Samstag, 29. Juni 2013

Discovering Schinkel, courtesy of Kunstwege Berlin

On a sunny Sunday, two weeks ago, I was invited by Kunstwege Berlin to take part to a tour of Schinkel's works in the capital city. It started at Friedrichswerdersche and ended one hour after, at the Museum Insel with the works of his disciples at Altenationalgalerie and Neues Museum. Through a simple yet insightful approach of both Schinkel's biography and works and the less or more recent history of Berlin, Leslie, our guide, turned the tour into a very interesting intellectual experience. The funny part of the story is that we also had the proper musical background as in the front of Humboldt University, a classical open air concert was taking place during the tour.

Many of Schinkel's architectural works are located in Berlin, but due to the war, there were mostly rebuilt, especially in the last decades after the reunification of the city. The English influences in his architecture can be read in many of his works, including the Bauakademie, built in 1830, where the 'master' wanted to have his own office. A former governmental building during the DDR times, the building hosts nowadays various art performances and exhibitions and has in its front a Schinkel square. Nowadays, only one original corner is left.

The bridge with its 8 sculptures is considered one of the most expensive of his works, part of a wider plan to give to Berlin at least the same glamour as Paris. Almost all Schinkel's idea were in fact expensive. In other words, don't try to be too cheap with an official architect.

Simplicity and glamour. The display of power.

The pupils can b e better than the master. One of my favourite museums on the Museum Insel were designed by Schinkel's disciples.
Reading and learning from art books is an interesting experience, but what it matters always is the guidance of the expert. This guided tour brought me close to the epoch and the personality of the architect and I plan to go to a new tour soon.
The next one will be in one week from now, the 7th of July, at Bruecke Museum.

Dienstag, 18. Juni 2013

The Foreigner in Berlin played golf in the dark

I turned into a big fan of Groupon lately and got some excellent travel deals. One of them was a ticket for two for around 8 Euro at the Schwarzlicht Insel for a session of golf. I did not play golf, real one or for children, for a couple of years and as the school is (finally) over, I thought that it might be a good present. 

I've heard only once about the 'golf in the dark' and was interested to find out more so the offer from Groupon went at the right moment. As I was not familiar with the location, I tried to figure out how to go there and it took me around 15 minutes to do the proper research, as I the website failed to help me too much. The place is situated somewhere between Steglitz and Dahlem in an area with big superstores and it is a bit difficult to find the location if not familiar with the place. Our luck was that we met an acquaintance by accident that knew where the golf place it is and thus we were indicated the right bus station. 

As on the website it was mentioned that it is highly recommended to schedule the visit to the golf place, we did it, but as we will see on the place, it was worth nothing as no one asked us about it. Because the place is not very big, it might be a necessity in the week-end. In our specific case, it was not the case to be worried that I am 10 minutes late and I may lost my round.

The Mini-Golf is situated at the second floor of an ugly looking building. We received at the entrance the golf pots, the 3D glasses and a little notebook to keep the record of our performances. With us, it was another family of four with grown ups, probably also celebrating the end of the school. The place look spectacular at the first sight, and with the house music from the background it created the perfect ambiance. 

Everything looks colourful - at the limit of kitsch - and full of life, and the 18 holes were waiting for us. The degree of difficulty is spread between holes so don't expect to experience a progressive complication of the degree of difficulty. We tried to take it systematically, practising our sleeping golf skills. However, after 30 minutes in the dark I felt the lack of air as the air conditioning system was either not working or not used at all. I tried to imagine how it is when there are more than 10 people around and did not like the thought.

The tour ended up in one hour and the timing was perfect. There it is also a bowling lane and a bar, but on a Monday early evening, everything was empty. We finally left, sure that we will not come back any time soon.

I was happy to pay a good small price instead of a big 20 euro for an experience that did not find interesting or special. There are many other things to be done around so no hurry to play golf in the dark. At least, not during the lovely summer days.

Sonntag, 16. Juni 2013

The Foreigner in Berlin went to the Pergamon Museum (again)

When many people take the full advantage of a full sunny Sunday for some outdoor activities and eventually a pick nick in the middle of the town, the Foreigner in Berlin went to museum. At the Pergamon museum, a place where I've been less than 6 months ago. This time, I was interested in the temporary exhibition dedicated to the antique city of Uruk.

Apparently I was not the only one who decided to spend some hours at the museum, as there were plenty of people, mostly guided groups of tourists interested in the history of the Middle East. 
The king fighting the lion

Located in South Mesopotamia - nowadays South of Iraq - Uruk is considered the oldest major city in the world. It started ad a 2,5 locality and developed further as a 5.3 sq. km. town, a huge accomplishment at the time - 4th century CE. The development imposed certain changes in the social structure and determined at a great extent the development of writing, first as a way to record various merchandises and to organize the daily productive activities - one of the first clay tablets recorded are aimed to keep the record of workers and their shifts. Interesting construction techniques were developed, as for instance the cone facade, partially reconstructed, presented at the exhibition. The city was not rich in natural resources so many of the raw materials were brought from abroad. Thus, it was exposed to interesting cultural and human exchanges that can be noticed in the decorations and some of the jewellery discovered in tombs. 

Uruk is considered a legendary town also as directly associated with the adventures of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, but the historians quoted by the organizers of the exhibition

say that there it s not a clear record of Gilgamesh's deeds.
The special cones technique

The artefacts presented at the exhibition are the result of 100 intensive years of excavations. Due to the tensed situation in the region from the 1980s, the researches were mostly stopped. After the end of the Saddam dictatorship, the internal fights and social problems continued to affect the researches and extended archaeological programs are impossible. Besides Berlin, the objects exposed were brought from France or from the British Museum in London. 

The history of the city is presented either through various digital reconstructions and short movies presenting the progress of the archaeological findings, or through thematic introduction in the daily life of the city. In a simple and organized way, we are introduced to the pantheon of local deities, the social structure, the first traces of the discovery of the writing. You don't have to be a scientist to understand it and the audio guided tour provided for free at the entrance is very helpful in explaining what we see. 

If you are not yet interested in the complicated and fascinating history of the region, you might be after this exhibition. In any case, it is a good way to spend your free time in Berlin. 

Dienstag, 11. Juni 2013

The Foreigner in Berlin goes to art galleries in Mitte

I am probably among the last people in the Berlin blogging world qualified to utter sophisticated opinions about art, not because I have no idea what art is, but because I rather prefer to avoid entering into artistic considerations. My basic reaction is to know what I do like and is close to my cultural and intellectual apprehension and when it does not happen to keep quiet. I never tried to cultivate too much my skills of a potential art critic, despite almost two years spent following the MA classes in the history of art. Due to my political science/history background I always end up by considering art too much as a social/society mirror and I know I am wrong.
Despite this deviation, I go regularly to exhibitions and I visit art galleries, especially in Berlin where the art is mushrooming: on the walls, old and new building and, of course, in the socially assigned spaces for such activities. 
The menu for today was a 2-hour jogging on Auguststrasse searching for new spaces and art that makes me think outside my small box.

I started with Liebkranz Galerie, with Melissa Steckbauer's exhibition: Architectonics of Love. According to the presentation: "The architectonics of love and vice versa. The former begins with an investigation into the structure of relationships, both material and metaphysical". I saw other exhibitions of Melissa, but I loved this one for the coherence of the theme and of the approach.

The next stop was 5 minutes away, at the Galerie EIGEN+Art, where Rémy Markowitsch is presenting his series ALP. Mixing literary and visual influences from German-speaking literature in Germany and Switzerland it explores the visual 'philosophy' of the Alpine Clubs, in an openly ironic way. At the other Gallery with the same name, there is a group exhibition of Isabelle Borges, Osvaldo Budet and Adina Popescu. The travel writer and photographer in me, loved the works of Osvaldo Budet, short visual essays about social intervention and nature.
I went for another couple of minutes to the neighbouring gallery, Jorday/Seydoux, where Tony Cragg's works are exhibited till the end of the month. Interesting for the admirers of minimalism, but myself I am no more one of them so went further ti 

At Michael Fuchs Gallery two Swiss artists - Silvia Gertsch and Xerxes Ach  - are telling not only the story of their individual work, but also of togetherness. I might sound extremely stereotypical, but nobody's perfect. 

The exhibition here was still work in process, so I went to DNA where  one can see Mariana Vassileva's installations. As for me, I found it too emotional and complicated but the other exhibition, from Dittrich and Schlechtriem, about Dinosauria sounded better in writing. Next.

At ifa I've found a group exhibition of artists from Cambodia , the first ever of this kind I've seen, with interesting  food for thought about different materials (the work above was made using colored pencil shavings) and styles, as well as what are the limits between art and social and political manifesto.

The last high-end artistic experience of the day - and of the week as well -  at the n.b.k. was the most unpleasant, not because I saw the mention of some historical nomina odiosa, but because of the main topic, Suicide. I must behave as a sour housewife that does not have any spiritual resonance to the big issues of arts nowadays, but I simply did not like it and will not recommend to anyone. The overall setting looks fine and interesting though.

The exploration will continue most likely the next week with more galleries in and outside the Mitte area. I am still looking for a hard-core artistic experience when I will something that will make me keep silent for 7 minutes.

To be continued...

The Foreigner at the DMY Berlin

As usual, the summer is getting busy in Berlin, and there are more and more events and festivals taking place in the next days and weeks. Meanwhile, as I am ready for more adventures outside Berlin, I am trying to get as much as I can from the city, before I am finally enjoying a good vacation. Don't worry, as a travel writer vacation means a lot of work, documentation and writing, but it is the best life I ever had so fully enjoying it.

The last Thursday I went at Tempelhof to visit the International Design Festival. Since it went out of use as an airport - my first visit to the German soil took place at Tempelhof - it is regularly hosting big festivals, concerts and exhibitions. I love the history of the place and the opportunities of the location, but I am not terribly impressed by the interior design of the place. I know that it is cool to look poor and alternative in Berlin, but I am snobbish enough to think that a little bit of cleanliness and a good make-up can make you feel and look better. 

The huge space of the hangar was fully used, presenting a variety of objects and projects. From the fine home and kitchen design products, to bikes and cars and industrial design ideas, everything was generously outlined. (For more snapshots, have a look at my dedicated Pinterest board:  There were a lot of action, music and hipsters, as you can see watching my short YouTube video.

Poland was the guest of honour, and many local schools of design and designers were present. There were a lot of emphasis on recycling and using the natural resources with measure as well as for multifunctional ideas. There were a lot of lightning project, many of them quite interesting in terms of shape and colour. 

I loved to talk with the Italian designers, but the Polish young authors, many of them living in Berlin or London, were also keen to present their projects. I visited the location on a mid-day Thursday, and it was plenty of people taking pictures and looking very professionally interested about the exhibits. Many corners made me think about the ideas usually presented in the 60s and 70s, translated in the world of iPads and iPhones. The passionate historian in me found some old DDR objects and some remnant pictures from the Cold War. There were also children with their parents, enjoying the creative yet simple playground, stuffed with wooden toys. 

The weakest point of the festival was the fashion design. Some products were raw kitsch, while others were unnoticeable and without any noticeable treat. The idea of many pieces of furniture - some made of recycled paper - was to challenge the classical idea of a room with a sofa, a bed and a TV - you can lay a blanket on the ground and a pillow and read your book for the rest of the evening, for instance. 

As usual in Berlin, the old and new are always connected

Shoes made by a Polish designer

Love the colour and the shape of those lamps

Dance with me around the clock

My favourite model.

Montag, 3. Juni 2013

Visit at the Tempodrom+Zelda Symphony

Even though I spend an impressive amount of time in the front of the computer, playing computer games - not even chess - was never on my priority lists, not because I am so intellectual, but because I do not have the patience to do it. I am a different kind of personality, let's say. 
No wonder that when I received an invitation to go to the Zelda Symphony in Berlin, held the last week, on another rainy day, I was more excited to see the Tempodrom than to get some more information about Zelda. All I know is that is has to do with a computer game and it will be a show of lights and sound. Always in a hurry, I not even had the time to read 2-3 lines about who Zelda is and what are her hobbies.
Since moving here, as I go very often around Potsdamer Platz, I saw the white tent of the Tempodrom, but either I was not aware what it is or I did not find anything tempting enough to prompt me to buy tickets for a concert there. Opened in 1980, during the Cold War, closed and renovated in the first decade of the 21st century, the Tempodrom is a huge circular precinct that can host around 3,800 people, with an interesting architecture and with an autonomous energy-saving system. 
Despite the bad weather - that might be something 'normal' after you live here for a while - and the high prices of the tickets - from 60 to 100 Euro - the Tempodrom was almost full for the concert. Among the public, everything that you can see in Berlin in a year: emos, rock stars, curious people, elegant ladies and gents, children and their hippy parents. And a lot of fans of Zelda, some dresses in the costumes of the characters of the game. And me, probably the only one that never ever heard about Zelda before.
As in the case of any computer/Nintendo games, the design and ideas developed from the 2D to the nowadays 3D versions. Many of the participants were intensively playing Nintendo games while waiting at the wardrobe, in line for a coke at the mini-bar or when walking. A message of our world: plan a gathering out with friends and get together at the same table playing silently each with his/her Nintendo. The story as such is the usual confrontation between good and evil and you, as a conscious player, you should help the characters to win against the bad and the ugly. 
My biggest surprise will be the Symphony. As the game industry developed in an amazing pace, it is normal to offer to the fans as many diversity as possible. The music produced for the computer games is a domain per se and is done with the same professional dedication as the professional design of the game. Looking around at the people present at Zelda, I realized what does it mean in practice: there were people knowledgeable in everything related to the game, from the history and to the episodes in the life of the characters. 
Under the interpretation of the Film Orchestra from Babelsberg, Potsdam, the symphony was one of the most pleasant experiences of the last week. It was not necessarily the classical good movie music, it was a good musical work both in terms of interpretation and motives. As in the case of the games, the symphony itself develops from a season to another, with new fragments added, in many cases following the express desires of the fans. The musical interpretation was complemented by images from the games, as it develops around the main themes of the adventures of Zelda. I must recognize that I was expecting something more spectacular in terms of playing with the lights and the 3D effects. 
The show took place in the presence of the producer of the Symphony of the Goddesses, Jason Michael Paul, a passionate Zelda fan himself. Even though I bet more than 75% of those present at the concerts were more than fluent in English, the organizers brought also a kind of funny looking and behaving translator, that was playing the role of the entertaining clown, but to be honest was doing it in a very pathetic way. Maybe I forgot that people were there to relax at a Symphony inspired by a video game and I was not at Scala. 
Another small disappointment was the mess of some members of the guidance personnel that were not able always to guide correctly the visitors, especially when the communication language was English. Maybe I should visit Tempodrom more often and understand how it is organized, as after this first experience I still had the feeling of getting lost.
The last week I tried another new experience in Berlin. I am already late this week with the planning of my adventures in the city.
Another rainy day in Berlin, but many opportunities for indoors activities at the Tempodrom

This means the real devotion: getting dresses as your favourite computer game character

A look at the orchestra setting, before the start. Once the concert started, dozens of lights of the iPhones and iPads were put at work. 

Some interesting corners of the Tempodrom.