A Bird? A Plane? Or Just Really Bad Art?

Having never been to Kreuzberg venue Künstlerhaus Bethanien, I didn’t know what to expect. Their current group show, “Flying” looked promising – an exhibition bringing together over sixty international artists to interpret one topic. Walking inside I admired the space, the grand wooden staircase to the upstairs gallery and the spacious rooms. It was only after viewing the initial pieces of artwork that everything went wrong.

Flying, Literally

On one wall I am confronted by a row of photographs of women’s backs with feathery angel wings – flying at its most literal. The images themselves are not offensive, but the embroidery of loopy handwriting over the top of it is; it adds a teenage angst and sentimentality to the pieces which causes my gag reflex to kick in.

Moving on I cannot shake off the feeling I have been transported back to my high school art class. Accordingly the paintings on display (painting seems to be the main medium of the show) vary in quality, ranging from at least interesting, dark scenes depicting shadowy winged creatures to more abstract and textural pieces. There is also collage work, the most memorable being an image of a woman repeated over and over, not particularly inspiring but I guess even Stezaker had to start somewhere.

Chris Phillips at Flying Junstlerhaus BethanienBAPS photographer Chris Phillips with JKM’s work at Künstlerhaus Bethanien. Photo: Marie J Burrows

More obvious interpretations of “Flying” include numerous pieces depicting airplanes: zero marks for originality. Slightly more exciting is a painting of a suitcase on a conveyor belt at an airport, but the most eye catching piece that is not totally offensive has to be the life-sized sculpture of two people by artist duo JKM – Jurgen Krebber and Karin Michaelis (seen above).

Plane Wreck

An exhibition originally born out of the idea of bringing together different texts and images on flying to create a book (which is still being planned), the topic had great potential. Perhaps as a result of the amount of artists involved, quality was overlooked and quantity prevailed. The result: the exhibition failed to fly and instead crashed and burned. My advice is to steer clear of this plane wreck.  

Article by Marie J Burrows