Art in Berlin 1989 1999 /// With the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 a process of political, social, economic, and cultural change began a state of permanent restructuring which is still going on today in Berlin. On 9 November the island status and the East-West division of the city, both defined by the Wall, suddenly came to an end overnight, and in the eastern as well as the western part of the city the firmly established structures were set in motion. The subsequent phase of restructuring was brought to a preliminary conclusion in the autumn of 1999: with the federal governments move from Bonn to Berlin, the city regained its functions as capital and the structures which had developed in the 90s began to become consolidated.
For art in Berlin, the years of upheaval between 1989 and 1999 brought drastic changes. Not only did a new generation of artists from East and West Berlin emerge at the end of the 80s, the city also became more and more a centre of attraction for artists from other parts of Germany and abroad. In the course of reconstructing the city, numerous sites which could be used temporarily were found and then occupied by artists and artist projects. The non-institutional structures which emerged contributed considerably to the multiplication and acceleration of art production. This development took place on what was originally wasteland and in ruins and unrenovated buildings in Berlin-Mitte, or downtown Berlin. In the course of the 90s Berlin-Mitte then became a centre of attraction for a new art and gallery scene that settled in the reconstructed apartment buildings and lofts.
Various exhibitions about contemporary art in Berlin have focused on the latest developments emerging from the charged arena where art, architecture, film, fashion, design, and club meet, which the many artists who moved to Berlin in recent years helped to shape. In addition to these developments, this Institue for Foreign Cultural Relations (ifa) exhibition also takes into account the artistic positions that were being generated in the 80s, ones that prepared the ground for the extraodinarily diverse composition that is art in Berlin today.
The selection of the presented artistic positions is oriented on the following developments: With the first public appearance of artists like Maria Eichhorn, Eran Schaerf, or Fritz Balthaus there was a change in the image, which had been widespread until the late 80s, of art in (West) Berlin being dominated by painting. The artists, many of whom were still studying at the art academies of Berlin at the end of the 80s, reflected positions in their art which had already gained acceptance on an international level, but in Berlin had received little attention. Conceptual tendencies, contextual art, and space- and site-related ways of working were given priority.
Of the artists from the Eastern part of the city, especially those from the group of »Autoperforationsartisten« (e.) Twin Gabriel, Via Lewandowsky, Rainer Görß, and Micha Brendel got national attention around 1990. They were part of the young art and music scene which had developed at the end of the 80s outside of the state structures of the GDR. Processual art, installation, and performative trends mark this radical change in East German art.
In the early 90s only a few galleries and institutions showed the works of the younger artist generation from East and West who took a conceptual approach and reflected on the art system or worked with performative and processual structures. These included Zwinger Galerie, Wewerka & Weiss Galerie, and Galerie Vincenz Sala in West Berlin and Galerie Weisser Elefant, Galerie vier, and o zwei in East Berlin, as well as Künstlerhaus Bethanien and Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst (NGBK).
In the course of the 90s spaces of temporary use, transitory situations in non-commercial structures, were found for the situation- and site-specific way of working which had already been established in the 80s in West Berlin and which was decisively represented by the artists of »Büro Berlin«. Works which took the site and its modalities into account were presented in shops, cellar spaces, and empty apartments. Close connections were formed with the club scene, whose ambience and musical trends effect the visual arts.
The exhibition QUOBO presents works of artists who have worked in the context in Berlin outlined here and who emerged especially in the years between 1989 and 1999. Sculptural ensembles by Ulrike Grossarth and Eran Schaerf which relate to the spatial situation in which they are shown are presented in the exhibition. Maria Eichhorn, Monica Bonvicini, and Carsten Nicolai involve the exhibition visitor in their works which require viewer participation. Annette Begerow and (e.)Twin Gabriel work with real-time systems which on the one hand are computer generated, and on the other are biological. The works by Fritz Balthaus and Adib Fricke reflect on the art system by on the one hand addressing the subject of the conditions of production as well as perception and, on the other, that of the forms of art distribution. The protonym QUOBO which Adib Fricke created for the exhibition thus serves as the show title and Internet address, and it appears in the design specified by the artists on the tickets as well as on posters and invitations. Karsten Konrad, »Inges Idee«, and Albrecht Schäfer react to particular places and spaces in their work. To present this way of working in this exhibition different forms of implementation were chosen by the artists. The environments by Laura Kikauka come about in direct connection with her activities in the club scene; aspects of club life are also staged in the film and photography projects of Nina Fischer and Maroan el Sani.
The choice of works in the exhibition emphasises certain aspects of art in Berlin between 1989 and 1999: site- and situation-specific ways of working and questioning the context of art are characteristic of the works presented here. An integral component of the exhibition is an archive in the Internet, for which the artists group »Inges Idee« has created the following situation: a large carpet which is fastened to one wall of the exhibition space will be spread out over a table and chairs. On it stand two computer terminals at which exhibition visitors can learn about the milieu of the artists who are represented in the exhibition as well as about temporary art locations and independent projects in Berlin. The archive in the Internet offers on the one hand information on the trail-blazing projects of the 80s for example a contribution on the work of »Büro Berlin« , and on the other presents the broad spectrum of independent projects which came about in the 90s. In addition to the approaches presented in the exhibition, additional areas such as painting, photography, or sound art of the 90s in Berlin can be investigated by means of the links to important art institutions in Berlin. The archive in the Internet is set up as a process and will be expanded and updated during the course of the exhibition. The address of the archive, which will simultaneously present the exhibition QUOBO, is: www.quobo.de
The exhibition catalog contains texts by authors who emerged in the 90s in Berlin as art critics, curators, or theoreticians. Following the introduction by Thomas Wulffen on the situation of art in Berlin are articles on the artists in the exhibition and their selected works. The catalogue was designed by cyan, a team of graphic designers founded in 1992, which has received notice not only in Berlin, but also internationally.