Thursday, 14 May 2009


Now that the exhibition Temporary City is literally taking shape, it should be possible to take its title to the letter: in which way, and how much, does this exhibition that is entirely organised by the artists themselves, resemble a temporary city? One should, however, pose the question differently, because contemporary cities are not as generic as is sometimes claimed. So: does this exhibtion look like Berlin?
Like all great capitals of the world, Berlin is filled with meanings. It is not so much the city were history ended, as the city were the end of history, and the battle between the two main ideologies of the twentieth century, is still eminently visible. The voids in the city – filled up with parking lots, parks, playgrounds – are staying empty. Their emptiness is what gives Berlin its character, its rather low density – and probably its phantom temporality as well. Because if Berlin is a vacant city, waited to be filled up, repaired, ‘prothestised’ and completed – when exactly should this happen? And why hasn’t it happened yet? The constant changes that are taking place in Berlin, since the fall of the Wall, might be a more timeless, and an inherently modern feature. Already in 1910 the German critic Karl Scheffler wrote: ‘Berlin ist eine Stadt, verdammt dazu, ewig zu werden, niemals zu sein.’
Does the same apply to Temporary City? Differently put: does a visitor visit this exhibition like he or she would visit Berlin? Of course, like every exhibition, Temporary City is ‘temporary’ because it will disappear after the 7th of June. And of course, every visit to this exhibition is only temporary. Just like that, every interpretation is personal and fleeting, and every ‘visitation’ has a preliminary nature. But the extraordinary character of Temporary City (its organic growth, its experimental nature, its abandonment of curatorial structures) makes the art on display ‘pure’, not bothered by thoughts or topics or convictions or fixed meanings. It is this state that is probably temporary as well – temporary, that is, just like Berlin. If the ‘art capital’ of Europe, together with Temporary City, is showing something, it might be that the end of history was nothing more - and nothing less - than the true beginning of art. (cvg)

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