Mittwoch, 27. Januar 2016

Germany for refugees, the information level

I recently discovered at my local library a booklet published by and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung dedicated to introducing Germany to the refugees. It has a lot of useful - basic - information, in German and Arabic, but also many funny aproaches - to keep it diplomatically.
The package of information is also available as apps.

Montag, 25. Januar 2016

Jackson Pollock at Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle

I am not a big fan of Jackson Pollock and I've seen some of his works at museums across the world without changing my mind. As I always enjoyed the exhibitions at Deutsche Kunsthalle at Unter den Linden, I decided to give one more try and try to learn a bit more about the artist hoping that I will get closer from his philosophy too. 
The exhibition is focused on presenting the largest canvas the artist ever painted, a Mural, a summer commission from the art collector Peggy Guggenheim for the hallway of New York city hall. In order to bring more information about the artistic trend Pollock belongs to, photography or paintings by, among others, Gjon Mili, Aaron Siskind, Barbara Morgan or Andy Warhol, David Reed or Lee Krasner.
Pollock studied early under the American regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton. When it comes to mural work, he outlined the influence of Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Jose Clement Orozco. Picasso was also a source of inspiration but he soon found his own way and focused more on the vitalist expressionism specific to most of his late and famous works. 
A pleasant discovery of this exhibition was the work of Lee Krasner, Pollock's wife and inspiration. More than once, she suggested a title for his works that he finished under inspirational trance. Her paiting is an emotional explosilon of red on the canvas, the colours looking as going out of the space of the painting for entering the outer space. 
The exhibition as such is very well organised, with many useful information, offering the chance to get to know not only Pollock and his work, but also the intellectual ambiance of his time.
Pollock mural is a chaotic conflict between colours and shapes, many of them repeating itself at least as a combination of the same colours. The aggressive strokes of black are well tempered by the salmon pink and the sweet yellows. The big traces of blue are like the rainbow after the storm. Practically, there is not a classical story or center as any part of the canvas has its own story and relevance for the painting. Such a vortex of contradictions may have offer a lot of discomfort to the workers of the New York City hall, I suppose. It may remind a lot about nowadays works of street art that most probably Pollock would have embraced it for its raw vitality and creativity. 
The exhibition is running till the 10th of April. Mondays, the entrance is free. 

Sonntag, 3. Januar 2016

Meiji Era in Photography

The Museum of Photography in Berlin is well known for the impressive collection of Helmut Newton works. However, regularly here are organised various exhibitions dedicated to extraordinary photographic works. One of them I visited this summer and still can be visited till the 10th of January and is dedicated to a place where I was lucky enough to live for one full year: Japan. It covers 250 photographies from Meiji era in German collections. Photography was considered a way to induce Europenization of the Japanese culture, similarly with the hot air balloons, gaslights or engine. The first example was given by the Emperor himself, appearing photographed in his new European uniform, the sending the main incentive for the well awaited change.
But the change cannot happen over night and the tradition and modernity will coexist till today. The art of photography will equally help the strengthening of tradition, widespreading images about kabuki theater, tattooed fighters or tea house girls - what we know as geishas. In a way, it also delivers to Europeans that exotism they were always looking for in this part of the world. The lady photographer featured as the representative image of the exhibition is a proof in this sense: a woman with the camera in a society where the social roles are clearly defined but dressed in a traditional way in the modest posture the society is waiting from a young lady.
The neo-confucianist line of the Enlightening era represented by Meiji was that a portrait was a symbol of visual praise for the achievement of a virtuous work. For me, the nature representations are by far one of the most beautiful snapshots. When simple communication fails, the nature can offer to the traveller the simplest way to be thankful. Beyond the politics and other strategical reasons, the beautiful Meiji photography brings Japan to Berlin.

Freitag, 1. Januar 2016

A visitor at the Spy Museum

It is not every day that I am very excited about a PR and marketing campaign in Germany. The one for thel launch of the Spy Museum is one of them, and from the middle of the summer the city was invaded by attention grabbing billboards announcing the event. Although I wanted to be among the first to check the fantastic spy adventures announced, I had to wait till the beginning of November until the visit was possible.  
The building in Potsdamer Platz is offering two full floors of historical installations, presenting more or less recent historical spy stories. The lengthy presentations are available in video and written format, in English and German.The visit starts with an introduction in the history of intelligence, from the old Egypt to Rome and Joshua.
Most part of the exhibition is dedicated though to the Cold War times, that made Berlin one of the European capitals of spies. Touch screens are providing interviews about the various genesis of intelligence services in the East and in the West of Germany.
Old stories are presented into a creative interior design ambiance with special effects of lights and shadows.
When the historical introductions are too long - although very interesting, especially with former Stasi operatives, the famous East German secret police - there are some practical example set toexplain to yo how the operative work can be practised. Special secret messages can be hidden in nuts. 
Or in shoes.Or in cigarettes, or in various parts of the car. Practically everywhere. If you are not too strong at heart, you may risk to become very paranoid, even the Cold War is over.
After you see the section dedicated to different gifts that can instantly kill everyone only by smelling, you may need a rehab. The famous umbrella that killed the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov in Central London in 1978 is there, still waiting for a full reconstruction of facts, many years after the crime was commited with a simple touch.
True is that at the end of the long visit I really felt overwhelmed about too much information, like I was at the end of a long class in the history of intelligence. Some colourful covers of James Bond movies brought everything back to the entertainment work.
I had a different impression about what a spy museum should be, expecting more action and intelligence challenges, also for the visitor. But I am sure also that the usual glamour we associate with this kind of work is rather the result of wishful thinking. The Spy Museum in Berlin provides lessons of history and for now, it might be enough.