Sunday, 7 April 2013

German Humour

While passing through Berlin last week, a visit to the Hamburger Bahnhof was on top of my list. I knew I had missed  Carsten Höller's bizarre and widely discussed reindeer installation by over two years, but I sensed that the place - one of the largest contemporary art museums in the world - had other surprises in store for me.

Carsten Höller's "Soma" at the Hamburger Bahnhof museum for Contemporary Art, Berlin, 2010-2011

It did. 

At first, the name Martin Honert evoked as little in my mind as his slightly dull-looking objects that the entire show seemed to be made out of. There was no text, no titles. As soon as I got immersed in the explanatory booklet, however, I was seduced by the almost child-like simplicity of the work. 

House (1988)

"I have no personal connection to this house. It always caught my eye on train trips between Bottrop and Essen; it was not very different from the rest of the area's austere, dark-gray buildings, yet it repeatedly gave me the feeling of dignity an content. Even today, I cannot say just what features of the house induced these emotions."

Linden (1990)

"Free-standing lindens have always served people as meeting points, or places to rest. All of the tree's features - its deep roots, its round silhouette, its heart-shaped leaves, it's sweet-smelling blossoms - symbolize softness and relief. I rigorously abstained from using any natural materials.

But my favourite was the series of objects the artist made based entirely on drawings he had made as a child, fifty years earlier. 
Knight's Battle, 2003/2004

The original drawing, fifty years earlier

"I was not interested in new artistic interpretation of an old theme but rather in a precise, faithful translation in which I placed myself as an adult entirely in the service of the child who created this image." 

So much for the lack of German humour.  

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