willie Doherty at the Kunstverein Hamburg. A retrospective spanning the last 15 or so years of Doherty's practice. A beautiful space and great installation didn't quite manage to detract from the feeling of Doherty having made the same 3 works lots of different times and ways; seen together the works merge together to make one overwhelming, repetitious and nullifying point.
The really bad news, one half of the Deichtorhallen Haus der Photographie. Here really is a space to masturbate over in the form of two old market halls making up some 6000 sq metres of exhibition space. The Roger Ballen exhibition (photographs of poor, rural white South-Africans), however, was unfortunately too depressing and awful to write home about.
The good news. Something I love about being a contemporary art is being in a new city and always ending up wanting to go somewhere a little random. Somewhere that there's no good reason to go to other than there's an exhibition there that sounds good. Hence, I found myself in the train station gallery somewhere south of the river that is the Kunstverein Harburger Bahnhof. Central to the exhibition by Honey Suckle Company was a large 4 sided infinity wall (like the back wall of the old Lawrance O'Hana Gallery). Basically, this is a white wall where, when it begins to reach the floor, there's a curve which continues onto the floor, reducing the appearance of lines. Honey Suckle Company have thus created a walk in trompe l'oeil on a grand scale. Walking across the surface, each footstep became intrepid and insecure, with the anticipation of being wrong-footed ever present amid a seemingly endless stretch of blinding whiteness. A cheap trick used by photographers to make models look like they're far away turned itself into a hilarious mountaineering exercise.
The really good news. The other side of the Deichtorhallen, another large retrospective, this time of Erwin Wurm. Funny, bright and sharp this had us laughing out loud and dancing around. Filled with noise and laughter, people doing and making and engaging, it felt somehow like a gallery should (especially in comparison to the unmentionable Ballen). Wurm's work feels alive - changing and morphing, occupying a series of different mediums and tropes - referencing a host of other contemporary artists and philosophers ... Fischli and Weiss, Maurizio Catalan, Vito Acconci, Robert Gober, Adorno, Wittingstien, Kant ... always with a twist of humour; subtle, surreal, hilarious, gross, just plain bizarre. The lists could go on. At once this was an exhibition that made me feel really clever and really dumb - I got it, but did I really got it? Actually I didn't care too much ... I was too busy being sculpture.