Berlinale Blog When one door closes …

“Beauty and the Right to the Ugly”
“Beauty and the Right to the Ugly” | Photo (detail): © Wilfried Lentz Rotterdam, Wendelien van Oldenborgh

This year’s exhibition in the Forum Expanded section of the Berlinale is called “To the Sound of the Closing Door”. Despite the name, the video installations actually open doors to fascinating stories.

As a film critic, I must admit that I spend a lot more time in cinemas than in art exhibitions, so my experience in this domain is limited. I was nonetheless very keen to visit the Forum Expanded and firmly resolved to approach the somewhat abstract works – somewhere in-between art and film – with an open mind. The Forum Expanded is all about film programmes that question conventional narrative formats. More than 20 installations by artists from more than 20 countries are on show in two galleries at the Akademie der Künste on Hanseatenweg. The leitmotif connecting the various works is that of doors and gates as the points of transition into other worlds.

Everyday situations that make political statements

In Roy Dib’s A Spectacle of Privacy, for example, the conversation between a pair of lovers is documented. Dissatisfied with the relationship, the woman compares their problems to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. In her opinion, this political conflict – just like the couple’s personal conflicts – should be resolved with more love and trust. The conversation is accompanied by highly intimate pictures of the couple on three screens  – the two of them naked on the bed, the man taking a shower. All that can be seen are their bodies, as their heads have been cropped off the top of the images. By opening a “door“ into the couple’s private life, Roy Dip succeeds in visualizing the way in which private and political questions overlap and influence one another.

A true community of artists   

Het Karregat, an old Dutch community centre, is the central focus of Wendelien van Oldenborgh’s Beauty and the Right to the Ugly. Opened in the 1970s, it offered the local community open and innovative schools, youth clubs, healthcare and stages for artists over the course of several decades. The centre was designed by the architect Frank Van Klingeren such that it would be as open as possible, without any internal walls, so as to provide space and scope for it to be used however people wanted. It is now being converted to serve a new purpose, however. Van Oldenborgh has taken this as an opportunity to open the doors to this one-time community centre one final time and interview its former members. She presents her work on three screens set up in a triangle. The title the artist has given to her short films is “Experiments don’t need to succeed, they just need to exist”.

Even if the era of Het Karregat may be finished, my experiment – my excursion into the world of video installations – was a resounding success. Fascinated by the depicted stories, which at once informed and touched me in much the same way as films do, I return to the big cinemas at Potsdamer Platz.