Karin Sander at Neuer Berliner Kunstverein

by Madeline Sparer, May 2011

Karin Sander’s recent exhibition at the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein in Berlin is her latest foray into the art of intervention. The large exhibition space on the first floor of the N.B.K office is glaringly white and almost entirely empty, except for six piles of trash, comprised of mostly paper, letters, inventory lists and general administrative documents, littered throughout the gallery. It is initially hard to see any logic to how the piles are arranged, much less an explanation of what they are intended to show. But a glance upwards provides an answer: above each pile is a thirty-centimeter-wide hole that has been drilled into the ceiling, connecting the exhibition space below with the N.B.K. offices above. And as the office staff discards its garbage, the piles below grow and take shape.

Why call this “interventionist art?” For starters, Sanders intervenes in the employees’ experience, making them self-conscious about their own trash. Most people assume that when they throw something out, the item will never again be seen, let alone examined by gallery goers as a work of art. Here, however, not only is their litter on display, their offices also are open for spectators to visit and view the holes that have been drilled in the spaces where wastebaskets once were. By turning the office space into an exhibition space itself, with spectators anxious to see an employee throw out a piece of trash, Sander intervenes in the everyday office status quo to create a constantly changing sculpture.

At the same time, Sander intervenes in the spectator’s experience with an art exhibit by inviting them upstairs to see the administrative part of the show. Even if visitors do not take the time to see the offices, they are still exposed to administrative papers, lists and letters, showing the bureaucratic side of the art world.

For Sander, the artistic product is not the pile of litter, but, instead, the way in which the intervention on the employee’s life turns a simple act (throwing out garbage) into a performance, a sculpture. Her act of intervention on the employee/artist’s everyday life/world creates a sculpture, as is similarly the case with residual photographs often left after a performance piece.

Sander does an excellent job of creating an ever-evolving sculpture, breaking down (literally) the barrier between the administrative and the aesthetic aspects of the art world. The viewer sees it all, and is only left wondering, “Where is the recycling?”

Karin Sander
4 March—1 May 2011
Neuer Berliner Kunstverein
Chausseestrasse 128/129, Berlin