Michael Beutler, Moby-Dick at Hamburger Bahnhof
I attended the opening of the site specific Michael Beutler exhibition, Moby-Dick on April 16th at Hamburger Bahnhof and boy was it a good time. This was the first opening I’ve made it to at HB and can say without a doubt I will be going out of my way to experience more. Generally speaking, large openings have a tendency to be frustrating, specifically when they are too full to appreciate the work. But Beutler’s work benefited from the excited atmosphere and the crowds winding their way through the exhibition only added to the already playful scene. This opening was surely the most fun I’ve had in a Berlin museum. That being said, I love art that allows for interaction and experimentation.
The opening had a rock star feeling to it. Eva & Adele, a couple from Germany one may label as performance artists, added quite a glamorous glitz to the evening. I loved watching them socialize throughout the space. Though Berlin isn’t known for having money, here I was at an opening seeing the high society of the city. When the gates to the exhibition opened, after a long introduction to the work, around 700 people flooded into the space, yet it didn’t feel cramped. Participants could pick up and play with items, sit on the artworks, and move freely about. One of my favorite aspects of Beutler’s work is his willingness to display the artistic process. A small-scale model of HB was on display, showing the larger elements of the exhibition in miniature, while pictures inspiring the artists designs lined the walls of a sort of small chapel.
The HB space itself plays a huge roll in the way the work is both presented and perceived. Beutler uses the ‘skeleton’ of the building to inspire his exhibition and this is incredibly obvious in the materials used to build the main elements. The space has the feeling of a large symbolic whale. It is an artist’s playground, made out of numerous industrial materials, including metal, wood, plastic, and paper. For instance, paper rolls are turned into a large sectional couch, wood benches are shaped into a sort of ferris wheel structure in the center of the museum, which feels like a kind of theme park ride, sitting in a circle around water, wood and paper elements, my friend asked me more than once “are we moving”? Something in the space is moving, although it was difficult to perceive which element it is.
Beutler’s work is quite fascinating and with this exhibition he has transformed HB into a continually evolving artistic workshop. At first what appears unfinished, becomes something in which the act of completion is obsolete. I suppose and maybe because I have a tendency to not complete many of my personal artistic pursuits, I found Mody-Dick encouraging and felt super relaxed within the space he and his team created. The exhibition to me is expressing a fundamental building block of the artists path, ‘finishing isn’t always what it’s about, experimentation, process, playing, evolving…this is what’s important.’
I left the exhibition feeling completely enthralled and fully satisfied and yet dreaming of a studio to be creative in. I would consider that quite a compliment to the artist, inspiring people, for me, is what art is truly about!
Moby-Dick is on display all summer long at Hambuger Bahnhof. The artist and his crew will be working on different parts of the exhibition in the first week of each month during its run. Meaning it will be changing shape as the artists alter the exhibition space and evolve ideas up until the end. The exhibition closes September 6th, 2015. I highly suggest making your way to see it, perhaps more than once, I absolutely plan to return and see what develops as the time goes by.
Hamburger Bahnhof is open daily (except Mondays) from 10-18:00, Thursday 10-20:00. Tickets to Michael Beutler’s temporary exhibition are €8. Check out the HB website to find out more.
Photographs and text by Linka A Odom
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