Simon Starlings works deal with natural and cultural transformation processes. Composed in a series of conceptual and practical steps that appear as an experimental set-up, they at the same time tell a story of change. In his work he does not employ illustrative methods of representations to depict such processes, but instead presents diverse materials and relicts in combination with short written notes.
At the center of Starlings show at the Temporäre Kunsthalle
Berlin two installations revolve around the climate as a necessary precondition for the existence of natural and consequently also artificial systems. A cactus is brought to the Berlin winter and a motor vehicle is converted to provide heating; in the second installation, a natural system generates the adequate conditions for presenting sensitive artifacts such as historical photographs. With the third site-specific installation, created specifically for the Kunsthalle, Starling addresses the notion of a cycle alternating between nature and technology, by reconfiguring a chainsaw to a new use.
As comprehensible as Starlings conceptual and material constructions may be, they remain fragile poetic allusions that are as idiosyncratic as they are aesthetically captivating. His works are based not least on the Romantic insight that, upon closer examination, everything is connected with everything.
The installation Kakteenhaus (Cactus House) (2002) simulates a greenhouse environment for a cactus which Starling took out of its original ecosystem in Spain and brought to Northern Europe by car. The car is parked outside the Kunsthalle, with its engine removed and set up inside. Extended conduits and cables connect the two elements in such a way that the heat produced by the running engine provides an adequate climate for the cactus. While the inherent contradiction of presenting exotic plants in unsuitable climates is thus made obvious in a grotesquely exaggerated way, the interweaving of material objects and the stories related to their origin create the constructions situated between documentation and fiction that are so typical of Starlings works.
With Plant Room (2008) Starling produces the ideal conservational conditions for a selection of sensitive original photos of Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932). Blossfeldt is considered one of the most significant photographers of New Objectivity. His interest in the detailed depiction of plants was directed towards their composition and structure as well as the manner in which they could be transferred to a formal vocabulary of architecture and ornamentation. Starling presents Blossfeldts photographs in an archaic clay brick house. A special quality of clay brick architecture lies in the fact that it provides an optimal climatic balance. The integrated heating system draws water and brings it to the desired temperature by means of a fuel cell.
The new work Under Lime (2009) created specially for this show elegantly addresses a process one could call a targeted detour. It is again a part of nature that was removed from its original context with the help of an apparatus which subsequently serves other as intended to discreetly display the object in the Kunsthalle. Cut from a tree at Unter den Linden, the chainsaw driven by an internal combustion engine serves to graft the removed branch from the cultivated nature outside into the interior of the cultural art space.
Simon Starling (born 1967 in Epsom, UK) lives and works in Berlin and Copenhagen. His installations are on view in the most renowned international museums and collections. Simon Starling won the Turner Prize in 2005. Since 2005 he is professor at the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste (Städelschule) in Frankfurt am Main.
The show is curated by Julian Heynen, Artistic Director of K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, and since 2007 member of the Artistic Advisory Board of the Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin.