On Isa Genzken’s, “Die kleine Bushaltestelle”

— Karl Holmqvist


Isa Genzken, “Die kleine Bushaltestelle”
Schinkel Pavillon and Kino Arsenal, Berlin
January 27 – March 11, 2012

Isa Genzken, Die kleine Bushaltestelle (Gerüstbau), 2007-2010, still

It seemed like such a good idea when two of the art world’s more iconic characters, artists Isa Genzken and Kaï Althoff, decided to film themselves and put together a series of filmic episodes under the title Die kleine Bushaltestelle. The film was made between 2007 and 2010 apparently, but only premiered this winter in 2012 and is credited to Isa Genzken. The acting of the two main characters is flawless as they play themselves, but also a set of doctors, prostitutes, private investigators, and infants. They sometimes use their real names and sometimes invent new ones for themselves, their outfits, ages, and genders alternate with complete fluidity.

The film is filmed in Berlin, Cologne, and New York in four-star hotel corridors, in the artist’s studio and office, or while slumming it, hanging out on the pavement outside a Berlin department store. While sitting on a balcony, taking a break from their work as prostitutes, “Kai” serenades his friend with a haunting melody that will stay in the viewers’ heads for the rest of the screening.

We can also see them in a New York sports bar, here as themselves while discussing the possibilities and intransient failures of political art, with a LOUD flat screen monitor broadcasting sports events in the background. Topics vary equally with the settings, the unpredictability of Berlin weather reports compared to that of New York ones. The necessity to have money, and lots of it, or the kind of angst involved in being an artist and a semi-public persona.

The film obviously will bring even more exposure to the two artists. Isa Genzken is said to have wished for the DVD copy to have mass distribution and to be available at every local supermarket counter. It seems no matter how many roles, voices, and disguises they adopt, they always come off as themselves. Genzken’s big, dark eyes as she’s trying to figure out the current mood of her colleague hold a world of expression. She’s also extremely convincing in a classic white lab coat playing the doctor, and showing both her patient and us in the audience an example of extremely strong self-possession. Kai Althoff, on his end, is perhaps at his most alluring when playing a teenage delinquent in the sketch that has given the film its name. As he comes strolling down a Berlin street carrying his favorite pillow with him, he comes across a severe looking middle-aged lady having decorated a bus stop and sitting there observing her turf. The young man proceeds to place his pillow on the lady’s shoulder and acts as if he’s about to settle in before he gets a sharp reprimand from the lady, who will have nothing of it. The list goes on with waiters, inmates, a chain-smoking piano teacher with her asthmatic pupil, famous artists, and dog walkers, …rather than illustrating in any way the respective artistic practices of these two artists, the film gives a sense of the ever abundant imagination that goes into them as well as into this very film. I will want to view it many times and then, I just can’t wait for the sequel!

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► From the same author
On “Gianni Versace Retrospective” at Kronprinzenpalais, Berlin in May #19
On Dorothy Iannone’s exhibition “This Sweetness Outside of Time” at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartkunst, Zürich in May #13
Kiss me, kiss me, cover my body in Love in May #13
On “Pacific Standard Time, Art in Los Angeles, 1950 – 1980” in May #9
Rirkrit Tiravanija, Lung Neaws Visits His Neighbours in May #7
Ken Okiishi, (Goodbye to) Manhattan in May #7
From the A to the K in May #5
Danh Vo at Kunsthalle Basel in May #2
Josef Strau at Malmö Konsthall in May #1