Shades of Today: Picking up the Pieces Post-Truth

Shades of Today: Picking up the Pieces Post-Truth

Martin John Callanan, Max Grau, Emma Waltraud Howes, Jae-Kyung Kim, Erkan Öznur, Benedikt Partenheimer

Co-Curated by Evanthia Afstralou, Kate Davis, Aurica Kastner, Mareike Spendel and Natalie Weiland

Centrum, Berlin

30 June - 23 July 2017

review by William Kherbek for Samizdat Online

review by Candice Nembhard for The Norwich Radical

write-up by Erika Clugston for LOLA

The concept of distorted representations and perceptions of reality may date as far back as Plato's allegory of the cave. However, in light of Brexit and Trump's election, the manipulation of information seems to have reached new heights (Oxford Dictionaries dubbed ‘post-truth’ as 2016’s word of the year). Amidst the confusion between true facts and fake news, heightened by 24-hour news cycles, social media and a populist rhetoric, artists play a pivotal role in warning and reminding of reality's different shades and how they can be exploited by those in power. For Shades of Today: Picking up the Pieces Post-Truth, Centrum invited six artists to shed light on this issue through a series of sound, scent and text-based installations, and a suite of events.

Shades of Today: Picking up the Pieces Post-Truth opened with a performance by Kirstin Burckhardt: Grow a Body (2017) centres around a rhythmic, pulsating reading of a text which poses the question: When is your body complete? This question is echoed in the feeling of some people who disidentify so strongly with a ligament that they self-amputate ('Body Integrity Identity Disorder'). In the performance, this feeling is carefully embedded within the sensation of completely dissociating from your body when in a traumatic situation, raising questions about subjective and alternative truths, the relationship between alienation and violence, and the prevalence of emotion over reason – questions considered to be at the core of our post-truth era. Archaeology of a Smell (2008), is a scent installation by Erkan Öznur which uses ‘Wofasept’, a cleaning liquid produced by a former GDR company which until today was primarily used in the former East. The persistent smell makes the city’s former division apparent today. As an alternative to the iconic Berlin wall Archaeology of a Smell offers a symbol for the reality of the slow, on-going process of reunification. Martin John Callanan's Wars During My Lifetime (1982-2013) is a newspaper that lists all of the wars fought during the artist's lifetime (up until 2013). Listed without comment, the newspaper acts as a potent reminder of media bias and sensationalisation. With her sound sculpture Ram-tam-tam! Rat-a-tat-tat! (2014), Emma Waltraud Howes utilises a resonating cast iron pot as a symbol of resistance, acknowledging historical protests by recalling the ‘Cacerolazo’, a cacophony of banging pots and pans, while humorously evoking the feeling of help- and speechlessness in the face of recent political developments and the impossibility and lack of rational debate. In a similarly ironic gesture Benedikt Partenheimer's Business As Usual (2016) draws attention to one of the most debated yet controversial topics in politics: pollution and climate change. Printouts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change line the wall and act as backdrop to a dramatic photograph of an urban landscape concealed by smog. Covering the factual information on climate change, the picture itself fails to serve as photographic evidence with the pollution having rendered the photograph illegible. Max Grau's 'kinda sorta manifesto' reclaim your fucked up-ness… maybe (2016) talks about staying in bed a lot, the precarious state of self-employment and ‘how you should have sips of champagne in bed, even when you are alone’. In his confessional audio work Grau reflects on the dissonance many a creative freelancer experiences today, between creating and maintaining a successful virtual persona while being in denial about the absurdity and difficulties faced in real life. Jae Kyung Kim's set of three stereoscopes showing pictures of houses blurred on Google Street View relates to her project 2+2=5 (2016) in which the artist explores questions of privacy, transparency, visibility and social control, and also speculates about the effect the blurred images have on our collective imagination, emphasising that it relies on what we think we know and what we imagine we see.


As part of an Olfactory Workshop – Smell Transplant – artist Klara Ravat investigated how human interaction changes when body odour is swapped with another person. By doing this, she hopes to understand the extent by which your unique smell is part of your identity. If you were to suddenly smell like someone else, would you still be you? Would people still behave the same way towards you? Next to this experiment Klara gave a general introduction on the distilling of scents. The workshop was generously supported by the Amsterdam Fonds voor der Kunst.


Celebrating the end of the exhibition with a Finissage & Film Screening, we showed two films by Louis Henderson: All That is Solid (2014) is a desktop-documentary and technographic study of e-recycling and neo-colonial mining filmed in the Agbogbloshie electronic waste ground in Accra and illegal gold mines of Ghana. Henderson constructs a mise-en-abyme as critique of the capitalist myth of digital technology's immateriality of – reconnecting the Cloud to its earthly origins in rare metals. The second film, Lettres du Voyant (2013) is a documentary-fiction about spiritism and technology in contemporary Ghana that attempts to uncover some truths about a mysterious practice called "Sakawa" – internet scams mixed with voodoo magic. Tracing back the scammers’ stories to the times of Ghanaian independence, the film proposes Sakawa as a form of anti-neocolonial resistance. Henderson’s protagonist takes us on a voyage through a network of digitised mine shafts that lead the viewer to each of the film’s locations, a gold mine, an e-waste dump, a voodoo ritual or a discotheque, eventually revealing the colonial history of Ghana, of gold, and of technology.