When Attitudes Become Forms: Bern 1969/Venice 2013

Kaleidoscope | 2013

July 2013

In 2011, Preview Berlin Art Fair organized a number of tours through Tempelhof Airport. We were lucky enough to be invited on a guided walk through this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Primarily known for austere architecture designed by Ernst Sagebiel, the building formed an integral part of Albert Speers’ plan to reconstruct Berlin as the “world capital” Germania. Tempelhof remained in use as an American military base until 1994—ending the country’s 49-year military presence in Berlin—and as a commercial facility until 2008. What we recall most vividly from that three hour walk through the terminal building are those instances when radically distinct aesthetic, ideological and functional elements of space overlapped with one another, each driving at distinct aims that became all the more visible in their proximity to difference. In one bewildering space, the ballroom floor had been transformed into a basketball court, emblazoned with the logo of the Berlin Braves, a surprising and uncharacteristically playful reminder of the airport’s time as a military base. In another instance, our guide escorted us into the vast chamber above the main lobby, which was unremarkable from below with its standard drop-ceiling and bland ticket counters. There was little evidence of what hid above that lobby: an astonishingly high ceiling with monumental pillars that reached from floor to roof, dwarfing those inside its cold and crumbling walls.

The layering of distinct aesthetics and functions in Tempelhof grew over the course of six decades of immense transformation in Germany. The extraordinary impressions these developments create now seem nearly accidental. Although very different in intention, process and circumstance, the experience of visiting “When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969/Venice 2013,” a re-mounting of Harold Szeemann’s 1969 exhibition “Live In Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form,” is not entirely dissimilar. This experimental reimagining is curated by Germano Celant, with Thomas Demand and Rem Koolhaas as exhibition designers, at Ca’ Corner della Regina in Venice. Szeemann’s original project was held at Kunsthalle Bern and is considered a seminal exhibition—one of the first substantial presentations of American and European Conceptual and Land Art, Postminimalism and Arte Povera in Europe. As the coiner of the term Arte Povera, Celant was nearly Szeemann’s contemporary and is in a unique position to revisit “When Attitudes Become Form.” Szeemann’s departure from the kunsthalle after the exhibition arguably marks the beginning of independent curatorial practice as we have come to understand it today—and this particular show has attained an almost mythical status among younger curators seeking out their theoretic and aesthetic roots.

Attention: What you see here is only an excerpt of a longer article. Read the full review on Kaleidoscope’s website.