The Importance of Drinking and Smashing Innumerable Bottles on a Giant Pile of Beer, until It's Gone that Is
By Eli Epstein-Deutsch
posted: 05-26-11
The Bierberg

It's not an out and out characteristic, or quite a trend, but in the German capital they do seem to love heaps. Perhaps it's because the 350-mile-city itself is so devlishly flat. One of the tallest mountains around is Teufelberg or "Satan's Hill," the tremendous aggregation of wartime rubble just north of West Berlin's lush Grunewald forest. The word, I believe, is still out on whether one of Hitler's secret bunkers is still buried at the core.

Thus far it does not appear that "The Recovery of Discovery," a pile of 72,000 full, drinkable beer bottles piled up in Berlin’s KW Institute for Contemporary Art, will have achieved quite the same notoriety, though it definitely had a impish pull. I posted in recent times a reflection on Urs Fischer's "You" the senseless excavation of a gallery floor. This "Recovery" is, in a way, the topological obverse of that, you could say.

The mise-en-scene was no less hazardous than a steep crater: shards of broken glass were everywhere (one ripped a chunk out the sole of my hard leather boots: thank Duchamp I didn't wear sandals that day), Hooky playing highschoolers perched on top of the great mound slung half empty bottles around the space, shattering them against walls. I drank two and then hurled an empty myself, discus-style: it was quite satisfying.

I can also only imagine the gallery was also a significant draw for Berlin's sizable Turkish population; the beer featured was EFES, very popular between Istanbul and Mt. Ararat.

All in all, "Recovery" was one of the more successful recent manifestations of transient, participatory art in the vein of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, who invited visitors to abscond with museum-installed candy until the exhibition was no more. There, the ephemerality was explicitly thematized. Here, I took the joy of communal hooliganism to be the primary subject, and one well suited to its general environs.


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