Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Topos Graphien

August 5th, 2009

A building for propaganda.

In 1918, the protestors outside the Prussian House of Representatives were smiling.

An article in the Reichstagesgezetz read, “Those articles of the constitution pertaining to freedom of the press, of movement, of free speech and assembly as well as the privacy of personal mail, phone calls, etc., are to be suspended until further notice.”

I watch the “Die Welt” balloon climb slowly into the sky above and drift down and up again, the iconic right-wing rag hanging over the topographie des terrors. Is it still a site for propaganda? What is it propagating?

I feel a shift in consciousness as I leave the gated path of words and images under Die Welt, a path with direction and chronology, to a garden of bare concrete walls and shadows.

I feel waves. The waves of the ground carry me up and down. The traveling of sound. Uneasy apprehension until the next intersection, then relief for a moment. Loud, then silent. Hot sun, cold stone. Smooth and safe approaches razor sharp, and then nothing. The immaculately ordered rows cast chaotic shadows, and I feel waves. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

August 4th, 2009

Dwarfed, I sit next to one of sixteen stone war scenes dwarfed by soldiers who kneel under hammers and sickles and bow, dwarfed by a savior, a small child hangs limp in one arm and a benevolent sword from the hand of the other. Though I can’t see her, I feel the presence of a worried mother, her hand clutching the seam of her shawl and her braided crown sunken in solace.

The silence is not jarring as I had expected, but soothing. Only traces of the violent city sounds remain, starved after their long journey on the back of the wind. The stark symmetry is the only source of discomfort. I can’t look at any one thing without finding its unwelcome reflection somewhere else. All is measured, calculated, congruent. Only the mother, the savior, and the child are unique. They are not, but where are their reflections? If the child were to glance into a mirror and see everyone, if he were to notice himself and see me, what would the savior see? Would she see the earth, or God? 

English translation of aforeposted 'Schwarz zu Blau' video -Peter Fox

Schwarz zu blau

I come out of the club, it was nice
Smell like drinking, I am exhausted, it's a beautiful life
Walk over drunken bodies rotting on my way
I see rats eating until they are replete
In the shadow of the kebap shop
I walk through puke at the Kottbusser Tor, junks are befuddled
Guys spitting around, not behaving well
Snotty upstarts on a desperate search for the scene
Pierced girls who want me to read "Straßenfeger"

Half past six, my eyes are burning
Step on guy who's sleeping between dead pigeons
Hystericals girls nag and are in panic, because
Around the corner there's tension between Tarek and Sam
Tarek says: "Shut up
Or I'll hit you in your face"
Sam is frightened, but he can't just say nothing
The red soup runs over the asphalt (blood)
I'm feeling sick, I clasp my coat because it's cold

Good morning Berlin
You can be so ugly, so dirty and gray
You can so wonderfully terrible
You're night are devouring me
It might just be the best for me
If I go home and sleep
And while I'm walking through the streets
Black slowly turns into blue (darkness is fading)

Tired figures in the neon light
Deep wrinkles in the face
The early shift stays silten, everone remains to himself
Frustration comes up, the bus is not comming
And everywhere there's sh*t, one would actually have to hover over it
Everybody has a dog but nobody to talk to
I breathe through my mouth all the time, that's part of my life
I feel unhealthy, need something pure against it

I have a headache, I need to get medicine
I'd like to have some Bagdad pastries now
It's warm there, I try to loose myself in my dreams
With Fatima, the sweet pastries saleswoman
R&B ballads come out of a parking Benz
End of the work day for the street gangs
A hooligan is lying in a woman's arms and he's crying
Well, this city isn't as hard as you think it is

I'm tired, rub your dust out of my eyes
You're not beautiful and you know it
Your panorama filthy
You don't even look beautiful from afar
But the sun is just rising
And I know, if I want to or not,
That I need you to breathe

Of course... the sound is lost in translation

August 3rd, 2009

Grau, Rot, Liver and Smoke

The first morning was muggy and grey, the kind of dull grey that bleeds into the sky from the soggy edges of modern buildings. Members of my group hung around in a scattered formation near the corner store. A meeting point, a starting time, an aching, dizzy feeling in my stomach.

My pace sped and slowed awkwardly according to the girls I walked beside through the heavy, warm air. Sally told me her shoes were no longer white. I took a look. Canvas flats saturated with street. I was strangely and silently envious. This grey churns and mingles. It drips and swallows and spits back up and out again.

“I don’t think I can swallow even once more…” an introduction to John O’Meara, Joe Kim, and soft, thick, coagulated organs from a slaughtered baby cow. Again, the dizziness was flung into my own, and the night before rushed to the back of my eyelids. The heady grit of iron and blood clung to my teeth and the space between my lips and gums like John’s fingers to his glass of Kryptonite.


Later, brass letters hung against liver-colored marble send me to another night. Slogans, numbers, dates and chants line the dimly lit red walls behind the clouds that rise… or fall. “Die Philosophen haben die Welt nur verschieden interpretiert; es kommt aber darauf an, sie zu veränden.” Pieces of his face and words are visible in gaps beneath the layers; his chin, his kommt, his brow and veränden. A palimpsest.

The next stairwell represents intellectual development, maturity, knowledge, and progress. We hope to rise, but we fall. We’ll just fall today, because it’s the quickest way. My action? I walk behind, look up, look down, move my pen and sigh, consider something. Perhaps I’d like to stop or to turn around, but of course, I surrender to the gravity of the Weltgeist. 

Monday, August 10, 2009

Military Parade

Coming upon a fence and police guards on the way to the Brandeburg gate felt a bit like a time warp. I decided to wait by one of the guards and watch both the people interacting with the guards and each other on my side of the fence (the public side), and whatever it was that was happening behind it that warranted this barrier. I was able to see a few people being escorted out of the Adlon hotel and put in black cars that caravanned through the fences and toward the Reichstag. I heard the word “parade” several times, but that word definitely didn’t match the scene, the public was definitely being excluded from the festivities. After watching for a while longer, I made my way to the corner of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe across from the Tiergarten, certain I could get to the other side of the Gate via another route. Instead, I came upon more fence, more police, and this time a few people holding a ‘peace’ flag and having somewhat confrontational discussions with those police.

I dug for my camera to snap a few photos of the scene, and as I brought my gaze back up from my bag, six or seven more police officers, this time riot police, were jumping out of a black van one-by-one outfitted in protective armor and carrying night sticks. They began to arrest a middle-aged woman. I began to take more photos. A young man standing with his bicycle next to me asked me a question in German.

I used my worn-out sentences, “Ich spreche kein deutsch. Sprechen sie Englisch”

“Sure, where are you from?”

“Near Seattle, in the states, and you?”

“San Antonio.”

“Really? Do you know what’s going on here?” (After noticing his I L G8 shirt)

He told me it was a military parade celebrating the anniversary of the July 20th, 1944 plot by German officers to assassinate Hitler (made famous recently by the Tom Cruise movie, Valkyrie). As I had suspected, the parade was only viewed by invited guests. The rest of us were kept at a quite comfortable distance- Unter den Linden was blocked off before Hotel Adlon, part of the Tiergarten was off-limits, and I assume the barrier was erected at a good distance in the other direction from the Reichstag as well. I walked with the demonstrators into the Tier Garten to try and get closer, and to cause a bit more of a stir. Those on my side of the fence were met by similarly amour-clad riot police and dogs. When a few more people were arrested and I had seen a few of the dogs ordered to jump up onto the protestors and bark and growl loudly, I thought it best to leave.

Political protests and demonstrations are not permitted on the Reichstag lawn because they could “damage the grass.” Apparently the German military has exclusive grass-damaging privileges. Just over a week later, the grass was burnt down in large letters that read, “No War.” A few days after that, the grass was removed and presumably replanted. 

I have internetttt.... posting begins!

Images from my arrival in Berlin during the taxi trip from Tegel to Kreuzberg include:

Bicycles: Beautiful women on bicycles, incredibly fast bicycles, slow bicycles, children on the backs and fronts of bicycles, groceries on bicycles, and flowers in the baskets of bicycles, and a dog in a cart attached to a bicycle.

Graffiti: Random tags and designs on every building (a scavenger hunt for unmarked buildings would be a challenge), and scenes that sprawl across entire sides of edifices crawling down from the very top corners and spreading to meet the colors that climb up from the bottom. Later on, I would write down that living in Kreuzberg felt like living on the pages of one sketchbook shared by a collective of artists. If you watch closely enough, you can see the sketches traveling and growing and morphing into something new.

Traffic and speed: My taxi driver nearly killed a few people. Neither party was as upset or shaken as I imagined myself being in that situation. Also, a massive truck carrying loads of beer had spilled its contents on the street. So, one of the first prominent odors I encountered in the city was, quite appropriately, beer.

            The first conversations I had in Berlin were naturally about logistical travel issues. How much is a taxi to Kreuzberg? How many nights will you be staying in the hostel? Where can I find a Geldautomat? Once I had gotten somewhat settled in the hostel I would be living in for the next two weeks, 36 Rooms (which I later learned was so named because the area it is in, by Görlitzer park, was known as SO 36 in the divided Berlin ), I brought my computer downstairs to email my family, bought a Berliner Pilsner, and walked outside into the courtyard. Moments after I sat down at an empty table and started typing quickly to my mom that I had made it safely, was alive, and thought my hostel seemed fine, I was asked by a good-looking man with dread-locked hair if he and his friends could sit. They were all from Norway and were going out for their last night in Berlin. “This city is unlike any other,” one of the girls said to me, “you’ll hate to close your eyes.” I hadn’t the slightest clue about the accuracy of her sentence at the time, especially pertaining to my own set of lids, but I felt my anticipation send a jolt to my heart as it soared higher than it had at 35,000 feet.

            I woke up on my first morning in Berlin to a hot and mostly empty hostel room, except of course for myself and a muscular guy with “California- ONE LOVE” tattooed across his back.