Over the next two days I took it easy a bit, woke up kind of late and just wrote and read in the mornings. Planned my schedule for the festival the next week and made sure everything for the start of my final semester was squared away. Early afternoon on Wednesday I headed out into town, my plan was to go to the museum of science but once I got there and found they had limited hours that day I didn’t think it would be the best idea, I was sure it would take more then 2 hours to get through it. So I walked down to Kreuzburg, an area of town known well for its food. I had looked up online “10 Best Cheap Eats” and this place called Curry 36 came up, saying that it had Currywurst prepared the traditional way. I was passing by it and figured I might as well have another. I ordered my meal and stood at the table sipping my Berliner Beer listening to the multitude of languages unfolding around me, the cold glass stealing away the warmth from my hand but with each sip, a slight recovery. I guess the traditional way to have a Currywurst is to have it without the skin, I actually think I enjoy the not to traditional one, it has more crisp to it, but it was still good.
I had heard that there was an independent film festival going on so I checked that out and found that there was a bunch of showings at a local theater not far from where I was. I got on the U-Bahn and headed to Babylon. When I got there the door was closed and I peered inside the glass to see if anyone was inside. A man at the far end of the room saw me, smiled and came to open the door. He explained that they only open 10 mins before a showing. He gave me a pamphlet listing the shows for the evening and I looked though it trying my best to decipher the german. In the end I mostly worked off the picture in the booklet and the flyers scattered about to make my decision. I had the choice between a spanish film, Pescador and german film, Uber Das Meer. The spanish one looked rustic and maybe something about a struggling family or a forgotten love, perhaps a drama. The german one looked dark and mysterious, with a cover of a man far out on a foggy dock, like a suspense or thriller maybe. I went with the german film.
I got my ticket and my beer, yes beer in the theater is great, and followed the mans directions on how to get to the screening room which is not located in the main theater area. Out that door, down the road, to your left, down the stairs. I sat down and had some small talk with a group of german business men sitting behind me, we clanked beers and the movie began. It started with a scene of two german men in all black wetsuits looking quite sneaky. I found out quickly that there were no subtitles but by no means did this ruin my experience. I have gotten used to watching shows without subtitles, I watch Turkish soap opera with a friend of mine from time to time and its quite entertaining trying to figure out whats going on. Since I don’t have someone with me to confirm whether I am right or wrong about the storyline whatever I tell you about the movie is purely my impression of it, it may be way off.
Uber das Meer translates to Over the Sea, after watching for a bit I realized that it was also more of a documentary about a mans story about his near death experience out on the water with a friend. The area of the sea that they were swimming was a dangerous one and it was guarded heavy by Nazi troops, they could not just go swim freely they had to sneak in. One time they were apprehended by an officer and taken away in there vehicle. Another time they were stopped at a road block by a group of inspectors, in the trunk they had all there equipment and knew if it was found they would be in trouble. The officer tried opening the trunk from the back and it was jammed, then he tried getting into the trunk from the folding seat cushions but his light was busted and he couldn’t see inside. Luckily they got away.
These men would practice their swim technique in the local pool then swim way far out to sea whenever they got a chance. Until the day disaster struck and the mans friend almost drowned, In order to save his life the man attached a floatation device to his body tied a room to his own waist and tugged him back to shore. They were something like 20km out, which is almost 12.5 miles! Crazy far! I watched as the mans face explained the struggle he had out at sea, on screen he looked like he was reliving the event, shifting from disbelief and horror, to fear and anxiety, to perseverance and willpower. His face was ridden with wrinkles of time and beaten down with scars of the past, his eyes looked like dark green marbles, swirling in shades of emerald and black. When I watched only his eyes, I learned more than what any words could have expressed. The eyes are such an incredibly transparent part of ourselves. It is almost impossible to hide what is hidden within them.
When the movie was over I called Edrin, his work is right up the street from the theater I was at. We went out for a beer then I headed back to my new home. I took the M4 tram going in the direction of Zingster street and got of at Indira-Ghandi stop, oh cool thing, I am staying at the corner of Indira-Gandhi Strabe and Chopinstrabe, pretty good combo I think! Anyways, I rung the bell when I arrived and headed up the four flights of stairs to Flo’s apartment. He was playing WoW! His troll mage on a private server, Wrath of the Lich King patch. It made me really want to play again. Maybe I will treat myself to a month of two when I return home, its been a while. I made some eggs, as it seems to be the cheapest and healthiest option on my budget then went to bed. Who says you cant go to Europe for a month and live on only $500 total? Not me.
Thursday I walked around Berlin quite a bit exploring the stores and local galleries, in the evening I went to a Chamber Concert at the Berlin Symphony. Trio Jean Paul was playing a very enticing set for piano, violin and cello. Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Trio No. 1 in E flat major Johannes Brahms String Sextet No. 1 in B flat major (arr. for piano trio) Franz Schubert Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat major I got discounted tickets for being a student which was a nice surprise, so with the extra money I bought myself a nice glass of whiskey to start of the show. I went and sat in, waiting for the musicians to revel themselves. They are greeted onstage by about a 1/3 filled audience, the room is wonderfully designed almost like the inside of a very modern temple. The ceiling is funnel-shaped, asymmetrical with the cut out in the peak relieving a slightly off-white interior. This is where all of the wires are hanging down for the lights and microphones. From where I am sitting it looks like a canopy in the peak of the ceiling with a web of wires attached to it. I am slightly indecisive if the wiring adds to the overall look or detracts. The musicans begin to play and the hall fills with beautiful harmonies, bouncing off the carefully designed walls to make the sonic experience that much more powerful. My favorite performance must have been Brahms, it had a strange melancholic feeling to it. There were these two voices within the pieces that would talk back and forth to each other, at some points arguing, while at other times in agreement, but at all times in conflict as to what the other one wanted. Like neither could be pleased with themselves or with the other. Schubert came second and Beethoven was third. When it was over, I decided to go for a night walk in Tiergarden to revisit the places I had walked in the daylight a few days earlier, and to recreate the water and photo experiment I had been captivated by. I walked into the cold woods, the air was brisk but at least I was dressed for it. The park was so different at night, it was hard to even tell you were in the middle of the city. The lights behind you would slowly start fading out as you continued deeper into the trees, there weren’t any people around but every once and a while you would see a small critter running about through the bushes and up in the mess of branches above. I found the stream I had been to before and sat by the water for a while. The top of the stream had a layer of ice of it now giving a nice opaque background to some of my photos. I searched for a rock of some sort so that I could throw it in the pond and capture the transitions between the water and ice. I couldn’t find any rocks! What is this place did they clear out all the rocks from the park or something? I searched and searched and finally found a small stone. I set up my camera, threw the rock and pressed the button. Firing off at 4 frames a second I captured the transition of ice to water. Sadly only a small part of the ice broke off, I guess the stone wasn’t big enough. I stayed in the park for a while, trying my experiment a handful of times till I got tired of trying to find rocks. Then I made my way out of the trees once again and into the forest of metal and glass.
January 20-21st, 2014
Through the rustling of bags and slamming of doors in the morning on Monday I couldn’t help but
start my day early, probably for the best as well. I greeted some of the fellow travelers in my room, there homes ranged from Italy to Australia, some passing through while others were in Berlin to stay. I made my way downstairs and took advantage of the free breakfast offered at the hostel; bread, salami, corn flakes and coffee. Then reality set in and I knew I had to find somewhere else to stay. There was this other guy who said I could stay with him for like a week a few days ago but he hadn’t responded to my latest message so I wasn’t sure what was going on with that, what was his name? Oh yes Jeffrey, an LA tattooist living in Berlin.
I set up downstairs in the lobby where the internet was most reliable and started posting on couchsurfing. It takes a lot of time to find a host, there are so many of them on there and most with very detailed profiles. Also the way you write and what you talk about in your email is so very important, I think I have gotten it down by now after using it for as long as I have but still each time it takes forever. I emailed about 12 hosts, caught up on my emails, connected with Edrin to make sure he was still alive and tried for the first time connecting with my parents. I called my Dad but as soon as he picked up he was like, “Umm.. I’m so tired…can we just talk later hun?”, “Yes, Hello Father, nice to talk to you as well. Im doing good, thanks for asking! I was homeless yesterday. No big deal. Talk later!” Just kidding, I didn’t say that. “Ok, Ill call back another time, Bye!”. They are funny, I love how they just don’t worry at all, its one of the many things that makes them so great.
Honestly, Monday I didn’t do much except work on finding a place to stay. It was very icy out also so when I did finally go out for dinner I almost slipped and cracked my head on the ice, good times. Lets continue right into Tuesday.
I woke up early Tuesday with hope of having an inbox full of Acceptance emails from the people i wrote yesterday. But nope. Not one. Sigh. Though all of this I was desperately trying to post my weekend blogs but the internet was terrible and it took me like two days to upload four pictures. What I did next was sort of out of desperation. When I was first making plans to come to Berlin I wrote a ton of couchsurfing people. I got quite a lot of responses, mostly no but some maybe. I rewrote them again in hopes that some of them may now have a free couch. I wrote and waited.
It was like 11:20am and checkout for the room I was in was noon. So I had to decide in the next 20 mins whether to book another night. Then like magic I got an email from a man named Florian or Flo. I had written him about a couch but he said before that he already had people staying and then he was leaving for Bavaria for like a week, I wrote him back previously and just mentioned going out for a beer or something. He was writing me now to make plans to go out, I explained to him my situation and he told me to come on over! I was so relieved and seriously in the nix of time. I told the front desk I was leaving and with 10 mins to spare I went up to the room grabbed my stuff, through my sheets in the laundry bin and hopped on the U-Bahn to Weissensee, which is right around where Kinderkranken Haus was.
I arrived to a cup of warm coffee and super awesome host. He is a programer, which got me excited already. He works remotely for a programming company out of Bavaria, his home town. Depending on the job he works on different things but it seems like now he is currently working on server development and web-based protocols. He has also traveled all over the world; he told me about stories from his one year trip through Thailand, Malaysia to Australia and the many other places in between. He at one point worked on a tree planting farm in Australia for about a month, at first I was like “Wow, that must have been fun!” but he quickly changed my thinking. I guess every morning you are given like 80 saplings and a small shovel, you go around and make a hole, put a tree in, cover, repeat, repeat, repeat, go get more sapling, repeat. He said it gets quite old and not very fun, which I now can imagine.
I made dinner, pasta and sauce with mushrooms and onions, then guess what…we played DOTA2! I was so happy to hear that he plays games! This lead to much conversation about WoW, Diablo, LoL, Left4Dead and well, Steam in general. It was great to just hang out and play some games. The past weeks have been amazing but very busy and after that fiasco with Brigitt and not having a place to stay, I was happy to just chill out for a night.
Sunday I visited a historic place but it was not a museum, it didn’t require a ticket and there was no advertising. Nonetheless it may be one of the last places in Germany of its kind. I heard that it will be torn down in the next few months so it was a must see. The place is called Krampnitz, a military compound about 20 mins North of Potsdam which is west of Berlin. It was built by the Germans during the rearmament period in 1937 and used by the Nazis until the end of World War II, then it was operated by Soviet troops until it was abandoned in 1992. There is a room in Krampnitz with a ceiling mosaic displaying the infamous german eagle, cross and swastika, possibly one of the last authentic symbols remaining in Germany.
It took about an hour to get there, first you have to take the train to the west until the last stop, then another train till the last stop and finally a bus out into the middle of nowhere. But as soon as you get off the bus the place is right behind you. Being unsure of how security was at the place we entered in an opening on the side of the compound. There were tracks showing that vehicles had been driving through so I made a point of staying off the roads, with that I went into the first building I saw. The floors were really warped in this place, besides the main corridors which were cement, the rooms with wood flooring were buckling in on themselves. The floors were almost wavelike, rising and falling with the expansion and contraction of the wood due to the changing weather and temperature. I did my best to avoid stepping on those areas.
Hallway after hallway, silent and empty, with only the creaking of broken window shutters moving to the wind and the occasional iron door slam from who knows exactly what. Climbing up each step to a new floor but feeling as if it may be deju vu, the structure of a military complex very much resembling the structure of the military itself; ordered, repetitive. There were these staircases in the middle of each of the buildings, they would spiral up to the next level, very strong and made of cold cement, covered with shattered glass reflecting the light coming in from the nearest window, like pieces of crystal needing some attention. The crunch under your feet was unavoidable, watching your step to make sure the shards weren’t big enough to cause any damage. When reaching the top of the building you could look into the holes in the ceiling and admire the skeleton of this living creature you have been traveling through. Massive wooden beams trying desperately to hold a ceiling so weighted down by the passing years of fallen debris and aged as if you could almost see the war upon it.
From building to building I walk, listening to the air being breathed in by the surrounding decay. I inhale myself, enjoying the process and watching my hot breath rise up into the overhanging trees. Occasionally using some of that warmth to thaw my now frozen fingertips. I approach a building that looks quite different than the rest. Most are L-shaped with smalI courtyards or the remains of what seems like a garden in the middle. This one is square but thats not really what gives away its importance, every window and door is covered in cement blocks at least two floors up, making entering quite difficult and also quite intriguing. What treasures lay behind those barricaded walls?
Circling the perimeter, keeping low, as it is close to the nearby road, I see an entrance, a broken window. Only problem is there is a 8 ft gap between myself and the window with a drop almost two stories down. I look around for a log or detached door to bridge the gap but find nothing. I continue around to the other side in hopes of another passage, I am in luck. A window on the second floor with a broken door propped up against it, not so hard to climb. After securing the door with a large rock I hoist myself up onto the ledge, grab for the edge of the empty window frame and pull myself in. I notice the wood of the frame is quite rotten so I hurry, its much to late to turn back now, my feet have already left the edge of the door. It holds my weight and I swing my body around and my feet land firmly on the solid ground of the second floor. Well thats gonna be fun when its time to leave, I think to myself. Edrin follows behind me and we begin to search the building.
Moving from room to room, eyes focused on the ceilings in search of the infamous mosaic. Each room, nothing. The building is surely different than the others, the ceiling alone are more than double the high of any other building. This must have been some sort of special meeting house or ballroom or something. There are fireplaces in a few of the rooms, each with a ring of stone above it chipped away as if something was removed from it. When looking at it more closely you can see the vague outline of an eagle, what a find that must have been. One of the rooms has a beautiful dome ceiling, inlaid with brilliant gold and painted with as if for royalty. Another room has a huge stone in it, must have been 10 feet high by 5 feet wide. Looks like the head of a statue of some sort but I cant for the life of me make out who it is, huge chips of stone taken from the profile and cracks running deep into the piece. After searching the whole building, no mosaic. By now the sun is starting to set and darkness is coming. The temperature has dropped and the light is running out of time.
We exited the building the same way we came in, safely I must add, I just feel bad for anyone who may try and use that entrance again. Heading towards some buildings we haven’t seen before we pass a section that has the same bricks as the big house we were just in. Might as well check it out quickly, most others aren’t blocked up at all. One side of the building as an old broken down VW van next to an open window, I climb up onto the vehicle and enter easily. I walk through quickly, not particularly hoping to find anything but there it is.
Up the first staircase I see it, filling the ceiling, surrounded by wooden circular molding. The large eagle filling the middle space its talons gripping a swastika. Each corner is covered in what looks like white plaster, from previous photos that I have seen I know that behind the plaster lay more of what the eagle grips. What a sight it was. How real it was. I think of the people that must have walked on this floor before me, their heads above a symbol each held so close to the hearts. Each holding onto an idea, an idea that cost the lives of innocent millions. The area looked like it was recently used, unlike the other building on the property. The floor is carpeted with a large oriental rug cover the floor below and the walls covered in some relatively nice looking graffiti. I had read that this place was fixed up and used in one of the scenes of the movie Inglorious Bastard, I will have to watch that again. I stayed there for the majority of what was left of the light, then it was time to leave. With my back to the 50 buildings I may never see again, I selfishly feel as though I haven’t seen enough but perhaps it is time for this page in history to be turned.
We walk down to the bus stop only to find that our bus doesn’t come for another hour and a half. Not wanting to wait in the cold for so log we begin walking towards the closest town. After walking a while the cold is setting in, I try to hitch us a ride from the passing cars but have no takers. I guess one dreadlocked women dressed in dirty black clothes with a gas mask and an man who looks like he’s straight out of Iran don’t really fit the bill for “most likely to be picked up on a dark road in the middle of the woods”. We come to another bus stop and check out alternate options for bus destination, we see a bus that will be arriving in 14 mins heading in the direction of the main train station.
After the twenty minute ride we end up somewhere in Potsdam, its a quaint little town with small wonderfully smelling restaurants that I cannot afford and shops at equal prices. I peer into the shopfront admiring the items and tasty morsels in the bakery windows. I’m getting hungrier as I walk and tireder along with it. We pass the Potsdam Brandenburg Gate (or as I like to call Mini-Brandenburg Gate, the towns people don’t like that though, they find it insulting), I hear church bells and try my hardest to get to them before they end so that I can add it to my collection of recorded German Church Bells, but I miss it. Then we get on the U-Bahn into Berlin, I rest my head on the window of the train, looking out into the passing scenery, the vibration of the train running though my head, I feel each bump in the tracks as we glide further along into the city. Its in its own way relaxing, the hum of the wheels moving at a more or less steady tone and my consciousness moving with it. After arriving I am starving, we eat at a thai restaurant and head back to the house. I was hoping for a nice warm couch and a good nights sleep, little did I know what was awaiting me.
We walk up the stairs to the apartment and I see my stuff scattered down the stairwell. Oh no, crazy german roomate. We enter only to be blockaded by Brigett (read the post from a few days ago to learn the backstory on her) she is yelling at me saying I have to leave and I cant stay there and that I stole her shampoo? What? I’d never use her shampoo. She tells Edrin he has to leave tonight and that she is calling the police. As soon as I saw my stuff on the stairs I knew I was out, I pushed through her went to get my stuff together. I shoved all my things in my bag, tied my sleeping bag on the back and headed out the door, Edrin gave me an address of where I might find a hostel.
I suppose you could say I was homeless in Berlin for a little over an hour. I finally made to the hostel called “The Cat’s Pajamas”, south of center city Berlin. It about midnight by now, I stumble into the hostel drop my bags and ask if theres a room for the night. The women sets me up with a 10 euro room in a 10-person dorm. Thank goodness. Hardly understanding or believing what all just happened in the last two hours I walk into the darkness of what now is my room, collapse on the bed and pass out. Ill figure out whats next to come in the morning.
Saturday started a little late due to the previous night. I woke up with the two handstamps of the clubs plastered on my cheek, which gave me a good laugh. Edrin was off for the weekend and we had tentatively made some plans to go exploring. It was a pretty nice day out but since it wasn’t so early I thought it might be good to go to one of the places within Berlin.
Kinder Krankenhaus was the best place to go, this is an abandoned children’s school in Weibensee, northeast of Berlin. We got on the train and heading out. Upon exiting at the U-Bahn closest to the school we didn’t see anything in sight except for a broken down carriage house sort of thing. We walked around the block, knowing well that that house couldn’t be it. Up the block and to the right then we saw it. The gate was wide open and we could see people walking around the building already. There was a old women in a wheelchair sitting at the entrance and her husband was walking inside. I couldn’t help but think, was she a student here when it was in operation? a child of what remnants of the school now remain? They greeted us politely as we made our way through the broken door.
The entrance opened to a gorgeous hallway with windows revealing courtyards of what must have once been playgrounds full of children. Now they are filled with vines, brambles, trees and shrubs; they are full of growing things, so maybe the contents of this courtyard haven’t changed so drastically as one may think. From there the hall splits in two, off to the left I’m greeted with an long hallway of open doors on both sides. Amber light pouring out of each opening creating an arch on the opposing wall highlighting the layers of paint peeling off the wall like the scales of a fresh fish. The rooms are marked with the words of some previous visitor, some of wisdom and others of careless youth. With my footsteps I pass from door to door. Each space desperately trying to hold on to its place in time but the clock keeps moving, ticking away as the walls grow thin and more fragile with each passing moment. To walk through halls like these is to witness the product of time, to touch the substance of something passing and to see what has grown from its presence.
I will upload more pictures when I have better internet. It took me two days to upload just these.
I don’t even know where to start when explaining the events that have transpired this weekend. I will try and start from the beginning. Friday.
The first part of the day I did a bunch of research into companies and sent email about meetings and the like. I headed out at about 1pm and went to Alexanderplatz to try and get the key situation fixed since my copy still did not work. I biked down and spoke with the man, he told me to come back in 15 mins. I was a little hungry so I went to check out the local supermarket and see what snacks I may be able to pick up. I saw this wall of chips with the name “Erdnuslocken” on them, which means Peanut Lure. I thought it might be interesting to try them so I grabbed a bag and a can of coke. I opened the bag and took a bite and wow these chips were gross. I thought maybe they would taste good dipped in jelly or something but I wasn’t gonna try. I packed them up grabbed the new keys and headed off to a job meeting with the owner of the pedicab company I connected with a few days back.
I made my way across town, winding through the streets of Berlin, stopping and going at each traffic signal, riding under the massive Brandenburg Gate and making my way through the paths in Tiergarden encased by the leafless trees above, their long crippled fingers grabbing at the clouded white sky. I get to an roundabout that is in the middle of the garden and keep to the right. The pedicab headquarters, if I may call it that, is in Hansavietel, almost directly west of Mitte (center city Berlin). The man I am meeting is Micheal the owner of Donbikes. I call him when I reach the square, he told me the shop is sort of hard to find, he will be there in 20 mins. I bike around a bit to look for the place and find a garage under the U-Bahn, I bet thats it. I wait on a nearby bench observing the city as it goes about its day. There are three beautiful Churches in the area. One has a series of three large bells stacked on top of each other next to the steeple. I should have taken a picture of it.
Micheal gives me a call and we head down to the garage that I noticed before, it was the right place. He shows me the shop and all the bikes. He designs and build all of the bikes in the shop! They are so well crafted and unique! He tells me about how he started the company and the process of working for them. He reassures me that it is quite easy to start and that I would be welcome on the team when I move here. There are a few papers that I need to get sorted out with the city in order to start, he said if I get those then I could start while Im here. Only thing is you kind of need an address, which I don’t really have. He suggests that I just send an address of where Im staying to him and he will look into the details. I tell him about Boston Pedicabbing and he is quite intrigued about how the system works, I tell him how we work out rentals and payment and shift sign-ups. After about an hour of conversing we swap information and part ways. Seems like a very feasible way to make money here in Berlin. I leave excited and hopeful.
I hear the church bells ringing and quickly get my field recorder out. I listen to them sounding, each bell with its own tone, lofting harmoniously through the cold berlin breeze. I now have a collection on Berlin Church bells, I think I am on 5 now. Once I get around to editing them I will be sure to post them. I was suppose to have another meeting with a company called Art+Com, check them out they are super awesome. They do interdisciplinary installations and they are quite well known in Germany. They are super busy so it looks like it will have to wait for next week. There is an internship available for Interactivity Design which I am very interested in, we will have to see what happens next week.
I head back to the house, the plan tonight is to go to some clubs with Juno. We are meeting up at 2am so I figure it might be good to get a little sleep before the night begins. I sleep for a few hours then met up with Juno and friends down by the Gorlitzer U-Bahn stop. We hop in a taxi and head to Tresor. Tresor is a famous underground club and record label for some for the best techno music. The entrance is a huge steel door, I hear the low rumble of bass shaking the walls of the club. I head down a flight of stairs to the coat check area, streams of people on all sides, of all different styles moving in all directions. I walk down another flight of stairs into a fogged tunnel smelling of moist air and cigarettes, it fills my lungs. You cant see but a few feet in front of you as flashing red lights race down the ceiling leaving trails of light to disipate on your retina, its deceiving and disorienting. The music gets louder, the thumping closer and the air hotter. The walls open up to a large room caged in by bodies and fueled by the intensity of the sound that has now fully infected the air. Steel bars line the end of the room and behind them sit the master controller, the DJ.
Upstairs is a different story, the ceilings are much higher here, the room has more space. What looks like oversized construction lights hang over the dancers below, flashing between a multitude of colors. At the back there is an opening where people are sitting, a huge beautiful warehouse is behind them, it looks almost abandoned. It spans three floors made of steel beams and cement floors. Juno tells me that in the summer its a huge club called Kraftwerk (yes Kraftwerk like the band), what an incredible place for a club. I guess it was built around the time of the Berlin Wall and it used to power most of Berlin, then it was abandoned for some time, then renovated into a club, do I need say more?
Now back to Tresor, the DJ playing was one of Junos friends. He was incredible, the music pulled and pushed like the movement of a tide, sucking you in and spitting you out. The sounds and textures were crisp and wove in and out of the endless bass with ease and tasteful deliberation. The heads bobbed and the bodies moved, along with my own. Junos friends that came with us were each very interesting people. They all worked for a man named Olafur Eliasson, an artist whom I watch very closely. Olafur is a artist who does large scale installations and sculptural works with the assistance of his 100+ person team at his studio in Berlin. How I would like to get on that train! I talk to each of them about their work, some programmers, IT people, archivists, web design and such. They tell me about their experience working for Olafur and they all have good stories to tell. I have plans to apply to work in Olafur’s studio so this gave me some great insight into what its like there and what he looks for. Couldn’t have asked for better people to connect with!
After being at Tresor for some time Juno and I head out to another party at a place called Salon Zur Wilden Renate in Friedrichshain. We get on the U-Bahn passing though a not so quiet Berlin at what is now 6am. We walk into a courtyard then through some plastic strips in a doorway which lead to a stairway and up into what I’d like to call a lair. The decor in this place is for sure one of a kind. The first room has a ceiling lined with different sized disco mirror globes with 50’s style flower wallpaper and a collage of lights pointing in all directions. The place is more like an apartments transformed into a music den. There are two main music rooms playing two slightly different styles of techno, one more minimal and the other busy. Separating the two rooms are rooms filled with couches, beds, dancing poles and a collection of people of all type, shape and style. The decor changes with each room but the flower wallpaper stays the same. The other music room has a ceiling lined with overlapping frames with the contents on the frame being some sort of paisley sequence or something. Each room had its own flare of reddish/orange glow emanating from them, traveling through them felt like I was working my way through a part of the color spectrum. By the time I left it was well past daylight, walking out the door into an entirely new spectrum of colors.
This was my Friday.
I think I will split up these weekend days so its more manageable.
One of the people that lives in the place I am staying is a woman who goes by the name of Brigitt-Leila Von Lindenberger. She is, how do I say, not the most approachable person. She talks quite loudly in german and stomps around almost as loud. I heard her come in, she was yelling a bit then she went into the shower. After I heard her get out I went into brush my teeth so that I could leave. The second I touch the door handle I hear, “I have to get ready for fucking work!”. I let go of the handle and turn to this angry german women wrapped in a towel. I tell her I will only be a second and she continues to yell saying that I can’t use it, how I should just leave and how she doesn’t have time for me, among other things I will not elaborate on. I eventually turn around and head back to my area, get my stuff and leave. Geez, glad to be out of there. German anger is almost as bad as Russian, almost. Since I left in such a hurry I forgot my scarf, and today was cold and rainy. So I biked down to the thrift store at the end of the street called “Humana - Second-Hand Kaufhaus”. It wandered around the store, they had a nice selection and lots of scarfs. I found a bin where they were selling for 1 euro, I took the warmest looking one which was a magenta cotton made by a brand I think H&M sells. Either way it was cheap and warm so I bought it. Cant hurt to have two scarfs.
I headed out on down Karl-Marx Allee and over the bridge into Kreuzburg, went parallel to the river until I came to a large park. I kept my eye out for anything that looked broken and then I saw a large orange and red canopy about 30 feet high and a Verboten sign. Ah ha I must be here! I locked my bike and headed down the path into the woods. The place looked tight, every cut int he fence was reinforced and the barbed wire went high up. Still I carried on making my way around the perimeter. Finally I found an opening, way on the other side from where I parked my bike there was a small two by three foot break in the fence. I pushed my stuff threw and slide in after it. The area I entered was full of bushes and brambles but I was able to make myself to a set of old train tracks, like the ones you see the little kids riding on at a typical amusement park. I saw some trailers off in the distance and thought I saw a light on one of them, don’t want to go over there I thought. So I followed the tracks until I came to the opening of a cave with a water slide on top of it.
From there I saw it, the huge Ferris wheel of Spreepark. That was my destination.
I walked over the endless slides and roller-coaster tracks and stumbled upon another monument of the park, the monster mouth. Its one of those large open mouths that the roller-coaster goes through. I stayed there for a bit then went on towards the Ferris wheel.
But to my surprise a dog turned the corner, he was alert and didn’t look very happy. A large man came form around the corner like something out of The Lord of the Rings, Aragon-like but not nearly as attractive. He yelled at his dog first then at me in unintelligible german. I asked him for English and he laughed and yelled louder. One word I did understand was Verboten and Photo Verboten! He told me to come with him but I was hesitant. Who was this strange man who emerged out of the woods? Was he really security? Does he live in that trailer? I told him I knew a way out and was going to leave through there and he kept saying “Nein, nein, nein Verboten!!” and waving his hand to come with him. I started of in the other direction and he took his phone out at started to call the police saying “Polizei, Polizei!” So I told him to wait and went with him. I tried offering him 10 euros for a tour, again and again I asked and he said no ever time. I laughed and sighed and asked again but nope, he wasn’t going for it. We walked on until we got to a very large fence, he pointed up and up and over I went. He laughed at me when I was on the other side as I continued to take photos of the area, what a crazy man. I finally was able to get a picture of him that you can see below, its not the best but he didn’t want me to take his picture so its the best I could get.
I walked around the perimeter once more and met this group of kids shooting a horror video in the woods, I think it may have been for some kind of music video but I was a little unsure. They said they were in some kind of Metal/Rammstein band. A few of them had some typical horror masks on and a bunch of recording gear as well as a Go-Pro which I thought an interesting choice for filming, I suppose they are getting quite good these days though. I talked to them a bit and I told them about the Spreepark experience then we went our separate ways.
Since I didn’t really get to see the Topography of Terror exhibit the previous day I decided to check it out. I read everything so it took me along time to get though it but wow, is that a good exhibit. So much detail about the inner workings of the SS and Hitlers horrors with incredible documentation. The pictures posted of the people were hard to look at. You would see the faces of the persecuted Jews and the SS guards laughing at them and even the crowds of german people, mocking and humiliating them… killing them. There faces were so painful, you could see it like they were standing right in front of you. The way the information was presented made the the experience so engaging and immersive. And being on the grounds were most of these acts of terror were decided made it all the more real and horrific.
I finally got my bike today! It was a little messed up but nothing that couldn’t be fix with a few tools. The handle bars weren’t secure, they would move up and down when you tried to hold onto them so turning was proving itself to be difficult. I heading down to the bike store early in the morning and asked to borrow a tool, I also bought a bike basket so I didn’t have to carry my stuff on my back. They were very helpful and the basket only cost 5 euros. Then I stopped at Kaiser’s, a local supermarket and brought bread, cheese, salami, apples, jelly and peanut butter. Cant go wrong with that combination!
My plan today was to do some urban exploration, I have to start going through my list. Since I didn’t bring my big flashlight and I thought I would find one in the airport but didn’t I had to go get one. I was told I could find one at this camping store so I headed that direction, while biking I saw a large smoke stack, it was broken at the top so it instantly caught my attention. Broken smoke stack = Broken Building. I biked by it to check it out and it was obviously abandoned, I went on to the camping store and bought a headlamp that was sort of overpriced, but eh, it will probably be one of the only things I buy myself on this trip and I will use it for god knows how long.
I made my way back in the direction of the smoke stack, parked my bike and began walking around the perimeter of the building. It was sandwiched between two major roads, I found a gap in the fence on one side but continued walking till I found another on the lass busy side of the building. I slipped into the crack and walked into the first floor. I thought I was golden but then I realized this room didn’t connect to the others. I went back out and walked up to one of the main doors on the outside, it was welded shut. I looked around a bit trying to find a broken window or something, then I found it but it was on the second story. I climbed up onto the roof of the first floor by using the gaps within the bricks then made my way onto the roof overhang of the second floor. I threw my stuff through the second story window and pulled myself through. You can see the window right above the sign in the picture below.
Stepping onto the floor of my first german exploration felt good. The place was in pieces; beautiful, decaying pieces. It smelt just like home, molding, damp and heavy, so familiar. I met someone almost right away, a man in his 50’s. He was right in the next hallway, he heard me and I heard him. I poked my head out from behind the door and he smiled. He was dressed in mostly gray, with a small camera and black hat. He didn’t speak much english but we understood each other we walked through sometime together, sometimes separated. I spent a lot of time in most of the rooms, observing and photographing, he was just there visiting. He told me he comes a lot and has come here for many years. When we got to the top of the place he told me a few broken stories about the parties he used to have here with his friends, then he told me that all his friends are mostly dead; heroin, suicide, overdose, hospitalized. But from his words “This is life”.
Making our way to the roof he tried to tell me to be careful, saying he didn’t want me to fall though. Thats him there in the picture below. The roof was caving in, at least a few feet, looked like if I threw a rock on it it would collapse. We walked around the edge, the side are normally reinforced so more or less safe to walk on. The view was terrific, you could see the whole city! And what a place to see it from, I didn’t even have to pay 10 euros. We went down into the basement, one of the rooms was completely collapsed from rooftop to the floor, rubble from 4 floors lay scattered in front of me, there must have been a fire in this section of the building, soot and crusted ash painted the floor. After going though all the rooms we made our way back to the window exit. This time I gave my stuff to my friend and headed out the window, I took a few pictures on my way out and when I turned around to say goodbye to my buddy he was gone. Where did he go? I looked down the street and he was nowhere to be seen. Maybe I will have a chance to meet him once more on my next stop.
My phone was almost dead by now and I had plans to meet up with Edrin later maybe, I headed down to the Topography of Terror exhibit, I had heard it was a good thing to check out. Also maybe there have an outlet I can use to charge my phone. I biked my way though Berlin, bikes have there own lanes and lights here. You have to be very conscious of them because if you blow through a light the chances are you will get hit. I did it once and regretted it instantly, luckily I was not hit. When I got to my destination I went down stairs found an outlet but then realized I forgot part of my adapter! Luckily Edrin called and told me to meet him at his work. When I got there I went out to dinner with him and his work friends. They were all very nice, I got to head a bunch of crazy stories about Africa and being arrested in Nigeria. It was very entertaining to say the least. Then we went to a hookah bar and I learned how to play backgammon, but lost 2-5 unfortunately. Fun game though.
I am writing this post a day late. I just got to bed very late and wanted to get up and out as early as I could. That didn’t end up happening because I got locked inside the house I am staying at. We still have not resolved the key issue here, so I suppose I could have written it that morning but I instead made myself breakfast and lazed around a bit. Ive been moving ever since I got here so it was nice to have a little bit to myself. Edrin stopped by at around lunch time and opened up the door for me then I was on my way. Since I was going to be getting the bike later that day I still had to depend on public transit and walking, this was going to be a major museum day but from getting locked in and my bad luck on the museums I picked I really only got to see one.
I went to try and see the Bauhaus Museum but when I got there it was closed! Even though my booklet said it would be open, it wasn’t. I was so surprised and super bummed. The museum or it may be better to call it an Archive is a collection of some of the finest work out of the Bauhaus School, one of the most influential schools of art, architecture, ceramics, photography and others of the 20th century. I guess I will have to go another day, just not a Tuesday.
From there I made my way to the KW Institute of Contemporary Art. I got there by traveling through Tier Garten, a very large park in the center of Berlin. I walked through the winding paths until I came upon a stream. There was one thing that was hard to ignore in the stream, the reflection of the trees within them. I was in a way captivated by them, I started photographing them from all different angles and watched as the wind moved the water over the trees warping the image of the tree and transforming it into something else. It reminded me of some of the advanced video programming but all it was was a reflection and the air. So I tarted performing some experiments on it, I set up my camera, black and white and threw a rock into the water then immediately started taking photos, 3 every second. It resulted in a progression of images that went from a mire tree reflection to an incredible visual texture so far from what it had originally been and unrecognizable in essence. i id it multiple times, trying different types of rocks and different areas of the water. I would like to continue this again, this idea could really develop into something. I am already working up some ideas. The illusion of technological methods found within the natural world.
Finally after finding my way out of the park I made it to the Museum. It was easy to spot which one I was to go to because right on the front of the building was a Dan Flavin piece. Dan Flavin, a light artist, is one of my favorite and his work is very recognizable. As you can see in the picture below he used fluorescent lights to outline and emphasize the architectural structure of the building. He used green light inside the arches and blue outside also on the sides on the building, which you cant see really he did the same thing. The experience when entering the area was quite powerful, the combination of colored light created an effect on the building that complimented the style in a unique way. I would actually have to say that this was my favorite piece at the museum, even after walking through it. I enjoyed reading the side panels in each room of the exhibition, the quotes they used were appropriate and a lot that I have never heard.
Two other exhibits that I enjoyed but for the life of me cannot remember the names were a series a painting with white primed canvases. On them white gloss paint of written critique of a 9 year old boy reviewing the painting of that artist. The way they were mounted in the room were flush with the wall. So when you walked in, all it looked like was huge off-white blocks on the wall. It was as if someone had left a painting on the wall so long that due to time the color of the wall outside the painting had changed, like they were empty spaces. But when you looked closer you could see the writing.
There are so many ways this could be interpreted, in a way I can link this to the other piece that I enjoyed. It was a film, an opening thanks for an artist exhibition turned into performance art. At the beginning she is thanking all the people who helped her with realizing her project, then she goes ack and forth between different characters, playing out the lives of different artist and how they would go about with there speech acceptance. She talks about what an artist wants, how they want to be remembered and powerful comparisons between the object and subject. It ends with her naked on stage screaming about criticism and “artistic presentation”. Much like the paintings in the other room that seem to be speaking about a similar subject. When all your work is but a faded outline on a wall and the words spoken of you are soft and quiet, will you as well feel as empty and plain as that surface? or will these impressions be enough?
So Im technically writing this blog on the next morning. I was so tired last night I figured it would be ok to just write it in them morning. I would really like to head out to the museums to get the most out of my day so I will not write for to long today. I got a lot done logistically yesterday. I spent the first few hours researching and writing up lists of places to go and things that I need to do. Also sending emails to companies to arrange meetings and purchasing my CTM festival ticket. I found this awesome app called EYEOUT which is a Berlin Art Gallery directory. I comes with location, exhibition information, house directions and also current location tracking. Its going to be very useful! I was having trouble getting a complete list of all the private galleries I wanted to go visit but this should be perfect.
I didn’t get back to the apartment in time yesterday to get my bike but I WILL be getting it today. I feel so immobilized with it. One good thing is I suppose is that when I went to the New National Gallery I got a museum pass that only lasts 3 days so in that way its not as bad that I don’t have a bike, Ill probably just spend all day at museums today anyway.
After a few hours of working I headed out. Making my way to Museum Island, which is a place in Berlin that has a few really famous museums on it. I first stopped at St. Nicholas Church, the oldest surviving church in all of Berlin.
Mondays in berlin aren’t the best days for museum hopping I learned, most are closed unfortunately the only one that was really open was the Neues Museum aka the Egyptian Museum. I was glad that that was the one that was open, it being my favorite of the bunch and all.
I spent a few hours in there, observing the relics of our distant past. It was quite an impressive collection; tombs, sarcophaguses, scrolls and tablets. They also had the bust of Nefertiti which I spent a far amount of time admiring. It is an exquisitely crafted sculpture, so realistic, so much that I can almost imagine it coming to life. What would Nefertiti’s voice sound like? What would she say to me? She would be wearing magnificent cloths lined with gold and gems and jewelry far superior then any you would find today.
After the museum I went to meet up with Juno, he is a former Berklee Graduate from the EPD department who is very well connected to the Berlin Electronic Music scene as well as an established musician here. He made dinner, it was pasta with a delicious tomato sauce. We sat around talking about lie in Berlin, the music and arts scene here and the process he went through to move here and start a life. The advice was invaluable. Information on visas, apartments, jobs, connections, clubs, artists and so much more. I have already started researching some of the things he mentioned and it has already helped steer me in a better direction. This weekend we will be going to some of the best clubs in Berlin, very excited about that. Funny to think that soon I may be living here and these things will be a close part of my life. Can’t wait. Heading out now.