tomorrow, my friend marcus brown is starting his latest (very intense) project: an 800km walk from munich to hamburg. technically he's doing it to meet a very important man, from whom he'd like a job. but i know that the real outcomes will be a whole stack of other interesting things.
in the spirit of marina abramovic and francis alÿs, the work/walk will also end up being about longevity, pain, distance, the condensing of space, interaction, isolation, travel and labour.
well, that's what i think anyway.
it's a fucking long way. and the journey will be incredibly painful for marcus - i wish him all the best.
image credit: marcus brown from flickr
francis alÿs, the green line - the guardian
so, since i've been here, i've had quite a list of things to do every day.
each day i'm trying to go to a gallery.
each day i want to do a listening project and then, each day do something towards being able to stay here for longer than 3 months.
each day some of those things are easier to do than others.
in the last week, i have seen some shit-hot artwork. and some shit. stupidly i assumed that all art in berlin must be awesome because it's, you know, german. not so. i forgot that germans have as much bad taste as the rest of the world.
here are some of the exceptions:
essays + observations: the mistake
a new gallery run by an english couple, this is a space after my own heart - one about conversation, critique, quality and art practice that makes no assumptions. not that i have that kind of art practice, but it's one that i aspire to and that i love looking at. i had a fantastic conversation with matthew, one of the directors, about art, quality, conceptual laziness and german art habits. i look forward to seeing more of what they're doing here.
haunch of venison: yoko ono, das gift
this is only the second time i've seen a yoko ono piece in the flesh - i was a bit excited. some of it was disappointingly fey, but there were parts that were beautiful: the motif of the bullet hole - viewed from telescope to a window, through winter coats and then to the back windows (via a wall). the 'smile' interactive work was simple and gentle, in typical ono style. i actually couldn't help smiling as i watched smiling face after smiling face. so of course i added my own in there :)
NGBK/kunstraum bethanien: the tourist syndrome
this is a good group show, although i think the works in the NGBK space are mostly underdone. australian timothy moore has a collaborative work in there, and before i noticed who it was, i found myself liking only his work.
the works at the kunstraum, however, are much better, and speak well about transitory, migratory, icky icky tourism-ory. there are a couple of fantastic works:
an installation/photos of 'hand drawn' LV and gucci bags by alex auriema and senagalese helpers which were sold on the streets of naples, like your standard fakes seen in the back streets of rome, paris and athens;
photos of dystopian 'holiday' pics - setting up picnics on a nice bit of gravel, sunbathing on an old toilet: like anne zahalka works in desolate parking lot neglected spaces in former soviet states. (did i just say photos were great? wow! i've changed...). i didn't catch who they were by - sorry!
and the best was a series of photos/dioramas about an egyptian holiday/comic adventure, egyptomaniac by collaborative team J&K. my all-time fav was horus and anubis in islamic cairo (see above).
if i had the cash, i would have bought it yesterday. laughed my arse off.
sammlung boros (the bunker)
i had heard from a reliable source that this was a super-ace collection and that you had to book 2 months in advance. when i was able to secure 2 tix within a couple of days, i jumped at the chance and dragged on of my new studio mates (a painter from RSA) along with me. as much as i wanted to completely love it, i was pretty disappointed. mostly thanks to expectations i guess.
some of the works were amazing - the shibboleth-style wooden 'crack', by monika sosnowska, through 3 rooms by was great, some of the olafur eliasson works were great to see (although they were smaller/stage - works of museum works, much better executed) and the space itself was impressive. but, i did leave wanting more. and i found it hard to justify to my grumbling painter friend why contemporary conceptual art was worthwhile. existential crisis much?
some of the galleries on linienstraße in mitte are a bit crap. but i guess some of the galleries in paddington and armadale are too, so that's OK.
two nice surprises there, though:
abnormals (i think run by italians)
they had a hybrid work cantiere corpo/corbo: video, costume remnants and illuminated duratrans of a performance. the main work was a three-part opera, performed simltaneously in three adjoining spaces. visually and experientially it was reminiscent of the cremaster code and monika tichacek's the shadowers. sexual, dark and way kinky in parts, it was a compelling show.
neugerriemschneider: pawel althamer
i forgot that i really like pawel althamer's work. i don't even know where i saw it first, but when i walked into the gallery, i was so relieved and excited to be seeing work that was well-constructed and in a nice white cube [sometimes they are exactly what a work needs, OK?].
if i see too many galleries, i'm not going to have time to do my own work, so it's back to one a day for me. that seems kind of manageable. and maybe i'll even embrace my old slacker-fantasies and not even do that.
regular readers will know how rad i think my nanna is. mainly because she is rad: super spunky, independent, hilarious, hip young thang. well, not quite as young as i'd like: today she turns 80.
i can tell you that if i'm half as cool as she is when i'm 80, i'll be well-chuffed.
she still travels regularly, loves all her family, has the best laugh in the world, loves beautiful things, is interested in technology, doesn't suffer fools lightly, is generous, crazily forgiving of my terrible habit of swearing and still really enthusiastic about discovering all there is to offer
i'm super sad that i'm not in melbourne to give her the massive hug she deserves today. but perhaps it's for the best - i might have squeezed all the breath out of her! :)
happy birthday nanna. you rock.
yesterday sarah mosca and i went on a mission to teufelsberg in berlin - to the old NSA listening station. a proper structure for sound/listening in the public realm.
and oh my god, it was fucking amazing.
we had a string of excellent luck: the weather was great, we found our way ok, dodged fences, security and ticket inspectors.
we were like two of the famous five off on ad adventure. we even had a packed lunch - a thoroughly modern version of 'slices of ham and lashings of ginger beer'.
the station was unbelievable - visually and acoustically.
sarah and i did an impromptu quasi-performance of sorts, fucking around with the zany acousitcs of the listening dome - something that both blixa bargeld and alice hui-sheng chang would have been proud of.
i then tried to squeeze in a quick listening project of the lift shaft before die sicherheit arrived. fingers crossed i can go back soonish.
here's wikipedia's history of the place, just to put it into perspective.
oh bruce, how i love thee.
there is a massive bruce nauman show at the hamburger bahnhof at the moment and i had the joy of going to see it with a new berlin buddy david bausola.
it was so lush that i'm going to go back and a) see it again on my own and b) do a listening project there.
dream passage was based on all the works he had done regarding corridors, journeys, passages and empty spaces. of course there were a bunch of his neon works there, which were great, but i honestly think that they could have been left out and it would have made no difference.
however, there were other older works from the collection that i loved seeing and felt absolutely relevant: his art make up works - i hadn't seen them before (and they gave me an idea for future work), his text: flayed earth/flayed self (skin/sink), musical chair,
i pressed myself against the wall (except i did it backwards, for the hell of it) for body pressure and had to be told to do it on the wall, not on the paper (oops!), and then almost ruined the marquette of his room with my soul left out trying to check out the underside, so that was a bit embarrassing.
but apart from those two gaffes, i really enjoyed the show.
the space itself is MASSIVE so i just limited myself to seeing the nauman works, having to pass up works by lawrence weiner, robert morris, yves klein and richard serra. but i will go back for them.
experiencing the kassell corridor was so beautiful. visually, it's striking, experientially, a wonderful reprieve-space, but acoustically it's fascinating - a strange amplification that is almost binaural - the sounds are close and far away at the same time. i listened to other people in the space from the outside before i went in and listened to people outside the space from inside the green crescent-shaped crevice.
as i said, i'm going to go back and do a more formal 'listen' real soon.
david, the meanie, took me into the bookstore and i promptly spent €25 on two books. fuck! but they were SO cheap: a lawrence weiner for €10 and global feminisms for €15! i just had to. regardless of the repercussions.
last week, when i was in venice, i went to the beach. this little australian needed some sun, some saltwater on her skin and some sand between her toes.
i had a ball. i could have swum for hours, save the self-consciousness of being the ONLY one in the water. no, seriously. the only one.
i also discovered that beach culture in australia is VERY different to beach culture in italy. or venice at least.
the least of which is the idea that the beach in italy is just another public place, where usual-ish levels of decorum, dress, behaviour and economy apply.
in australia, the beach itself is a public space that is extraneous to usual spaces, a public place in which to transcend usual public behaviour, dress, decorum and economy with something more private, or perhaps extra-public. bathing is free, there are no rules or real etiquette about the way you dress/undress, you can get changed on the beach itself if you want and all showers/toilets are free-for-alls. those beach boxes are an anomaly in certain areas only.
shouting and public displays of affection are normal-ish and ball games encouraged. swimming in the water is pretty standard and the quality of the water, even in the skankiest of beaches (i'm looking at you st.kilda, bondi) is still pretty rad-town.
for the first time in a while, i acted like an obvious australian at the beach - changed in toilets, swam in an empty sea, lay on my towel, on the sand, and didn't pay for anything.
got myself some funny looks too. excellent.
*not a post about the upcoming brilliant festival in newcastle, australia.
last week i had a free day in linz, after i'd seen enough of ars electronica, and was considering some good old-fashion sight-seeing. there's a beautiful church on the hill i was going to see.
then i met my friend thomas' friend, josef. he is a guide for the mauthausen concentration camp and of course after that, i decided that i needed to go there. he was kind enough to give me a lift there (and back!) and, as well as the official audio guide, i got my own personal guide - extra info and sites that i wouldn't have heard/seen otherwise. especially not in english.
i didn't take many photos - i just really didn't feel like it, but the place was amazing.
i tried to not imbue it with my own interpretation/nostalgia/meaning/drama but it was still a really loaded place. i almost didn't go into the gaz kammer (gas chamber) because, well, i don't even know why - i just didn't want to trample all over that sacred space. something from learning about aboriginal history must be sinking in.
but i did go in. not to ogle, but to pay respects and to learn from the horror. if i make myself a witness, i can sign up to making sure that kind of stuff doesn't happen anymore. the more i face it, the more i can be part of the solution, hopefully.
i cried at the women's camp, when i heard about the hundreds of female prisoners who were shipped from other camps and forced into prostitution for the male prisoners and guards. when they returned to their original camps, they were ostracised and most didn't make it alive. any that did were denied rights of a pension for those years in prison, because they were prostitutes - technically there were criminals.
i marvelled at the intuitive monument that has developed in the 'bunker', the prison. the walls are scrawled with graffiti from younger visitors all over the world and, as yet, hasn't been removed. it reminded me of the kiss marks at oscar wilde's grave in paris.
at the moment, it's the young people's heartfelt monument, compared to the official plaques from the organisations run by adults. i think i liked this idea, although i can't see it sticking.
after the regular tour, we drove down to the bottom of the quarry, which is now a beautiful little waterhole - a natural denkmal (monument), but it was the site of the terrible hard labour and suicide jumps.
and then we took a side tour to the gusen monument and the weirdness that is gusen village - a working burg on the sites of the massive camp: people live in the guards houses, on the site of the brothel, where the prison accommodation used to be. i think i know how indigenous australians feel a little.
i'm really glad i took the time to visit and to have a better picture of recent european history.
i kept thinking about other recent genocides, including the rwandan and sudanese genocides, wondering why the holocaust shocks us more. are we really that racist? or is it the fact that this killing was so calculated and injected into the very fabric of a very sophisticated state and public - its documents, its politics, its legal system and its media.
i've just popped down to the adriatic for a couple of days to absorb as much sun, saltwater, blue sky and 'la dolce vita' as i can before i return to my second winter of the year in germany.
i can tell you that it suits me to a tea here. the coffee, the chillaxed pace, the sun/water combo. even the madness of venice isn't bothering me like it did last time and it's so nice to hang out on the vaporetti again.
i came to check out the architecture biennale (last time i was here for the art biennale) and i kind of cheated 'cos i pretty much followed rory hyde's suggestions with a few added extras of my own and it was actually perfect.
i'm lucky that i'm not an architect, so whilst i have a level of critique and certainly believe that architecture needs to be political and has an undeniable relationship to people (ie, without people, architecture is dysfunctional), but i haven't formal training, so i can be more easily pleased than when i go to the art biennale. i can also 'skim' things a little easier.
it was also super-nice to have a working camera. last time i was in town, my camera had just broken. boo.
rory's suggestions are here
and it was an excellent itinerary. i had slightly different highlights, but still massive thumbs up to mr hyde. thanks rory!
here are my thumbs up:
japan - form is great, politics is satisfyingly present and videos are excellent - i watched all 3.
australia - they managed to make the cox disaster into a great space, it's immersive, interactive and the floodslicer movie is a great clip of the best of oz architects, which i also watched all the way through. i also bought a t-shirt (sucker).
OAM preservation - it really was great. the photo index, the alternate history, the not-so-slick look relief.
the selgascano flexible corner space was also an excellent antidote to all the furrowed brow gloss.
hans ulrich obrist the ubiquitous - his interviews really were great - especially as they were still very 'current' - undertaken within the last few weeks. sadly, no where near enough time to watch them all.
janet cardiff - motet for 40 voices. in the round, multi-directional sound sculpture. nice to see sound relating to architecture gets a super-small look-in.
transsolar+tetsuo kondo - cloud room. it wasn't as claustrophoic as the gormley white light, so was actually really engaging. it also managed to create a rene magritte-style space, probably by accident, which i loved.
the OE (olafur eliasson) water whip - wet to the previous smoke, it uses water, light and motors to articulate space with trajectory.
studio mumbai - not on its own, but as a follow-up to the 1:1 architecture exhibit at v&a.
oh, and venice itself. it's pretty fuckin' spectacular.
wim wenders's film - interesting idea, but could have been halved - and if i saw one more person close their eyes and 'drink in' the building, i was going to vomit on the carpet.
the aalto exhibit in finlandia was extra disappointing. i was hoping that would be super-rad.
still a lot of usual architecture presentations that don't necessarily deal with real people, or the nature of public life or even have guts.
and obviously, this isn't based on a comprehensive study of the biennale: just a snapshot.
tomorrow, i think i might go to the beach. laters!
we make money not art spoke about this project a while back, but i got to see it for real yesterday.
and, for the record, it is fucking brilliant.
i didn't have much of a chance to see the whole documentary, but i did take my time checking out the book and i embarrassed the fuck out of myself with my laughter reverberating around the whole warehouse. not that the subject itself is funny per se, but thwaites has, in perfect english manner, manage to bring a sense of candour, wit and self-deprication to the process that is instantly endearing.
the task, to create from scratch (like literraly - raw materials) a toaster. the kind that argos sells for £3.64. considering the time, materials, efforts - the thwaites toaster cost £1187.54 and the documented process and execution is priceless.
if you ever get the chance to see it. or when the book is published, please do everyone a favour and see it/buy it/borrow it.
it's a finely crafted critique of our instant culture, a reminder how far we've come from making our tools ourselves and disarms the romanticism attached to those 'good ol' days'. and it starts with a perfect douglas adams quote too:
“Left to his own devices he couldn’t build a toaster. He could just about make a sandwich and that was it.” -Mostly Harmless, Douglas Adams, 1992
image credit: daniel alexander, thanks to d-build
my time at ars electronica has been oddly influenced by the book i'm reading. my first proper day strangely resonated with cildo mereiles' ideas about circuits and circulation in society - that art can really make a difference in these circuits.
the two main circuits he inserted work into were money (currency) and coca cola distribution, but i had been wondering about what others there were, when i walked into carlo ratti/MIT's presentation.
carlo presented two main projects: trash track and sea swarm.
trash track is an older work, based in seattle that seeks to track the removal chain of our consumer products to the same end that the supply chain is tracked (and they don't like you using their imagery). hundreds of volunteers 'tracked' their garbage and ratti presented some stunning video and still visualisations. sadly, when you see these within the wider festival exhibits, you can't actually find anything more about the products other than a map of where they went. it wasn't clear (to me at least), whether they were mulched, re-used (like was a paper starbucks cup picked up by a beggar and used to get a bottomless refill?) or taken to a recycling plant, or left to degrade on the streets? perhaps they're rolling this info out.
but, i think it's important that this research continues and spreads and gets taken up by as many cities as possible, as an audit of our waste/sanitation circuits. and, it could also be a fantastic tool for some great artforms - manipulating the circuits so that the same cup you threw away ends up on your doorstep every time. or gets redirected to ash keating's mega installation. or something.
obviously found myself thinking about the use of existing circuits/systems in order to 'repair' the environmental, social, financial and philosophical malady of our disposable mindset. and i started with the festival itself.
for the first time, ars electronica was based in a massive, cleared out, ex-industrial space ever-so slightly away from the centre of the city - the old tabakfabric (tobacco factory). aesthetically, acoustically and historically, it was amazing and there was a real 'collected' vibe sometimes.
but, in festivals past (when the works were spread between the galleries and spaces throughout the city) we would all eat in existing eateries - paying their staff, using their existing furniture, utensils, toilets, kitchens, systems of disposal/clean-up/supply, use existing public transport modes, discover the smaller details of the city and expand the existing city with people and art.
this time, we hardly went to any of the local cafes or restaurants.
this time, we had special on-site catering (that was mostly expensive and limited), special cutlery/crockery shipped in, disposable beer cups (even with a pfand), extra pop-up kitchens, fridges, kegs and energy supplies, extra portable toilets, extra staff and signage and furniture and lighting.
see where i'm going?
i know that there are different 'repair' benefits to a separated, concentrated and contracted 'festival atmosphere', but given the discussion about clean-up, technology and all the exhibits about repairing the environment, i couldn't help but wonder if this festival model itself was not in everyone's best interest.
now, see this.
it's the first thing i saw when i arrived at ars electronica at 9pm on Friday night. yes, that's james blake. here's how it played out
act 1: lauren freaks out.
act 2: lauren dances for over an hour with a massive grin on her face.
act 3: lauren even talks to james, who is stupidly lovely and a bloody genius.
act 4 (fade to black - at 4:30am): lauren claims bragging rights to her friends in australia about it.
last night i was an interesting night for thinking about the use of sound to appropriate space.
it started with a series of performances for listening spaces, as part of the sound art program at ars electronica. of course i missed the first set trying to find something to eat without meat in it. which i'm still cross about - it included a perfomance of luigi nono's la fabrica illuminata, which i only just heard about last week (thanks huw!).
but, after that i saw/experienced some brilliant works - two by arvo pärt that took place in a room where there is a water-based sound-wave visualisation work. both works, at either end of a long warehouse space, influenced the play of light onto a wall from the shimmering water. the light and water articulated the acoustic resonance of the music in terms of the space - it was perfect. for the first work i watched the performers and the space, for the second, just the space.
after that, we all went outside to listen to another work, in the 'public' space. it was amazing and shocking for me to see immediately that being 'outside' in 'public', all prior codes of music listening etiquette went out the window. people were walking around, drinking beer and eating, i was tweeting about it, people were talking, facing all kinds of directions and there was hardly any 'attention'. there was no 'performer' as such, although the context was still within the frame of this series of sound perfomances.
i always knew that the place of the stage/frame and black box/white box was to bring people to attention, but i had never seen it contrasted and enacted so quickly. it was amazing.
next, we were in the sound space - part of the tabakfabrik that has been singled out as an amazing resonant space and within which a lot of minimal sound works have been played over the last few days - because of the amazing acoustics and reverb. rubert huber with franz hautzinger played a sound field, which i mainly experienced by lying on my back and staring up at the ceiling, letting the composition envelope me.
i noticed how people listening throughout these performances, and it was interesting to note the dynamics in this last spatial work. the traditional dynamic between performer/audience was rendered useless by the end and again, it was about the work and how it was experienced.
it started off with a stack of people facing the centre, where the instruments were. after half way (during which i had been lying down the whole time), i noticed that people who couldn't "not-watch" had left, and the rest had found positions lying down on the floor, propped up against the wall, relaxing into their chairs and assuming positions more conducive to a non-visual attention.
right up my alley.
in fact, people were so relaxed that the last 5 minutes of a performance included a new bass-line: from a snoring member of the audience, which reverbed throughout the building. me and a couple of peeps almost wet ourselves repressing our laughter.
then, as a compliment, or adjunct to that on the way home, i was walking home through the empty streets of linz when a pair of drunks came walking down the hill, singing. i could hear them from about 500 metres away and it was such a beautiful sight - arm in arm, walking and singing some english pop song together. as we got closer, they didn't even stop singing - we just waved at each other and they carried on belting out this tune, which carried through the whole city. i could hear them for about 500m after we passed too - i giggled my arse off the whole time.
i loved it! they were using the empty city as a perfect acoustic stage, again not for the audience/performance dynamic but for the work itself.
image thanks to rubra from flickr. i will upload my pics a bit later
for those of you who know me, the idea that i might have spent 2 days in a city and not been to a gallery, or run around like an idiot, might be shocking.
perhaps that's why it has been so great.
i'm in berlin and i've just spent the time moving my stuff into my studio/wohnung, writing postcards, emailing updates to my friends and family, catching up with some peeps from back home and my german lieblings here. i've used this time as a little bit of admin time, and it feel spretty good. i'm currently looking over the top of berlin, so i have a whole lot of sky to look at, a tree that is a bit eucalyptish and some funny little birds that remind me of magpies.
i've slept until 11am both days and have generally had a rather innocuous little break. i can't tell you how much i need it :)
the last week was pretty full of stuff and tomorrow i head to ars electronica, which will also be full of more stuff. and then, on my way back home - venice (more stuff) and munich (again).
so, i've been treating these days in berlin as a bit of preparation - downtime without the beach. or something.
it's been quite nice, really.
usual service will resume tomorrow, i expect, as i quickly wrap up the last of isea and a few cool things from london part 2.
Posted by lauren at 16:35