Rather than introducing autonomous artworks into a space, German artist Karin Sander often utilizes, reimagines and decisively transforms quotidian things that are already there, including basic elements like walls, wallpaper, floors, windows and, for this exhibition, wastepaper baskets. During the installation, Sander ignored, so to speak, the downstairs exhibition galleries where art is typically presented. Instead she ventured upstairs to the second floor, which houses the offices of n.b.k. (Neuer Berliner Kunstverein): the hidden (to most viewers) core of the institution where decisions are made, money is raised and allocated, and contemporary art is managed. At five different upstairs sites, including director Marius Babias’s office, Sander removed the wastepaper baskets next to the desks and cut perfect circular holes in the floor at the exact places where the bottoms of the baskets had been. At each hole a small metal railing was installed to prevent people from injuring themselves. For the duration of the exhibition, gallery employees were instructed to throw away paper trash as they normally would. But rather than filling receptacles, the trash drifted down to the floor below: a slow rain of paper from on high, a gravity-induced information flow, falling “messages” that made you consider the mysterious people at work above.
At its beginning, Sander’s exhibition was incredibly spare, with just five holes in the ceiling and a few scraps of paper lying around an otherwise empty space. Gradually, however, the scraps accumulated into piles, which were scruffy and inelegant but also oddly alluring. This architectural intervention has many possible connotations. It highlighted the incessant waste produced in contemporary throwaway culture, emphasized how we all are inundated by endless information, and succinctly (also humorously) conflated routine office life and the display of art. Most striking, however, was how the mundane action of trash disposal actually resulted in an alchemy of trash. White predominated (the whiteness of envelopes and memos, press releases and letters), but it was seeded with almost painterly flecks and bursts of vibrant color, which happened entirely randomly: an orange-pink sliver of paper, a bit of yellow gleaming from inside a crumpled white sheet, the red borders around some official invitation, the images and lettering on exhibition announcements. Optical luster emerged from this office debris, as did accidental sculptural complexity, with gradations of density and sparseness, cohesion and dispersal. When you looked closely not only at the sloping piles but also at the individual components, they were often surprisingly complex and evocative, hinting at small abstract sculptures, delicate origami, sedimentary geologic structures and even whimsical figures. Sander’s antic, yet thoughtful and precise, exhibition embraced randomness and mutability as it changed and kept changing from beginning to end.
Photo: View of Karin Sander’s exhibition “Core Drillings,” 2011; at n.b.k.