The Edit Berlin February–March 2014

John Waters, Bad Director’s Chair
Sprueth Magers
Until March 5, 2014

John Waters, American indie director of Pink Flamingos fame requires no introduction, but news of his current art exhibition at Berlin’s Sprueth Magers had some fans speculating. Thankfully, the relentless enfant terrible is not experimenting with watercolors in his free time; his output as an artist mirrors his critical approach to tinsletown, and by extension, to the double standards and hypocrisy Hollywood promotes. Waters in fact relishes in the filmmaking industry’s dirty secrets of the trade, and revels in the bad taste surrounding its celebrity culture. Both sentiments are channeled with a mixture of wit and audacity into the white-cube setting of the gallery.

An empty director’s chair in the room alludes to Waters as the auteur of the ludicrous setting; the chair’s canvas is emblazoned with rejections and possible disasters, the embodiment of a director’s nightmare. On the floor, two baby-sized dolls, one in a black romper bearing the head of Charles Manson and the other in pink, with the head of Michael Jackson, engage in a playdate that never happened – but what would have happened if it did? Other works on view appropriate scenes from classic films and recast them into pithy comments. “Product Placement” (2009) takes dramatic moments in cinema, and shoves banal products into the stars’ hand. “Rear Projection” (2009) uses actors’ behinds as cinema screens, or inserts anonymous derrieres as preposterous cameos in certain scenes, not without subliminal hints at some of the depicted stars’ own sexual preferences.

A cardboard sign reads “Peepshow” and leads to an adjacent room, where three of Waters’ earliest films, Hag in a Black Leather Jacket (1964), Roman Candles (1966) and Eat Your Makeup (1968), are projected in narrow booths set up like in a dirty-movie cinema, complete with glory holes and paper towels. A framed photograph hovers over the scenery in the main room. It shows a kitschy pastel drawing of John Waters as a child, with a thin moustache added to it. “I remember sitting for the portrait that my parent had commissioned,” he told fans at his lecture This Filthy World two days after the opening. “I was four years old and I remember thinking, ‘I am crazy’.”

Simon Denny, Disruptive Berlin
At Galerie Buchholz
Until March 15

Simon Denny is often mentioned in relation to the “post-Internet” generation of Berlin-based artists. His work, which centers on the collision of new and old, digital and analogue, image branding and the social implications they carry, has garnered him attention well beyond Berlin, though, and he will be representing his native New Zealand at next year’s Venice Biennale. Denny’s latest body of work explores the new strategic marketing of the city of Berlin as a hub for a young startup industry. The titular “disruption” refers to the term used to describe a game- changing product introduced to the market (think iPhone), and it’s the goal of every startup, no matter how small, to come up with a product that will “disrupt” an entire industry.

The gallery space is dense with sculptures and installations, canvases and found objects, all emblazoned with logos or branded with slogans relating to tech-entrepreneurship. HD flat-screen TVs carrying various computer shaped models serve as both plinths and integral sculptural elements, in addition to being used as a medium for playing videos from USB sticks. The works are portraits, or rather momentary snapshots of this rapidly changing, dynamic industry, mapping the techy ecosystem of the city, with focus on 10 Berlin based startups and four highly competitive business and pitching events which take place in Berlin, and where Denny had shot the videos.

The exhibition is immersive and uncanny. The works celebrate – or ridicule, it’s a mixture of both, really – a fetish for the specific aesthetics of the startup industry. The sound coming from the videos, which are only partially visible on the screens/plinths, gives off an impression of a highly motivated, optimistic community intent on changing the way commerce – and on a grander scale, everyday life – is shaped in Berlin, and around the world. Essentially, however, the work is a portrait of a city in search for an identity that will attract a profitable industry; Berlin, just like the young entrepreneurs, is trying to come up with a winning idea. It was only a few years ago that Berlin marketed itself as a creative hub for artists.

Dorothy Iannone, This Sweetness Outside of Time
Paintings, Objects, Books 1959 to 2014
Berlinische Galerie
Until June 2, 2014

The art of Dorothy Iannone is a refreshing celebration of love and sex. With her unmistakable style, a mixture of the naïve and the graphic, she renders erotic scenes on busy, bright canvases, often infused with texts. Rather than pornographic, her depictions of coitus possess a dreamlike mystical dimension rooted in the spiritual and physical union of opposites. This retrospective of the work of the 80-year old American artist, who’s been a Berliner since 1976, offers a chance to view her rich and unique pictorial language, in addition to her less exhibited texts, artist books and videos.

In 1967 came a life-changing encounter with artist Diether Roth, and the two immediately became lovers. They remained romantic partners until 1974, and friends until his death in 1998. Though they were immersed in Dusseldorf’s Fluxus scene, Iannone would later inscribe on one of her pieces: “I am she who is not Fluxus.” Instead, her practice developed into a multimedia, figurative style celebrating the ecstatic unity of lovers. Featuring swollen bulbous genitalia, where labia and penises are similar in shape and size, the perspective in her imagery is shifted to the female, showing a blend of playful seduction and sexual self-determination – something that, sadly, is still labeled transgressive by some.

By Hili Perlson