by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Aug 27, 2022
The threat of COVID-19 still hovers around us – a recurring statement that has not disappeared from everyday conversations. It continues to find a dedicated space in the newspapers and news portals. The human response to the pandemic across the globe, even when met with different scales of intensity, strove to draw a degree of compassion towards the one at the receiving end. Two years down the line, in retrospect, the pandemic-induced lockdown opened an opportunity to revisit the relationship between humans and nature; restructure interpersonal and community relations; and realign the human-led lopsided balance of the environment. To mention, for the creative minds the lockdown opened new ways of engagement with a lyrical force of imagination.
The six participating artists in the exhibition Episodes from the Pandemic at the new space of the Kunsthalle in Dessau, Germany, display their work produced during the time of lockdown. The exhibition has been curated by Esenija Bannan in collaboration with Katrin Günt. The episodes of the lives, which were taken for granted, turned topsy-turvy at the time of the pandemic, only to realise the urgency to archive the emotional upheaval experienced during the period of uncertainty. A few of the artists in the exhibition, on one hand, documented the daily events consistently on a regular basis; while on the other hand, a few captured the moment in an abstract way. The exhibition is a combination of the presentation of film, large-format drawings and small works on paper, paintings, spatial installations and paper sculptures. 
The venue Kunsthalle in Dessau, which is famous for its Bauhaus history, has not had an exhibition until now. The opening of the exhibition with the international and young artists, with a pressing concern that has enveloped us all for more than two years now, presents a glimpse of either its personal or documentative momentum. In an interview with STIR, Bannan expounds, “The catalyst for this exhibition is to celebrate this new venue by inviting international artists with a topic that is crucial to our date and time. Although our goal is not to lay the focus on the pandemic entirely, but rather to show that the exhibition projects in the Kunsthalle will be about themes that are current in our society. Working with international artists is part of this future goal for the Kunsthalle as well.”
Greg Bannan’s short film The Boy with the Kite draws from the art of flying kites since time immemorial: encapsulated in cave paintings, science and literature. During the first lockdown in the year 2020, the artist took his boy to a park which was a Berlin Tempelhof Airport in order to fly kites: a way to spend time while the kites meander through the expanse of soaring heights of the sky. “The short film captures only a fragment of a moment that is now part of our contemporary story,” mentions the official release.
The drawings and paintings by Emmanuel Bornstein and Vladimir Potapov, Chronicle of Isolation, have 50 works from a total of 147 of the original series. Berlin-based Bornstein and Moscow-based Potapov took turns to document everyday moments and objects on their respective mediums. Later they posted the images on social media with comments on each other’s posts. “The primary challenge was to make sure that the series Chronicles of Isolation, which was exhibited in Russia before the war in Ukraine,” mentions Bannan, “arrived in time for the exhibition opening. Until the last moment, we were not sure if we were able to exhibit this beautiful dialogue at all.”
A large-format ink drawing and short film To the Horizontal by Katrin Günther for the international film festival and exhibition project Mies Goes Future at the Mies van der Rohe House (House Lemke) in Berlin builds a connection to the architecture of Mies van der Rohe. For the project, the artist drew on the site during the time of lockdown and captured it on film that is presented in the exhibition.
Monika Grzymala’s Line of Flight is created with the process of floating ink drawings, formally termed Suminagashi – an ancient marble paper technique. During the time of stagnation, the everyday collection of the reams of mono prints took the shape of the layers of sediment – a way to trace their time and existence. For the artist, the pictorial landscapes created in the liquid were a way to immerse, forget and travel again.
Iris Schieferstein Solar Panels Parallel I and II and III in the shape of the sculptures are part of the large Solar Panel Art Series. An exploration of the solar panels and solar energy, the artworks are being sold to raise money for the Little Sun Foundation, established by artist Ólafur Elíasson. The Foundation offers clean energy to school children and teachers in Sub-Saharan Africa – the region without adequate access to energy. Schieferstein’s works are first presented at the Kunsthalle before they travel as part of Elíasson’s exhibition.
“I believe each of the viewers will take with them what they think is important to them. For us – Gerhard Lambrecht, the director of the Kunsthalle, Katrin Günther, and the participant artists and I – we hope that visitors feel inspired and enjoy seeing the creative spirit and the hopefulness in these episodes,” signs off Bannan.
The exhibition Episodes from the Pandemic is on view at Kunsthalle, Dessau, until September 11, 2022.
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Dilpreet Bhullar
Dilpreet is a writer-researcher based in New Delhi. She is the Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability Fellow, Columbia University, New York. She has been co-editor of the books Third Eye: Photography and Ways of Seeing and Voices and Images. Her essays on visual sociology and identity politics are frequently published in leading books, journals and magazines. She is the associate editor of a theme-based journal dedicated to visual arts, published by India Habitat Centre.
Dilpreet is a writer-researcher based in New Delhi. She is the Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability Fellow, Columbia University, New York. She has been co-editor of the books Third Eye: Photography and Ways of Seeing and Voices and Images. Her essays on visual sociology and identity politics are frequently published in leading books, journals and magazines. She is the associate editor of a theme-based journal dedicated to visual arts, published by India Habitat Centre.
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