Creamcake is a Berlin-based interdisciplinary platform, negotiating the point of convergence in electronic music, contemporary art and digital technologies. The ninth edition of their 3hd festival „Let Them Eat Cake“ looks back to the symbols and archetypes of the past to address contemporary issues of exploitation and opulence.
Taking its title from a famous scene of Stanley Kubrick’s 1960 blockbuster, 3hd’s “I’m Spartacus!” film programme revels in the spirit of resistance against all odds. The presentation aims to revise and reconsider canon and convention in favor of examining marginalized voices and hidden histories. Selected moving image works from five international artists reflect on power and visibility, examining cultural identity and embodied knowledge crossing race, gender, and class.
“The capacity for adequate anger” (15:08 mins.) constitutes an attempt at a personal and self-reflexive form of artistic critique that considers contemporary art, in its production as well as its presentation, from a perspective of class. The work problematizes notions around upward mobility that the field of contemporary art both produces and presupposes.
Deploying an essayistic approach, the video work reflects upon the manifold meanings of distance in both its subjective and social senses. The piece complexly negotiates distance, both as personal circumstance or necessity, but also as a resource considered a prerequisite for seeing and experiencing, as well as for critical or artistic engagement. Two strands are connected that have shaped Vika Kirchenbauer’s practice over the past ten years: The personal and autobiographical explorations of societal power relations, and the preoccupation with established routines of looking at and experiencing the presence of marginalized bodies in the exhibition space.
“Grotesque: They make beautiful things about ugly people” (3:47 mins.) follows the wanderings of a life-sized, anthropomorphic object in the Louvre Museum’s collection of Egyptian antiquities. Marginalized by her misshapen appearance, the distorted, mask-like terracotta figurine from the Roman period attracts the gaze of other visitors. A group of friends parading around the museum encounter the sculpture, until they realize their ancestors are none other than the grotesque figurines. The artist empowers this unsung sculpture to contemplate its own deliberate erasure at the margins of a dominant canon, questioning and satirizing the grotesque as a representation of that which is “ugly” in the classical European collection foundational to the Louvre. Reflecting on her personal experience, Oyiri describes feeling “half triggered” and “half blown away” when encountering the extensive halls of its collection.
“Hysteria” (12:34 mins.) constructs an ecofeminist retelling of the poorly understood “dancing plagues” that swept through Europe between the tenth and the seventeenth centuries. Likewise referred to as dancing mania, choreomania, and tarantism, these spontaneous social phenomena saw groups of people of all ages and genders, at times in the thousands, dance erratically and without restraint, often until they collapsed from exhaustion or suffered injury and even death. In their recent work, the IQECO subtly recasts the afflicted dancers as pointedly subversive agents entangled in environmental contagion and contamination that drive these wild, manic uprisings. The Institute of Queer Ecology recorded footage for Hysteria in Syracuse; a post-industrial city with its own legacy of water contamination. The work is rounded in the harsh, icy landscape of upstate New York winter, moving between sites of industrial extraction and the waterway tributaries and basins surrounding Syracuse. Navigating the idea of a vanishing “nature” through frameworks of queer futurity, the artists assume a position of critical optimism, in part as a coping mechanism for the pain of living in a biodiverse world that is being undeniably annihilated.
“Black to Life” (3:15 mins.) serves as a family portrait and an ode to documenting the collective identity of Akinola Davies Jr.’s community. Commissioned by the BBC, the film acts as a moving collage, delving into forgotten and concealed aspects of Black British history and culture. The full series comprises short portraits, each highlighting notable individuals from Black British society, who have been overlooked in mainstream narratives, but had an impressive story to tell. These historical figures from different times stand proudly and collectively together, supporting each other. This includes Yoruba Princess Omoba Aina Forbes-Bonetta, Prince Alemayehu, Mary Fillis, Edward Swarthye, and Dido Belle Long, among others. At the museum, the artist presents the main video, which captures the presence of these personalities to a family portrait.
“A coin is a coin” (5:08 mins.) deals with the many dualisms in life and the politics of possibilities that often don‘t sound reassuring. It offers a warning in the economy of presence, relentlessly demanding that we still can decide. In an era of living that we are never being good enough and too many options, the video suggests that there could be more to it than a standstill. In the video work, a character moves into a studio, the unconcealed tripods and backgrounds point to a dissolution of boundaries: between what’s on stage and behind the scenes, inner and societal, truthful and constructed. By creating a non-binary double of himself and remixing visual and cultural traits Kouagou moves through various linguistic and aesthetic codes, showing how he can be one and many.
Exploring concepts of freedom, legitimacy, choice, and privilege as defining conditions, conundrums and contradictions are typical in his performances, paintings and sculptures. Always based on texts of which he is the author, these poetic and humorous narratives change course when confronted by a system that claims order and binaries. Kouagou embraces a parafictional persona where self and character merge into multiplicity in its existence, by morphing and shapeshifting. A coin is just a coin—but it’s also a catalyst for conversation. Change is action but also a tool, a metaphor for switching viewpoints.
IBB Video Space
Since 2011 the IBB Video Space has been screening artists who work with time-based media. The programme features not only established names in contemporary video art but also up-and-coming artists rarely seen in museums to date. For these, the Berlinische Galerie seeks to facilitate an institutional début.
Each screening brings a new encounter with work that raises questions about the medium and about social or political issues. Importance is attached to including marginalised perspectives and to shedding light on the impact of power structures.