December 28, 2008

I can't just slice off an ear every day

The thing about a truly inspiring vacation versus the merely relaxing, is that it continues to reveal itself and enrich long after the bags are unpacked and the credit card statements arrive. I've found myself reflecting a lot these past weeks on the incredible Hamburger Bahnhof show we saw last month as part of the Cult of the Artist series. The setting alone - 13,000 square metres of exhibition space in a converted 19th century rail terminal - is impressive, even intimidating.

First up was Celebrity: Andy Warhol and the Stars, a fascinating look at the symbiotic (some might say parasitic) relationship between the fame seeking Warhol and the bona fide and would-be celebs clamouring to be immortalized in his work. The best of the Warhol bunch for me was the massive Chairman Mao.

Then came the jam packed visual feast "I can't just slice off an ear every day" a cheeky, irreverent and at times obscene look at the mythic status of The Artist. The name for the show comes from the Martin Kippenberger quote: "I can't just slice off an ear everyday, make a Van Gogh here, a Mozart there. And anyway, it’s hard enough constantly keeping track of what you’re actually doing!" Among the many installations were Antje Schiffer's "Wonderful, Vladimir Says" in which the artist enlists the help of a business planner who advises her to veer away from museums, galleries and other such unprofitable ventures and focus on more lucrative corporate commissions. The hilarious "Matrix Effect" by Christian Jankowski in which children expound on the theory in the manner of art critics. There were Rodney Grahams (go Vancouver!), Cindy Shermans (yawn), Martin Kippenbergers and on and on. I particularly enjoyed Dieter Roth's Solo Szenen - a video installation showing the artist hanging out in his studio reading, sleeping, talking on the phone, eating und so weiter. The idea being that art doesn't just happen by some miracle or fit of creative genius, it's a day in day out slog.

Then there's Paul McCarthy's grotesque take on so-called creative genius. Here's a preview from "Painter".

That's just a tip of the iceberg. What a show.

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