Doreen Mende

Fake or Feint

published in frieze:

At first glance, it sounds so Berlin: another art space in an empty shop in a seemingly over-looked space. This time the venue is a 1980s’ East Berlin shopping centre, known nowadays as Berlin Carré, a rather self-contained place where residents from nearby flats come to meet. But ‘Fake or Feint: Six scenarios on tactics of marking’ (2009) by a core-team of curator Joerg Franzbecker, artist-theoretician Martin Beck and artist Katrin Mayer doesn’t take up this social context; nor could it be considered just another new Berlin art space. Rather, it is a thematic project which deals with issues of coding and decoding in relation to the visibility of social, behavioral and cultural zones.

By using two stores situated some distance apart, ‘Fake or Feint’ activates relations between the different temperatures of exhibiting. Beginning in January of this year, each of the six ‘scenarios’ - that is, what the project-team refers to as ‘temporal settings in space’ - hosts newly commissioned installations, talks, presentations, film screenings (in Cinema Arsenal) and semi-public seminars. The current installment, the fifth in the series, is Heiko Karn’s Separate Together (2009), which comprises a lectern, a podium and some blinds hanging like posters in the middle of the space. The work maps the spatial governance of a speech act which becomes visible through the marking of the zone of those who to speak and implicitly of those who do not. Also showing is Keren Cytter’s short film Der Spiegel (The Mirror, 2007), which spans a field of tension between human individual desires and common social codes. Mostly naked and only sometimes sheltered by a coat, one woman proclaims her desires which a choir reflects, confronts and hides. The third work in the show is Eine glückliche Ehe (A Happy Marriage, 2009), a photographic project by Daniela Comani, which fairly literally illustrates Judith Butler’s notion of sex as a construction - the artist plays both the husband and wife of the same exposed couple.

The conjunction between the marked and the unmarked zone as a construction for investigating social and behavioral power relations is a strong theme throughout the overall project. Learning from Georges Spencer-Brown’s Laws of Form (1969), only when it is possible to draw a distinction between the marked and the unmarked space is it possible to signify the particular spaces, states or contents: the distinction is the form itself.

The so-called ‘level two’ of the project - the constitutive theoretical part - not only provides a space in which to re-approach the works on show through research material such as catalogues and theory books, but also introduces the ‘tactics of marking’ directly into the project itself. For each scenario, the artist Katrin Mayer develops a spatial display for the publications and reading areas. In a manner of a ‘space-recording’ she uses the found structures, logics and materials of the space to transform them into situation-specific environments. Her contributions save ‘Fake or Feint’ from falling into the trap of a discourse-overload, transforming theoretical practice in space, introducing a visual space of reflection on the project and making visible that the act of ‘marking’ is crucial to the politics of formalization, designing and demarcation.

© Doreen Mende