The Waiting Game - Hamburger Kunsthalle Explores an Everyday Phenomenon

Time squandered senselessly or a possibility to reflect—waiting is a mixed bag. And with Waiting for Godot Samuel Beckett even turned this experience into a metaphor for the absurdity of human existence. With the exhibition Waiting. Between Power and Possibility, enabled by Deutsche Bank, the Hamburger Kunsthalle is exploring this everyday phenomenon and its various psychological, sociological, and political dimensions. For the show, works by 23 international artists are on view at the Galerie der Gegenwart as well as in other places inside and outside the museum.

Waiting can reflect people’s social standing or status. Faster check-in at First Class counters and shorter waiting times for privately insured people at doctor’s offices exemplify the fact that the wealthy and powerful do not have to wait. For less privileged people, however, waiting is part of daily life—for example, for the boys and girls in Andrea Diefenbach’s photographs. They are children of Moldavian emigrant workers waiting for their parents to return. Or for the unemployed to whom Paul Graham’s series Beyond Caring is dedicated. The photos, taken in the mid-1980s, show the dreariness of British employment and welfare offices: resigned people in dilapidated rooms.

When visitors to the Hamburger Kunsthalle encounter a group of people waiting for no apparent reason, they have come across a performance conceived by Roman Ondak. For Good Feelings in Good Times (2003), Deutsche Bank’s “Artist of the Year” 2012 has extras wait in lines. The work was inspired by the queues in front of stores in the former Eastern Bloc. But they can also be associated with crowds of people waiting outside Apple or sneaker stores for the latest models. Alongside Ondak, other artists from the Deutsche Bank Colleciton are represented, including Tobias Rehberger, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Andreas Gursky, and Elmgreen & Dragset. The latter, a Danish-Norwegian artist duo, placed a life-sized figure of a boy on a scaffold. Lost in thought, the boy looks at the floor in a pose exhibiting adolescent boredom—waiting for things to finally “get started.”

Waiting. Between Power and Possibility
February 17 to June 18, 2017
Hamburger Kunsthalle