Sunday, July 25, 2010

Well, two weeks in another town. More specifically, in my case, nine and a half months in another town, and now it's over. I've still got a week to go, but tomorrow i go to Munich for the IFTR (International Federation of Theater Research) Conference.

It's too soon to tell, but what did i learn from my experiences in Berlin? One thing is that i do not like solitary confinement; i do like having people around, i am very much a social animal, i've been used to having someone else there, ever since i was born. I don't make friends easily, i am not one of those gregarious happy people. And i tend to be very focused, but if my focus dovetails with other people's foci, then i'm fine.

I'll just give a run-down of this week. On Tuesday, there was the last session that i'll ever attend at the International Research Center: Zvika Serper talked about Japanese culture in terms of "interweaving" but he also discussed his training in Japanese classical theater traditions: No, Kabuki, Kyogen. Actually, this was quite fascinating; he discussed the Suzuki Method, and explained how there is no "method" in most Japanese traditional theater, the traditions were handed down from generation to generation but in the 20th Century this changed when the idea of dynastic families changed.

Then i had to meet about some university business.

Then i had dinner with Robin and Hannes. Very pleasant, at a place called Felix Austria.

Wednesday was the Center's Summer Party, a Barbeque in the Garden. The highlight was when the kids and staff (Armin, Claudia, Holger, Johanna and Silvia) performed. That was a lot of fun. I talked mostly with Gabriele Brandstetter, Franz Anton Cramer, Ludger Orlock, and Lina Saneh. I had a good time.

On Thursday, i went to the "Head" Exhibit at G11 Gallery, which is located in this abandoned wreck of a factory building on Landsberger Allee; it's one of those buyildings that's almost like a squat, but it's an artists' building. Theer are at least two galleries there, as well as several studios. Some artists are even living in the building. Baerbel had some pieces in the "Head" show; she's a sculptor, and her work is very good. She works in stone, and has a very secure touch in handling her materials. She was describing her method, how she likes to take the time to sand the stones, so that there is a really tactile sense. Then we went to have lunch. Well, i had lunch, she just wanted something to drink (juice). And we talked about the Berlin art scene. And that was really enjoyable, because a lot of my perceptions are the same as her experiences, and she's been in Berlin for four years.

When i got home, "Les Demoiselles de Rochefort" was on TFV, in the original French (with German subtitles). But it was letterboxed and it was lovely to see.

Friday, i handed in my keys. Nobody was around, but i said goodbye to Claudia; she is the new financial manager/administrator (she's been working at the Center since February).

Later, i met my friend Karen for dinner, at a South African restaurant; then we walked around Prenzlauer Berg. But our discussion centered on what "home" is: Karen is one of those people who has lived in a lot of places for extended periods of time (two years in Poland, almost as long in China, a period in India, and so on) whereas i'm someone who has basically stayed in New York City my whole life. So this Berlin adventure was a novelty for me, and i have no way to assess it.

On Saturday, i did my "dry-run" to the Hauptbahnhof, since i'll need to go there on Monday to catch my train to Munich. Turns out that i can take the Ubahn and then change for the Sbahn; altogether, it takes about 45 minutes.

Today, i was going to Potsdamer Platz, but the U2 wasn't running for a stretch; you had to take a bus. So i decided to skip it. Then i had dinner with Timothy.

And now i did the laundry (for the last time) and started packing and started throwing out a lot of the papers i collected. Now it's time to sleep. Tomorrow is another day....

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The research institutes that make up the "Kulturen des Performativen" at the Freie Universitat Berlin are coming to an end; it's a "project" that has lasted some six years, with a lot of people on the faculty of FU being able to do research projects instead of just teaching. So, to draw to a close or to celebrate (depending on one's point of view), the "Kulturen des Performativen" had a big conference held at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (which is the cultural center smack dab in the middle of the Tiergarten). There were many invited speakers from many disciplines, and it was a lot of fun (in a way). Am still mulling over many of the talks given by people, and also am amused by the behavior of some people. Elaine Scarry's talk, "Thinking in an Emergency", was quite provocative in trying to understand the abdication of law when faced with a catastrophic event, such as 9/11 or the recent Gulf Coast oil spill, in which the federal government and BP are colluding to curtail First Amendment rights. But the last day (Saturday, 10 July) brought some of the most entertaining lectures. The concluding session, with the anthropologist Johannes Fabian, and then with Judith Butler, provided much hilarity. Fabian because his scrupulously discursive auotobiographical talk (in which he analyzed the problematic of "theory" in anthropology in the 1970s, as the old model of anthropology in which the anthropologist is seen as an almost omniscent observer was challenged and critiqued) eventually led to his conclusion which was that the field of "Performance Studies" was itself flawed because of the inconsistent use of theoretical models. The silence in the auditorium after he spoke was deafening! Wow! An auditorium filled with Performance Studies academics, and he's telling them, you're full of crap. It doesn't get much better than that! Erika Fischer-Lichte tried to get him to grant that some of the research has proven valuable, but Fabian was insistent: if your work does not withstand theoretical rigor, how can it be useful?

Then Erika Fischer-Lichte introduced Judith Butler. Now, i have to admit, i felt a little... naughty? Because almost 20 years ago, when we were editing PAJ, we published what we thought was a wonderful article, which basically demolished Butler's theoretical pretensions, and also (and here was the salt-in-the-wound rub) detailed her diva-like behavior at conferences, etc. ("It's Judy at home, Judith in public": one of the classic lines!) Let me just say: Judith Butler did not disappoint! Still the same diva-bitch!

Listen: you can't get better entertainment. And on the day when Germany was going up against Uruguay for third place in the World Cup. As we all know (if you've been following the World Cup at all, and, yes, i did watch) Germany won, 3 to 2. Let me tell you: the vuvuzelas were deafening last night! Plus people were setting off firecrackers!

Performance Studies can be summed up: "The world is a stage/The stage is a world/Of entertainment!" (Cue Fred Astaire, Jack Buchanan, Nanette Fabray and Oscar Levant dancing!) Now that IS entertainment!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

It's now 7 July, and i'm winding down my stay in Berlin. In the last weeks, i've had a lot of fun, and i've met some people, and had a good time. But i'm already thinking of what i want to do next. It really is time to leave.

My new friend Karen has stopped her blog, because she's trying to concentrate on her own writing. I think that's why people come to Berlin: it's a place to come when you need a break. It's a place to come when you're winded, and you need to regroup.

People come to Berlin for all sorts of reasons: that's what i learned at the Center. All the Fellows are people in different stages of their careers, and everyone is taking the opportunity to chill. What's the next step?

"There's a certain shade of limelight that can wreck a girl's complexion." That was one of the lines that George Axelrod wrote for Holly Golightly to say in "Breakfast at Tiffany's". In a very real sense, i've been wrecked, and i'm here trying to see if the pieces can be put together for me to start again.

One way i've done that has been Facebook. I know FB is just a silly social networking site, but i no longer have a neighborhood: once we moved, i'm no longer surrounded by people i know. And so i've found my old neighborhood online. I'm re-creating my life.

I don't like being alone: i think i always knew that, but, boy, it hit me once i was in Berlin. I was really alone, and it wasn't nice. I don't need to be alone: in fact, i can't work alone. I work best when i'm surrounded by people and there'a a lot of commotion. I thrive on having people around.

Oh, well, i've got to start thinking about what i need to do so i can leave here with no loose ends.