CCA Berlin – Center for Contemporary Arts is a new institution dedicated to supporting, producing, exhibiting, and furthering discourse on contemporary artistic practices. Based in Berlin, Germany, it is a space for education, dialogue and cultivating critical knowledge around art and culture. CCA Berlin's mission is to reformulate the relevance of a non-profit center for contemporary arts and seeks to establish vibrant, transnational exchanges with stakeholders from the cultural, educational, and civic sectors. The institution also aims to bring together a multifaceted program highlighting process, experimentation, and collaboration, and is committed to engaging diverse publics.

30 May 2022, 7 pm
Screening

Cinema of the Everyday
vqueeram + Vishal Jugdeo
Stephanie Comilang
Sara Sadik
Morgan Quaintance

29 Apr – 29 May 2022
Exhibition

He Xiangyu
​House of Nations

29 Apr – 28 May 2022
Exhibition

爧萻橯 He Xiangyu
​​House of Nations

House of Nations 是艺术家何翔宇近年在柏林完成的一部短片。影片以一位中国留学生为主角,记录了他在新冠病毒大流行造成的第一次全球性封锁期间,骑单车在城市穿梭,与同学相聚,还有独自在湖中沐浴等场景。他看似琐屑的,毫无波澜的日常生活被一系列特写镜头贯穿和分割: 沉重的地毯,攒动的篝火,揉搓中的双手还有雪地上充满隐喻的互动。 镜头时而亲密,时而疏离,使编织在整部影片中的异化感变得愈发可触。

片名 House of Nations 取自主角居住的,位于柏林 Wedding 区一个学生公寓的名字。受Fondazione In Between Art Film委任制作,这部影片回应主题“翻译”及其延伸出的讨论。与影片中的所有内容一样,其标题命名本身也正契合了这一主题所蕴含的复杂性。

这部影片延续了艺术家对难以言表的、私密的身体感知的探索和转译。艺术家既作为导演, 也作为一个陪伴者渗入主角生活的日常和他的感知之中。尤其是手持相机拍摄贯穿始终,给予这部新作中无形的压抑和不可触碰的期待几乎物化的质感。众多可能生成故事的碎片在影片中流动穿梭 ── 瞬间闯入的思绪和突然流转的意念 ──再次创造了,也为观者捕捉了稍纵即逝的感受。

贯穿整部影片,“空间”在很多层面上被艺术家提取和运用: 晦暗不明的城市空间; 被走廊,白织灯和门划分的居住空间 ── 让人印象深刻的是那很多扇需要被接连推开的门; 还有以过曝调和的自然景观空间──虽然渗透着空气感,貌似自由舒畅,但是隐隐之间, 似乎无孔不入的无力感张弛着。这些对于明暗和空间的运用恰到好处地构建了一个有关个体既无法探明又无法反抗的大环境的隐喻。

这部作品是在病毒肆虐下的欧洲拍摄的,亚裔群体受到排斥的事实在这一时期以极端的形式暴露了出来。向来被套以“模范少数族裔”的亚裔们早已在日常系统化的歧视和规训下精疲力尽。这部作品则以主角个人的处境和他面对不知所向的未来的压抑,以及疫情下夹杂在孤立和隔离之间的无力抵抗,使其能够与更为广泛的移民群体及其经历产生共鸣, 从而将个人的感知延伸到了群体的层面。

较之何翔宇其他的影像作品,House of Nations 这部作品显得直白又随机。一方面似乎会使人认为,这部作品构成了艺术家创作的一个转向,但同时又能感受出这部作品与他的另一部影片 Terminal 3 (2016-2019)有着相似的对节奏的探索。电影制片人和理论家郑明河曾写道,“节奏标志了一个人对电影的体验,制作影像作品的第一要事即是在节奏上的工作。” 存在于声音和图像及其内部所构成的关联,正是由非语言化的“节奏”来决定。节奏传达了之于听与看之间的一个具有多重性的经验。在这种经验当中,文本既不被图像统治,图像也不被文本所控。这种经验从而可以不断地改变一个人对人和事看法的基础。

这部影片也可以被视为一个电影肖像作品。片中主角几近无言的"表演"似乎与艺术家另一系列犹如私人纪念碑般的雕塑作品呼应着:在这一系列作品中,艺术家等大比例地翻制了身边的密友。在制作这系列雕塑的时候,艺术家对材料的审慎和追求恰恰透漏了他对不可见、不可言喻的,更深层的感觉和共鸣的执着。 正如他对雕塑作品Asian Boy(2019-2020)所作的材料试验。 这件作品描述了一个正在开可乐罐的小男孩,艺术家所追求的并不是确凿的材料的视觉效果,而是“安静” ── 一个对声音和听觉的表述。“看得见的声音,听得见的图像” ── 这样似乎错置了的感知实际上打破了视和听的二分,建立了重新获得感受的过程,也为重新交流创造了可能。

张瀚文

张瀚文是一位驻柏林的研究员和策展人。她的研究重点是女性主义认识论、第三电影、批评理论和文化政治。

​电影 House of Nations 是在Fondazione In Between Art Film和德中文化交流协会的慷慨支持下完成的。

29 Apr 2022, 6:30 pm
Concert

Benjamin Saurer
Frankie
​Kelman Duran

29 Apr 2022, 6:30 pm

12 Apostel Church
An der Apostelkirche 1
10783 Berlin

On the occasion of Gallery Weekend Berlin, CCA Berlin is organizing a musical evening on April 29 starting 6:30 pm in collaboration with the Zwölf-Apostel-Kirche (Twelve Apostles Church) on Kurfürstenstraße featuring live sets by Benjamin Saurer, Frankie, and Kelman Duran. 

A sliding scale ticketing option is available at the door.

Benjamin Saurer is a Berlin-based trained organist and visual artist. He practiced church music from 1997 to 2003 and received his MFA from Städelschule, Academy of Fine Arts Frankfurt am Main in 2008. In parallel to his painting practice, he writes music to accompany exhibitions of artist colleagues and regularly performs as an organist in similar frameworks. Most recently Saurer has composed and performed at Stadtgalerie Bern, Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik Darmstadt, Kunsthalle Wien, Kunsthalle Basel, Portikus, and Kunstverein Oldenburg. 
At the Twelve Apostles Church, Saurer will play an excerpt of Die Fregatte/The frigate, a work by Thys/de Gruyter, 2008; The Elect, an ambient soundtrack for Yannic Joray’s exhibition of the same name at Stadtgalerie Bern, 2021; and Ich bin eine rufende Stimme [I am a Calling Voice], 2022, composition for organ. 

Frankie is the solo music project of Franziska Aigner, consisting of a solo cello and vocal set combined with a hyper-emotional lyricism. Mostly working in choreography and performance, the past few years have continuously brought more and more music to her life. Aigner performed in and co-wrote the music to FAUST by Anne Imhof for the 2017 Venice Biennale, and joined the Holly Herndon vocal ensemble in 2019. She continues to work and perform with artists such as Anne Imhof, William Forsythe, and Austin Jack Lynch, and recently completed her PhD in philosophy.

Frankie will perform songs from her newly-released EP, Styx, which can be purchased here

Kelman Duran is a musician and artist born in La Ermita, in the countryside of the Dominican Republic, and raised in New York City. Prior to making music, he produced videos at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Through his music, Duran explores the legacy of the black rebellion during Haitian Revolution and today’s unbalanced racial climate, reinterpreting and propelling the parameters of Afro- rhythms like reggaeton and dancehall. His latest LP, Night In Tijuana, was released in 2021 on the label Scorpio Red, which he co-founded with artist Annie Mackinnon.

Duran will close the evening with an ambient mix conceived for the occasion.

 

 

19 Mar – 16 Apr 2022
Exhibition

Hanne Lippard
The Myths and Realities of Achieving Financial Independence

Opening: 18 Mar 2022, 6–9 pm
14 Apr 2022, 6 pm
Lecture


About Work
 

Heike Geißler, Moderated by Mathias Zeiske

About Work - between wit and pun, "wellness" and wear, imposition and cheerfulness, fatal accident and circus trick. Or: We will never retire/be running on empty.

Heike Geißler is an author and lives in Leipzig. Her most recent publications are Seasonal Associate (Spector Books, 2014) and Die Woche [the week](Suhrkamp, 2022).

The conversation will be moderated by Mathias Zeiske, editor and curator. He is the head of the literature program at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin and co-editor of the book series Volte, published by Spector Books.

Photo: Adrian Sauer

Newsletter

Sign up!

20 Mar 2022, 3:30 pm
Walk, Screening, Conversation

Sex Work is Work
wren oscyth & Caspar Tate, Antje Engelmann

7 – 13 Mar 2022
Online Screening

Posenenske, Sabahi, Alÿs, Chang, Rainer

14 Mar 2022, 6 pm
Panel discussion

Ukrainian Dispatch

Solidarity as Cultural Praxis during Wartime
6 Mar 2022, 6 pm
Reading

Readings for Ukraine

Danik Zadorozny, Olga Bragina, Nata Yeromenko, Iya Kiva
Hosted by Maru Mushtrieva + FRZNTE
5 Feb – 5 Mar 2022
Exhibition

Charlotte Posenenske
​Vierkantrohre Serie D

Text

Manufacturing Dissent

by Martin Herbert

It’s a Saturday afternoon in 2013, the Year of the Snake, and I’m standing in the low-slung postindustrial Berlin showrooms of a German art collector who, yearly, displays a thematic edit of her collection. This time she has consulted the Chinese zodiac: we’re invited, amid a knowing conflation of the curatorial and the dictatorial, to see serpentine lines everywhere, whatever the artist’s original intentions. Bordered by a Joachim Koester video, a Franz West seat, and a spiraling Richard Deacon sculpture, one of Charlotte Posenenske’s “Vierkantrohre” series or “Square Tubes Series”—linear assemblies of hollow, four-sided, galvanized steel tubes and angled connectors, resembling ventilation pipes—rises up python-like. The intervention, as the collector’s smile affirms, is high-toned, dumb-smart. Of all the artists numbered here, Posenenske most decidedly sanctioned her art’s reformatting in whatever shape or form the buyer desired. This zoomorphic rendering, complicatedly dated 1967–2009 and also 2013, for its conceptual inception, fabrication, and current configuration, may be cartoonish but it doesn’t violate the magnanimous modular spirit of the late German artist’s work. Rather, the specific form and private-collection context open up questions originally encoded into it, making them irrepressible.
Posenenske had been gone twenty-four years by the time this work was manufactured—her estate, administered by her second husband, Burkhard Brunn, sanctions the nonprofit sale of unlimited new versions of these works at cost—and prior to her death in October 1985 it had been over fifteen years since she cared about the art world, or at least participated in it. Famously, she began a full disengagement from contemporary art amid the ructions of 1968. At age thirty-seven, she stopped exhibiting and accepting commissions, dispatched her remaining artworks to an attic, and embarked on a degree in sociology. Focusing on factory work and assessments of its value, she devoted the rest of her life to, as Brunn puts it, “breaking asunder the rigid standardization of factory labor in favor of extended codetermination.”[1] While she studied, she and her husband wrote guiding sentences in pencil on the white headboard of their bed, including one by Goethe that translates, approximately, as: “And time and time again they raised theory to the level of practice.” The snake in the Sammlung Hoffmann was, and is, theory.

*

Posenenske’s theorizing, which resulted in some three hundred artworks between 1956–68—though her practice only really took off three years before she quit—was formed in what might from a distance look like a crucible of deep idealism, one that followed a harrowing childhood in Nazi Germany. In 1940, when she was nine, her father, who was Jewish (her mother was not) poisoned himself, convinced he would imminently be sent to a concentration camp. Posenenske saw the body and the shock led her to abandon the outside world and cocoon herself; she became an obsessive reader, a reader of absolutely anything. Two years later she was told that being half-Jewish she had to leave school: she “escaped deportation herself only because a sympathetic local police officer hid her file.”[2] Reinstated in education after the war’s end, she went on to study in Stuttgart with the artist Willi Baumeister, who introduced her, as Brunn has elsewhere written, “to the socially related notions of order of Neo-Plasticism (Mondrian), to the socio-revolutionary principles of creation in Soviet constructivism (El Lissitzky), and to the uncompromising ideas of progress, standardization, collective work and anonymity.”[3] These social groundings for art making would be decisive.
While a student in the early 1950s, Posenenske adopted a classically stern, minimal-modernist aesthetic: stark white walls, long travels to obtain the perfect plug socket, admiring readings of Adolf Loos’s Ornament and Crime (1908). At a certain point, though, she quit her studies and for unaccountable reasons— a tricky affair with Baumeister has been mooted (a photo exists of Posenenske posing nude for him)—relocated to the city of Lübeck and joined a theater group, working as a stage designer from 1952 to 1955. (Again, here one might feel the components of her later work, with its farsighted, proto-relational participatory aspect and neo-Constructivist industrial aesthetic, snapping together.) When she renewed her art practice in the mid-1950s, Posenenske again accentuated the industrial, the impersonal: her “Rasterbilder” (Raster images) paintings of 1956–57, graphic patterns of circles and semicircles, suggest primitive electronic imagery; her “Spachtelarbeiten” (Palette-knife works), and “Spritzbilder” (Sprayed pictures) (both 1964), none publicly exhibited in her lifetime, furthered an impersonal mode of abstraction divorced from the hand and rooted in the prewar European modernism she had studied. From here, Posenenske unwaveringly worked away from flatness, first toward the self-exposing illusionistic depth of her “Plastiches Bilder” (Sculptural pictures, 1965–66)—assured conversations between folded surfaces and advancing and receding colors—and later the more explicitly objectified 1967 “Reliefs” series, wherein she transitioned, too, to the amendable form. (After this, color fades out, natural light henceforth employed as a collaborator, providing differently shadowed and illuminated aspects of white and gray surfaces.)
All of which would only count for so much had Posenenske not, as she went, also rigorously dissolved her own authority. By 1967 when she dreamed up the “Square Tubes Series” and began having them fabricated in steel and corrugated pasteboard, her conception of authorship and ownership had expanded and sophisticated radically. Equal in “producing” the sculptures, her “coauthors” included collectors, promoters, steel workers, transporters, installers, and “spiritual and financial supporters.” The work, as she saw it, was akin to factory goods—she labeled her audience “consumers”—and was expressly a collective achievement. Collectivity extended to the owners refashioning the work’s parts however they liked, and to Posenenske exhibiting outside of the gallery system—which she already had issues with—on a traffic island in Offenbach, for example. (Her sculptures, needless to say, were unsigned.) “The elements are reproducible, and the circulation is unlimited,” she wrote, in 1968: “The parts are similar to prefabricated assembly parts, but are distinct from these in that they lack a use value and make a claim to be art. Aside from this claim, everything else about them is controllable.”[4]
One might, as others have, see the “Square Tubes Series” as superbly drafted concords between the art world and the factory floor, undercutting the exclusivity and privilege of the one with a sharp blast of reality—and egoless communality— from the other. But Posenenske, who had seen the horrific side of systematic industrialization via the Nazi regime, departs from the chimerical tenets of Constructivism in decisive ways, and it’s notable that in their echoes of and retreats from industrial conditions, the “Square Tubes Series” foreshadow the real-world quandaries of industrial standardization that she would spend her “second” career working to ameliorate. They are standardized objects designed to behave in non-standardized ways: they restore power to owners, they’re intended to be unruly and subjectively slanted, they remain in flow. They reacted to the art market’s profiteering preference for the unique, the one-off, but also to a narrow conformist ideology telescoped into labor practice.
Yet they fell short in one important way. Although they redistributed authorship, the “Square Tubes Series” did not allow audience interaction within the exhibition space. The nearest Posenenske came to this was in a 1967 group show—put together by future dealer Paul Maenz and artist Peter Roehr, lasting two hours and ten minutes, featuring art that couldn’t be taken away, and entitled “All This, Sweetie, Will One Day Be Yours”—at Galerie Dorothea Loehr, a former farm building on the outskirts of Frankurt. Here, as archival photographs demonstrate, four men wearing Lufthansa overalls repeatedly reconfigured the artist’s cumbrous cardboard-tube structures, responding to factors including the weather and the number of viewers. That, in the compelling post facto logic of Posenenske’s progress, is why the “Drehflügel” (Turning leaves, or Turning wings) works were necessary, why they constitute a pellucid endpoint. In these 1967–68 object/environments, hinged panels can be opened or closed by viewers. Even as she made them, however, Posenenske was already just about done. “It is painful for me to face the fact that art cannot contribute to the solution of urgent social problems,” she wrote, in Offenbach, in a statement on her work for the Swiss journal Art International, published in May 1968.[5] Sometime later she refused an invitation to propose a public art project in West Germany, writing that she resented how art was now an “alibi” used to soft-pedal “the slums of the future.”[6]
The Occam’s razor reading of this is that Posenenske had swung art as close to reality as possible and found it lacking, and had also been overtaken by events. In a year of rambunctious political activism she was asking her audience to enter a gallery and daintily revolve some metal sheets, as if doing so would transform society in a trickle-down way while streets burned. While it pressured the context, this manifestly wasn’t enough. A more affirming interpretation—that of art historian Christine Mehring, for example, who says that Posenenske, despite espousing hopeful aspects of her era’s new interconnectedness, “was never an idealist”[7]—is that her works were a thrown towel,
designed to illuminate the limits of art’s agency, and that hands-on sociological work was not a disavowal of her previous position but absolutely continuous with it. (First, perform the limits of art vis-à-vis social change; second, do something that really contributes to it.) This, arguably, is to overlook the word “painful” in her 1968 statement,[8] and the fact that industrial sociology, as an alternative, is not directly “political” but academic.
More tenable might be a reading wherein Posenenske was lengthily trying, through her actions, to get somewhere and was honest enough to say when she hit an unassailable wall—a journeying and an ethical steadfastness that ought to be considered courageous enough in itself. Some artists seek and others find, Picasso noted; it seems obvious which Posenenske was, and the search went on inside and outside art. The latter, and sociological studies, might be construed as the accommodating acts of someone negotiating lifelong between working- and middle-class roots, between a learned love of idealistic art and its apparent underperformance in the real world (and in an art world that preaches to a miscellany of the converted and the disengaged), between political consciousness and what she could best do to live up to it.
Maybe her irresolution never stopped. Note this, as virtually none of her commentators do: “Shortly before she died,” Brunn writes, “Charlotte Posenenske returned to art.”[9] She stored the artworks that she “still accepted” in one room of her house, tossing out all the others—Brunn says he smashed them with a hammer. When Maenz asked to show her work, she was “very pleased and agreed to show her works which had not been presented for 20 years.” Maybe she did want to come back, and maybe backsliding is not so terrible, illustrative as it might be of an art industry whose witch’s brew of virtue and vice it is endlessly hard to be conclusive about. What kind of virtue is silence if your stand is forgotten by art history, as—at that time for Posenenske—it seemingly had been?
These questions remain forever tabled because the only person who could say for sure isn’t around to answer them, and it’s difficult otherwise to disentangle truth from vested interests. Posenenske, modular even in death, becomes who her commentators want her to be (“our bad conscience”);[10] gallerists and curators and ex-husbands always have something to gain. We are left to examine our own pieties concerning a handful of ideas: that art making represents some kind of acme of engagement with “urgent social problems” rather than a salve, that it should operate parallel to political activism and should enact change at the same speed, that the artist has to be consistent, even, in their thinking. Contention is there, too, concerning where art stops—whether the category, if one was once an artist, arcs over the whole life. In its irresolution as narrative, Posenenske’s portmanteau career keeps these issues in abiding play.

*

For a couple of decades, her work flickered intermittently in the art world. There was a survey in 1986 (the one at Maenz’s gallery, her first solo showing since 1969) and a thin sprinkling of others up to 1990—including some installations set up by Brunn in fruit-and-vegetable markets, chemical factories, and art fairs that only ran a single day. During the 1990s, as art became increasingly characterized by precisely the type of interactive, audience-privileging strategies Posenenske pioneered, she was somehow nowhere. It was her work’s reappearance in 2007’s documenta 12, curated by Roger M. Buergel and Ruth Noack, that launched its widespread reappraisal, ironically so since one of Posenenske’s final acts as an artist was to protest against the documenta 4 of 1968. There she involved herself in contrarian activities, for example, handing out flyers that pointed out how such exhibitions “blind us to social misery and the deplorable state of affairs in society.”[11] (No mention was made of this, unsurprisingly, in the documenta 12 catalogue.)
From this point, amid an apotheosis of the art market that would surely have disgusted her, the cultural resurrection proceeded apace: gallery shows, retrospectives in Zurich, Paris, Antwerp, and New York, appearances in themed group exhibitions, a monograph. In 2010, at New York’s Artists Space—Posenenske’s first US institutional solo—a different New York–based artist was invited every second weekend to reconfigure the work, including Rirkrit Tiravanija and Ei Arakawa. Here the “Square Tubes Series” were once more restyled: as cultural capital, as literal “connectors” between a late rediscovered refusenik—a distaff Bartleby—and another generation of relational practitioners, as romantic inspiration, as commodity. The venue republished Posenenske’s sayonara to art in a booklet and on its website. “Though art’s formal development has progressed at an increasing tempo, its social function has regressed,” she had written forty-two years earlier.[12] Following this, she had stood outside the entrance to documenta handing out a broadside that read, in part, “You culture vultures, so here you are all gathered together to chat and lie and talk crap so as to gain the upper hand.”[13] A small reception was held to mark each changeover of the New York show. Picture Charlotte Posenenske looking down, half-amused. Picture her looking away.

1. Burkhard Brunn, Charlotte Posenenske (1930–1985): Erinnerungen an die Künstlerin (Frankfurt am Main: Revolver, 2005), 119.
2. Christine Mehring, “Public Options: The Art of Charlotte Posenenske,” Artforum, September 2010, 275.
3. Burkhard Brunn, “For an Introduction,” in Charlotte Posenenske, ed. Museum für Moderne Kunst (Frankfurt am Main: Museum für Moderne Kunst, 1990), 5.
4. Cited in Christophe Cherix, ed., In & Out of Amsterdam: Travels in Conceptual Art, 1960–1976 (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2009), 108. Originally published in Charlotte Posenenske, Art & Project Bulletin 1 (September 1968).
5. Charlotte Posenenske, “Statements,” Art International 12, no. 5 (May 1968): 50.
6. Cited in “Charlotte Posenenske an einem Bauunternehmer,” Egoist 1 (1970): 17.
7. Mehring, “Public Options,” 277.
8. Tellingly, Mehring translates it differently, more adamantly, as: “I find it difficult to accept that art cannot contribute to the solution of pressing social problems” (ibid., 273).
9. Brunn, “Biography,” in Charlotte Posenenske, 79.
10. Mehring, “Public Options,” 273.
11. Cited in Brunn, Charlotte Posenenske (1930–1985), 117.
12. See http://artistsspace.org/exhibitions/charlotte-posenenske.
13. Cited in Brunn, Charlotte Posenenske (1930–1985), 117.