Marc Brandenburg’s “Hirnsturm II” at PalaisPopulaire

vor 3 years

Right before the lockdown, we took a look at Marc Brandenburg’s current exhibition… and it’s worth the wait.


Hirnsturm II is the title of Marc Brandenburg’s new exhibition at PalaisPopulaire. Hirnsturm is the direct translation of the English term “brainstorm”. It probably comes obvious to think of the method for generating ideas, in which as many thoughts as possible are to be collected as quickly as possible, in order to then examine them in more detail later. And the same time, the title suggests a flooding, if not an overstimulation. The brain is stormed – but by what?

In the exhibition entitled Hirnsturm I at the Paul Morris Gallery in New York in 2002, the artist already anticipates the continuation of the exhibition at the PalaisPopulaire, which now takes place almost 20 years later. Today, as then, he presents his drawings under black light, here in the main hall of the premises. Most of the pictures hang close together, giving the impression of being a series. Some are a series indeed, such as the Metallica drawings, which depict silver bracelets – with Metallica written on them. But then, many of the drawings that hang next to each other do not belong together, sometimes lie in their creation years or even decades apart. It seems as if the associations of overstimulation and flooding are transferred here to space, to an event that can be experienced. The images storm the brain, in their entirety as well as each image itself. The artist exposes us to an absolute flooding.

Here, of course, his style, drawings inverted into the negative, stands out. The inversion is a method of abstraction that alienates the subject of the image, says Brandenburg, without losing touch with reality. It is a fragmented reality that is represented here. Snapshots are processed freehand into negative drawings. Snapshots that are usually taken from the urban milieu and capture everyday, fleeting moments. Sleeping places of homeless people are shown next to park benches labeled ‘Antifa’, Fridays For Future demonstrators are presented next to friends and long-time companions of the artist. Despite this, or precisely because one has the feeling that parts of the real are being shown here, quotes and pop-cultural references appear in between. Interiors by well-known artists, originally published in Berlin’s most progressive magazine of the 1920s, Die Dame, have been stretched out and copied by Brandenburg. A Yves Saint Laurent logo appears next to a swastika subtitled LOVE, and elsewhere freehand sketched portraits from Das blaue Heft magazine, also published in the 1920s and 1930s.

In a back room, the second part of the exhibition is presented, the video installation Camouflage Pullover from 2018, as a continuation of Camouflage Pullover for Foreigners, which Marc Brandenburg showed at Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin-Kreuzberg in the early 1990s, in the wake of the racist riots against asylum seekers and guest workers in reunified Germany as well as the L.A. Riots following severe police violence against the African American Rodney King. In the video installations, the sweaters are extended by woolen heads and hands that have different “skin tones” and are finally worn as a performance on the streets and in the parks of Berlin. Who is under the masks is partly revealed, partly not. Brandenburg asks questions here about skin color, gender, sexual orientation, age, or cultural background. But not the question of whether the person under the masking is a PoC or white is asked, but the highly topical question of identity and how it is composed. Through and with Camouflage Pullover, one has the feeling of getting a more fluid idea of identities and their composition. And at the same time relates to social processes that are still in their infancy.

Marc Brandenburg, who grew up in Berlin and Texas, shows in this exhibition a form of visual diary, which portrays fleeting moments scenically. Thus, for those who know Marc Brandenburg, and for himself as well, the show is a reunion with works from the last 25, if not 30, years of his artistic career. And a wonderful introduction for those who do not know him yet. Through associating subjects and topics as well as recognizing people or places, one is drawn into this exhibition while the brain is stormed is indeed.

Unfortunately, current Corona regulations do not allow the exhibition to open tomorrow, April 27, as originally planned. However, as soon as regulations allow, the show will run until August 23, 2021. Admission is free of charge.

PalaisPopulaire, Unter den Linden 5, 10117 Berlin.

Words by Antonia Schmidt 

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