Here I-A-M

Hallo from Berlin!

Living quarters in back

Living quarters in back

I'm sitting here in my kitchen at the Buro Fur Bestimmde Dinge, one of four spaces opterated by Stefan Reibel and the Institut Fur Alles Mogliche here in Berlin, Germany. After days of travel and some fun experiences including lost luggage and flight delays, I'm here, with my luggage, in the lovely neighborhood of Neukolln in the southern part of the city.

Studio Space in front

Studio Space in front

This area is quite diverse, with a large middle-eastern population. Kebabs and Falafels and beer stores are everywhere. The public transportation is incredibly easy to use, and I've already taken it to far corners of the city. It's cheap, too! On Sunday, I ventured out to the Haus Am Wansee way out in Zehlendorf, a museum in a house that was part of the Berlin Biennale. Sunday was the last day of the Biennale, so I made sure to see some of it before it closed. 

Haus Am Waldsee

Haus Am Waldsee

I have to admit, I wasn't much impressed by the Biennale, or at least what I saw of it. I would have included pictures, but nothing jumped out at me much, save for a video installation by Patrick Alan Banfield called "vyLo:t" which would not have translated well via photograph. It was lovely, though. Check out his website here if you are curious.

From the Haus Am Waldsee, I headed to the Ethnologisches Museum Dahlem, or the Ethnological Museum, over in Dahlem. It, too, was part of the Biennale, but again, nothing stood out save for another video installation, a documentary about the making of Ai Wei Wei's "Sunflower Seeds." Please watch here, it's incredible. I was impressed that an artist could change a village so completely by filling a need for them--in this case, giving them employment. And not just manual labor, but something they were masters at already. So beautiful.

I then hopped back on the train and headed to Mitte, or the middle of the city, to find the last Biennale location, the KW Institute for Contemporary Art. The wonderfully curving streets in this part of town got me wonderfully lost, just as it started to rain. This reminded me of the time I got equally lost in a downpour in Copenhagen seven years ago where my map disintegrated, finally walking into an H&M looking like a drowned cat and buying an umbrella. This time, I pressed on, thankfully having a LAMINATED map, but never managed to find the KW Institute. I sat on a bench for a minute in a small park and gathered myself, the rain having stopped, and calculated my route back to the U-bahn station. Somehow the GPS on my iPhone worked despite zero network connection (it's acting as a glorified iPod here), and it saved my butt. The walk back was nice, through the tall buildings and cobble stone streets. But I was reminded of Berlin's nightmarish past when I looked on the ground:

They are difficult to read, but those are plaques commemorating Jews from the adjacent building who were deported during the Holocaust and which camps they were sent to. I had heard about these plaques before I came here, but to see them in person was absolutely bone-chilling. I felt bad about even taking a picture of them, for fear of trivializing them in some way. I hoped onlookers wouldn't think I was instagramming. 

The next day, yesterday, I set out early to find groceries in my neighborhood, and walked back along Wesenstrasse, my new favorite street in the area. The street art is bonkers here, I can't even choose what to photograph. More on that later. {Food note: my groceries were from Bio Company, a tiny Whole-Foods-ish store, and I immediately made lunch when I got home: lentils and rice with carrots, which I am eating again, reheated on the stove today with some pancetta mixed in. Thank god I have a kitchen here. Cooking helps me get outside my head just enough, and I'm going to need that more and more as time goes by here. Plus I'm always a fan of the hedonism of a good meal.}

Last night, I decided to attend a performance/lecture at a space called Uqbar in Wedding. The performance was part of this month-long festival called the Project Space Festival. There is an "opening" every night in a different location, each having a different theme. This one was called "Living Resorts," all about the goldenrod flower and how it grows in urban wastelands as a very hearty weed. The lecture was in German, but they had scripts available in English, and so I got one. At the end, the two artists donned rubber boots and gloves, and proceeded to walk out of the gallery with goldenrods in plant pots and went to work planting them in a rectangle of dirt in the sidewalk. We all watched and clapped at the end. It was weird and interesting, and I was glad I went. 

collected goldenrods in the gallery Uqbar

collected goldenrods in the gallery Uqbar

planting away

planting away

the planted goldenrods--closest one called "yoo berlin"

the planted goldenrods--closest one called "yoo berlin"

In addition to all this exploring, I have been taking pictures and writing and sketching. Already, I have gone through two rolls of film, which I dropped off at a nearby lab today. I also made some watercolor sketches, which you can see in my Sketchbook section. I am keeping up with my stream-of-consciousness writing in the morning, and it seems to be a good warm-up, and it's good if I distill my thoughts in more purposeful writing later. 

I will meet the other residents tomorrow at a brunch organized by Stefan and his sister Uli. They want us to maybe create a collaborative show for the 29th of August. I'm excited to meet them, and very excited to talk to someone in general, haha. I'm making deviled eggs to bring. 

Until next time!

-A