Heather McShane, Umlaut: American Artists on Germany, German Artists on America in The Lantern daily, Chicago, October 7, 2011

Except for the visually impaired, people cannot have dogs accompany them on trains in the United States. This is one difference between the United States and Germany. After adopting a beagle recently, Curator Ines Meier of the show Umlaut at the DANK Haus in Lincoln Square discovered this. Now she walks an hour with Buckley (pictured above) – whose named after the dog in The Royal Tenenbaums – to work every day; sometimes it takes two hours to walk home, depending on how many other dogs they encounter. Buckley barked, nipped at my heels, tugged on my skirt’s hem – he’s still a puppy so the behavour was excusable – as Meier led me through the exhibit, which opens on Friday, October 7 (today!), at 7:00 p.m.

We started in a side room with a timely video piece by Berlin artist Linda Weiss. The clips show shots of empty cubicles and offices in a New York bank (she’s sworn to secrecy about which one; she knows another artist who worked there and granted her admittance). Works from Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa’s The Anarchist Banker run as captions along the bottom of the screen. Sound clips from the movie The Thomas Crowne Affair play in the background.

From there, we entered the main room of the exhibit. Tiered and on pedestals or in chairs, the heads of deer and boar wait, many open-mounthed – Meier called them a “choir“ – for Berlin-based artist Doreen Uhlig to direct them remotely through a computer screen (this will happen at the opening reception). Another opening night event will be a reading by poet Daniel Poppick, a student in the Iowa Writer’s Workshop; copies of his poem “Map of Arrows“ have been folded into paper airplanes to be distributed and thrown.

Seven-time lightning survivor Roy Sullivan inspired Karen Winzer’s six photographs and a burnt oak branch. Meier explained Winzer’s fascinated with the Guinness World Records, Sullivan holding the one for person struck by lightning the most times and surviving (he later killed himself over unrequited love). The photograph below is hers.
All in all, the show reminds me of a book called These Strange German Ways, which I received before my first visit to Germany. The book explains cultural differences, though it doesn’t mention the allowances of dogs in Germany (I discovered that on my own.). I like how customs we don’t necessarily think peculiar in the United States can semm peculiar Germans and vice versa. However, Flat daddies (the inspiration for Meier’s work)...

Other artists with work in Umlaut include Annette Frick, Ashley Lamp, Anthony Lewis, Taylor Littrel, Petra Lottje, Andres Malo, Nicholl Ullrich, Shane Ward, Sonja Wegener, and James Wetzel.