Horror and Beauty:
Marc Brandenburg, Hirnsturm II

The exhibition “Hirnsturm II,” which just opened in Berlin, takes visitors on a trip through the graphic and performative cosmos of the Berlin artist Marc Brandenburg. Like a diary, the show reflects inner states: intoxication, emptiness, and isolation—as well as the fascination and terror of media images and everyday racism. An introduction.
Mental cinema: Innumerable, virtually photorealistic images float in a dark hall bathed in black light. For over 25 years, Berlin artist Marc Brandenburg has drawn things in his surroundings: plastic toys, fashion photos, demonstrations, participants in parades. There are people in costumes, Ronald McDonald, and hooligans. Alongside interiors of Berlin apartments from the 1920s, where Fritz Lang or silent movie stars lived, there are images of today—sleeping bags, plastic bags, clothes lying in front of store fronts or in building entrances, attractions at fairgrounds, park benches, graffiti. Hirnsturm II is the title of Brandenburg's major solo exhibition that is now on view at Berlin’s PalaisPopulaire.

“Hirnsturm,” or “brain storm,” could be a flood of inner images that shoots through one’s head in extreme states, as when one is intoxicated or in shock. Brandenburg, translates this inundation into a spatial, immersive experience. In the show’s main hall, bathed in black light, visitors walk through a swirl of drawings inverted into the negative. The drawings seem to float in a black void like fragmented perceptions or cinematic sequences.

Brandenburg often finds his motifs, which he photographs and then sketches, on forays through Berlin, London, or Barcelona. The artist is self-taught and entered the professional art world in the early 1990s laterally from the fashion and club scene. In his drawings he investigates coverings, masks, looks that surround people like a second skin or identity. Almost like a diary, he shows his world from the perspective of a German, gay “person of color.” Brandenburg’s works examine homophobia and racism, fear of the “foreign” and the unknown. In doing so, he is fascinated by both horror and beauty.

The second part of the exhibition is the video installation Camouflage Pullover (2018). It picks up on a knitted work he made back in 1992, Camouflage Sweaters for Foreigners. In creating this work, he was influenced by the racist riots in Rostock-Lichtenhagen and the police violence against the African-American Rodney King and the subsequent riots in Los Angeles. For Camouflage Pullover, Brandenburg developed wearable models for which woolen heads and hands in a variety of “skin tones” were knitted onto found sweaters and worn by performers in Berlin parks and streets. Brandenburg staged little, plotless situations—a picnic, strolling around, waiting on a park bench—with the exclusively male figures, which stereotypically suggest “white men” and “people of color.” His video shows the bewilderment of the passers-by. In other segments, the “white” actress Nicolette Krebitz puts on a “black” mask and the dark-skinned director of Kunstraum Potsdam, Mike Gessner, dons a “white” one to demonstrate that underneath the masks are people of different ages, genders, skin colors, cultural backgrounds, and sexual orientations. The uncertainty that these puppet figures exude is also, in a way, a projection—making us wonder what it would be like to be stuck in this wool skin for a moment, at the mercy of our own gazes and judgments.

Marc Brandenburg:
Hirnsturm II 

Until August 23, 2021
PalaisPopulaire, Berlin

and
October 28, 2021 - January 30, 2022
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main