“We’re so dependent on these devices,” Bartholl told me. “It has all our precious, private data on it, and then the moment it breaks, or it’s old and discarded…it becomes this toxic trash.” In a recent show, “Strike Now!!” at Berlin’s panke.gallery, Bartholl employed the near-ubiquitous urban eyesore, the e-scooter. These “colorful icons,” as he described them, are “like sculptures scattered all over town and a lot of people hate [them].” Something about the contrasts embodied through Bartholl’s practice feels especially of Berlin to me: opposing ideas brought together through breathing new life into disintegrating materials.
Almost nothing embodies this Berlin aesthetic as much as the Boros Collection, a private collection of contemporary art held in a 1943 bunker–turned–nightclub–turned–refined art space. Juliet Kothe, director of the Boros Collection, also recognizes the contrasts between art in Berlin and the popular contemporary aesthetics in other, more commercial markets like London, Paris, New York, and Los Angeles. Unlike those cities, she explained, Berlin doesn’t aim itself towards a commercial art market as much as what she called an “artist art field”—where work is “much more about symbolic value, rather than economic value.” This explains, then, why I would see “trash art” in established museums and galleries.
“Berlin is a city of historical disruption,” Kothe said. “This is why I love the bunker so much, because I think it symbolically stands for the shift of political systems.” Over 75 years old, the bunker that now houses the Boros Collection has seen three different regimes in the city. “The constant reusing, and redefining, and transformation is part of Berlin,” Kothe added. “It’s inherent.”