19 December Fatima Hellberg

Which were the most memorable art experiences of 2019? Today’s answer is by Fatima Hellberg, director of Bonner Kunstverein.

Foto: Andrea Rossetti.

Straying from the Line, Schinkel Pavillon

Straying from the Line was an exhibition at the Schinkel Pavillon in Berlin dedicated to a radical assortment of feminist practices, both contemporary and historical. The show combined artists ranging from Ellen Cantor, to Charlotte Poseneske, to Anna Daučíková and Marianna Simnett, with affinities that resided in a shared attitude towards art as a field of antagonistic relationships and hierarchical structures that traverse society as a whole. There was a remarkable energy, at times even magic, in these connections and the ways they unfolded within a form of holding environment: an approach in which the lines between work and exhibition setting were blurred in ways that were both bold and lovingly respectful towards the works of art.

Joanna Pocock, Surrender, Fitzcarraldo Editions

Surrender is a memoir/series of personal essays that explore the contradiction between the urge to inhabit and enjoy life, and the narrative running in the background, the one affecting us all: the one where the planet dies at the end. With an understated and spare prose, Pocock manages to move in scale between the intimate and everyday on the one hand, and a sense of the epic on the other – often occupying these seemingly divergent states simultaneously. The effect is a suspended and seeking quality: an eloquently formulated set of reflections and grapplings with life, with ecological catastrophe, with a profound sense of grief, as well as wonder.

Ovartaci, Risskov, odaterad. Museum Ovartaci, Århus.

Museum Ovartaci, Aarhus, Denmark

Museum Ovartaci is to a large extent focused on the life and work of the Danish artist Louis Marcussen (1894-1985), who spent most of her adult life hospitalised in the Risskov psychiatric hospital. She called herself Ovartaci, in jutlandic dialect, a word for Overtossi – chief-idiot. In her drawings, paintings, sculptures, and puppets, Ovartaci was continuously concerned with themes of transformation and multiplicity – diversiform realities sitting alongside the dominant paradigm of the real, life-cycles, and her own transition from male to female. There is a host of figures returning in her work, delicate bird-like creatures, at times represented superimposed or hovering above the Risskov psychiatric hospital – these representations are fantastical, and preoccupied with a shifting and seeping reality. This is a remarkable museum, which despite tight resources, has been able to continue acquiring works of Ovartaci this year and to support the restoration and presentation of her practice.

Fatima Hellberg is a Swedish curator and director of the Bonner Kunstverein in Bonn, Germany. From 2015–2019, she was artistic director of Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, and she has also served as curator at Cubitt and Electra in London.