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Berlin Biennale’s secret theme

The works to look out for this year masterfully tackle today's postcolonial legacies. Catch it before it's over Sep 9.

Liz Johnson Artur, Black Balloon Archive, 2010. © Liz Johnson Artur

The works to look out for this year masterfully tackle today’s postcolonial legacies.

As usual for the bi-annual contemporary art event, Berlin’s 10th Biennale compiles a plethora of artworks from artists across the globe, displayed in four Berlin venues: Akademie der Künste at Hanseatenweg, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Volksbühne Pavilion and ZK/U – Center for Art and Urbanism. What is different this year, is that the curators left us guessing in terms of a theme.

The only clue from the team of four, who for the first time in the Biennale’s 20-year history all come from the African diaspora, is the title We Don’t Need Another Hero. The attentive visitor, however, will have spotted a recurrent theme: a confrontation of today’s postcolonial legacy in its myriad forms.

At Akademie der Künste German artist Mario Pfeifer’s brilliant video Again, 2018, is a TV-style true crime documentary tackling the mistreatment of a young male refugee in Arnsdorf, Saxony, in 2016. At KW the London-based Russian-Ghanaian photographer Liz Johnson Artur has a selection of photographs documenting Black British life spanning 1989 to today alongside a video about the very current UK Windrush deportations scandal. At ZK/U American artist Tony Cokes has taken over what looks like the wine cellar with multiple screens, each showing running white text on brightly coloured backgrounds set to techno and house music. In another type of seemingly state endorsed exploitation, the text in Coke’s chilling DT.sketch.017 (Evil.66.1), 2016, is a transcript of an interview with a pre-presidential Donald Trump, including his claims of “There’s nothing I love more than women” and “All the women on The Apprentice flirted with me”.

The Biennale curators have managed to sneakily but masterfully convey some of the most important questions of our time and avoided making them just another fashionable biennale theme. Aside from this, 46 artists and 160 works for €16 is a complete bargain.

10th Berlin Biennale Through Sep 9 | Various Venues