The exhibition “moving is in every direction. Environments – Installations – Narrative Spaces” traces the history of installation art from the 1960s until today, with a focus on narrative structures within the exhibition space of approximately 3,500 square meters. It is the first large-scale exhibition on the topic of installation in Germany.
Artist(s) Joseph Beuys, Marcel Broodthaers, Peter Fischli/David Weiss, Isa Genzken/Wolfgang Tillmans, Ilya Kabakov, Bruce Nauman, Susan Philipsz, Pipilotti Rist, Bunny Rogers, Gregor Schneider, Thomas Schütte, Christopher Kulendran Thomas, Wolf Vostell and more
Venue Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin
Text Eline Verstegen
As the visitors move through the exhibition, they explore expansive walk-in environments, video and sound installations, as well as cross-media works developed especially for the exhibition. As the exhibition title suggests, Gertrude Stein’s concept of the non-linear narrative structure serves as a starting point for exploring sculptural arrangements, image sequences, or spatially staged narratives. In her lectures from 1934/1935 in Chicago, Stein stated: “there is at present not a sense of anything being successively happening, moving is in every direction beginning and ending is not really exciting, anything is anything, anything is happening and anybody can know anything at any time“. The exhibition moves historically from the ‘environments’ introduced by Allan Kaprow in 1958, through Dan Flavin’s ‘situations’ or Wolf Vostell’s ‘spaces’ of the 1960s and 1970s, up to the ‘installation art’ established in the 1980s. Since then, ‘installation’ stands for artworks dealing with the entire room—where the youngest generation of artists naturally connect the physical and the virtual space. As ‘narrative spaces,’ the current installations present themselves as ideas for our societal, collective life. What Allan Kaprow said about his “Environments” from 1958 can still be thought of as the defining feature of installation art: “environments must be walked into”.
In the exhibition, the spatial works are not organized chronologically. Rather, they are grouped according to their possible connections. Different compositional elements invite the visitors, above all, to develop their own links between the spatial and the narrative reference points. The narrative motifs, which are invoked in the exhibition, include the domestic environment, as well as urban and social fabrics. Historical controversies occur alongside imaginary narratives; the well-known doppelgänger-motif emerges in addition to figures from the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales.
“moving is in every direction. Environments – Installations – Narrative Spaces” also raises the question of how to exhibit installation art in the museum context. Environments and installations are usually created for a specific occasion, in a set place and time. Many works do not survive, or exist in the form of relicts or documentation. As such, artists develop specific museum versions later, such as Wolf Vostell’s “ELEKTRONISCHER dé-coll/age HAPPENING RAUM E. d. H. R.“ (1968- 1982)” or Joseph Beuys’ “Richtkräfte einer neuen Gesellschaft.” While Allan Kaprow has shown “reinventions” of his early Environments since the 1980s, Gregor Schneider, whose work on the ground floor’s west wing is made accessible again, insists on presenting original works and rejects reproductions. Meanwhile, Pipilotti Rist constantly shows her video work in new versions and productions. The audiovisual installation “Remake of the Weekend” in this exhibition is a completely different version from the one that was shown at the artist’s solo exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhof in 1998.The special challenge lies, then, in not only the complexity of the works and the variety of materials used, but also the implementation of new productions in close collaboration with artists and the preservation of installation art for museums and collections.