One of the more interesting works on view in the Neue Nationalgalerie was Mine, Ours, Everywhere II, 2008, by Isabel Lima. This consisted of a small square canvas (click image left) that carried various dirt marks on its surface which tied in extremely well with Thea Djordjadze’s enormous dirty window, which was one of the highpoints of the Neue Nationalgalerie aspect of the Berlin Biennial. One of the rather odd things about Mine, Ours, Everywhere II was that it was accompanied by a label. This was strange because none of the other works in the exhibition had labels.
One was particularly grateful to Lima for providing a label due to the fact that one was constantly having to look at the Biennial’s silly map with its cryptic and often uninformative symbols to find out who all the other works were by.
A number of people seemed very interested by this work and it was positioned so that one could see it through a hole in in a rather recherché sculpture (top right) contributed to the Biennial by Nairy Baghramian. Indeed if you look at the photograph above right you can see someone behind Baghramian’s sculpture looking out through the hole at Lima’s work, which indicates which object was the more engaging.
It became evident after some consideration that Lima’s contribution was in fact an interventionist installation: a work inserted into this major exhibition of contemporary art in a manner that foregrounds the fact that the principal requirement of a work of art is that it should be framed by the art institution.
From this conceptualist point of view Lima’s work was one of the more interesting and intelligent pieces on exhibition. Unfortunately, being a genuine intervention (as opposed to an institutionally sanctioned “intervention”, which has become the norm in post-conceptual fine art at the turn of the millennium) it was probably taken down by the museum staff before the gallery reopened the following day. But this does not detract from the value of Lima’s contribution and now the photo-documentation becomes the work of art, as is the case in many instances of performance, land and installation art.
It is also noteworthy that Lima’s intervention includes the viewers as part of the work of art. This is the case because this artistic intervention now only exists in terms of its photodocumentation and this documentation requires images of people looking at the work in order to validate its status as part of the exhibition, and therefore as a genuine work of art.
Although involvement of the viewer in the work of art has been declared intention of fine artists since Robert Morris’ phenomenological account of minimal art, actual involvement of viewer’s in fine art has been rare: Dan Graham being the most successful out of the minimal-conceptual generation of the 1960s. Accordingly, the photodocumentation aspect of Lima’s contribution to the 5th Berlin Biennial is of particular significance.