Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Amanda Ribas Tugwell reviews LOVE IV: Cold Shower at the Schinkel Pavillon in Berlin.
The fourth iteration of Anthea Hamilton and Nicholas Byrne’s LOVE series, Cold Shower packs large-scale inflatables—some old and some new—into the Schinkel Pavillon, a GDR building now surrounded on all sides by construction sites. The large windows that arc around the octagonal room offer up a swathe of gray sky, barren trees, and cranes, and are now half-obstructed by voluptuous vinyl shapes. Whether opaque or transparent, their surfaces sport images of everything from a pair of scissors, to a wide-smiling emoticon mouth, to a stock image of Turkish delight.
Three pieces stand out at the entrance, all of which feature images of modernist sculptures by Constantin Brâncuși, including the stone-carved The Kiss (1913) and brass Male Torso (1917). The latter appears twice, once large and once as an almost child-sized copy. In 3D form, the two formally perfect phallic bodies, along with all of the once-flat image surfaces, are now dimpled with belly buttons, fleshy bulges, and wrinkles.
In LOVE IV: Cold Shower, photographs of food, tools, and sculptures have been transformed into giant inflatable objects. The artists point to a millennia of human fixation with turning objects into images, then bounce off of Duchamp’s readymades and Pop Art’s employment of mainstream culture to create post-conceptual art objects in the post-, post-internet age. Along with Paul McCarthy and Jeremy Deller, they have employed a precarious, hilarious medium, which signifies a temporary site for play, or extravagant, kitschy means of demanding attention, while skillfully bypassing the trap of one-liner irony. Their process of picking and choosing from across visual culture and art history is not unlike defining love on one’s own terms today, when we have access to a cloud of collective knowledge. Yet in our increasingly virtual world, where there is infinite potential for human connection, love is still objectified, commodified, and exploited.
Hamilton and Byrne, a London-based couple and collaborating duo since 2012, have built their own visual vocabulary around love by playing with, and circumventing, prepackaged symbols that stand in for this universal human emotion. Their exhibition, which opened the day before Valentine’s Day, turned the Schinkel Pavillon into an almost sacred space, sheltering LOVE from the changing landscape of Berlin and the greater outside world. But at the same time, it feels eerily like a mausoleum. Here love is a close embrace, a taste of sugar, a hard-on. But just as the inflatable can be punctured, or deflated and folded up, so too is LOVE doomed to end.
LOVE IV: Cold Shower is on view through April 10, 2016, at the Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin.
Amanda Ribas Tugwell was raised in Los Angeles, California, and graduated from California Institute of the Arts with a bachelor’s in photography & media. Now based in Berlin, she is the Art Editor of Exberliner magazine.