“Never talk about politics or religion in public,” I was once advised, “Because you never know who you might offend.” While this creed is very empathetic and all, it is certainly not what “Believers,” the current exhibition at KOW, is about. Au contraire mon frére: If the public practice/display of belief and faith is a human right, contend the curators Alexander Koch and Nikolaus Oberhuber, then the right to publicly blaspheme, ridicule, and offend should also be tolerated. Sounds fair enough, no?
It is precisely this notion of belief, that oh-so-human capacity to trust in an idea at times without logic and reason, that this exhibition seeks to throw jabs at. Granted, such an exhibition might not be as sacrilegious as it sounds considering Berlin is the atheist capital of Europe (or so the rumors go). Nevertheless, the premise of an exhibition about believers composed by blasphemers (with a line-up of over 15 artists, from Joseph Beuys to Adrian Piper and Pussy Riot) had me believing the hype; I just had to go check it out!
Abandon Ya’ll Pope, Ye Who Enter Here
With its entrance on a second floor balcony and housing the artwork on two lower levels, I could not dismiss how fittingly the architectural space at KOW lent itself to the content of this particular exhibition (reminiscent of the 7th circle of Hell in Dante’s inferno – where the blasphemers are kept, precisely). After picking up a floor plan, which included a map and the location of each artwork, I made the steep descent into what I cannot describe better than the gallery’s pit: an enclosure without a ceiling from which anyone on the second floor could peek in and witness your interactions with the artwork surrounding you.
Ines Doujak’s “Prometheus,” leaning against a corner at KOW Berlin. Photo Chris Phillips
Correction: not all of the works inside this pit are works of art. I’m specifically referring to Pussy Riot’s (in)famous Punk Prayer protest which is being looped in one of the various TV monitors. You see, the exhibition program specifically states that, “Pussy Riot would like to indicate that this video is not a work of art.” “What is it then, and why is it here?” I asked myself as I continued my descent to the next level of the exhibition, an even darker space than the pit.
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