THE ARCHITECTURE OF CONFINEMENT
The exhibition trilogy “The Architecture of”, curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, showcases artistic positions at the intersection of art and architecture. Each of the three exhibitions relates directly to different chapters in the evolving history of the exhibition building. The second part, “The Architecture of Confinement”, references the use of the building as an internment camp during the denazification policy period from 1945 to 1948.
A site-specific installation by NADIA KAABI-LINKE references the architecture of imprisonment. ÖZGUR KAR‘S video installation shows the effects of isolation on the individual. In her photographic works, JOANNA PIOTROWSKA examines the complex relationship between the human body and its physical environment. A sculpture by MONA HATOUM playfully tackles the interdependence of two closely connected individuals. RAMZI BEN SLIMAN‘S film is a reflection on art as a means of transcending the confines of socio-economic boundaries. A new work by ANNIKA KAHRS, specifically commissioned for this exhibition explores the connections between space and sound in a period of isolation.
A comprehensive archive wall, which is presented in the center of the exhibition, complements the artistic positions. It illustrates both the historical context of the original use of the building as a bunker during the Second World War, as well as its importance in the post-war period and the conversion of the architecture into its current state. The exhibition is conceived as a dialogue between the featured artistic positions, the confined architecture of the exhibition space and the history of the building. Through creating a holistic experience, the exhibition invites visitors to reflect on the effects of physical and social restrictions and their effects on the individual.
In his film Grand Hotel Barbès, Ramzi Ben Sliman portrays a young leading actor who is unable to pay the rent for his room and who takes to the streets early in the morning from a shabby hotel in the north of Paris. On his stroll through the city, he encounters a group of breakdancers who are battling out a competition. He buys himself into the contest with his last coins and enchants the audience with classical ballet, which he performs to the music of Mozart. Breakdance originated in the streets of New York’s poorest neighborhoods and is performed with one's head pinned into the ground. Classical ballet, on the other hand, with its ascending movements and its emphasis on lightness and sublimity is often considered an artform for a privileged few. The film director plays with this common prejudice and poetically challenges social and ethnic boundaries.
The sculpture T42 (gold) is characteristic of Hatoum's approach whereby simple, everyday objects are transformed with an uncanny and humorous touch of Surrealism. In this work, Hatoum has subverted the basic form of a white china tea cup by doubling it so that the resulting object suggests something highly intimate, which, like The Kiss of Brancusi depicts two forms so close they have merged together. The work's title points to the social formality associated with drinking tea, which is at odds with the romantic gesture of the sculpture itself. Within the context of the exhibition the artwork visualizes how two people who are intimately connected can at the same time confine their individual movements and actions.
In Modulor I Nadia Kaabi-Linke traces the dimensions of prison cells that are used for solitary confinement in various institutions worldwide. Upon entering the exhibition space visitors immediately become part of the installation, to find themselves, without being conscious of it, within the imaginary cells. The title of the work is a direct reference to Le Corbusier’s Modulor and his idea of the rationalization of a given space and its optimal form. The overlapping lines, which depict the dimensions of the cells, create an abstract and geometric spatial drawing. Both the narrow architecture of the exhibition space and the blocked view to the outside further point to the living conditions of the prisoners. By referencing the locations of the respective prisons, the installation offers an overview of the different detainment conditions and poignantly visualizes the architecture of the confinement.
The video and sound installation our Solo experiments with mixing the perception of music in a classical concert hall and of music played in a private setting. Four professional musicians are seen, who seemingly enter into a dialogue across physical distances. Three of these musicians play alone in their private homes, to practice pieces of music and melodies, and improvise individual fragments of sound. Their music seems to transcend through the walls of an empty concert hall, and onto the stage of an opera singer. Different melodies emerge and invite her directly to interact with these domestic performances and intimate moments. The presentation of the work in the basement of BNKR blurs the boundaries between listening and performing, indoor and outdoor space, and between private and public music.
The work It is all in his head symbolizes a reduced vision of human life at its lonely core. Two connected screens portray the outline of a human figure in an embryonic position, which seems to have fallen asleep. Permeating the exhibition galleries, the figure emits barely recognizable words and sounds, which are reminiscent of lullabies and childhood dream worlds. Gradually minimal movements of the figure become apparent, merging both its adult and infant traits. The architecture of the exhibition space and the black frame of the two monitors reinforce the ambivalent feelings of protection, captivity and loneliness.
A central element in Joanna Piotrowska’s work is the relation of the body to the physical space. Upon entering and leaving the exhibition the viewer encounters an image of overlapping doors. The inherently conflictual composition creates doubt about whether they provide a way out, or whether they are physical obstacles on their own. Another work installed at the entrance of the first main room portrays two pairs of hands clenched into each other in a conflictual gesture of support and restraint. In her series Frantic, from which three different works are seen throughout the exhibition space, the artist asked different individuals to erect temporary shelters with objects found in their apartments. The residents are portrayed huddled inside these spaces, with their bodies barely fitting in. Referencing the children’s game of building tents, the images allude to structures of entrapment and refuge, rather than intimacy and protection.
Explores notions of illusion and deception, the creation of new realities, truth versus fiction.
Explores notions of shelters and safety, captivity and freedom, ‘outside’ versus ‘inside’.
Explores notions of gentrification, decay and definition of living spaces.
Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath are Founders and Directors of the multidisciplinary curatorial platform artReoriented, launched in 2009 in New York and Munich. They are Curators of the Lyon Biennale in 2022, and Affiliate Curators at Gropius Bau in Berlin. From 2016 until 2020 they were Chairmen of the Montblanc Cultural Foundation in Hamburg. They held teaching positions at various universities including the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, and the Academy of Fine Arts in Nuremberg. In 2016 they were curatorial attachés for the Biennale of Sydney. At the Venice Biennale, they were Curators of the National Pavilions of Lebanon in 2013, the United Arab Emirates in 2019, and are Curators of the French Pavilion in 2022.
Bardaouil and Fellrath founded artReoriented to rethink traditional models of cultural engagement. Central to their work is inclusivity in artistic and institutional practices, and a revisionist approach to art history. They are internationally recognised curators and award-winning authors whose practice is rooted in global contemporary art, as well as in the field of modernist studies. The diversity in their cultural and academic backgrounds underlines their inherently collaborative model. Bardaouil, born in Lebanon, holds an MFA in Advanced Theatre Practice and a PhD in Art History. Fellrath, born in Germany, holds two Master’s degrees in Economics and Political Science.
As an independent voice, Bardaouil and Fellrath have curated exhibitions and collaborated with more than 70 institutions worldwide, including Centre Pompidou in Paris, Villa Empain in Brussels, Kunstsammlung NRW in Dusseldorf, Tate Liverpool, ARTER in Istanbul, Gwangju and Busan Museums of Art in South Korea, Saradar Collection in Beirut, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, and Reina Sofia in Madrid.