I have an undying love for the König Gallery in Berlin. When I first moved across the ocean, I found the perfect flat in Kreuzberg, with a balcony that looked to a kindergarten, and some kind of brutalist building that at first, I had no idea about.
Thanks to Google, the Patron Saint of Curiosity, I found out that brutalist structure was the St. Agnes church, and soon, the renovations began. One of the best art galleries in Berlin was actually moving right next to my house, and a new complex was being developed there. Exciting times ahead for sure.
Finally I ended up moving from that flat, but I kept visiting the König gallery, specially after the first time I visited their former building on Dessauer Strasse, and saw my first Alicja Kwade exhibition. The new location (that’s not new now – it has been up and running for around 3 years) of the gallery is absolutely mesmerizing as you may have been able to read on the Berlin Art Week Bike Tour before.
This past December, a new exhibition opened in the König: Elmgreen & Dragset’s “The Others”, inspired by the gallery itself – as I have stated before, the building is a former church, and this show was about challenging the common conceptions of religious art, turning it into a contemporary that breaks with the status quo: as soon as you enter the nave of the former church, several sculptures and installations are able to combine the mysticism of Christianity with a shock factor and the ability to connect with the spectators. This ability is actually very common when experiencing Christian art, but mostly if you practice the religion. What is different about The Others, is that the viewer is able to connect spiritually with the pieces on display, but not on a religious aspect, but due to the sense of familiarity and un-deification that the pieces on display transmit.
My family has a long standing tradition of Catholicism, and even though I am baptized and have taken the communion, I consider myself to be an agnostic. Thus, it has always been hard for me to engage on the ceremonies and to understand the meaning of entering a church when you are not a believer. I do appreciate the architecture and the beauty, I got very pleasantly surprised when visiting the Dome in Siena, Italy, but because the marble columns were incredibly beautiful. I do enjoy religious art, but as an outsider, and I only get to experience a limited set of sensations through it.
The Others, in contrast, as it does not fall on the latter category, even though this is the first impression that it tries to imprint on the viewers, brings up questions regarding beliefs, morals, sexuality, violence, and many more. It quenched the thirst for contemporary art, while engaging the viewers on challenging their own beliefs, and religious family traditions. Yet another otherworldly (pun intended) experience provided by the incredible city of Berlin and its artistic scene.