Travelogue: Berlin, August 2007

neurotitan_heiner.jpgSince my recent trip to Berlin mostly consisted of looking at drawings and prints in the Kupferstichkabinett, I unfortunately didn’t get much time to take in the city this time around. I however did make it to Neurotitan in Haus Schwarzenberg, nested in the alt. culture oasis of Hackescher Höfe in Berlin Mitte. Haus Schwarzenberg is a must for anyone interested in contemporary art, comics, design and all of that Ringling Brothers shit.

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Haus Schwarzenberg has been a hotspot of the arts since 1996, hosting exhibitions and providing studio space for a large number of artists. Neurotitan is the house’s gallery and book/music store and thus its public face. Let it be said immediately: it’s a great store. It offers a wide range of contemporary art-, design-, and comics-related books as well as music (both on CD and vinyl) as well as sundry other related articles. It’s really the place to go for a one-stop introduction to contemporary German ‘alternative’ arts and design publishing, with large numbers of artist’s books and anthologies and design catalogues, and a selection of the best of German alternative cartooning as well as selected publications from other countries.

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The unadorned, well-lit gallery space is attractive and large enough to comfortably present sizable retrospectives or group exhibitions. At the moment, it’s hosting an exhibition showcasing the artists connected to the house. It was a rather mixed bag, with a good deal of insular material mostly of interest to people in the know. Nevertheless, there’s a good handful of interesting and refreshingly humorous work on display. Which shouldn’t be surprising as the artistic circle around the house comprises former members of legendary artist group and punk performance outfit Dead Chickens.

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The centrepieces were two automatons by Hannes Heiner, the long-time chief robotics engineer of the Chickens. These were smaller than certain of his past creations, but delivered the goods. One, a choleric skull-like geezer huffing and raving at a circling, giant housefly in periodic, spasmic bursts, never getting to dig into the the pots arranged in front of him, from which small goblinoid bonshommes emerged, clanking the lids. Across from it was placed an owl-like creature, puffishly rising and setting on its bare feet while rolling its eyes spreading its wings in what it clearly perceived to be a threatening gesture, and emitting a sound reminiscent of the workfloor at a plating factory. Also, there was a gnomish statue-cum-bust of Heiner, smoking a pencil with little snotling-like creatures emerging from his head, sculpted by Breda CC, which was a laugh, and – I was told – very representative.

So, if you’re in Berlin, do go to Neurotitan. It’s an uplift.

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Thanks to Jutta Harms and Christian Maiwald of Reprodukt for showing me around, and providing introductions and stuff. Shots and video from the store and gallery, including works by Hannes Heiner and Breeda CC by the author.

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