This exhibition begins not with your eyes, but your nose. As soon as you enter the Schinkel Pavillon, you can smell Pamela Rosenkranz’s installation, which takes up much of the gallery’s main room. A mound of earth sits bathed in green neon light, rising all the way up to the ceiling of the octagon-shaped building and filling it with smells of forest, compost and dust. But there’s another aroma that hangs here: Rosenkranz has infused the earth with Calvin Klein’s “Obsession for men”, a fragrance that is marketed as an appealing, masculine scent. The advertising promise rings true – at least if you are a jaguar or a leopard, since they are particularly attracted to the civet oil that is used to make such perfumes and which is found in the animal kingdom. This raises an interesting question that runs through the whole show: what is human in animals and what is animalistic in humans?
Animals also make frequent appearances in French artist Pierre Huyghe’s piece. Located in a darker corner of the Pavillon, the work features live Mexican cave fish that are naturally blind, yet glide effortlessly through Huyghe’s enchanted aquarium world. Juxtaposed with them is a disturbingly beautiful swampland created by surrealist Max Ernst and a pendulum drawing by 19th century Swiss artist Emma Kunz, who throughout her life saw herself as a medium and healer. All three works attempt to dissolve the boundaries between nature, culture and spirit. In Kunz’s trance-like dream scenes, the invisible forces that hold the cosmos together become clear. This tightrope between beauty and horror is a theme that emerges throughout this group show. But no matter how bleak these alternative realities appear at first glance, they are all united by the promise of a world in which fauna and flora, humans and technology become one.
The exhibition was open at the time of publication. For the latest Covid-19 updates check the Schinkel Pavillon website.
Text: Laura Storfner / Credit: Pierre Huyghe; Marian Goodman Gallery, New York; Hauser & Wirth, London; Esther Schipper, Berlin; and Chantal Crousel, Paris; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2020; Rachel Rose, Borns, 2019, Pilar Corrias Gallery, London; Henri Rousseau, La Belle et la bête, c. 1908, bpk / Nationalgalerie, SMB, Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg; Pamela Rosenkranz, Infection (Calvin Klein Obsession for Men), 2021, Sprüth Magers, Berlin; Precious Okoyomon, Ditto Ditto, 2020; Schinkel Pavillon / Photos: Alex Delfanne & Andrea Rossetti