Everyone hates the 7th Berlin Biennale. One word. OCCUPY. Say it a again. OCCUPY. It won’t be the last time. OCCUPY. I really hadn’t done any research before coming to Berlin so I didn’t know: the OCCUPY movement have found a welcome mat and it’s the artworld. Every Irish artist and curator I have spoken to hates it – and there’s a big green company. But it is not an apathetic response. It’s emotional. IT’s SHITE!

Rumor follows. Waste of €3,000,000.

Commentary next. It’s naïve. It’s not ART.

My first port of call is KW Institute of Contemporary Art where the Occupiarians are bunking. I expected Bohemia. Flowers in the hair. Tie-dye. Irritation. Obstacles in my way toward the contemplation of some artist’s fetish for objecthood. Hippies. Tree huggers.

Maybe I am being contrary, but I got it. Is it naïve politics? Fuck yeah! But it has never made more sense in my eyes. A few months ago I took a wrong turn in Las Vegas and ended up in this hinterland of the homeless. This was where LV Occupy Movement had literally pitched their tents; 3 tents in a vacant car park. PROTEST?

In Berlin. In an art context and Biennale of all things – where ‘functionless’ is the soup of the day – it makes perfect sense. Although curator Artur Żmijewsk and his invited curatorial team planned this well in advance of the recent dying down of the movement, it seems perfectly timed. There is an absence of curatorial vanity.

The artworld can cradle the occupy ideology as something dead rather than still beating. As you wander, gazing at the worker-activists as they try and keep busy doing what they do – rhetorical commentary that is actually heartfelt – you begin to understand that this is youth revolting with a few mid-life crisis stragglers or those of whom are still listening to Iron Butterfly. Down in the basement a MAC laptop plays a video with occupy members being interviewed. It’s done in black and white – that GAP advertisement aesthetic – interviewees are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. It works.

On the top floor however the message becomes blurred. Polish artist Lukasz Surowiec’s translocation of 320 birches from the former concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, to Berlin with all the hippies downstairs look like green shoots to a ‘higher’ plane of existence. A little eavesdropping and I get some of the gist of the occupy art ideology: “We want to bring art out into the public space so it can activate revolution”. Nuff said!

Just neighbouring the muted hullabaloo at KW Institute, Francesco Bonami (2010 Whitney Biennale Curator and sometime critic) is flexing some curator muscle at the ‘ME’ Collectors Room Berlin. It’s bizarre vulgarity for public performance sake. He is talking about collecting and how collectors are trying to make a financial art star out of one artist they ‘own’ rather than ‘owning’ lots of artists. That was the magic of 1980s New York. He refers to Charles Saatchi as having a warehouse of rubbish and one Damien Hirst.


(video montage of the 7th Berlin Biennale can be viewed at +billion_journal on Vimeo:  [https://vimeo.com/41189167])


7th Berlin Biennale

Francesco Bonami at ‘ME’ Collectors Room Berlin.



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