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Perhaps it should rather be called Exhibitoclash. Somehow Manfred Wolf-Plotteggs architecture contributes little to find your way through the current exhibition Iconoclash at ZKM Karlsruhe. If one finds the ascent over the balcony and through the Musicoclash audio installation (whose concept one enjoys, but otherwise has difficulties to fit into the topic) there are still the distractions of the permanent exhibition. Having descended over the
especially built diagonal staircase into the heart of the exhibition formed of a variety of black squares, it still remains difficult to orientate yourself. The silvery shining triangular columns, which try to bring a certain rhythm to the space of the exhibition halls, rather contribute to the vagueness, instead of helping the visitor to understand and discover the different kinds iconoclasms presented.

Anyway the strongest, funniest objects and works most worth seeing hide in the two side corridors, on whose boxes the architect did only have small influence (apart from Martin Kippenbergers great “Modell Interconti”, which, placed alone in the midst of one of the halls looks a bit like a small table standing in a factory building).

Especially Dario Gambonis great “Russian corner” is to be mentioned here. He explores the fate of political monuments in the former Soviet Union. The history of the Christ-Saviour-Cathedral, which is located today again in the Moscow’s city center near the Kremlin stands like hardly another project both for the hybris of the Soviet state and for that of today’s orthodox church. It shows exemplarily the development of political monumental art: Blown up under Stalin in order to give way for a gigantic Palace of the Soviet, that soon found its foundations sinking into the mud of Moskva river. In its place the world’s largest heated open-air swimming pool was built (the basin had a diameter of 130 meters), to yield after Perestroika times to a neo-catholic new building of a cathedral. Criticized violently by all sides, this only shows the Moscow Patriarch’s representative over-anxieties, while in the whole country the churches disintegrate.

The corners sometimes hide the best pieces of the exhibition, like Ulays video “There is a Criminal Contact in Art” of 1976 or Tracy Moffatt’s and Gary Hillberg’s film “Artist” of 1999. Ulay documented, with lapidary comments by himself, a performance during which he kidnaps Spitzweg’s “Poor Poet” from the Old National Gallery in Berlin, in order to hang it into a Turkish immigrant worker family’s living room. Moffatt provides a manual of film scenes which looks at the handling of “art” from the creation up to the destruction of works of art in feature films – together with quick music this becomes a visual aerobic lesson that in the surrounding, rather boring field formed by the works of Imi Knoebel and Timm Ulrichs freshens up the viewers’ perception considerably. If you have enough time, take a seat in one of the boxes at the edge of the hall: Sitting on captivatingly beautiful wooden cinema chairs from olden times, it is a treat to listen to a lecture of Boris Groys. “Iconoclastic Delights” connects the theoretical remarks on audio tape with the fitting film cutouts, a successful “menage trois”. Josef Leo Koerners departments in the halls invite you to trips into the more classical art-historical aspects of the topic and surprise again and again with small treats: A side out of a book from the British museum, which represents the “Whipping of Christ”, and on which the faces of the torturers were cut out by an unknown person, or Albrecht Duerer’s “Welding Cloth” from Vienna’s Albertina, formed from only one line that runs thickening and diluting in a circle, thus depicting the face of Christ.

Peter Galison’s showcases of scientific visualizing methods exemplify the exhibitions goal to be no pure art exhibition, no exhibition about science, but also no historical exhibition alone. But in this the weak point in the concept is to be found: while in individual corners and angles interesting and informative exhibits exist, the cooperation of seven curators results in a
cacophony, similar to the above mentioned “Musicoclash” installation on a visual level. An Exibitoclash, so to speak.

Date: 4th May – 4th August, 2002
Place: ZKM (Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe)
Address: Lorenzstr. 19, 76135 Karlsruhe, Germany
Tel: +49-721-8100-0

Text: Timo Linsenmaier

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