Thank You for Your Understanding, 2023

Berlinische Galerie, Berlin

With the Berlinische Galerie closed for conversion work, the artist Cem A. spotted a space for an intervention: on site with a forecourt installation and online on the museum’s Instagram channel.

Since late April, Cem A. has been putting up signs giving fictional reasons for the museum’s closure. The signs are placed on the forecourt every two to three days and echo the aesthetic of official information signs in the public space. They include phrases such as: “The Museum is closed to take a Moment to reflect. Thank you for your understanding”, “The Museum is closed to give the Artist some space. Thank you for your understanding” or “The Museum is closed due to lack of affordable Housing in Berlin. Thank you for your understanding.” At the same time, photographs of the signs are posted on Instagram where representatives of Berlin’s art scene are seen holding these signs inside and outside the museum. Seven signs have been published so far without indicating who posted them or offering any explanations. The posts have attracted significantly more engagement online and sparked lively debate in the comment section. Once Cem A. has been identified as the person behind the intervention, towards its end on 18 May nine more signs and corresponding posts will be published on the museum’s social media channels.

Since 2019 Cem A. has been running the meme page @freeze_magazine, where he posts content with a humorous take on the complexities and contradictions of the art world and the everyday life of artists as well as art criticism in the form of memes. In his artistic practice and in collaboration with art and culture organisations (for example, documenta fifteen and Barbican Centre in 2022 and Louisiana Museum in 2023), Cem A. explores how the cultural phenomenon of memes can be situated within physical environments. The project references meme culture and seeks to construct a viral social dynamic.

“Thank You for Your Understanding” challenges the voice of museums in the social media, which often comes across as neutral and detached. It examines how the public’s critical role can be activated in digital and physical spaces if museums depart from their ascribed role. To this end, Cem A. recontextualises the institutional mechanisms while using the Berlinische Galerie as a platform for discourse about art production and art criticism. The intervention adopts artistic means to test whether art institutions can contribute to meme culture and how analogue events can play a role in the digital space.

Photo: Victoria Tomaschko