A Subtly Enchanting Anthology
The Press on “Checkpoint California” and “Photo-Poetics”

Two important institutions were guests at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle this summer. With “Checkpoint California,” Villa Aurora celebrated the 20th anniversary of the artists’ residency, while the Guggenheim Foundation presented the show “Photo-Poetics.” For many journalists, the two exhibition projects were among the highlights of the Berlin art summer.
In the 1940s, German exiles such as Thomas Mann and Bertolt Brecht met here. Today Villa Aurora accommodates international artists. The house has long been considered an important forum for transatlantic exchange. Two prominent guests at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle elucidated this development. Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the American ambassador John B. Emerson spoke at the opening of Checkpoint California. The exhibition and accompanying program of concerts, performances, readings, film presentations, and discussions documented how the Villa Aurora’s creative atmosphere has inspired all kinds of Fellows.

The Tagesspiegel devoted an extensive article to the history of Villa Aurora and the exhibition. “There are – unfortunately – many parallels between our age and that time,”  Fabian Federl quoted Checkpoint California curator Alexandra von Stosch. “Flight and exile are very topical again today.” For Ina Beyer from SWR, the house is an “auratic place that every artist who moves into the villa for a few months wants to and must react to. Because the spirit of the Feuchtwangers and their illustrious guests in the forties, from Adorno and Brecht to Fritz Lang and Max Reinhardt, surely still blows through the house.” The exhibition at the KunstHalle is “the celebration of a process of exchange and mediation that has been carried out successfully for two decades.” art discussed Checkpoint California in its “Gib mir Fünf” (Give Me Five) section, in which the magazine covers the week’s top exhibitions, and the two most important Berlin city magazines, tip and zitty, also highly recommended a visit at the KunstHalle.

In the Berliner Zeitung, Ingeborg Ruthe called it a “strong exhibition.” She was particularly enthusiastic about Christian Jankowski’s video 16 mm Mystery, which “takes your breath away.” In California, the “excesses” of the American Dream “can be seen as though under a magnifying glass,” writes Angela Hohmann in the Berliner Morgenpost. The artists in the exhibition “enter a kind of transit area that changes their perception. California becomes a place where one can pause and reflect, a Checkpoint California.” For Jan Russetzki from taz, the show is like a “setting of dreams and utopia, of dealing with the American Dream, with its ambiguity and identity.” The works “show the ambivalence of constructed Californian illusions.”

With Photo-Poetics, Deutsche Bank continues its partnership with the Guggenheim Foundation. The show, on view at the Guggenheim in New York as of November, presents a younger generation of conceptually oriented artists who engage with the essence and tradition of photography. A “subtly enchanting anthology” is how Irmgard Berner characterizes the show in the Berliner Zeitung. “The photo and video works that curator Jennifer Blessing from the Guggenheim Museum in New York installed and appropriated entitled anthology. (…). The show is a seeing and reading experience.”

“Reflect and really look,” recommends Sindy Hübsch in Ticket, the event supplement of the Tagesspiegel. “Here you have to let yourself in for photography, view it in depth in order to decipher it. An experience that raises the question of what photography actually is.” Peter Raue has a similar opinion in the BZ. At the KunstHalle “there is an exhibition that fascinates me although or because it cannot be consumed easily and quickly. (…) Here the depths are not hidden on the surface, but the viewer has to really step into these works.  A worthwhile search with excellent finds.”  

Gabriela Walde writes in the Berliner Morgenpost that it is a “clever exhibition,” while the scene blog Mit Vernügen asserts that a “longer look is worth it.” art in berlin sums it up as “an attractive panorama in a field of tension between digital innovations and photo techniques that are no longer used.” The online art magazine Ocula recommends the show, as does the design blog livegreen as well as tip and zitty.

“The Photo-Poetics exhibition calls on the spectator to view pictures in an unusual way,” writes art. Jan Russezki agrees in taz: “Post-digital concept art” calls upon people to “read photographic works rather than just scanning them. (…) Every position is worth studying.” In Tagespiegel, Christiane Meixner speaks of a “quiet exhibition that is well worth seeing.” And: “It makes one thing clear: the digital epoch does not mark the end of a sensual, poetic photographic language.”