Art exhibitions possess thoroughly choreographed lifetimes. Aside from the laborious phases of conception, installation, and disassembly, they climax in a vernissage that assembles representatives of an expert community (and those interloping) for an experience that wholly differs from the actual encounters visitors will have with the exhibits during its runtime. Usually at night and aided by libations, the exhibition substructure (artists, curators, assistants, technical staff, etc.) celebrates with the exhibition superstructure (gallerists, museum board members, press, critics, etc.) and few others looking for a complimentary flute of champagne with their weekly dose of culture.
Monica Bonvicini’s “I do You” at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin complies with this dramaturgy yet transposes the short-lived intensity of a 36-hour club night at the capital’s Berghain to another cradle of steel-and-concrete aesthetics. Not unlike the Soviet-era heating plant that houses the Techno-Mecca, visitors returning to Mies van der Rohe’s modernist icon with the gleaming sun a day later felt the space drained. Where myriad moving bodies had literally vibrated Bonvicini’s site specific installation, an elevated pedestal in the center of the upper glazed pavilion, to such a degree that its quivering mirror façade induced visceral disorientation, now near pastoral views opened onto Potsdamer Platz. Afterimages of euphoric participation, numerous performers bondaged to the building with shiny metal chains hanging from the ceiling, haunted lackluster dangling cuffs in the morning. Even the interactive sex-swing sculptures “Chain Swings” for two people substituted their sensual interfacing for ornamental objecthood. Affective exhaustion, however, plays brilliantly into Bonvicini’s feminist concept. “I do you” ambivalently comments on the masculine violence of modern architecture and responds with the artist’s empowering inversion of dominance. Mies would moan bittersweet.
Monica Bonvicini: I Do You
Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin
curated by Joachim Jäger and Irina Hiebert Grun