05.10.2019 - 19.01.2020
Contemporary Art from Germany
The two words that make up the title of this exhibition, “future” and “perfect,” suggest a kind of promise, perhaps even a notion of redemption, as if the course of history were leading to a rosy future. But these hopes belong to the history of ideas and ideologies of early modernism. Today, we see the future in its global complexity as a far more sober affair. FUTURE PERFECT is strictly a reference to the verb tense that gives expression to the completion of an action. Something will have been—the future perfect is a speculative preview in the past. It signifies a leap ahead to the future, supposing that things may very well happen as we imagine. Today, the future appears to us as a critical concept, and even the near future, despite all our digital and mobile acceleration, can scarcely be anticipated.
The end of the division of Germany and of our thinking in two opposed blocs has not only led to globalization in economic terms but also to the demise of a good number of European preconceptions and mindsets. The future is an emancipatory concept. In the southern Mediterranean region, civil societies are demanding and embodying the future in the face of massive resistance. And what is happening in Europe’s center? Here, thought is dominated by an odd sense of cluelessness. It is as if the future were more a source of concern than of motivation.
For these reasons, we believe that the conceptual parameters of this exhibition—thinking about the promises of the future—make a good deal of sense. What positions are artists adopting in their use of material, form, imagination, plot, or narrative? How are they rethinking the past? Where do they see options for action?
At present it is said that there are some seven thousand visual artists living in Berlin, meaning that every fifth hundredth inhabitant views him- or herself as a visual artist. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, this once-divided city has become home to artists from all over the world. The reunification of Germany triggered a fundamental urban transformation that facilitated a temporary and inexpensive intermediate use of real estate by artists. Nearly all the artists represented in this exhibition live in Berlin. The city has four hundred seventy galleries trying to make a living, although there are scant economic resources and no affluent suburbs surrounding the city. Just as in the neoliberalist years, when artists were seen as the “paragons” of flexible work identities, today they are the springboard for discussions over the new precariat with its unstable strategies of economic survival in the midst of our society.
In her essay titled Back to the Present, Jennifer Allen, until 2013 editor-in-chief of the German-English edition of the British art magazine frieze, reviews the changes in the conditions of artistic production in Berlin from the 1990s to the present. In addition to essays, this catalogue also includes interviews with the artists. These short conversations focus on questions related to different ways of working, presenting the artists’ language and means of expression to provide insight into the structure and intellectual contexts of their works.