press release

Tensta Konsthall proudly presents our major autumn exhibition:

The Collective Coral Colony uses the urban context of Berlin to examine, conceptually and contextually, the relationship between artistic practices and the collective unconscious. The project The Collective Coral Colony departs from a discussion of Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz, now 70 years after its first print-run, attempting to reflect its specific historical and political formulations of the city on our contemporaneity.

Döblins tale presents its characters and sites as a symbiotic relationship between people and places, a never ending, reciprocal loop in which it’s impossible to distinguish the protagonist Franz Biberkopf and Alexanderplatz from one another. This has the particular effect of fictionalizing the whole lived experience within the story, presenting the city as simultaneously a psychological reality as well as an architectural palimpsest of cultural memory. In his 1924 essay Der Geist des naturalistischen Zeitalters (The Spirit of the Naturalistic Age), Döblin defines cities as “...the principal home and seat of the human group. They are the coral colony for Man; the collective being.

Döblin’s immediate urban experience was Berlin; his point of view allows us to revisit Berlin today and propose, through the project The Collective Coral Colony, a discussion about the artist’s link with the city. The goal of this discussion is to develop strategies for visually translating this relationship through a political and performative approach to fiction. The politics of fiction, specifically concerning Berlin, articulates itself beyond Berlin Alexanderplatz through an examination of modern and contemporary German literature. Emine Sevgi Özdamar’s The Bridge of the Golden Horn presents us with a story of a Turkish migrant worker as an outsider in Berlin, while P.O. Enquist in Ett annat liv describes the ‘70's Berlin from his perspective as a writer ’exiled by choice’. Throughout these texts a common question arises, and gives us a possibility for a comparative study between two different types of creative processes; -text based and -image based imaginations on the idea of living in a city: ’If I were not to live in this city, would it be still be my story?’

Employing the imagery of the city as a studio, a stage, a state of mind or an inspirational atmosphere, The Collective Coral Colony seeks to reflect upon urban experience from a diverse range of artistic backgrounds and practices. The project aims to arrive at an understanding of Berlin today through an analysis of its constantly mutating identity as a cultural and intellectual capital. This identity is, in turn, indebted to generations of writers, artists and thinkers who have precociously constructed their own fictional and imagined origins, concerning themselves, their work, or their home in Berlin.

Artists and included works:

NEVIN ALADAG Mezzanine (Hochparterre), 2009, video, 9 min

Mezzanine (Hochparterre) A leather couch and a living room lamp outside the window. That which is usually inside has been relocated to the outside. A private space made public and a place from where to watch at the same time. The window opens and the street speaks from out of the living room. It speaks of everyday life and the problems that come with it, about neighbours, friends and idiots, about foreigners and Germans; it rumbles and bites, acts forgivingly, thoughtfully, shyly and rudely. The street talks about itself. In a variety of colours and accents. But always from the mouth of the actress Joanna Praml who leans out of the window.

Nevin Aladag spoke with the residents of Naunynstrasse about their lives in Kreuzberg and from these encounters she created an audio portrait of the street. In her performative work Mezzanine (“Hochparterre”) the many-voiced assemblage is represented by the single face of the actress who moves her mouth according to the playback and outlines the invisible speakers through the display of a precise mime.

Since all of the statements collected by Aladag share the same interface, namely the face of the performer, none of the speakers run the risk of being perceived as prototypes of a sociotope. As confident subjects of a staging that continuously and transparently refers to itself, they offer a rich description of their environment. The result is a concrete poetry of the city, in which spectator, actress and generators of the original soundtrack become actors of a fair play with authenticity and curiosity.

Nevin Aladag studied sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and moved to Berlin in 2002. She has shown in a number of international solo and group shows. Her installations, video works and performances have been shown in, for example: MOVE, Hayward Gallery, London, 2010; XIV Biennale Internazionale di Scultura, Carrara, 2010; Riso Museum, Catania and Palermo, 2010; TBA 21, Vienna, 2010; Biennale Cuvée, Linz 2010 and 2009; the 11th Istanbul Biennial, 2009; the Al-Mamal Foundation, Jerusalem, 2009; OPEN ev+a, Limerick, 2009 and the 8th Taipei Biennial, Taiwan, 2008.

LARISSA FASSLER Alexanderplatz, 2006, cardboard, tape, pencil and bricks, dimensions: 740x460 cm, approximate scale: 1 footstep = 1.5 cm

Alexanderplatz is a large, open square that was the main centre of Berlin before the wall. Most of its buildings were destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. It then became the proud heart of East Berlin and was used to showcase the DDR regime and socialist architecture. With the reunification of Germany, and the reunification of Berlin, Alexanderplatz came back to the fore as the centre of the new capital city. Today it is surrounded by renovated socialist architecture and shopping malls and is dominated by a huge television tower. It is teeming with the remnants of past ideologies. Underneath this complex surface, Alexanderplatz houses a massive and elaborate subterranean transportation system used by an average of 350,000 passengers a day.

"My work Alexanderplatz is a model-like replica of the pedestrian underground system. It makes visible the various abstract spaces we don’t see, those that leave virtually no mark on the city’s surface. Here, space is excavated: the complex carved-out corridors of the pedestrian tunnels become the ‘positive’ of hidden space.

The miniaturized scale and reconstruction of this heavily trafficked public space is based on a subjective measuring system. Using finger lengths and counting footsteps, I walked this network myself and gauged the internal dimensions and volumes of its platforms, halls, passageways, stairwells and elevator shafts. Technically inexact, this reconstruction can be characterized as a layman’s raw understanding of the spaces that contain the quotidian commuter." - Larissa Fassler

Larissa Fassler, born in Vancouver in 1975, is Canadian visual artist based in Berlin, Germany. She completed her MFA at Goldsmiths College, University of London in 2003 and BFA at Concordia University in 1999. She has lived and worked in Berlin since 1999. In her work she examines the construct of public space and explores the impact of these complex built environments on those who move and inhabit the city. Her work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions at the Staatliches Museum Schwerin; NGBK, Berlin; Edith-Ruß-Haus, Oldenburg; Today Art Museum, Beijing and InterAccess, Toronto. Upcoming solo shows include the AA Gallery, London and September, Berlin.

ANNIKA LARSSON Drunk, 2010, video, 22 min

...Spiderman, spiderman...Spiderman?...Spiderman. I'll tell you something in Swedish...Ok...Cause it is easier...Ok, you always says it is e a s i e r. ...Oho..eeh...oooo..e...I don't think I should tell you.ehh.. fuck it! When you happen to end up in intercourse, then you should keep your eyes or hands like this and scream: spiderman, spiderman!...Oh. that's not the Spider-Man again...No, that's not it. But we'll take it later, when I've drunk the whole bottle...Why would you say "Spider-Man"? ... No explanation. No explanation...What can I say?...Mm...It's just a game we came up with in school...Spider-Man......Actually I am doing it wrong now...So do it the right way!'s that?...This!...Yea?...Spiderman, Spiderman, ...Cause the other way......I was just about to say that I would like to apologize for being a little bit drunk, but that's exactly the point...I can drink, yes ...Are you really drunk?...I feel tipsy. Yes. but I'm not really drunk...You will...I will...

Annika Larsson, born in 1972, lives and works in Berlin. Larsson is one of Sweden's most significant artists, working mainly with video. Her work has been presented in solo shows at museums such as LE MAGASIN, Grenoble; Kunsthalle, Nürnberg; Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel; Sala Montcada - Fundacion la Caixa, Barcelona; ICA, London and Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art, Toronto, Canada. Upcoming solo shows include DAAD, Berlin, and Velan Center, Turin, Italy.

JOHANNES PAUL RAETHER Volksbegierden Totale Rekonstruktion, 2009, performance

For the exhibition Johannes Paul Raether performs his 2009 piece Volksbegierden Totale Rekonstruktion. The Volksbegierden Totale Reconstruction is a fictitious referendum for the total reconstruction of Berlin-Mitte and the reconstruction of the Neue Reichskanzlei of Albert Speer on the still empty Marx Engels Forum after an imagined succesfull reconstruction of the Berlin city castle. The visitors to the performance are welcomed in to an ‘info shop’ with a model of Speer´s Reichskanzlei, build out of wurst and pumpernickel. Finger puppets of important protagonists of the Berlin architecture and city planning debate are cited on their positions on reconstruction, the rehabilitation of fascist architecture and their obsession with a typical Berlin architecture, which they assume to be a “rationalist” and “Stoney Architecture”.

Johannes Paul Raether lives and works in Berlin. During his studies at the Berlin University of Fine Arts (UdK) he initiated several self-organised projects like the re-grouping of the Freie Klasse. Since 2006 he has been a member of the artist run space "basso" and has worked in several performance collectives. His work has been shown in exhibitions in the NBK, Berlin; Shedhalle, Zürich; Platform Garanti, Istanbul and KUMU Art Museum, Tallinn. He has published texts in Jungle world, chtoh delat?, Texte zur Kunst and the catalogue of the 6th Berlin Biennale. He has lectured and taught at the Staedelschule Frankfurt a. M; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo and Central St. Martins College, London.

SOLMAZ SHAHBAZI Persepolis 2005, video, 17:40 min

The title of the work is the name of a modern high rise building in north Teheran in which the author lives. It’s a collection of the memory of Teheran. Neighbours of different ages describe the city in different times. Neither the person nor the city is visible. Voices and images of livingrooms are the only elements through which the viewer can imagine the city and its inhabitants

Solmaz Shahbazi was born in Tehran in 1971 and has been living in Germany since 1985. She studied Architecture and Design at the Akademie der bildenden Kuenste in Stuttgart. Before she began to engage in film, she had mainly been working as an architect. Her work departs from the artist’s desire to anchor an aesthetic, dialectic praxis in the social and political conditions of the present. Shahbazi uses the documentary format in both her videos and her photography as a tool to analyse different modes of imagery, expectations of the unknown and possible effects on perception. Her collection of images testify to the potentially fictitious nature of the photographic medium, providing a view as to how we filter images, formulate conceptions – and ultimately awakening us to the fallibility of preconception, the power of the photographic frame. In addition to the 7th Sharjah Biennial, the 9th International Istanbul Biennial in 2005 and the 1st Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art, Shahbazi’s work has been exhibited widely in Europe, USA and the Middle East since 2001.


Berlin based curator and writer. Member of IKT, International association of curators of contemporary art and AICA.

Yıldız studied Psychology (BA) and Visual Arts & Visual Communication Design (MFA) in İstanbul. He participated to Curatorlab/ Konstfack (Stockholm), a curatorial research program (2006-2008) and Valand Art Academy's Independent Study Program (Göteborg). He contributed to the Fast Forward Curatorial Workshop for 4th Berlin Biennial; co-curated "Nightcomers" for 10th Istanbul Biennial, "Hot-Desking" within the framework of Manifesta 7 and “Fantasy & Island -an exhibition about somewhere only we know” (Frac Corsa).

He curated the exhibition project "There is no audience -an exhibition about public audience", (Curator Research Grant 2009 Montehermoso) in Spain, and "Time-Challenger -an exhibition about critical reconstruction" in Belgium (selected proposal for the Curator Curator Project 2009, HISK). He was one of the founders and co-editors (first 5 issue) of Muhtelif, Istanbul based contemporary art publication with Ahmet Öğüt and Pelin Tan, and is one of the members of curatorial collectives such as Good Gangsters (with Esther Lu) and ğ with Aykan Safoğlu.

He has given lectures in many cities such as Berlin, Paris, Bucharest, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo, Cairo, Taipei, Venice... His writings has been published in many publications such as Idea, Metropolis M, art-ist, Res, Paletten, Bidoun, Politiken... During 2010, he focused on his Berlin based exhibition project and he is recently appointed as the new artistic director of Künstlerhaus Stuttgart starting from January 2011.

Berliner Geschichten (Berlin Stories):
The Collective Coral Colony
Kuratoren: Adnan Yildiz, Kim Einarsson

Künstler: Nevin Aladag, Larissa Fassler, Annika Larsson, Johannes Paul Raether, Solmaz Shahbazi