How can the relationship between contemporary art and reality be described; what stance does artistic praxis take on the present? Can it make the disparate realities of our present perceivable, and aid the viewer in assuring him/herself of his/her own existence and that of the world, in feeling more present in this world? In the midst of the overwhelming abundance of visual imagery produced incessantly by our media, how can reality even be created, a critical view of its underlying conditions even be attained? The 6th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art will offer no conclusive answers; its aim, rather, is to call attention to the questions.
6th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art
The common denominator of the artistic approaches presented in this exhibition is their perspective on reality. It is a perspective that can be analytical, speculative, or associative, but never relinquishes its focus on life realities we are familiar with. It is not the retrospective view—toward new forms of historicism and back to aesthetic and formal issues of the past—increasingly discernible in the Western art world over the past few years, but a perspective wholly committed to our own present.
In view of the critical stance on the art world’s increasingly retrospective outlook, it must seem paradoxical when an artist of the nineteenth century is placed side by side with the contemporary artistic approaches presented in the exhibition. What lies behind this decision is the attempt to break with the safe routines of art reception by introducing an art-historical perspective, and to refer art recetion back to fundamental questions which art committed to its own time must ask itself again and again. These are questions having to do with visibility, with what aspects of the invisible art is capable of making visible.
By juxtaposing the exhibition of Adolph Menzel drawings and gouaches curated by Michael Fried at the Alte Nationalgalerie / Old National Gallery with the contemporary approches presented by the Berlin Biennale, we are endeavoring to create an awareness of the limited visibility of that which we are prepared to grasp as reality. The answers Menzel found in the nineteenth century to the question of how to depict and visualise reality may not be entirle suited to the reality of today, more than a hundred years later. But again, the presentatino of two artistic eras side by side is intended as a means of calling attention to the question.
Petrit Halilaj was born in Kosovo in 1986; he lives and works in Runik (Kosovo), Bozzolo (Italy), and Berlin (Germany). In his project for the Berlin Biennale, Halilaj nears an existential goal he has long pursued. Together with his family he is building a new house in Prishtina, which, though it looks like the old one, is actually 20% bigger, and free of the memories of war and destruction. He had the wooden lagging used to build the new house transported to Berlin, transferring an image of the house, or a sculptural cast of it, to the white cube.
In certain respects, Halilaj’s artistic production calls to mind the social sculpture and “extended concept of art” propagated by Joseph Beuys, whereby purely formal aesthetic considerations yield here to socially transformative aspects and human action. Yet Halilaj goes further. With and by means of art, he produces reality—in this case hope and a future—and, in the process, sets off an undying echo. (Text: Zdravka Bajović, page 76)
Petrit Halilaj’s project for the 6th Berlin Biennale was completely funded by ERSTE Foundation.
6th Berlin Biennale: Publications
Two publications accompany the 6th Berlin Biennale—the catalogue and the reader. The catalogue serves as a guide through the exhibit. Short texts about the artists by Kolja Reichert and an essay by Kathrin Rhomberg are complemented by numerous colour illustrations. The Reader adds to the catalogue extensive photo series, an essay by Michael Fried, and the results of round-table talks, which were held prior to the Biennale in various places and settings, with participants such as Johanna Mytkowska, Dieter Roelstraete, Slawomir Sierakowski, Artur Zmijewski and others.