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When Things Cast No Shadow


The exhibition When things cast no shadow consisted of two parts; one taking place by day, one by night. The daytime part of the 5th Berlin Biennale presented mainly new productions by 50 artists of four generations shown at four different venues—at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, the Neue Nationalgalerie, the Skulpturenpark Berlin_Zentrum and the Schinkel Pavilion. Many of the participating artists conceptualized and built their commissioned artworks explicitly in response to the specifically designated exhibition site. Already a few weeks prior to the official opening the first in a series of five solo exhibitions (curated by artists participating in the biennial) was launched at the Schinkel Pavilion as part of the 5th Berlin Biennale. Throughout the duration of the biennial these exhibitions gave insights into ways in which younger artists deal with topics such as the legacy of previous generations, modernity or various exhibition formats.

With the title Mes nuits sonts plus belles que vos jours (My nights are more beautiful than your days), the night program consisted of a total of 63 evening events. The biennial program was thus extended by 100 additional artists and cultural producers who were involved in the lectures, talks, performances, concerts, workshops, film and video screenings and other types of events at various locations throughout the whole city. Szymczyk and Filipovic envisioned the night program as an “exhibition which, for the duration of the biennale, would be in the process of becoming”. With a focus on revisioning already existing artworks or creating entirely new work, the team of curators thus offered participating artists and thinkers from a variety of fields a possibility to experiment and improvise beyond the spatial and temporal boundaries of the gallery.


Adam Szymczyk and Elena Filipovic

5th Berlin Biennale, 5.4.–15.6.2008; curators: Adam Szymczyk, Elena Filipovic

Graphic Design
Ludovic Balland

From the catalog

When things cast no shadow

The main venues of the biennial, positioned on both sides of the historic divide of the city, represent typologically contrasting settings in which to show art. Their respective stories, intertwined with the recent history of Berlin, provide a layered ideological context for understanding each part of the exhibition and the individual, mostly newly commissioned works held within them.

In our choices, we hoped the visitor would move throughout Berlin, but not necessarily towards buildings whose histories are manifest in their peeling paint or picturesque state of ruination. Instead, we wanted to work with very distinct possibilities for display and interaction with artworks, proper to each venue.

For instance, the implications of imagining a part of the exhibition in the Neue Nationalgalerie, built by Mies van der Rohe in 1968, could not escape us.

The museum, now a landmark, was commissioned as a political and aesthetic response from former West Germany towards the East.

The vast transparent exhibition hall open to its surroundings runs counter to more traditional concepts of museum display in which art objects are isolated and enclosed within windowless (at best sky-lit) rooms, a practice that later resulted in the white cube’s dominance as an exhibition site. If white cube it is not, the Neue Nationalgalerie’s glass cube also could not be more distinct from each of the biennial’s other venues, including the loft-like conditions at the former margarine factory in the historic city center.

The factory was converted in the 1990s and for more than a decade has been the exhibition space of KW Institute for Contemporary Art, the organizing institution of the berlin biennial. The third venue of the biennial, an outdoor urban void is comprised of oddly shaped and overgrown empty lots bearing the traces of their former life as the Death Strip running along the Berlin Wall.

Recently named Skulpturenpark Berlin_Zentrum, these lots read as a paradoxical fulfillment of Mies’s dream of an endlessly flexible exhibition space. In no way a building, it is literally just an open exhibition site without borders. Yet this piece of land is also divided—not by museum walls, but by fences delineating city- or privately-owned lots that change hands as quickly as promises for their future vanish in the haze of speculation booms. And finally, this biennial’s smallest venue is the Schinkel Pavillon, an octagonal edifice in the garden behind Kronprinzenpalais, designed for recreational use in 1969 (one year after the Neue Nationalgalerie opened) by Richard Paulick, a GDR architect trained in the Bauhaus. His irrational socialist folly pretends to be a reconstruction of an existing building, but is, in fact, a complete invention. An ultra-historicist bricolage, the pavilion is a hybrid of GDR modernist style and a play on the universal language of neoclassical architecture in Germany, codified in the nineteenth century by the same Friedrich Schinkel whose work, favoring clarity and order, had given an important impulse to Mies’s practice.

The fifth element of the show: our fifth main venue—a temporal one, if you will—occupies the nights. Evading the regime of absolute visibility, what we are calling a “night exhibition,” Mes nuits sont plus belles que vos jours (My nights are more beautiful than your days) comprises more than sixty nights of talks, performances, workshops, concerts, film screenings, and other nocturnal acts which contribute a different temporality and topography to the biennial. Borrowing its title from a 1989 erotic thriller by Andrzej Żuławski, and starting from the conviction that knowledge can be shared by means other than the conventional lecture or exhibition format, this series of events aims to provide the opportunity for experimentation and presentations by artists and thinkers from diverse fields, who were invited to produce new or remake existing works, speak, or interpret pieces specifically for a live performance. Breaking from the idea of an exhibition as a receptacle for the fixed presence of artworks in one place over a period of time, Mes nuits… is built as an accumulation of transient experiences, their venues spread across the city and along the duration of the biennial, night after night. The artists and thinkers appearing in the night part of the exhibition, rather than exhibiting things, offer instead fleeting performative acts that either extend or complicate their regular “daily” practices. Mes nuits… will, then, be in the making throughout the run of the biennial, an exhibition perhaps only able to be apprehended collectively and indeed only able to be apprehended at all as an exhibition at the moment when the cycle of events have ended and faded from sight.



Mes nuits sont plus belles que vos jours – the night part of the 5th Berlin Biennale