Sunday, May 02, 2010

Berlin is, after all, only a city, but it continues to throw me. Just when i'm starting to have a good time, i get kicked in the head again.

Case in point: Gallery Weekend Berlin. This is a weekend (Friday, 30 April to Sunday, 2 May) when over 40 galleries/art spaces/exhibition centers had openings and stayed open for three afternoons. Many friends and acquaintances are involved in shows, so i expect to see people i know. Ok, so far so... Berlin.

Right off the bat, we've got a problem: Damian Hirst and Michael Joo are collaborating on a show at Haunch of Venison (what a name!), which is Christie's gallery. But where is it? I look it up on Google Maps and on, and find out... it's NOT located anywhere near an Ubahn or Sbahn station! How do you get to this place? Obviously, if you're a Christie's customer, by limo! Otherwise, inaccessible. Ok, so scratch Michael Joo off my list, i'm not going to be seeing him this weekend.

So on Friday, i hem and haw and finally decide to go to Veneklasen Werner to see "Self Consciousness", described as "a project co-curated by artist Peter Doig and writer Hilton Als". Ok, so i finally get my tired carcass up to Veneklasen Werner, and Hilton seems delighted to see me. And we reminisce a little about Owen Dodson, and Hilton asks me to stop by the next day at 1, and maybe we'll be able to have lunch. I actually hadn't intended to go back to that neighborhood, since i was going to check out the galleries where the KW Institute for Contemporary Art is, and go to the talks by Julia Scher and Elaine Sturtevant, but, ok.

So i show up at Veneklasen Werner at 1 o'clock... and no Hilton. I walk around a little, i go to other galleries in the neighborhood (including Galerie Barbara Thumm, which has a terrific little Jo Baer show; i speak to Barbara Thumm about Baer's career, and how it's only now that Baer's minimalist work from the 1960s is getting the recognition it deserved, but her work from the 1990s and the 2000s is very different), and keep coming back, but by 1:55 PM, i figure it's a no-show, and it's time for me to head onto KW.

But getting there turns out to be a madhouse: the Ubahn is as crowded as the Tokyo subways at rush hour. People are just squeezing in. What's happening?

Turns out (i didn't realize it) but May Day is a huge holiday in Germany. No one told me. (More on this later.)

But i get to KW Institute for Contemporary Art. I walk into some of the galleries, then wind up at KW. It's through a courtyard, and then there's a little sign that L'ecole de Stephanie (which is what the series is called) is on the fourth floor. Fourth floor? This place is very handicap-inaccessible. But then, most places in Berlin are.

So i wind up getting up to the fourth floor, and damn near break my neck on the stupid little fence in the doorway (i shall find out it's fenced in because of the rabbit - don't ask). The place is covered with hay (which is what you're supposed to sit on), and i'm trying to see if i can find Julia. (How long has it been since i've seen her? Again, don't ask.) So i see a bunch of women setting up... but i don't recognize anyone. And no wonder, since none of them was Julia. When she comes in, i recognize her, and she recognizes me! So another one of these kissy-huggy moments.

Then Julia gives her lecture, which is funny but a little rambling. But i try to get some information (what is she doing later? does she want to go to dinner later?) but Julia is busy doing the art-schmooz bit. Ok. Elaine Sturtevant is brought in: people had to help her climb the stairs, because she's in her 80s and it's not easy. I stay around for the beginning of her talk, but the hay is starting to get to me: i'm starting to itch. So i leave.

And then i realize: i was blown off again! Twice in one day!

This is too much! But i decide that i should look at more galleries in the neighborhood, and i do, and by 6 i'm ready to leave. I come back, and i watch "The Screening Room" (is that on CNN or BBC? Which network has the program "Talking Pictures"?); it's a Ray Harryhausen episode. So then i decide it's time to go to the supermarket and get some food.

And i go to Rewe, to find... it's closed! I go to Kaiser's, and find... it's closed! May Day is a BIG holiday in Germany! I didn't realize this. I think maybe i'll have dinner at the little Japanese restaurant at Rudesheimer Platz, only to find... it's closed! What is open?

Well, i figure that the Chinese restaurant Dschunke must be open. You know: the Jewish Christmas tradition. But it's a bit of a walk. But i decide to risk it. So i walk, to discover... i was right, Dschunke is open! So i'm able to have dinner!

Thank goodness. But i'm feeling very uneasy, because i was blown off twice in a day. It's very disconcerting. It reminds me of most of the experiences i've had in Berlin: hideously rude, downright nasty, totally crass. Like... my experience at the Berlin Film Festival! The problem is that i'm always looking forward to things: i was looking forward to the Berlin Film Festival, i was looking forward to Gallery Weekend Berlin, and then, it wasn't just my hopes were dashed, it was also that i was insulted in the bargain. Yeah, yeah, yeah, everyone has an excuse, but why does everyone have to be rude? People used to say that New York City was a rude city, but New York has nothing on the absolute boorishness of Berlin.

So today is Sunday, and i just couldn't drag myself to see anything. I should have gone to see the Michael Snow exhibit at the Klosterfelde Gallery, and i should have gone to the opening of James Benning's "American Dreams" exhibit at the Kino Arsenal. I should have gone to Sylvere Lotringer's lecture at KW Institute of Contemporary Art. But i couldn't do it: i couldn't deal with possibly seeing people, because i'm feeling very anti-social.

Berlin has made me a very anti-social person.

And after dinner last night, i was watching TV (as usual: CNN and BBC, the two big English-language networks) and then there started to be reports about the bomb scare in Times Square. And when i woke up, i was watching the CNN coverage of the Times Square car bomb for hours (at least until noon, and i started watching at 7:30 AM).

And the oil spill in the Gulf Coast is beyond depressing. This could destroy the coastlines of Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Florida. And (like Hurricane Katrina) the government response has been far too slow.

Plus now there are tornados in the area.

The southeast of the US is simply being destroyed.

So the rudeness to me is merely a blip in terms of the horrendous events going on all over, but still, such rudeness is very hurtful. And boy, Berlin knows how to hurt!


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