Adventures of Hoogrrl!

A person who appears to be ambling aimlessly, but is secretly in search of adventure.

Browsing Posts published in June, 2007

One of the more interesting things we saw in Berlin was this World War II bomb shelter. It’s hideous but it’s also located in Mitte, Berlin’s thriving arts district where the idiosyncratic thrives. A contemporary art collector and advertising agency founder bought the bunker and is turning it into a showcase for his private art collection, which includes Beuys, lots of Tillmans, Damien Hirst, and a bunch of other big art stars. He’s also added a 4,800 square feet penthouse where he and his family will live for part of the year. The collection opens to the public later this year and I can’t wait to go back and see it.

The day we left Berlin, this article about the project appeared in the International Herald Tribune.

Dirk Westphal’s showing his surfboards at Blood. They’re really beautiful sculptures.

Dirk Westphal has elevated the status of the goldfish from pet to creature worthy of worship by putting its photo on, of all things, surfboards. Mr. Westphal, above left, a photographer and an avid surfer, makes the fully functional surfboards by hand in his Chinatown studio, where he photographs goldfish in tanks customized for that purpose. Most buyers treat the boards as decorative objects, Mr. Westphal said, hanging them on walls, as at right, or using them as room dividers. While they can be used for surfing, he doesn’t recommend it. Considering the price—$5,000 to $10,000 each—and the damage that inevitably occurs during surfing, he said, “you’d have to be insane to use one.” A collection of Mr. Westphal’s six-foot short boards and nine-foot long boards is on display through June 29 in an exhibition called “This Is All Part of God’s Plan” at Blood, a gallery at 33 Crosby Street (Broome Street), (646) 964-5223. Information on Mr. Westphal’s boards is available through Mixed Greens, 531 West 26th Street, (212) 331-8888, and at RIMA SUQI

As many of you know, iona rozeal brown is one of my favorite artists. And I am really excited to learn that the Hirshhorn has acquired this work of hers entitled off the dome: don’t front, you know we got you open. This work was one of the stunners from her recent solo show at G Fine Art.

The British stag party has hit Kracow! In the U.S., bachelor parties go to Vegas or Atlantic City. These guys go to places like Amsterdam, Berlin, and now Kracow where it’s less expensive than most European cities and abundant nightlife prevails. I had to wake up at 5 AM yesterday to catch my plane home and there were quite a few people roaming around drunk and disheveled from the previous night’s revelry.

Each June, Krakow celebrates Lajkonik, which stars a man costumed as a Tatar warrior who rides a hobby horse into Rynek Glowny, the main square, where the mayor greets him with wine. The event supposedly commemorates something that happened during the 13th century when the Tatars invaded the city. No one really knows what it all means but Krakow’s been filled with music and merriment all weekend. Fun!

Woman making pierogis. A plate of these for about three dollars is all the food you’ll need in a day.

I found Potsie!* He’s been making art videos in Poland for the last couple years. I found him licking this bust in the Bunkier Sztuki, a contemporary art gallery built to look like a bunker.

I can’t help it. I love kitsch! I like their costumes and they were actually pretty good fiddlers.

*For those of you who didn’t know Potsie, he was my cat that went to a special home for troubled felines. He disappeared from there a couple years ago and I always wondered whatever happened to him.

Lots of street musicians and buskers in Rynek Glowny – the main square in Krakow. It’s huge and beautiful and feels a teeny bit like what I imagine Olde Eastern Europe might have been. In contrast to Venice where the old buildings still stand but the city has lost its charm.

The weather has been fabulous so hundreds of people sit outside every evening drinking and enjoying the best part of the day in outdoor cafes. These accordion players playing Bach seemed particularly talented.

We visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps yesterday. Sobering. Decided not to take any pictures because it is absolutely impossible to capture the creepy, menacing vibe this place emits. I had a pit in my stomach all day.

Then we happened on these two – survivors. He was one of 7,000 people liberated from Birkenau at the end of the war. (Compare that to the 1,500,000 who were murdered at this camp alone.) She was a 6-year-old twin on whom “Dr.” Mengele performed experiments. They were showing us the identification numbers that the Nazis had tattooed on their arms and telling us about their experiences. Then they started bragging about their kids and grand-kids, outdoing each other with the younger generation’s accomplishments. [Smile.] They really had survived.

This is the only other picture I took – barb wire fence (once electrified) and a guard tower. One of the few things in the camp that hint that this place was malevolent.

In a previous post about a visit to the Peggy Guggenheim museum , I forgot to mention the Mathew Barney/Joseph Beuys exhibit there called all in the present must be transformed.
(was flustered about my orange and green hair!)

The Guggenheim’s press release explains a bit more.

Barney and Beuys are not easy artists. The more I see their work, though, the more I understand it and even like it. It’s very conceptual so you have to look beyond what’s before your eyes. You have to tap into your own creativity and experience the art and not simply identify or categorize it. Beuys is growing on me. I’m still working on Barney.

This still is from a video of a 1974 performance piece entitled I Like America and America Likes Me, in which Beuys spends three days in a locked room with a coyote. More about this piece here and here.

Some quotations below from Beuys that explain his views about art. I copied these down from an exhibit of his work at the Hamburg Bahnhof Museum of Contemporary Art in Berlin.

“The whole process of living is my creative act.”

“The idea behind Tram Stop is not very interesting. Yes, I am consciously radical. I want to make this point very clearly: art is not just there to be understood; art is also not just there as knowledge. … Art has to come over people like a cloud and, in the final analysis, a picture should keep alive a profound question in people. Art is, as such, a puzzle . . . a puzzle that wants to be solved. but not straight away. At some point, but not by saying: that is the Tram Stop by Joseph Beuys, it means this and that, it was there and there, it refers to Moritz Von Nassau etc. Then people are stuffed full with meanings and they are no longer able to see things.”

“Art is the image of a human being. This means that when a person is confronted with art, then they are in fact confronted with their own self, and so open their own eyes. And so it is the creative person who is addressed, their creativity, their freedom, their autonomy. And this is only possible using the concept of art; however, this concept must be made more comprehensive. You cannot and should not deal with this concept traditionally and say: that is what artists do and that is what engineers do. . . . But you can get beyond the concept. And the only escape route is a more comprehensive concept of art that is anthropological and that is taken seriously: that everyone is an artist and that every person has a creative core.”

Sophie Calle’s exhibition in the France Pavilion was my favorite at the Venice Biennale. Apparently, Blake Gopnik of the Washington Post thought it was pretty good, too. He has excellent taste. The exhibit is called Prenez Soin de Vous or Take Care of Yourself. An ex-boyfriend broke up with Sophie in an email and that’s how he signed off. She gave a copy of that email to 107 women and asked each to interpret the message in her own way.

See below for more about the exhibit in Gopnik’s article or click here. I bought the accompanying book if anyone wants to see it.

A Woman Scorned Turns Rejection Into an Art Form

By Blake Gopnik
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 13, 2007; C01

A word to any man reading this newspaper: Do not write an e-mail to French artist Sophie Calle. Do not, especially, write her a “Dear Jane” e-mail.

That’s what one fool did, and the revenge Calle visited on him is now filling the French pavilion at the Venice Biennale, wall to wall and floor to ceiling.

Our guy — the artist has kindly identified him only as “X” — dumped Calle by writing her an arrogant, self-absorbed, self-pitying missive. He used the old line that he was leaving Calle for her own good. He’d found himself eyeing other women again and didn’t want to have to break his promise not to cheat on her. All of which, he implied, hurt him more than it hurt her.

If that wasn’t true then, it is now.

Calle, who was born in Paris in 1953, is one of the toughest artists on the planet; in one famous early piece she worked as a Venice chambermaid, taking pictures of the peculiar, revealing messes hotel guests leave behind. In another, she made a painful, complete record of the breakup of one of her first relationships. So it’s no surprise that, rather than indulging in weepy despair — as if– Calle chose to turn her latest pain and anger into art. She shared the cad’s communique with 107 other women and let them have a go at it.

The piece is titled “Take Care of Yourself,” after the writer’s closing words, and Calle and her comrades have certainly taken care of him.

Calle sent a printout to a copy editor, who tore apart the jilter’s diction and grammar. The text, marked up by the editor in black pen and four highlighter colors, is blown up to fill a giant patch of wall in the pavilion, alongside Calle’s photographic portrait of the grammarian.

Also on the wall of the pavilion are the face and comments of a certain Mme. Aliette Eicher, comtesse de Toggenburg, an etiquette consultant who teaches “savoir-vivre.” She pointed out, without sparing any bile, all the ways in which Monsieur X broke the basic code of love that any true “man of the world” would follow. (The countess encloses an example of the crisp note a real gentleman might send, handwritten with a fountain pen on rag paper bearing a coat of arms: “My Dearest Sophie, What you offer is a rare and precious thing. I find myself, obliged, however, to give up your company. Please trust that I do so with deepest regret.”)

And there are the comments of a forensic psychiatrist, who diagnoses the words as revealing “a true, twisted manipulator, psychologically dangerous and/or a great writer. To be avoided. Categorically.” (The originals are mostly in French, but there were translations available in the pavilion in English and Italian.)

Calle gets female experts to translate the note into Latin, Braille, Morse code, bar code and shorthand, all presented huge on the pavilion wall. A female journalist writes it up as the briefest wire story; a puzzle writer turns it into a crossword; a grade-school teacher reworks it as a fairy tale with a sad ending; a pair of Talmudic scholars put it through the most rigorous scriptural analysis.

In a room of ever-changing videos, Calle has the e-mail read and commented on by the great French actress Jeanne Moreau, by British stars Miranda Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave, by pop singers Peaches and Feist. It gets “interpreted” by a clown and a puppeteer. It’s sung out by an opera diva and danced to as a tango, a ballet and tough punk rock.

In one moment of cross-species solidarity, a parrot — female, one assumes — shreds a copy of the thing with her beak. (In a nicely democratic, anti-market move, Calle has made many of these videos, and lots of other details from the project, available in a deluxe new book. It costs almost $100, but it includes several DVDs that, in more limited editions, would cost collectors hundreds of times that much.)

My favorite video shows a competitive markswoman whose response to the e-mail was to shoot it up. She’s shown on a firing range, kitted up with the latest high-tech clothes and a gleaming rifle custom-machined just for her hands. The gun barrel barely twitches as she blows the note away. This is jilted woman as remorseless killing machine. Lucky for X that Calle is only an artist.

So what’s this all about, then, as art? Gender difference and female solidarity, obviously. The boyfriend’s face, the usual stuff of love-affair art, is missing from this installation. Instead, we get a fabulous composite portrait of a community of women, mostly skilled professionals, brought together by the actions of one loser guy. The weepy sentiment that has traditionally been seen as women’s artistic territory is replaced by hard-nosed social analysis.

The piece is also deliberately comic. Laughter was the almost universal response of the pavilion’s visitors — far more women than men, at one count — and that made the piece, for all its sad foundation, feel as cathartic as Caravaggio’s violence.

By tending toward comedy, Calle also fights against the melodramatic cliches that art is still surrounded by — cliches of the tortured artist, the lost romantic soul, the aesthetic spirit who feels more deeply than all others and often speaks in tongues. In this piece, Calle is more torturer than tortured, more glib Don Rickles than babbling Ophelia.

That analogy to insult comedy gets at a possible failing in the work. There’s a sense that the whole thing is a one-liner; that you only need to hear the premise to get the piece’s point. You could argue that “Take Care of Yourself” doesn’t demand, or reward, the kind of close study that you’d give a Titian or Cézanne.

That sounds plausible at first, but in practice it isn’t really true. Calle’s execution is flawless, and its obsessive details matter deeply to her art’s success. She gets precisely the right women to do her dirty work for her, and captures what they’ve done with a perfect artist’s eye. Her footage of the markswoman, for instance, would have had less impact if it hadn’t been so immaculately staged and shot. And it would have worked less well if it weren’t such a contrast to another video that looks as though it’s straight from a surveillance camera’s tape. That one shows Calle herself undergoing couples counseling, with her ex-boyfriend represented by his e-mail, sitting on an empty chair.

There’s plenty of visual variety on view in the pavilion. There are also lots of different entry points into the piece, which give it almost as many twists as a Titian.

The piece isn’t a single one-liner, after all. It’s a compendium of brilliant, very different cracks and anecdotes and shaggy-dog stories. It’s a whole comic routine, almost an entire career in angry comedy. That’s not bad for just one work of art from a woman who, as in the past, is sure to be heading, now, for something completely different.

The Venice Biennale continues through Nov. 21.

In the 80s, before the Berlin Wall came down, the East Germans rebuilt the structure with 14 feet high reinforced concrete slabs, which made for a perfect canvas on which to express social and political statements through graffiti art. The colorful western side served a stark contrast to the sterile eastern side, where free expression was repressed and punished. Most artists were unknown – you can see some of their work here and here. However, even major artists like Keith Haring painted on the wall. The picture above shows a section of the wall that still stands. The graffiti tradition continues around the city. I tried to find some good examples of it, but somehow I think the idea of social and political expression might be lost.

Europe’s largest department store KaDeWa features a champagne bar!

An example of socialist architecture (restored) left over from the old days. This building features a typical mural depicting the glory of the obedient worker. We took an architecture tour and the guide pointed out that the purpose of socialist architecture was to make people feel small – the buildings are weighty and huge and the avenues around them are wide and long.

This glass dome covers the courtyard betwen the Sony Center and the DaimlerChrysler complex. The structure is immense and beautiful and makes you feel very small. A modern update to the socialist architectural model?

A common mode of transportation around Berlin: the bicycle! This picture is actually in Potsdam in front of the Neue Schloss.

Best restaurant so far in Berlin: Cafe Oberwasser. There’s one additional table to what you can see in the picture. The owner brought out the blackboard on which she had written the menu and leaned it against a nearby tree. We couldn’t read the German so the blond lady with her back to us in the picture translated it. I had a spinach salad with warm pears, shaved parmigiano, and a sweet bacon dressing. For the entree, I had a pierogis and for dessert, raisin ice cream in a plum stew. Delicious!