Can the Ugly be Beautiful?

Berlinale and Wahlheimat

Berlinale June 2014

17:25 ABZ AMS 20:00
20:45 AMS TXL 22:00

Never wrote about Berlin in this blog. It’s the place where I studied, where I had my first man, my Uni friends, where I keep on going back to. Now my lovely Deborah lives there for a year of Erasmus, the best thing invented by the EU apparatschnicks. This time round I went to Berlin for a weekend, post UKIP dominated EU elections; to see Deborah, to see Weert, and Dorle and others, and my wee Corbusier home; the biennale was a good excuse.

The Biennale: unlike the other biennales I had been to in recent years (Bamako, Dakar, Marrakech) this Biennale takes place in three rather established places: the KUNSTWERKE, the Haus am Waldsee and the Museen Dahlem. All this gives it a somewhat predictable atmosphere. Cycle ride through the Grunewald on Saturday morning, followed by coffee in LUISE, where I used to work while still at Freie Univesität, then off to the Museen Dahlem. These are certainly made out of the material that Heimat is made of. I spent many moons in them during my Ethnologie studies, endlessly discovering the treasures of Old Amerika, Ozenanien, Afrika, Islamische Kunst… a maze of looted treasures from far flung places. And now all this art in this. This was very promising. A year or so ago I spent a bad weather day with Nick in this place, a bit forgotten after the wall fell, you can spend a full day here; endlessly moving from Benin masks to Aztek terracotta, from Mesopotamian tiles to cargo boats. The day promised to be good. To my surprise, the lay out of the museum has not, or invisibility little changed. Its almost a nostalgic 70ies museum layout. Mask after mask, after mask. Pot after pot after pot. But yes, I feel at home. But we are here for the art. There is some. Did they empty some of the terracotta shelves? Or were those rooms empty all the time. Why is this here? Deliberately random? The nouvelle trend? I move on, it gets a bit more ethnic. Some plastic flowers, museumly arranged like orchids in a botanic collection by Alberto Baraya (Colombia). Then a video of an ornamentally dressed camel, chewing. I think the artist is there, would like to meet her. We move on through the collection, get to more art. It is even more random, we move on through Africa, I get hooked on the beadwork masks, where is the Ashanti throne, I ask the warden. She does not know. Where is the art, she is not sure. Here is a nice thing by Saadane Afif. A train station sign with a speaker, it does not work , but the idea is nice, it should correspond to the real station in Dueren near the French/German border; I like the ICI/LA BAS travel songs. Heimat/Fernweh stuff. Ok, lets move on, the stair case. Something good. Wolfgang Tillman‘s Sendeschluss; its cool, is there ever Sendeschluss these days? Then the rugs, its like stuff from the museum, beautifully crafted, rugs with city maps embroidered on them. Bani Abidi is the artist. Its nothing new, I am told later by a critic, never mind, I had not seen this, and it fits with the museum; there could be more. I like it. Deborah likes it too. Then we get to the really best thing here, a video installation by the Sicilian artist Rosa Barba; about former industrial spaces. I watch 10 minutes, the Texas part, haunting-dry-stony-dusty-post industrial landscape displayed on mega-big screen installation, amazing, wished I could come back and see this whole thing, how would one see this at a later stage?, must find out. More stuff, lets have lunch, can’t find the Untergeschoss. But find the café, Spargel, lecker, too much butter, in the garden, it is sunny, why are we all day in doors? Not like Dakar, or Bamako, or Marrakech. Lets go; still can’t find the Untergeschoss stuff, so we go to the Tarek Atoui (Lebanon) concert, ok. After that, through Europe, gondolas, massive kebab, good will Islam interpretations; wriggle our way out. Lets cycle a bit more; make our way to Haus am Waldsee. We love this place anyway, Weert and I often meet here, for a bit of art, a coffee, a Blick to the See. The art, can’t remember, really, some music an overture, the Haus is beautiful, so is the setting, I like the kiosk, must check this out, its great. Ok, lets cycle back, to Schöneberg, Weert thinks its beautiful, the stretch, I am not sure, the cycling is, the scenery not sure, actually one could easily call it ugly, all this post war build up, how does that compare to Clashindarroch, and Glenkindie, and the Deveron, it doesn’t, never mind, better ice creams and better coffee here, that is for sure. there is the beauty in the ugly. Keno there, my dear god child. After Schöneberg we go to Kreuzberg, for a giant Kebab in Maroush restaurant, it’s great, a druggie calls me a cunt, throws my kebab plate over the table, my cardigan soaked tsatsiki, the Lebanese waiters, deal with it nicely, by the time I get my replacement kebab, the man has already found a new target in a new türkisch restaurant; get the S Bahn home; Blaubeerquarkstreuselkuchen.


Sonntag: cycle off to Bienale day 2 at KW (Kunstwerke), meet an art critic, Kim that I had met before in Kampala, she knows Sanaa, and Rocca and Violet, all the Kampala scene; a bit of a mix up, but we solve it elegantly, join Michael and more arts crowd at a typical Berlin breakfast, how I miss those, always wanted to introduce this tradition, but no in Scotland it stays with a big fry-up. Now the Biennale, Mariam Suhail from Bangladesh has works on borders, need to check this out, interesting pieces, but a bit too much, lots of interpretation, then Santu Mofokeng from South Africa, the holy sites, the tribal and the ancestry ones, and now those mining companies, embarking on it. Saw this already in Venice biennial, I think. Cuban TONEL, full with Fidel memorabilia, upstairs, Li Xiofei (China) on assembly lines, how did I managed all my life to avoid them, always wanted to do this for a day only, all I could feasibly manage. Deborah impressed by this, did I see this already at Mercosul biennial? Some designer style work; and two marble sculptures with a tapestry by Cynthia Guiterrez (Mexico), not sure if I like it, but somehow I do. This is all what I can remember; I think.
We go outside and there is the Greek – Ottoman salon; they are always nice, these kind of things, but the cafe is missing. So we move on.

Dorle und Ernst-Christian after a cone of cinnamon ice cram; we have Schnitzel and Würstel for lunch at Klärchen’s Ballraum. Relatives, work, cemeteries, holidays, illnesses, all the things one needs to talk about, not having seen each other for over a year, and who knows when again, next year? Off to the Naschmarkt, a market full of homemade, the real art of the day. I get a Himbeerminzemarmelade, and some other tasters. Weert appears, we are off to the Kunstmarkt at Oberbaumbruecke, the antithesis of the Biennale, masses of people, without the marketing, but what about the art? best a little boy who painted the redundant tram track. Aperol on Bergmannstrasse and back to Schoeneberg for more Spargel. Lecker. Back at Corbusier, the concrete balcony, brut, more Blaubeerquarkstreuselkuchen.

Montag: the pressure hammers start at 7.30, to renovate Corbusier’s Sued facade. We take more of the Kuchen and get into town. Meet Michael Hoepfner, like always, it’s the artists and not the art we need to feed us. We talk walking, exhibition, Linz, Romanian immigrant, with plastic bags, art, books, Fulton, Tibet, Sardegna, Kinder, Vienna, Berlin, wohnen, design, pasta, till the clock calls me onto the U-Bahn for the trip to Tegel airport to get me back via Amsterdam to Aberdeen/Huntly.

17:25 TXL AMS 18:45
21:30 AMS ABZ 21:55

Corbusier Type Berlin balcony
Corbusier Type Berlin balcony

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