i think i mentioned it in this post but i'm reading a collection of essays by martin heidegger. i'm really enjoying thinking about metaphysical ideas of being and nothing at the moment; concepts that, when i try to wrap my small human mind around them, i feel like i'm sucking on one of those super sour warheads that came out in the early 90s. my brain kind of pulls one of those contorted faces and probably looks like a suckerfish, were i to scan it whilst reading.
here are some questions that have yet to be answered* - which it seems is the purpose of philosophy: to blow big gaping holes in your preconceptions about life.
why did life choose life?**
i've read recently that the cell and its code for life (respire/reproduce/communicate) has been around since the beginning of life - only a few billion years after after the big bang. the same big bang which separated space and time from nothing. and heidegger talks about Being - as in the 'thing' in life/beings that makes them being (and not nothing). but what i haven't read anywhere yet, is why.
what is the impetus for life? why did life decide to live (ie, start respiring/reproducing/communicating) - rather than just stick at time and space?
what switches nothing to being?
as an extension to the why of being, is the what. heidegger speaks about The Nothing as everything that is not being, and then some. It's the not, un and never of everything that is. And is very hard to explain in a blog post without sounding like an idiot. But, if i'm reading things correctly, Being is that which has separated itself from Nothing.
But what switches being from nothing to being? Is it really the binary action that it seems to be?
is there a relationship between sound and being?
i'm going to extend this question into a little essay for a grown-up journal, but this is a pretty exciting question i've been playing with. seeing as you (seemingly) either have being or not. and you either have sound or not (which we call silence). perhaps there is a relationship between the physics of sound and silence, and the metaphysics of sound and listening. and if there is a 'divide' or action that facilitates nothing to being, then perhaps this is understood by an action that facilitates silence to sound (listening).
all of it might be complete tosh. but i'm enjoying thinking in this way - wrapping my mind around a sourworm and making it think a whole lot differently about sound - perhaps again as the ultimate force of life. how very elizabethan of me***.
*(there may be philosophers who answer these questions, i just haven't looked yet)
**maybe there's a massive oversized t-shirt in that...
***bruce smith from USoCal talks about elizabethan english believing that sound was anime mundi, the force of life, because it orients us in time and space
UPDATE: it seems i'm not the only one considering the relationship between physics and metaphysics.
i've been gone over a week already, but i feel like i didn't really give berlin a proper goodbye. perhaps because i was holding out a little bit of hope that i might get the residency i was shortlisted for. perhaps because i never fully said hello. perhaps i've never fully accepted how much it seeped under my skin.
it was like being with a lover that was a convenience, until the day you realise you're in love with them.
anyway, as a tearful goodbye to the place, here are the top 5 things that i'll miss about berlin:
dancing every weekend.
apart from new year's day, i danced until the wee hours at least one night on each weekend i was in berlin. i think i've written about berlin's dance culture before, but it is awesome and inclusive and far-reaching. it feels like it's ingrained in the city and its infrastructure. i think it's why i feel so awesome too - all that booty-shakin' has to be good for you, right?
the M10 tram. (otherwise known as the party tram.)
i lived near it the whole time i was in berlin and it made getting home from 4/5am dance-fests enjoyable. and it connected me with kreuzberg, friedrichshain and (strangely) schoeneberg, where friends lived. actually, i'll miss the whole of the public transport system. it may not be as zippy as the underground in london, but it's far-reaching, consistent and runs until way late. [although it's pretty expensive for berlin.]
berlin runs on a different time scale. and i loved it. 3am bedtimes are not unusual. 11am is 'early' and stuff is open, running and available after midnight. what a concept. given that i often do my best work between 11pm and 3am, it was a revelation to be in sync with the place i lived
so much art to see.
even it was a bit shit, there was ALWAYS something interesting to see. there wasn't a sense of an art clique, and i very rarely went to the same gallery twice. i saw a lot, but there were still some great spaces or shows that i didn't get to see. and that feels pretty good to me.
the cheap awesome turkish food and sloerm
ok, so this is a bit superficial, but goddamn the turkish food was good there. and cheap. i really will miss the felafels and the haloumi from bagdad, ali baba and the felafel king. not to mention the baklava and gözleme.
and sloerm, run by the awesome stefan, was my local. i was a regular there, they knew me, collected my mail when i lived upstairs, made good strong coffee (a bit of an anomaly in berlin) and the best muesli ever. the two resident birds, paula and leo, were always cheerful and i will miss the relaxed homeliness off that place.
** obviously these things do not include the awesome people i hung out with.
shout-outs to oehmchen, käthe, lisa, peter, nawid, anna, jules, dominique and dan, alessandro, sarah, tim, on-yau, christian, david. matt and sonja.
and for good measure, here are the top 5 things that gave me the shits about the place - ie, things i will not really miss:
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in theory i support GEMA, but i cannot tell you how fucking annoying and counterproductive it was to have blocked almost every music video (or video containing the slightest hint of licensed music). the first few times, i thought it was kinda funny. like - tee hee, look i can't watch a justin bieber video - but then it eventually really got to me. just ask me about jay-z's 99 problems..
mobile phone plans.
the UK and australia seem to understand mobile communication so much better. data is included in pre-paid packs, mobile numbers are easier to obtain and the rates are much, much cheaper.
no credit cards
i really wish i knew this before i arrived, because i would have sorted my money situation completely differently. i came with the incorrect assumption (see!) that credit cards (specifically mastercards, thanks to my bank) were accepted everywhere and it would be convenient to just put everything on that card.
nope. germans don't do credit cards. they have an overdraft on their savings card, but no credit cards. i got stuck a few times, with a conveyor belt full of groceries or electronic equipment, or art supplies before i figured out that it was pretty universal, and not just my local kaisers, media markt or boesners. it kind of blew my mind a little. i kind of understand it, but as a traveller, it was pretty fucking annoying, i can tell you. and there's something about the protectionism of it that i find a little creepy too.
the postage system.
actually, i love deutsche post's reach/pricing/availability and the fact that my local postamt was open 6 days a week until 8pm! but the thing that annoyed the hell out of me was the confusion between delivery companies and the narrowness of delivery options. if you're name isn't on the door, it's pretty hard to get something delivered. there is a real reliance on living arrangements and you can't just receive mail anywhere, at anyone's place - you have to be on the calling card. it's a bit annoying if you're transient, or you want something delivered to a non-residential address, say.
no free museums
like the EC business, i have come to accept that it's just like this in germany (and continental europe as a whole), but sometimes, just sometimes i wish that the big state museums would have been free. it would have been nice every now and again to take a friend to the pergammon without us having to fork out €9 each time, even for the permanent collection. having said that, it has made me incredibly grateful for the free national galleries/museums in london and back home. huzzah.
i do know that i will be back in berlin as soon as i can, and hopefully on a regular basis.
and in the mean time, keep a chair warm for me.
this is my favourite picture of john baldessari
this is his work in australia at the moment
your name in lights
here's my 'time' for my name up in lights in sydney.
Thursday 20 Jan 08:29:20 AM
see? i'm a fame whore and a sycophant like everyone else :D
i'm back in london. kind of in a holding pattern, on my way back to australia. i head to dubai towards the end of the month and then home.
i miss berlin a lot already. i miss my friends [who are so rad they made me an awesome mixtape. rad friends are really rad]. i miss the ease of the place. and how much stuff i can just do within walking/tram distance.
and most of all i miss how berlin makes me feel about myself.
but here are some things i'm going to see/do in london to stop my heart breaking.
Aware: Art Fashion Identity at the Royal Academy, the including a new work by Hussein Chalayan
Bridget Riley at the National Gallery
Catch up with the Sound Fjord crew
Drink coffee at Monmouth
Drink coffee at Kaffeine
Drink coffee at Present
Drink coffee at Lantana
Finally get back to see a show at Transition Gallery
Finally get to check out imagemusictext
Go to the British Library
Possibly check it out this awesome show by Oval
Properly check out the permanent collection at the Tate Britain
Visit the Courthauld (i'm ashamed to say i've never been)
Visit the V&A. Multiple times
and if you're one of my peeps in london, get in touch - i've got time :)
please help out by buying some small prints.
special art give away.
as a special treat for you all, i'm giving some prints away.
i made a special set of printed 'notes' (A6) - listening currency of two different values: listening and not-listening. each piece is worth either an hour of listening, or an hour of not-listening, to the wonderful person you give it too.
the listening notes are for free. just 'buy' one through the paypal button, and i'll send you one. it's a super-cheap gift you can pass on. or you can pin it up on your wall - i don't mind.
the second in the set, however, the not-listening notes, however, are £10 (which is $A15 or €12). same process, but that hour of not having to listening is worth a little more, don't you think? how much do you value a little peace'n'quiet?
great art pay-my-way
UPDATE: as i mentioned above, £25 from each print will go towards flood relief for residents of queensland, australia - to help them survive.
*all the prints are acrylic on watercolour paper.
december and early january have not necessarily proven fruitful for mucho art viewing here in berlin. that is partially because i decided to hibernate a little and bake gingerbread instead of being a dutiful artist/blogger and traipsing around the galleries. it is also de rigeur for the art scene - everyone shuts down after the middle of december and has a little pause. in australia, that pause is for 6 weeks - just enough time to come here and inhale as much contemporary art as possible. i'm not sure what the peeps in galleries here are doing in their 2-week break, but suffice to say, there's little art to be seen.
however, i have managed to squeeze in a few last-minute sightings and pilgrimages before i start my journey back home to australia next week. here is the last art i saw in berlin. well, for a while.
permanent collection at the bode museum
the sculpture museum ia an amazing mashup of grand design - it's all neo-classical vaults and domes and grand ballrooms, intersected with heavy doors, marble columns and dark green walls. some of the sculpture is a bit repetitive, but it was an opportunity to reiterate my art history education. i could really see the progression of skill and understanding of the human form from the gothic (of which the most amazing work of the time was clearly architectural), to the intensity of baroque sculpture.
i made some interesting notes about the significance of drapery between the 14th and 19th centuries and will be taking that into my future work on fashion.
there were some ridiculous expressions of baby jesus, and i just loved the gothic virgin mary, who had double chins. there were some amazing hand-gestures going on in the baroque period, with one particular sculpture reminding me so much of wyld stallyns that i had to try really, really hard to stop a giggling fit.
my favourite of the museum was the tiepolo cabinet - a room of frescos from the villa volpato panigai. i still can't quite work out why tiepolo and his awe-inspiring foreshortening and dramatic ceilings don't get the kind of acclaim and line-ups that mr buonarotti gets at the vatican. but, given that i was in the room on my own for a large amount of my time there, sometimes i'm grateful for the ignorance of the masses.
last symphony III at vereklasen/werner
i really like where this series by sound fair is going. the last performance by olaf nicolai was one of my top 5 exhibitions of the year.
this work, by annika eriksson wasn't quite as sharp, or as engaging. admittedly, i didn't stick around for the whole 2 hours this time, but it seemed to be about the randomness and relative un-sophistication of a sound performance (theramin performed by non-professionals, it seems). glorifying failure again.
the format of the performance - darkened room, spotlight, amplifier - did appeal to my sense of 'code' around performance and sound-listening - where the audience is primed for something that may or may not happen.
the divide between static sculpture and an active, relational work was muddied, which i liked a lot.
but ultimately the form of a theramin performance, the ironic or impending failure and the overly heavy anticipation within the room was not deep enough to hold me for so long. i'm willing to concede that i may have completely misread the show and, as such, now appear like an ignorant kunstbenause fool. it happens sometimes.
however, if you are reading this and you live in berlin, subscribe to the soundfair or VW newsletters and go to the rest of their events, because they will be amazing.
cory arcangel at hamburger bahnhof
i saw this show a while ago, but didn't get around to writing about it, so apologies if this is all sooo last decade.
i quite like what cory arcangel has done in the past. i had the fortune to be curated into an online video exhibition with him last year and think that his use of remix/collage/selection in tech-pop-culture is heading towards great.
i do get the feeling that everyone else in the world thinks that too, so this show felt a little premature - a little too much fawning over the pretty young thing.
there were two very clear, awesome works in this survey, though: a bound dissertation on the history and structure of the JPEG file compression format - which explained in depth, but in laymens terms about what a JPEG really is. aesthetically it was rudimentary, but i just loved the ethos and the detail behind the work. it also, obviously, places the JPEG in the popular realm and something to be understood. for me, it signified that the jpeg - the slighly inferior image format - will be around for a while. just like VHS and DVD. huzzah.
the other work, which is typical of his video pieces (and a whole lot like other rad remix chix, soda jerk) is the recomposition of a johan sebastian back piece (goldberg variations), using found footage from youtube of people playing musical instruments. it is a split-screen work and is, actually, really rad. it's exhibited in a nice, big, black box and you can just enjoy the original piece, the genius of his editing and the sheer abundance of video imagery of people playing music online. pop culture 101.
ben byrne at experimontag
i continue to learn a lot about australia sound art. even in berlin. actually, given the number of australian sound artists in berlin, that last statement is not as shocking as intended. last monday i got the chance to meet and see ben byrne play at madame claude's. from the robin fox/8-bit style of music, his crazy chaos pad pieces were mind blowing. arhythmic, the compositions were an amazing sight to behold, as ben played this small piece of technology with the same proficiency as a concert pianist.
i also discovered that ben is writing a PhD on the relational aspects of sound art and engagement, which i'm very excited about. but that's just a personal geek-out moment.
nan goldin and edward kienholz at berlinische galerie
a few weeks ago, i was locked out the the berlinische galerie because the auditorium was so packed with people wanting to hear nan goldin speak, that they had to shut the doors. it was one of the weirdest art moments i've had to date.
anyway, i finally got around to actually seeing the show - a survey of work she did in berlin in the early 90s. i love nan goldin. i think her style and the spirit with which she captures the fucked up scenes in new york (and berlin) are amazing. the way captured ordinary people's dark, ugly and yet attractive vulnerability in front of a camera influenced a stack of us in art school. and she proves to me that terry richardson and larry clarke are just misogynist hacks who use this kind of aesthetic to justify child porn.
a nice bonus to checkin' out the nan goldin was getting to see the kienholz' installation the art show. i bloody love what edward and nancy kienholz do. the first time i saw a work of theirs at the MCA a while back and since then i have keenly followed what they've done. this work is an hilarious critique of the art scene, whilst obviously being a loving homage to their friends too. the figurative forms are something that the dada kids would have loved to see i think - human bodies covered in drippy varnish with automotive airvent faces, blowing hot air out to the world. their hearts are transparent electronic circuits, replaying art theoretical diatribes when you push the button.
interestingly, i think the installation manages to overcome a us vs them dynamic by being interactive. you're allowed to touch the sculptures (to push their buttons) and, being life-size, you enter into the 'personal space' of these art scene heavyweight effigies. suddenly you're in control and are on the same level. which means that all the power of their philibustering is sucked out of the situation.
and that's the end of it for a while here. turns i'm totally not ready to leave berlin - which has caught me by surprise. and yet i know that when i get to hug my mum and my family and my awesome buds back home, it'll be alright.
but just so you know, berlin, we're not through yet.
image credits: nan goldin images from the spiegel website
while my laptop was hanging out with virgil in purgatory, i managed to chew through a few books, unsurprisingly. [i also managed to make my own christmas cards, wrapping paper and cookies. but that's not what i'm going to post about, obviously.]
and i just thought i'd share about these books a bit, because, as it turns out, they're all linked in some way and all three have effected me in a profound way - existentially. the nice thing is that two of them were gifts too, which means i now have awesome mind-reading friends who know exactly what kind of garbage to put in my brain.
the trickster makes this world: how disruptive imagination creates culture lewis hyde.
apparently there's quite a famous book by lewis hyde called the gift. i'd not heard of it, so this author and his second big title was all new to me. i was a little dubious about that subtitle, but i peeked at the first page and was hooked from the get-go. in fact, i cheated on the book i was reading at the time - ditched it in favour of the first chapter under the covers. ooh er..
basically, hyde uses stories in mythology about various trickster characters, to show that the wiley, crafty and chaotic traits of the trickster are a vital part of society. He then matched those traits in stories/principles with the traits of the artist in modern society, as a vital trickster character that keeps everyone on their toes.
some of the other areas that i found fascinating included place of chaos/dirt/upheaval (or images thereof) in orderly society; the need for shame/shamelessness in social cohesion; and the skill of a trickster to play with perception, whilst holding the order of perception dear.
Hermes, Coyote, Monkey (and tripitaka), Ifa/Eshu, Picasso, Duchamp and Cage (are all referenced as figures that simultaneous understand the lay of the status quo, respect it and yet seek to subvert or circumvent it, whilst offering it back to the quo on a gold platter, having completely reinventing the status. [And maybe because I was listening to the new Kanye album non-stop during this time, I kept imagining that Kanye West would end up in there in the future sometime.]
there is an admirable element of playfulness about the trickster which hyde kept reiterating (and about which i have a creeping doubt that i have lost recently). it was inspiring to get a bit cheeky, a bit naughty and throw caution to the wind a little. nothing reflects a security in the order of 'things' than acting as though they're not important.
the book was an excellent reminder about the role of chaos, entropy, mishap, coincidence, serendipity and mistake in evolution, change, growth and innovation. trickster also served as an illustration of the position stories, myth, artifice, imagination and fiction have in society as a way to abide by principle and establish a code of conduct.
the canon: the beautiful basics of science. natalie angier
whilst i was reading the trickster, i had an invigorating discussion about science and religion with a friend who had just finished the canon. we were the only ones in a club in stockholm, laying on a mattress and shouting over 105 rpm techno at 95dbs, debating the importance of scientific thinking and spirituality and everything in between. it was a brilliant moment in our friendship, and the momentum to read this fantastic book.
its premise is to concisely and adroitly recap the main tenets of science and scientific research, to upskill adults in the basics. especially after they have convinced themselves that they know nothing about science.
as a science writer, angier surveyed a stack of scientists and academics for their 'top 5 things to know about your field' type information. each chapter covers the principles of each 'flavour' of science, distilling the history of its knowledge and how it relates to life, the universe and everything.
scientific thinking, probabilites (maths), calibration (maths), physics, chemistry, evolutionary biology, molecular biology, geology and astronomy are all covered - from their history to current thinking. and of course, she covers where religion and astrology clash too. in fact, sometimes her subjectivity around the subjects of religion and even intelligent design, and her outright derision at astrology show her cards a little.
in the last two years of high school, despite being a A+ english student and studying 3 languages, i decided that i wanted to be an industrial chemist. so i moved to sydney and started a science degree. turns out it was much harder than i thought: i was convinced i was a failure (thinking that 72% on an assignment was akin to disaster) and the fact that my week would start at 8am on a monday with a mathematics class on matrices in a stuffy room, was a recipe for flunk-out. i bid science a swift adios and turned to print and art instead.
i kept a secret crush on mathematics and chemistry through those years and so reading the canon was like falling in love again. all the old lessons came flooding back, with greater links to subsequent experience or knowledge. the picture of how much everything is related scientifically was quickly seen and i just churned through the book.
thanks to a catholic education, my knowledge of the details of evolution had been a bit loose, so this book was a mind-blowing and yet super easy-to-read lesson on how far we go back (like, to the beginning of cells) and same with the big bang theory. the idea that cells' innate mission has always been to respire, replicate, excrete, communicate and coalesce is mind-boggling to me and is influencing my next read.
i feel like i know more about science now and that i can't hide behind the ignorance of learning it in high school - it's part of a general knowledge and understanding about life. in the same way that i feel it's necessary to understand concepts in philosophy, economics, politics and art in order to be a well-rounded citizen (how neo-classical of me).
and i can see why my friend gave this book to me (and six of his other friends). i feel similarly - like everyone who has let their science knowledge lapse, should pick this up and feel like they know a little more again.
in fact, it was so profound that i ended up in a two-hour conversation with a paleonto-bio-mechanic about his PhD and i held my own! yay me!
basic writings. martin heidegger
i stopped and started with this one. i got distracted by shiny pop non-fiction. but now that i've read both of the previous books, i feel like my take on heidegger is going to actually be better prepared. especially after reading about molecular biology and the big bang (which trace the history of the life, the universe and everything, back to the beginning - before there was even 'let there be light'). After reading about these things, i keep asking myself 'why did life begin? - what is the purpose of Being..
heidegger's big area of questioning/interrogation/query (words which he unpacks as a sign of being) is about Being, with his famous work Being and Time (Zeit und Sein). It is the very capital-B being and different from existence and the nature of being. So far, he's primarily interested in the meaning of Being, and not necessarily the purpose, or the drive behind it. But i'm only a little of the way through so far.
thanks to the simplicity of the english language, there are a lot of being/Being/beings in the text, which are translations from Dasein, Dass-Sein, Was-Sein and Da-Sein. All different relationships to Sein ( the action of being).
heidegger unpacks his questions in a very methodical way, and makes a lot of references to other sciences that tackle existential concepts (which is why i feel like reading The Canon has unexpectedly augmented my understanding of Being and Time). It has been quite interesting to see the history of his thinking around it and the critical 'evolution' of such ideas throughout philosophy and ontological research.
on a more egocentric level, are there levels or classifications or even species of Being? what does the Being of an artist translate to and is it fundamentally different to the Being an accountant? or does it follow biological framework - that the Being of a vertebrate is different to the Being of an invertebrate, but has mutual elements of Being, both being from the animal kingdom and eurakyrotic domain. Or is there just one type of Being?
images: all images from amazon.co.uk
rather than some binary process of 'now you see it' and 'now you don't', the germans talk of sliding into the new year. they wish each other 'guten rutsch' - a good 'slide', which is a much better way of talking about the still-magical time of new year.
i spent most of the year pushing myself to the limit.
this year is gonna be different again. it's my year of dynamic consistency. i have no idea if that's even a plausible phrase, but like a good slide, i'm aiming to get my life into a rhythm that hovers between leaving and arriving. where i can start to be in two places at once (melbourne and berlin), without that resembling chaos, crisis or some kind of breakdown. i am planning on being 'home' wherever i am, rather than homesick - which is the plight of any australian who has spent a chunk of time abroad. i have no idea of the logistics necessary, but i've a decent amount of determination and optimism. that'll get me through, right?
this year i also have a bit project that i'm heading back to australia to work on, which is all about dynamic consistency - a regular structure that involves a changing roster of people and ideas. something that's constant enough to feel reliable, but flexible enough to avoid ghastly stagnancy.
and, other than those two big things (and a desire to go to the desert), the rest of the year is open to a stack of surprise.
here's to another new beginning and i hope you all had a great slide into this year.