Fictional Genealogies

A new show collaboratively presented by ZKM, in Karlsruhe, and, Tank Magazine's online film and video gallery, works to question a dubious tendency in the art world. The citation of an artist's nationality is a common tactic in both the historicization of their work and in its branding. (Think of the "Young British Artist" meme as an example par excellence.) Art exhibitions are posited as prime perpetuators of these citations and the organizers of "Vetrautes Terrain" argue that this act can have several negative ramifications. Taking the example of "German Art," they argue that the identity markings invested by national political borders are not always the identities artists would choose to adopt and given the diversity of peoples to be found in any nation, this fact alone does not determine the nature of an artist's work--and does not homogenously overdetermine all artists of single nations in the same way. In fact, these blanket categorizations often undermine an artist's ability to work against the grain in expressing dissent. This cookie cutter designation also shrugs-off the important work of producing the real art criticism that engages and activates the questions raised by artists in their work. "Vertrautes Terrain: Contemporary Art in/about Germany" includes over 70 German and international artists directly or more subtly addressing the question of who or what the ever-evolving country of Germany is. - Marisa Olson

Õzlem Sulak, Deutsches Auswandererhaus, 2008

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