One of the few places that I visited shortly after relocating to Berlin was the good old Amerika Haus where I intensively studied about cultural diplomacy with the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy. Since then, many years after, the building was turned into an open space for cultural exhibitions, after the C/O Berlin, another favourite exhibition place of mine that was hosted in the Eastern part of the city, was moved here.
Nostalgically, I returned there two weeks ago, decided to explore the new space and to check the fresh exhibitions. The entire area got a younger air, the classical serious ambiance of the former Cold War being left behind. The shop sells interesting glossy books about the history of arts and big posters of former exhibitions. Photography prevails, but also albums dedicated to modern and contemporary trends in arts.
It is Sunday, and the place is crowded, outdoors, as many prefer to enjoy their limited portion of sun from the chairs placed outside, or indoors, either wandering through the exhibition spaces or tasting some pastel de nata at the caffe. The space has the air of a Viennaise coffee house, with a reminder that we are in the world of arts though: The Waiting for, the work of Michail Pirgelis, can be admired on the left side of the hall. Created in 2014, it explores the notion of flight, the fragility of the human beings in the middle of the clouds but also suggests new ways of looking at industrial objects, such as airplanes.
It is about time for visiting the exhibitions, newly open at the beginning of April. At the ground level, the massive photography of natural landscapes reunited under the title Genesis is a passionate quest for the world as it used to be and for a genuine feeling of rediscovering the nature. The black and white photos are testimonies of the artist's search for meaning all over the world, from Okavango Delta to South America, from the frozen North to the middle of the African continent discovering isolated tribes. It is the kind of exhibition that inspires the traveller and at the end of which you want to visit once again. And leave only after entering one of the images on the walls and never coming back in the middle of the concrete buildings.
The second exhibition, at the next floor - Distance and Desire - presents African photography from the Walther collection, covering the late 19th - early 20st century. In the spirit of the time, and sometimes with the discriminatory way of seeing, it presents portraits and figure studies, album pages of local people, the emergent middle class as well as various local personalities. In an ironic way, contemporary artists tried to irreverently combat stereotypes and ethnic visions, through ironic photographies reenacting old postures familiar to the European style of photographing the African continent.
Last but not least, the last part of my art journey of the day was dedicated to a Eastern German memories. In Kunst. Freiheit. Lebensfreude (Art. Freedom. Joy of Life), Emanuel Mathias give a new lecture to the very monotonous archives of the Cotton Spinning Factory (Baumwollespinnerei) in Leipzig. Presence and absences and various work instructions are read in a very creative and different way, translated as works of art, written words sewn on pieces of cotton. A completely new way to approach the archives that I would like to explore more in the near future.
The C/O Berlin also has a dedicated program for juniors and teens, teaching photography, film, design, and architecture to youngsters between 14 and 17 years old.
Disclaimer: I was offered a free entrance ticket to the exhibitions, but the opinions are, as usual, my own