Sunday, February 07, 2010

Donald Richie once told me that i would always look for the one bad comment; a hundred people can like something i've done, but if one person doesn't, i'll take that comment to heart. And it's stopped me many times over.

Berlin is like that one bad comment: i'm finding it difficult to concentrate in this city, because it's just so incredibly hostile. I'm not even talking about nice people, i'm just talking about common courtesy, which seems to be an unknown quantity in this city. And for the last few weeks, i've made half-hearted attempts to write, but i keep getting stumped.

Today, i did something that i used to do to prime myself: i started listening to music. A lot of pop music, mostly found on YouTube. I'm using the songs to prime my memory, to evoke those times and places and people that i want to remember.

The Berlinale (Berlin Film Festival) starts this week, i was looking forward to it, but i got the program, and it's disheartening, there's just so much, and the ticketing situation (even for press) is complicated, and i looked at the accreditation notification, i did NOT get the letter which was supposed to have been sent, and i was NOT registered as "press" but as "university". What kind of crap is this?

So already the Berlin Film Festival is on my shit list. As is everything else in this damned city.

And no, i do NOT want to go to gallery openings, because you can't find the damn places. The Veneklasen Werner Gallery is on Rudi-Dutschke-Strasse. But there IS no "Rudi-Dutschke-Strasse" on any map: it turns out that Kochstrasse, which IS on the map, turns into "Rudi-Dutschke-Strasse" for about three blocks. And this happened only about a year ago, and so things like Google Maps haven't accounted for the change. And how are we supposed to know this? I guess you're not.

However, once you get out from the Ubahn station at Kochstrasse, you walk to find that there is Rudi-Dutschke-Strasse. So that was easy. But trying to find Dam-Stuhltrager... forget it. And that's the way i feel about most of the Berlin galleries. Whatever street the gallery claims to be on was not easy to find. And it's sub-freezing weather, so i'm not trudging around, trying to navigate on the ice, trying to find streets that may or may not exist.

Obviously, Berlin is for younger people, but for someone who is (now) in his mid-50s and has already experienced an "art scene" of long standing (NYC from the late 1950s on)... it does have similarities to the art scene of the East Village in the 1970s, the subject of those documentaries at last year's Tribeca Film Festival, such as "Blank City" and "Burning Down the House". It's the art of reduced expectations, an exhausted art of a stultified city.

Anyway, speaking of the Veneklasen Werner Gallery, i did go to William E. Jones's opening (that was on January 15th) and it was a very handsomely mounted show, continuing his interest in archival material. In the booklet that was available at the gallery, Bill quotes from a manifesto by Isidore Isou in which Isou calls on film to become referential to the already rich history of the artform (and this was in 1951). It's a manifesto similar to Walter Benjamin's assertion that quotation was a necessary option. Appropriation becomes the logical outcome.

Of course, this strategy has been one of the hallmarks of postmodern aesthetics since the 1970s, and i should know; i remember that Anthony McCall and i had a lot of exchanges about using "old" material as a critical rebuke to modernist theories of artistic "evolution".

Everything old is new again. But in Berlin, everything old is old.


Blogger Always, L said...

I know Berlin is as hard to navigate (as say, Brooklyn...) but it is well worth grabbing a local map and seeing the galleries. Both Berlin and Brooklyn are instrumental in the greater art world for good reason.

Here is a great map and listings resource of Williamsburg that comes out monthly and is free:
Dam, Stuhltrager Brooklyn is pretty hard not to find and you will pass galleries in any direction walking the three blocks from the subway to get there.

Dam, Stuhltrager Berlin (The EAST/WEST Project) is again, near the subway - only two blocks. To get there, you need to pass our neighbors - The Grimm Museum (adjacent left) or the Unterwelten-Museum (huge round building to DSG's right). As far as streets go in any neighborhood- our block in Berlin with DSG and two museums (one regarded an architecture standout)- is nearly impossible to miss by any account.

7:15 AM


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