Kommende Termine


29. September – 8. October 2023
Gruppenausstellung, HGW STD, Athens

The term „cringe“ has resurfaced on the internet in recent years. According to Google Trends statistics, there has been a significant increase in searches for this term, which has been steadily rising since 2016. „Cringe“ refers to a reaction of embarrassment or social awkwardness. This feeling arises when we become aware of our own uncomfortable actions or when we empathize, or even mock, someone else’s behavior that causes us secondhand embarrassment.

The term „cringe“ encompasses a wide range of emotions, making it a versatile word to describe various incidents. However, its usage and application have been shaped by internet communities. Not only is it widely known and used, but it has also managed to bridge divergent identities.

People of different ages, races, genders, political affiliations, and other backgrounds find a common language of communication through „cringe“ online. Similar to the existence of metaphorical languages for artistic subjects, „cringe“ has spawned a metaphorical language for artistic expression. This is evident in many contemporary works, both digital and non-digital, and has given rise to new artistic media such as memes. „Cringe“ has become an overarching concept that encompasses a broader range of social embarrassments.

The universality of identifying with „cringe“ when faced with discomfort or socially awkward situations could position it as a contemporary Sublime. Historically, the Sublime has been associated with aesthetic theories heavily influenced by the social dynamics of the time. However, does „cringe“ represent a modern form of the Sublime? Has it emerged in response to a shift away from a prescribed aesthetic? We currently exist in a time where collective digital languages are being created to understand a wider range of identities and where a diversity of aesthetic influences is prevalent.

Considering that aesthetics today are multifaceted due to the World Wide Web and the widespread dissemination of information, this exhibition aims to explore these ideas. Through artworks that construct an intimate fusion of references to our digital identity, it presents a familiar chaos that challenges viewers to organize it, while deeply engaging with their present human identity.

*cringe* Curated by: Socrates Stamatatos, Dimi Kalabo 29 SEPTEMBER-08 OCTOBER 2023

Laufende Termine

Kunst Basis Ebertplatz vol.2

15. September – 6. October 2023
Gruppenausstellung, Ebertplatz Köln, Köln

Zwischen Unort und Denkmal – KUNST BASIS EBERTPLATZ

Un-möglich! Un-verschämt! Un-geheuerlich! So einfach und prägnant wie sich das ‚Un‘ den Worten voran- stellen lässt, voller Überzeugung und Empörung über einen Sachstand, so schnell ist es auch ausgespro- chen und damit in der Welt.

Im Hinblick auf den Eberplatz, den wir in den vergan- genen Jahrzehnten als einen mehr oder weniger un-gepflegten, un-instandgehaltenen und mit un-funk- tionierenden Rolltreppen und un-installierten Beleuch- tungssystemen kennenlernen durften, ist es ein Leichtes, das ‚Un‘ vor den Ort in der Kölner Neustadt
zu setzen. Der Un-Ort ist damit gemacht. Fertig. Und während seit Jahren auch die Empörung über das Un- Mögliche an der Präsenz des Ebertplatzes kultiviert wird – es braucht eben immer einen, der herhält und über den leicht zu schimpfen ist –, so stellt sich hier und da die Frage, wer denn nun genau gescholten wird.

Der Platz selbst kann nichts für sich, aber wer war es dann? Die un-mögliche Stadtverwaltung! Die Vernachlässigung des Platzes ist eine größere Sünde als die Architektur selbst!

Curated by Stefanie Klingemann

Die Sirenen heulen (It`s on us)

8. September 2023 – 8. October 2023
Gruppenausstellung, Galerie Sexauer, Berlin

Die Sirenen heulen (It`s on us)

26. August – 29. September 2023
Gruppenausstellung, Mieze Südlich, Chemnitz

Ihr Paket ist abholbereit

8. July 2023 – 25. February 2024
Einzelausstellung, Kunsthalle Osnabrück, Osnabrück

On the occasion of its 30th anniversary, the Kunsthalle Osnabrück is showing Aram Bartholl’s most comprehensive solo exhibition to date. Aram Bartholl is one of the pioneers in Germany who deals with socially relevant conflicts of digitality and automation through art. Originally coming from the field of architecture, he uses his performative interventions, sculptures and workshops to question our current media behaviour as well as the public economies that are linked to social networks, online platforms or digital distribution strategies. He puts socially relevant topics such as surveillance, data security or dependency on technology up for discussion by transferring the gaps, contradictions or absurdities of our digital everyday life into spatial settings.

For the Kunsthalle Osnabrück, Aram Bartholl transformed the Kunsthalle´s church space into a walk-in recycling yard for electronic waste. The scenery is illuminated by three sculptures hanging from the ceiling, reminiscent of chandeliers that are made from recycled televisions. The result is a sensual as well as functional installation of complementary exhibition parts that invite us to reflect on the cycles, consequences and future perspectives of our daily consumption of media and goods. The walk-through parcours made of piled up electronic waste makes the amount of recycled material of our belongings visible and creates a unique environment for a diverse art mediation programme  including workshops, plena by local climate activists, repair cafés, excursions, lectures and film screenings. Oversized QR codes on the church walls frame the setting and raise critical questions about our handling of energy resources, raw materials and labour rights in the digital society. Opposing the electronic waste, the exhibition contains a 30-metre-long DHL Packstation, which is put into operation during the exhibition period. Osnabrück citizens and visitors are able to pick up their parcels at the Kunsthalle Osnabrück and drop them off in the respective lockers.

Curators: Anna Jehle and Juliane Schickedanz
Curators public programme: Louisa Behr, Joscha Heinrichs, Anna Holms and Christel Schulte.

Funded by the Stiftung Niedersachsen (Foundation of Lower Saxony) and the Niedersächsische Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kultur (Lower Saxony Ministry of Science and Culture). The VGH Stiftung (VGH Foundation) is funding the accompanying exhibition’s art mediation programme. With the kind support of Deutsche Post AG, Lerec Elektrorecycling GmbH and Osnabrücker ServiceBetrieb.


Curated by: Anna Jehle, Juliane Schickedanz (duo team, directors of Kunsthalle)
Curatorial assistance: Anna Holms
Public Programming: Aram Bartholl, Louisa Behr, Joscha Heinrichs, Anna Holms, Christel Schulte
Installation team: Norbert Hillebrand, Timo Katz, Andreas Zelle
Exhibition office: Natali Märtin
Visitor service: Frank Berger, Ulla Brinkmann, Harcharan Gill, Sina Lichtenberg, Kaan Ege Önal, Josef Wegmann
Finances: Viktoria Puskar
Janitor: Wilfried Wienstroer
Janitorial assistance: Frank Berger
PR: Kristina Helena Pavićević
Art mediation and education: Christel Schulte



25. February 2023 – 25. February 2024
Gruppenausstellung, Museum of Communication, Kopenhagen

Communication pervades our lives more than ever before. With the digital channels, we are constantly accessible and can publish ourselves wherever and whenever we want. But despite the many great opportunities, the tide of information may often appear confusing, polarizing or hateful, and our public conversation is challenged.

On November 19, 2022, ENIGMA will open new exhibition areas and a large children’s area, in which we look forward to welcoming everyone.

Vergangene Termine

Artist talk

16. September 2023
Talk, Neues Museum Nürnberg, Nürnberg

Aram Bartholl stellt im Gespräch mit Kuratorin Susann Scholl seine aktuelle Installation auf dem Klarissenplatz vor. Anhand von weiteren Beispielen gibt er darüber hinaus einen vertiefenden Einblick in sein Werk, in dem Analoges und Digitales häufig auf feinsinnig-absurde Weise aufeinandertreffen.


17. June – 1. July 2023
Gruppenausstellung, Projectspace A:D:, Berlin

A cordial invitation to the group exhibition A:PRÉS D:ÉSSERT @adcuratorial which proudly forms a part of @projectspacefestival

Opening: Sat. 17.06.2023 | 15:00 – 22:00
Exhibition: 18.06. – 25.06.2023 | 12:00 -18:00
Closing: Sat. 24.06.2023 | 15:00 – 22:00

Ellinor Aurora Aasgaard & Zayne Armstrong, Aram Bartholl, Carsten Becker, Johannes Büttner, Sarah Doerfel, Lola Göller, Mathias Gramoso, Hannah Hallermann, Marianna Ignataki, Zina Isupova, Justina Los, Jill Kiddon, Zoë Claire Miller, Alice M. Morey, Ariel Reichman, Ariel Schlesinger, Marco Schmitt, Adam Slowik, Maximillian Thiel, Mirce Velarde, Ivar Veermäe, Nazim Unal Yilmaz

curated by: Marco Schmitt

A:D: Curatorial
Kurfürstenstraße 142
10179 Berlin – Schöneberg

The group exhibition A:PRÉS D:ÉSSERT addresses social change under expanded aspects of Maslow’s system of needs. Hierarchies dissolve and human needs intersect with the holistic nature of ecosystems. The entrances to social constructs transform into systemic exits of collectivity. Multi-perspective escape routes can be discovered in the exhibition – The impossible becomes conceivable, imaginable and


„Ihr Paket ist abholbereit“ walk through

Juli 12, 2023

„Ihr Paket ist abholbereit“ gallery walk through,  solo show at Kunsthalle Osnabrück 2023l

DLF Radiobeitrag: Ihr Paket ist abholbereit

Juli 12, 2023

Transkript der Radionsendung Deutschlandfunk Kultur Fazit, Beitrag von Anette Schneider vom 9.7.2023

Die Kunsthalle Osnabrück feiert aktuell mit mehreren Ausstellungen und Projekten ihr 30-jähriges Jubiläum. Unter anderem verhüllte der ghanaische Künstler Ibrahim Mahama ein leerstehendes Kaufhaus mit alten Jutesäcken, die auf koloniale Handelsströme hindeuten. Die Aktion war auch schon in anderen Städten zu sehen. Der Clou des Programms findet aber in der Kunsthalle selbst statt. Das ist eine über 700 Jahre alte Kirche, die nun der Künstler Aram Bartholl bespielt. Bartholl hat schon versenkte Leihfahrräder aus der Spree gefischt, USB-Sticks in Fassaden zementiert oder Handytaschen aus Abschirm-Flies genäht. Immer geht es in seinen Arbeiten um die Verbindung zwischen der physischen und der digitalen Welt. In der ehemaligen Kirche in Osnabrück hat Bartholl jetzt eine DHL-Packstation installiert. Annette Schneider war für Fazit dort.

Anette Schneider:
Die hohe gotische Hallenkirche ist angefüllt mit Altmetall-Containern. Sie ziehen sich die Wände des langen Kirchenschiffes bis zum einstigen Chor entlang, nebeneinander aufgereiht, in Gruppen platziert oder vier Meter hoch übereinander gestapelt. Insgesamt 70 Stück. Darin Elektroschrott. Echter Elektroschrott. Von einem Osnabrücker Recyclinghof geliehen und entsprechend sauber und penibel sortiert. Am Eingang ganze Fernseher, Computer und Bildschirme, dann Bildschirmreste, Kabel, Luftfilter und ganz hinten im Chor geschredderte Festplatten. Am anderen Ende des Kirchenschiffs befindet sich eine DHL-Packstation. Davor stehen Arbeitstische und Stühle. Und weil sich in Aram Bartholls Installationen oft immer noch eine überraschende Wendung verbirgt, wird es auch hier noch irrer.

AB: „Wir stehen ja quasi zwischen einer Packstation, die aktiviert ist, von der Menschen aus Osnabrück ihre Pakete abholen und gleichzeitig aber hier die ausrangierten Fernseher sehen und sich auch vielleicht Gedanken machen, wie lange hält denn so ein elektronisches Gerät und wie viel Elektromüll produzieren wir eigentlich?“

Beleuchtet wird das Szenario von drei unter der hohen Decke installierten gigantischen Kronleuchtern aus Bildschirmen ohne Displays, deren gleißendes Licht der Überwachung zu dienen scheint. Auf jeden Fall erlaubt es keinerlei Ablenkung von dem, was einen umgibt. Ein Recyclinghof mit unserem Luxus Wohlstandsmüll. Großartiger ist die Kirche wohl noch nie bespielt worden, als mit ihrer Verwandlung in einen Elektro-Schrott-Tempel, der alle aktuellen gesellschaftlichen Diskussionen zusammenführt. Die über Nachhaltigkeit und Ressourcenverschwendung, über Konsumgier, Energiefraß und Wegwerfmentalität und über ein profitgeiles Wirtschaftssystem, das für immer neue Produkte Mensch und Natur immer weiter ausbeutet und zerstört.

AB: „Die Konsumtempel sind ja die Elektro-Kaufhäuser, Apple Shop usw. und hier haben wir jetzt den Tempel für die Dinge, wenn sie dem Müll zugeführt werden und wir haben eben auch viele Geräte, die in der Datenverarbeitung benutzt werden, also Computer, Bildschirme und das macht die ganze Diskussion auf um Kommunikation bei uns in unserer heutigen Gesellschaft mit der Entwicklung des Internets, der Social-Media-Plattformen der letzten Jahrzehnte, die einen sehr starken Einfluss auf die Diskussionen heute haben.“

Seit Jahren beschäftigt sich Aram Bartholl mit den gesellschaftlichen Folgen von Digitalisierung und sozialen Medien mit Überwachung und Manipulation. Erstaunlicherweise und zum Glück für seine Studierenden an der Hamburger Hochschule für angewandte Wissenschaften entstehen daraus keine albtraumhaften Endzeitszenarien. Vielmehr entwickelt er dank einer kritisch aufklärerischen Grundhaltung Installationen, Aktionen und Workshops, die sarkastisch und witzig unsere Abhängigkeiten und Verhaltensweisen entlarven und die bei genauem Hinsehen oft subversive Möglichkeiten eröffnen, um das vermeintlich unabänderliche zu unterminieren. So erfand er zur Bekämpfung unserer Handysucht und als Schutz vor Abhörmaßnahmen ein Funkloch zum Selbernähen. Er markierte im öffentlichen Raum mit weißen Linien Handyzonen sowie die Raucherzonen auf den Bahnsteigen. Oder er initiierte ein mittlerweile weltweites Netzwerk, bei dem zum Datenaustausch jenseits des Internets USB-Sticks in Häusermauern betoniert wurden. Gegen dieses widerständige Potenzial wirkt die gewaltige Schrottinstallation in Osnabrück fast, als hätte ihn die Übermacht von Elon Musk und Co. nun doch resignieren lassen.

AB: „Ich finde es gar nicht so resignierend. Ich finde den Schrott sehr ästhetisch und es findet auch eine Aktivierung statt. Das heißt, man kann diesen Elektroschrott auch benutzen und es werden Workshops stattfinden. Also es ist jetzt nicht quasi nur der tote Friedhof, sondern auch ein lebendiger Ort.“

Bei freiem Eintritt und die Idee eines produktiven Reparaturcafés für alle ist dann eben doch wieder ein klassischer Bartholl, der leichthändig künstlerische Installation und Aktivismus miteinander verbindet. Das setzt sich sogar noch an den Kirchenwänden fort, auf die riesige QR-Codes gemalt sind. Wie energiefressende Höllenfeuer der Digitalisierung flammen sie die Wände empor und natürlich haben auch sie es in sich. Etwa der hinter dem einstigen Chor.

AB: „Wenn sie den mal ausprobieren mit ihrem Handy, dann wird ihr E-Mail-Client aufpoppen und eine vorgeschriebene E-Mail an Olaf Scholz erscheinen, wo ich schon was reingeschrieben habe. Aber da können sie auch noch Dinge ergänzen und die wird tatsächlich an sein Wahlkreisbüro geschickt. Es ist tatsächlich die Frage nach dem Klimakanzler. Wo ist er denn, der uns versprochen wurde zur Wahl? Und so gibt es so kleine Funktionen, die sich hinter diesen QR-Codes verbergen.“

Mutig, dass die Kunsthalle den Künstler einfach machen ließ. Das Ergebnis jedenfalls ist ungemein erfrischend, weil so konstruktiv gegen die herrschenden Verhältnisse gerichtet.

Ihr Paket ist abholbereit bis zum 25. Februar 2024 in der Kunsthalle Osnabrück.


Setup of „Ihr Paket ist abholbereit“

Juni 11, 2023

In Progress. Setup of „Ihr Paket ist abholbereit“ solo show at Kunsthalle Osnabrück


April 21, 2023

Piggyback, an stand to attach the iphone as webcam to the desktop screen made from a single piece of wire. 5 min #SPEEDPROJECT

Your Prof Application

April 17, 2023

Dos & Don’ts for your application in art & design, 

Your professor hearing / interview situation: 

This is a total random and uncomplete list of the top of my head from personal experience in these situations over the past 10 years, (from both ends of the table) There is much more to say about this of course, but here is a start to avoid the most classic mistakes. Also disclaimer, in other disciplines total different rules may apply…. and all of this my private opinion. Aram 2021


  • Know the school in detail! Study their website, their programs, the people teaching there. This will make a good impression when you can relate to this knowledge in the conversation.

  • Also make sure that you know who is running the workshops that are relevant to your field. Those workshop leaders have a high chance to be in your selection committee as well.

  • If you still have questions calling the school or a professor who is in the selection committee might be beneficial.

  • Know the address of the school and come early. It gives you time to look at the campus. I was in interviews where the applicant took a taxi that brought them to the wrong campus.

  • Normal but crucial: Check all your hardware, cables, adapters etc. Make sure the presentation really works, videos play, sound etc. Test your presentation in a two monitor setup.

  • In case it is a remote presentation  (Zoom), make 100% sure you have a top internet connection. Use an ethernet cable not the kitchen wifi. Dont have people walk in your room interrupt you.

  • Some committee members will right away search on google for you, not paying attention to the exquisit PDF you crafted. what and where will they find? it makes sense to have a website. (always! 😉


  • The traditional portfolio has an Anschreiben, a CV with teaching experience, exhibitions, publications, things you did in the self organisation of other universities, people you worked with can also be added.

  • One part should talk about the way you teach and how you imagine the teaching at the school you are applying at. Universities are always interested with whom you might collaborate.

  • If it’s a digital application then a horizontal screen optimized portfolio makes the most sense.

  • If you are not a graphic designer yourself it can be beneficial to ask one to support you with your portfolio but try not to over do it.

  • In case you re not getting invited for a hearing+interview within 3-6 months after the deadline of the application, it is very likely you are not selected for the 2nd round. It will take another 12months or so till you get a rejection notice. the whole process needs to be finished before they can let you know, german burocracy.

Hearing / lecture situation

Normally this will take 30 to 45 minutes. You will give a lecture in front of the hearing commitee and students from the school („hochschulöffentlich“). After your presentation their will be 15 minutes for q&a.

  • Come early and check if your laptop works with the projector. It is good to have some kind of backup (usb stick with the keynote file ect.)

  • Don‘t read from notes!! Freely spoken lecture for a professor job is mandatory! It can be K.O. reason later.

  • Check the time. You need to keep track of the time yourself. (maybe you need to switch to other content you were asked to at some point) Make sure to stay in the asked time frame.

  • Yes, be self confident, show your works but don‘t bragg too hard about it. Your are not talking to a customer, gallerist or collector etc.

  • Important! Also show student works, not just your own work. They know already your work is great, but they will judge you also on your students results. When showing student work, be very precise with the attribution! (Who, when, where, what) (I would say it also depends on how applied the school is. The more applied it is then show more student work and how you want to structure the course. The more artistic the school is the more talk about your artistic vision/portfolio ect)

  •  ….

Interview situation with Berufungskommission

After the hearing there will be a more private q&a with the application commitee. Normally this will happen in a different room then the lecture.

  • Yes, you wrote a long application with all your info and CV etc but not everyone in the room (10-15 people) has read that or already forgot details. Assume they don‘t actually know you.

  • Classic tip, but here again. Unless you re asked to, don‘t talk about your weaknesses, things you are missing in your qualification or in your education. (they don‘t know, they already forgot your CV)

  • Besides individual questions these are the most common, sort of default questions for a professor hearing in Germany you can expect:
  • Why do you think you fit this position? (classic, always, everywhere)

  • What would you teach next semester in your class? What topics? How would it look like? Who would you invite? Etc.

  • This is a full time position! Aren’t you afraid this position will throw over your art/design career? How will you handle that?
    Besides teaching, what are you planning to research? What is your research field?

  • What ist your vision for your class/program? what do you need in terms of equipment/space?

  • Are you interested in interdisciplinary collaborations? Who could be a partner? (In school, city, world wide)

  • Are you willing to participate in akademische Selbstverwaltung/ commitee work? Do you have experience?

  • Will you move to the city? (they usually want that of course) Just answer with yes, you can always change your mind later 😉

  • From when on are you available? (obligations, other contracts?)

  • What are your questions? They will ask you that. What do you want to know?

  • Questions like: „You just got a kid. How will you be able to handle the work load?“ are very unethical but they get asked sometimes. You should think about how to answer them in a polite way and make clear that this is not an appropriate question. Every commitee has a „Gleichstellungsbeauftragte(r)“ a person for diversity and equal rights. They should intervene in such cases

  • ….

Some background info 

  • Often the Berufungskommission doesn’t know what they want or have internally very different ideas who to employ.

  • Also, they want everything. You need to be international but need to have local connections. You have to have experience in teaching but als be great in research. Should be super famous but that could also be a problem (depending on school) and it goes on like this. It s impossible to fit it all.

  • It is important to understand that that they will judge you not only for your expertise but they also wonder „do i want to work with this person in commitee meetings next couple decades?“

  • Not everyone in the Kommission is an expert in your field. Sometimes they have weird ideas.

  • These Kommissions can be very erratic and come to conclusions which are hard to follow (politics)

  • If you get invited but not actually fit the requested profile, meaning you re ‘fachfremd’ it is not very likely for you to get the position. They just wanted to please themselves with “Oh look, we invited such a diverse crowd”

  • The whole process for new positions in germany takes unfortunately super long most of the times. This means you had your interview but don’t hear back from them for months or even years. They can only let you know you ve been rejeted once the position is confirmed and a contract has been signed etc.

Fun fact!

You don t need to wear a suit jacket (sakko) to be taken serious (unless you are wearing those for real)

Dont give up! try again and again!

Colonial Shadows – Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin

Dezember 19, 2022

[This article was published first in German in monopol magazin October 2021]

(photo: Aram Bartholl 2021)

Attempting to see the Neue Nationalgalerie in a different light

Berlin takes great pride in the newly renovated Neue Nationalgalerie but some aspects of Mies van der Rohe’s iconic building have been barely addressed. Guest contribution by artist Aram Bartholl.

After many years of renovation works, the jewel of Berlin’s museums, the Neue Nationalgalerie, was opened to the public once again at the end of August. Prior to and since its opening, this iconic piece of modern architecture has been repeatedly celebrated and praised with a multitude of print, radio, and television features. Berlin, and the art world, take so much pride in this building. In stark contrast is the recently opened Humboldt Forum, criticized for it backward-looking architecture and the accompanying painful discussions of German colonial history and art theft. A new building that cannot be celebrated but now the good old Neue Nationalgalerie has finally reopened without any problematic history, its modernist clarity can be enjoyed to the full. Or can it?

The genesis of Mies van der Rohe’s design is given a cursory mention in a few articles and reports. Plans of what would become the Neue Nationalgalerie were originally developed as the headquarters of spirits manufacturer Bacardi, which never was never realised, a detail one Deutschlandfunk presenter giggles about briefly before immediately gushing over the open floor plan and the building’s incredible transparency. But there is more to this story. How can a company headquarters turn into a museum? And why couldn’t the headquarters be built at the time? It is worth taking a look at the buiding’s history prior to it becoming the Neue Nationalgalerie.

Mies van der Rohe, former director of the Bauhaus, banned in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, stopped receiving commissions, so he emigrated to the US in 1938 to take up a professorship in Chicago. Recently, there has been renewed discussion about his relationship to National Socialism — it was said for years that van der Rohe was “apolitical.” His preference for glass and steel suit was a perfect fit for the high-tech building culture of the US and he rose to become one of the best-known architects in the country in a few short years. He was behind all of the iconic buildings that became modern architectural classics.

One of those is the famous Seagram building in New York, designed as Seagram Distillery’s headquarters and completed in 1958. Constructed from the highest quality materials, the skyscraper was a complete success and became a flagship for the Canadian distillery company. Competition was not far away. Bacardi, another successful distillery, wanted its own building designed by a star architect to promote the company. But not in New York — Bacardi was originally headquartered in Cuba.

Collage: Neue Nationalgalerie and original design sketch by Mies van der Rohe, 1957 (screenshot: MoMA collection website)

An administration building for Bacardi

In 1957, Mies van der Rohe was already on his way to Havana, were he sketched his first ideas for an administrative building on a cocktail napkin in the presence of Bacardi’s president, Jose Bosch. Though the Bacardi logo is featured, what would later become the Neue Nationalgalerie can already be recognised clearly in the sketch. Fun fact: van der Rohe misspellt “Bacardi.” The famous napkin with the first sketch of the building is now held in the MoMA collection.

Two years later, in January 1959, he presented the finished design of the building, a somewhat smaller version of the Neue Nationalgalerie, at the Hilton Hotel Havana. But that same month the political situation in crisis-ridden Cuba fundamentally changed. The communist revolution, led by Fidel Castro drove out despised President Batista and put an end to the military dictatorship. All the large landholdings and big companies were expropriated. As a result, the Bacardi family business fled abroad, and the administration building project fell apart from one day to the next.

It isn’t unusual for an art or architecture project to not work out for whatever reason, and it may be that it is realised later elsewhere. It doesn’t mean that the quality of the project suffers. It may even improve. In the case of the Nueu Nationalgalerie, however, it is interesting to take a closer look at the context of the initial planning of the building — both the function and the location of the building change radically in the eventual realisation. A closer look at the history of Cuba is pertinent here.

Collage: Neue Nationalgalerie, evolution of the design (video still: „Die Neue Nationalgalerie“, ein Film von Ina Weisse. 2017)

Cuba’s history is marked by many years of colonial exploitation, as are so many parts of Latin America. For centuries, Cuba was a colony of the Spanish crown, which made a fortune on the back of sugarcane cultivation on a massive scale. The “white gold” business was extremely lucrative, though profits came at the expense of generations of enslaved people who were brutally exploited — forced to work under inhumane conditions on the sugar plantations at the hands of Spanish colonists.

Cuba was the largest producer of sugar in the world for a very long time, meeting up to a third of Europe’s ever-growing demand for sugar. Molasses, a bypoduct of sugar cane processing, was often used in distilleries to make rum, which in turn, was used as a means of payment in the African slave trade. Bacardi, a traditional company, was founded in Cuba towards the end of the colonial period.

Collage: Neue Nationalgalerie and „Cuban Sugar Mills in the 19th Century“ (photo: latinamericanstudies.org)

Cuba’s sugar cane industry and Neue Nationalgalerie

Bacardi was founded in 1861 by Don Facundo Bacardí Massó, who had emigrated from Spain to Cuba. He was successful in using new processes to distill “rough” rum, which was known as a distinctive and very shelf-stable drink popular with sailors, into a higher quality white (clear) rum. Cuba, with its centuries-old history of sugar production, was naturally the ideal place for Don Facundo to set up a distillery specialised in rum. The raw ingredient, molassess, was available in large quantities at very reasonable prices. Cuba did not enact a complete ban on human trafficking until 1886, twenty years after the US and two years earlier than Brazil. The rest of Bacardi’s history is story of complete success, particularly during prohibition – the US ban on alcohol (1920-23) – when the company enjoyed the same immense growth as competitor Seagram in Canada.

But what does all this have to do with the Neue Nationalgalerie? What is it that makes the building so special? Of course, the open floor plan and the full transparency of the glass hall are fascinating. Supported by only eight pillars, the incredible roof made of 1200 tonnes of steel, floats at a height of 8.4 metres and spans a huge area, completely unencumbered. The glass façade underneath is set very far back. The roof projects seven metres beyond the façade on every side. And this is where it gets interesting. Van der Rohe had, of course, worked with overhanging rooves on other buildings; the overhang emphasises the floating nature of the roof slab, hanging as though the glass façade did not even exist. But there is another important reason for this overhang. Cuba, located in the Caribbean, has a tropical climate. The sun shines mercilessly, and shade is a prized commodity, especially for a full-glazed building. The cantilevered roof was clearly designed for Cuba’s climatic condissions. A former employee of van der Rohe’s office had this to say:

„The intense tropical sun in Santiago prompted Mies and Summers to modify the familiar glass box form used in Crown Hall by designing the large roof that shaded the main volume. This broad overhanging roof would become one of the signature elements of the New National Gallery, and although Mies had designed large overhangs before, the distinctive form it took in the late work emerged in the Bacardi project and was inspired in part by Cuban vernacular architecture. Summers recalled the development of the Santiago scheme: „… we were sitting under this overhang which was quite interesting, it was probably twenty feet high, it had long sort of colonial-like columns [with] probably twenty feet … between the column and the wall and we were sitting very comfortably on lounge chairs having a drink and I said to Mies, „this is kind of what we need to shelter the glass and to offer shadow and to keep the sun out of the inside. At least in the summertime.“ (Kathryn E. O’Rourke (2012) Mies and Bacardi)

Collage: Neue Nationalgalerie and „Oak Alley Plantation“ Villa Louisiana USA, built in 1837. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Schinkel as a source of inspiration

We could now ask how the Neue Nationalgalerie would have even functioned as an administration building. The president of Bacardi wanted an open space for a trendy open-plan office. We can only speculate on the appropriateness of this large glass hall for such a purpose. It has always posed challenges when used as an exhibition space as well (for the Calder exhibition, the first thing put up was of course a huge white wall blocking the line of sight). It seems that the function of the building plays a subordinate role. Architectural historians all agree that van der Rohe’s ultra-modern designs refer to the architecture of ancient temples with his ultra-modern. The lower level of the museum, with its wide staircase, functions as a plinth, topped with a sublime columned temple of glass and steel.

Dirk Lohan, Mies van der Rohe’s grandson, has said that when his grandfather designed the Neue Nationalgalerie, he was clearly thinking of Schinkel’s Alte Museum. The fact that the original design had been intended for Cuba somehow didn’t seem to matter. Either way, Greek temples with their strict desing and construction rules, have always been an influence on architects, and naturally for Berlin master builder Schinkel. Plantation owners, however, liked to employ these same attributes to project a better image. A great example is „Oak Alley Plantation“ Villa, built in Louisiana, in the southern US, in 1837. It is completely symmetrical, and its columns also holding up a wrap-around, shaded veranda. At that time, and even now, such references serve to show off perceived superiority and “gentlemanliness.”

You could be forgiven for mistaing the Bacardi design for a large, plantation owner’s villa rather than for an office building. The musem’s sculpture garden, enclosed by high walls, recalls the sheltered interior gardens found in stately homes in Cuba.

In short: next time you go to the Neue Nationalgalerie, check out the wide, overhanging roof and think about the building’s history. It had its beginnings with German architect, a luminary of modernism who had to shut down the Bauhaus, and who then became a member of the Reich Chamber of Culture before emigrating to the US. While there, he designed a temple for a globally operating company in crisis-ridden Cuba.

Neue Nationalgalerie as of today after renovations in summer 2021. (photo:Aram Bartholl)

Tropical Climate in Berlin

Like many other companies, Bacardi owed its success to the long and extremely brutal colonial history Europe imposed on the world. The island of Cuba is marked by a history of exploitation and military dictatorship. Work on “Villa Bacardi” was interrupted by the Cuban Revolution, but the design reappeared later as the Neue Nationalgalerie in cold Berlin.

And the irony of the story? The Neue Nationalgalerie stands on the exact spot that Hitler and his architect Albert Speer had earmarked for the House of Tourism, as part of the huge north-south axis planned for the capital of the Thousand Year Reich.

It’s not that cold in Berlin, not in the summer anyway, and the glass facades need shadows too. And so it is fortunate that when, in the not too distant future, Berlin will have a more tropical climate, this building, with its almost “proxy colonial history,” will already be on the right spot. When you stand there, in the shade of the 1200 tonne roof, think about the sugar cane fields of Cuba, and sugar cane, the same as what Chrosotpher Columbus brought back from the Carribean 500 years earler.

Aram Bartholl 2021

[This article was published first in German in monopol magazin October 2021]


DALL-E Dead Drops

Juni 8, 2022

The artist Fabiola Larios described the Dead Drops to the AI picture generating system DALL-E.
It resulted in these generated pictures! 👏👏… love it! Thx! :))

Hypernormalization at HMKV House of Mirrors

Mai 1, 2022

Hypernormalization at HMKV House of Mirrors, ‚Facebook, Twitter Co zerschlagen ZDF Aspekte 29.4.2022

MoMA collection

März 10, 2022

The MoMA aquired 10 photographs in 2021 https://www.moma.org/artists/39302

I don’t need to own art.

Februar 16, 2022

A thread unroll of a text about ntfs and digital art I posted on Twitter today.

I wrote a text about nfts from a digital art perspective but wasn’t very happy with it. Instead I condensed it into these 18 tweets. I hope you find some interesting angles.

+++ I don’t need to own art. +++

A thread:

Blockchain, nfts and smart contracts are not the new medium. The driving force in making art with nfts is a very old one: It is money! Andy Warhol: „Making money is art, good business is the best art.“ The promise of ‘getting rich quick!’. Sadly money is the medium here.

The art market is governed by money. Success of art works is measured in prices. This is not helping the quality of art, on the contrary it often distorts the art. Congrats! We have the same system in place for digital art now. Ownership mindset in a space of abundance.

Science built a very powerful and open Web/Internet with no commerce in mind. We’ve already lost the openness to the mega platforms. Now the crypto-bros try to add a full blown digital property layer on top of everything. This will not help make the world a better place.

It’s the irony of history that netart of the 90s, which explored a true new medium is returning now in this flat form of expensive jpgs. Back then the art world didn’t know how to handle netart. Today nfts enter the market from the very top with record auction sales.

The Post Internet generation, which came from netart was the first one to successfully enter the commercial art world. Because they made sculptures and prints after the Internet. But suddenly jpgs and gifs online are the big financial winner. The Internet art paradox.

Now there is again a vibrant scene of online art going on and certainly interesting works are being produced. But the nft space is annoyingly loud with a lot of toxic stories and desperate jpgs. It hurts to see established digital artists in crypto whale group show auctions.

Yes, make netart. Build websites. It’s great you finally can live from it. But don’t rip off your fan base with 1000$ podcast bundles. Whales have endless coins while people with no money buy in for 0.3 Eth out of FOMO. At least make sure they get something real and it lasts.

Many articles and videos explained already why the crypto game is a pyramid scheme. For people in the traditional art market this is not a real problem. Because it is the same game there. Attention hype, art clowns, rigged markets, pump and dump and so on. This is fine.

Galleries love nfts but institutions and museums with public funding have a different responsibility. Think hard about what you are showing and why? With nft shows you are normalizing a problematic and wasteful system. Critical works don’t need to be on but about blockchains.

It was beautiful to witness the past 20 years, to see digital art evolve. Yes, there have always been trends, discussion and unexpected forks. But the current hype about ntfs is a game changer. Despite my criticism I understand the attraction of the unique identifiable file.

I proposed this idea even myself ten years ago. But already back then @GIFmodel pointed such a system would not help the art in netart. And here we are: massive pyramid speculation with jpgs and museums losing tokens send to a wrong wallet address. https://web.archive.org/web/20130914141217/http://ny-magazine.org/issues.html

I was naive about art markets but interested to see digital art being represented better in the art world. For this I created exhibition formats like “Speed Shows” in internet cafes or routers on gallery walls, “Offline Art”. http://speedshow.net/ https://arambartholl.com/offline-art-new2/

At the @MovingImageNYC visitors could burn a DVD outside the museum building or “Full screen” was a show with works on smart watches. I was interested seeing netart in the space, bound to situations, breaking expectation. https://arambartholl.com/dvd-dead-drop/ https://arambartholl.com/full-screen/

I wonder what will be left in a decade or two of the nft production from the last couple years. It is an interesting phenomenon from a Internet folklore point of view. Massive amounts of poor images being produced in hope of getting rich quick. A feast for net anthropology?

Once this hype will fade and the art crowd moves on to the next new thing, nfts will become another chapter of digital art, and people will wonder how crazy that was. @errafael pointed this out in context of the Wikipedia case rejecting nfts as art.

In his book “Krypto Kunst” german art critic @koljareichert delivers a very nuanced extensive analysis of what’s going with nfts and crypto art but in a podcast interview he concludes with “… to watch animations on screens is boring.” I don’t agree.

I love digital art. There is such a rich history of screen based works. It is important to acknowledge and remember them. Especially because working digitally became so normal in all kinds of art practices. The nft hype hasn’t brought much new to the table, except toxic $$.

I don’t need to own art.