From human struggles to ecological perils — two thought-provoking exhibitions to see at C/O Berlin • Art de Vivre

From human struggles to ecological perils — two thought-provoking exhibitions to see at C/O Berlin

6 minutes to read
Dec 05, 2023

Nestled behind the Zoologische Garten, C/O Berlin consistently showcases exceptional works by globally recognized artists. This fall, it unveiled two distinct exhibitions that seamlessly coexist, offering compelling perspectives for contemplation. Mary Ellen Mark’s 'Encounters' and the group show featuring twelve artists, 'Image Ecology,' confront critical issues through impactful images and installations.

Giving a voice to the unheard

Amplifying the voices of the unheard, American photographer Mary Ellen Mark dedicated her life to capturing images that provide a platform for marginalised groups who lack the means to express their struggles. Through her poignant photographs, Mark illuminated the harsh realities of living in the shadows, devoid of the privileges often taken for granted by others. The exhibition 'Encounters' delves into the theme of the lower class, featuring powerful snapshots of lower-class families, severely ill women at Oregon State Mental Hospital, and runaway teenagers in Seattle.

Each image within the collection encapsulates myriad stories, prompting the audience to reflect on their own privileges and fostering empathy for the pain experienced by the subjects. While the majority of Mark's works are rendered in black and white, a section of the exhibition introduces colour through 'Falkland Road,' showcasing vibrant images of prostitutes in Bombay. Among these, a particularly poignant and heart-wrenching photograph captures a child prostitute crying in a bar. Despite the vivid colours, these images evoke feelings of heartbreak and distress, forging a deep connection between the audience and the subjects.

Photo 1 - Contortionist with Sweety the Puppy. Photo 2 - Vashira and Tashira Hargrove, Suffolk, New York, 1993. Photo 3 - Oregon State Hospital, Salem, Oregon, 1976 © Mary Ellen Mark, Courtesy of The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation and Howard Greenberg

Another impactful photograph hails from the Oregon State Mental Hospital, titled 'Laurie in the Ward 81 Tub.' The penetrating gaze of a young woman's dark eyes seems to peer into the viewer's soul, as if privy to their innermost secrets. Simultaneously, the image conveys a desperate plea for help while conveying the gradual acceptance of lost freedom.

'Image Ecology': Exploring the repercussions of climate change

'Image Ecology' serves as a stark contrast to Mary Ellen's photographic narrative, exploring the poignant aftermath through varied artistic mediums. The show delves into the repercussions of climate change, vividly portraying the destructive effect of human carelessness on nature. Through diverse mediums, the twelve artists skillfully depict the consequences through visuals of desiccated valleys, submerged roads, and artefacts collected from the ocean.

Photo 1 - Richard Frater. Concrescence Plot bei CO Berlin, 2023 © CO Berlin Foundation, David Von Becker. Photo 2 - Les noirceurs du fleuve rouge, 2019 © Coline Jourdan. Photo 3 - Trapped in the Dream of the Other, 2017 © Revital Cohen. Tuur Van

'Image Ecology' confronts the paradox of photography itself, acknowledging its role in environmental degradation through the production of non-recyclable materials. The exhibition goes beyond mere portrayal, illustrating the interconnectedness and dependence of all life—both human and non-human—on a global scale. It also propels the audience to contemplate forward-looking decisions that could pave the way for more sustainable everyday practices.

The installation maintains viewer’s engaged by addressing the overarching issue in innovative and creative ways, bringing the urgency of the climate crisis closer to the audience. C/O gallery, known for its commitment to exhibiting artists unafraid to confront harsh realities and use their art as a platform for often overlooked issues, continues this tradition with 'Image Ecology.'

Whether you're a resident or a brief visitor in Berlin, a visit to C/O gallery this fall and winter is a must to appreciate and reflect upon these two compelling exhibits.


For a deeper dive into the art world, discover Grayson Perry's joyous retrospective 'Smash Hits.' 

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