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A Sponge-like CityUmělec 1997/6-7
Aleš Kuneš | reviews | en cs
Berlin is an uncoscious Eintopf. This bumpy blend of taste of various ingredients cannot be anything new anyway because the new always melts down with all the rest. It would be too rushy a decision to walk the dried-out Berlin streets in morning heat of another continent and let yourself be caught by expressive mechanisms of crushing museums in which nobody counts on real summer weather.
Alexanderplatz station, the subway is leaving and I’m stuck in front of Bela Stadler suitcase. At least that’s what it says. There are more of these suitcases, piles of them and they all have white writing on them with names of people that got caught by perfectly functioning operations of society and were cut off from all useless junk which was neatly organized into piles of similar looking objects. They were fast and at low cost, without painful doubts transformed into sphere of non-existence. This was decades ago but this long-gone time was just slightly sticky at first but it dried out on our bodies. Water we’re trying to wash it off with is still slightly pinkish in color. Alexanderplatz station is rich on many other paintings, a mosaic of family photographies, happy and dignified moments that shrunk with time, and a huge, encaptivating, soft, touched and touching woman and so on. It all fits into Bela Stadler’s shabby suitcase on her eternal journey to unavoidable existence, planned by the others. Name her whatever you want. This is simply personal problem.
And the city that suddenly emerges from non-being for me, first moment on the street with buildings, trees and passing flashes of passers-by, snippets of hard-to-understand conversations, signs, smell and dust, look of cats and dogs, pecking birds and color of sky. Now I can be the allmighty who has the talent to create new world so different from the one he is just now living in reality for it evaporates too fast.
We are wading through dust, crushed bricks and stones of the demolished ruins, surrounded by huge claws of cranes, mounting rocks of buildings in the low-tide of a dead world, huge spaces are for rent to institutions whose future power will be measured by the amount of space they occupy. Berliners show great interest in architecture. Over the summer, they organized some sort of „construction-site festival“ in the entire area of the city. Any peculiar looking intention was explained to you by an expert. You were taken to all the construction-sites and showed around the backstage of quickly enclosing areas. It all ended with hectic discussion which was completely incomprehensible for a stranger. The only thing you understood was the battle over money.
In a heavy space under cloudy, rebellious and too mystic architecture, clumsy members stretch out against the beaks of cranes. Winners don’t spend the night in the houses of losers forever, the palace brought here from far away (hardly functional left-over from the Russians after their crushing victory) is being overgrown by plants in the garden. The losers are forever forbidden to walk through the Brandenburg Gate. Next to it is cardboard like fairy-tale village with a fortune-teller, flowers, toys, sausages and beer. The Turks rule here over the weekend, barbicuing. The cooling and carefully sprinkled lawn is covered with empty cans, cardboard boxes and paper. Their contrymen will clean this when Monday comes.
There is no other place where former East and West would penetrate into such evel-eyed parable. Pompous architecture of representative quarters offering advantages of opposite systems of the defeated city. The West is annoying but it managed to support itself. Spying of the East is visible in a pile of things. Just shortly after the wall went down, curiosity made people leave their own teritories. Today, however, each quarter is quite self-sufficient and it is hard to find the wall memorabilia. The ones living on a certain street, get served first in a local pub. This was when I fell in love with Berlin yet I still had to wait. It is not so sure anymore that everybody wants to live on the elegant Kurfuersten Damm. Why don’t all Germans have Mercedes already? Because they don’t need it... Expensive (and maybe a bit snobby) places my be found even in East’s Prenzlauerberg. Breakfast in local cafes is served till 3 p.m. Sometimes French style breakfast is enough - black coffee and a cigarette. Kein Problem, total egal. Still a lot of things are happening even though there aren’t that many jewelry stores, nice smelling shops and money shops. This is where you may be offered a RothHandle cigarette from a person at the next table. That who smokes RothHandle, he eats little kids, say people in West Berlin.
Not far from the center of East German galleries on Oranienburger Strasse, right by Brecht’s house is Kunstverein Friedrichstadt. They are surprised when somebody walks in here. Set up photographs by Minka Maslowski and Nathalie Grenzhauser are quite encouraging for a person coming from the Czech Republic. Nathalie was born in Stuttgart and was working with Herman Nitsch in the 90‘s. Minka is from Munich where she studied at the Rudolf Steinert school.
I tried to go to Hamburger Bahnhof three times even though it’s not far from Oranienburger Strasse. Contemporary art spaces close at five p.m. here. New classics and copies by young women. Photography is naturally significant part of collections unlike Prague.
Czech writer Karel Čapek didn’t like Berlin cabarets with rough bondage scenes before the war. Light-minded creatures in female clothing with male joints, colorful transvestites dancing and singing bad-boy songs about boom in a garden corner, various immigrants and girls sleeping on park benches, intellectuals in discussion with a sausage in their hands, opera like drug addicts, homosexuals and figures - embodiment of avantgarde. As it seems, we don’t have a chance unless we get some knowledge very fast. A formless building of a nearby theater bore a sign over the summer - KANIKULY (Russian for vacation). Being mediocre here, you become most extravagant.( pages 22 through 23)