Act 1/Scene 11

    PAUL MCDEVITT
    SOFA, SO GOOD – UNDERGROUND ART ON THE STREETS OF BERLIN

    Zeiss Großplanetarium, Prenzlauer Allee 80, Berlin, Germany
    Tuesday 23rd October, 2012, 7pm

    Unbeknownst to the great majority of Berliners, even those with a discerning eye, a growing number of artworks have been appearing amongst the city’s Straßen. They don’t stay in place very long – in fact most are removed within a week and are later destroyed. Unbequem is a radical underground collective that has, since 2007, been producing and positioning meticulously constructed art objects that, on initial encounter, have the appearance of abandoned domestic furniture (normally sofas, but on occasion mattresses too) within the fashionable districts of Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg in former East Berlin. The group has an undisclosed number of members, but it’s understood that some of their skills were honed making sets for the experimental theatre Volksbühne, and for the German edition of Sesame Street (Sesamstraße). These dilapidated sofas are, on closer inspection, beautifully fabricated artworks that record countless hours of exquisite craftsmanship. All the materials used are new and of the finest quality, before being stained with dyes to create an artificial aging. What might appear to be a burn mark from a cigarette will, on closer inspection, reveal itself to be a hand-stitched cavity, and slug trails of keenly woven silk are not uncommon.

    The only way of knowing where and when to view a newly created work by Unbequem is by word of mouth, but that word travels fast though the tightly knit cliques of the Berlin art establishment. However, one has to be fast if you want to see the latest ‘installation’ before over-zealous council workers collect them along with genuine street detritus. The only known documentation is from fans and viewers – the collective themselves refusing to partake in the commodification of their art by commissioning photographs. Fortunately I have a collection of more than 40 images that detail the works and aspects of their construction. I shall be discussing the implications of an art made to be destroyed and offered, sacrificially, to the city and it’s art audience. We shall look at the implications of the destruction of the art by municipal employees. Does this make it a publically funded art project? I shall interpret the (undeclared) intentions of this secret organization: their work read as a protest against gentrification and the private ownership of previously rent-controlled and affordable properties. I shall examine their (tacit) refusal to play by the rules of the art market and their ongoing (assumed) challenge to the traditional consumption of an art object.

    After the talk I shall host an informal workshop. Please provide your own quality fabrics and high-density foam.

    Biog: Born 1972, Scotland. Lives and works in Berlin. Recent solo exhibitions: Night Soil, Martin Asbaek Gallery, Copenhagen; If You Haven’t Any Hay (with Cornelius Quabeck), Galerie Horst Schuler, Düsseldorf (2012); Running on Woollen Legs, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London (2011); OBE, Sommer & Kohl, Berlin (2010). Group exhibitions: Collaborations and Interventions,CCA Andratx, Mallorca;  Glamourie, PSL, Leeds (2012); Under Stor Press, Dunckers Kulturhus, Helsingborg; Der Menschen Klee, KIT, Düsseldorf (2011). Lei da Selva, Lehmann Maupin, New York (2010).

    *Photographs by Paul McDevitt

     

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