December 27, 2008
I put together a composition for family members this Christmas - a nice bit of vinyl ambience entitled "Enlaced". It was backed with an excerpt of a long improvisation, "Hansa Variations".
Now you can have it! Complete with your choice of exciting artwork colour tones! If you decide to renege on the 'white' option, the colour versions are Photoshop .psd files allowing you to customise your own artwork however you like - change the colour, warp the image, add images, whatever. Providing you have Photoshop of course.
These files will be available for download until the 10th January 2009.
Download audio (128 kps, 15.4 MB): here
Download artwork White (jpg, 230 KB): here
Download artwork Yellow (psd, 1.3MB): here
Download artwork Orange (psd, 1.3MB): here
Download artwork Hot Pink (psd, 1.3MB): here
Issued 27th December 2008
1. Enlaced (10:36)
2. Hansa Variations (5:37)
(to be read and discarded or copied and pasted into notes in your iTunes or similar media player)
"Enlaced" recorded on the 24th of December 2008
redrobin: single vinyl record, turntable, mixer & laptop.
"Hansa Variations" recorded sometime in November 2008.
redrobin: three vinyl records, turntable, mixer & laptop.
Both tracks recorded at home, Unley, South Australia in the midst of clement weather systems.
December 26, 2008
British writer, poet, playwright and actor.
I first came across Pinter's work sometime during 2005. It got stuck on me and never left. His work in all its formats channelled life experiences and observations into stories, poems, essays and plays that resonated with the fragility of the human condition (love, death, conflict) and the world around us. Pinter was passionate, raging, fiercely political and quintessentially human.
Now he's gone and there's a void.
Death May Be Ageing (April 2005)
Death may be ageing
But he still has clout
But death disarms you
With his limpid light
And he's so crafty
That you don't know at all
Where he awaits you
To seduce your will
And to strip you naked
As you dress to kill
But death permits you
To arrange your hours
While he sucks the honey
From your lovely flowers
December 24, 2008
December 22, 2008
My top ten albums for 2008 are as follows:
10.David Byrne & Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
A highly unexpected offering from dome head and Byrne nearly thirty years after their first collaboration My Life in The Bush of Ghosts. The early sampling techniques, exotica and one chord grooves which typified that first release couldn't be further away from this collection of pop songs about exploding cars, global warming and big nurses. The cover art and package design is the most clever and thoughtful I've seen all year.
Case In Point: Strange Overtones
09.Jenny Lewis - Acid Tounge
The girl with the most sultry voice on Earth makes a debut album that feels pretty inconsistent at first but eventually gets under the skin with all its sweetness and gristle. Its a good mish-mash of soul, folk and (alt)country with some pretty awesome songwriting.
Case In Point: See Fernando
08.Panoptique Electrical - Let The Darkness At You
My second travelling companion (Lauren was first and foremost) accompanying me on a recent European sojourn was the first release by Adelaide-ite and good chum Panoptique Electric, otherwise known as Jason Sweeney. Moody moody electronic droney music that's perfect for in-transit train rides through the gloomy Hinterland.
Case In Point: The Photographer
07.Sound Unbound - Various Artists
2008 was the year I got converted to the remix - its philosophy, aesthetics, politics and application. Paul.D.Miller's (aka DJ Spooky's) compendium of essays from all kinds of people was an ambitious (if somewhat over-reaching and strained) attempt at summing up digital music in the 21st Century, however the accompanying CD sold the deal for me. It mixes up everything (Allen Ginsburg, Duchamp, Xenakis, Cage, Sonic Youth, etc.) into one post-modernist broth, which is as entertaining as it is an interesting exercise in re-contextualisation and reappropriation.
Case In Point: THE WHOLE THING
06.Beck - Modern Guilt
Beck is Beck and Beck probably wont ever be as good as Beck was in 1996, though this is his most coherent album in years. Wish he would cheer up a bit though.
Case In Point: Chemtrails
05.Philip Jeck - Sand
I got into using a turntable this year because of a Philip Jeck gig I saw in Adelaide earlier this year. Whilst I'm now making an attempt to distance myself (or more appropriately: avoid plagurising) his style of layering vinyl textures and creating hypontic loops, Jeck's untouchable - he's got an amazing amount of control, restraint and discipline to his technique. He's also created some of the most beautiful stuff I've heard this year.
Case In Point: Unveiled
04.Calexico - Carried To Dust
Whilst Calexico won't ever top 2003's Feast of Wire this comes close that masterpiece of tex-mex/rock/dub/latino mash-up. Their show that we saw in Berlin back in October was wonderful, replete with an encore of 'Crystal Frontier' in the crowd.
Case In Point: Red Blooms
03.Portishead - Third
Case In Point: The Rip
02.M83 - Saturdays = Youth
I've followed M83 for awhile with their teenage-y post-rave soundtracks. This sounds straight out of Donnie Darko, and it's all fucking brilliant.
Case In Point: Kim & Jessie
01.Lambchop - (OH) ohio
My most adored band (alongside The National) released a beautiful album this year. The band's been stripped back to seven members from the fifteen that played on 06's Damaged and it's given the album a less lush and more immidiate feel than anything they've done since 1997's Thriller.
Case In Point: I'm Thinking Of Number Between 1 and 2
December 21, 2008
What a peaceful couple of days it's been! The last two weeks preceding this balm of a weekend have been hectic, stressful and mind-numbingly boring in periods of downtime. My 'real-job''s to blame for this, though for the sake of avoiding a rant that topic stops here. There's been so much on my mind art-wise as well.
The EAF (Experimental Art Foundation) show for next year Private Invocations has been readied for the 2009 program following some editing and refinement to the original proposal and solidifying the roster of contributing visual artists. The incoming EAF director (replacing the long serving Melentie Pandalovski in April 09) seems like an ideal candidate for the role.
The new release Tiefurt has inevitably been held up as well, after listening to the track sequence in various scenarios (at home, ipod, good speakers/bad speakers) I'm still having some quibbles over the quality of the sound in parts and whether I should pare down the extensive sleevenotes which will accompany the album.
It's been a refeshing (albeit guilty) coule of weeks away from the thesis and general research as well, the Xmas break from work will allow for some time on these things.
My various tinkerings in the early hours have been productive and revelatory in some cases. I've become converted and a bit obsessive over the creative and compositional potential of wireless interfacing via my iPod Touch using OSC controllers (Open Sound Control), which has been evident in a couple of posts documenting the Touch OSC application. I'm currently exploring the Sonic Life application which uses Conway's Game of Life algorithm, which is useful for triggering toggles in Max/MSP. I've been promising video documentation of these activities for a while, so I hope to post something soon.
Oh yes, the Xmas single will be recorded in the next couple of days and posted here for download forthwith.
December 07, 2008
Today I finally got around to customising one of my patches so that its parameters can be controlled using the iPod app Touch OSC.
I wanted to find a suitable way of controlling the parameters of the old Sumimatic loop module patch. The parameters of each of the Sumimatic's four modules are controlled using the sliders and toggles on the Simple OSC template:
Vertical slider 1: Playback speed
Vertical slider 2: Pan
Vertical slider 3: Volume
Horizontal slider: Biquad frequency range (i.e 1500Hz)
Toggles 1-4: Select module to control
There's still plenty of refinement to do with this, especially sending data back to the iPod in order to keep values synched between the two devices. If there's one little gripe I have at the moment, it lies in the somewhat limited templates that come with OSC. You might have a patch with five parameters you want to control, but you've only four sliders on your interface, etc. It would be great to have a feature where you can customise your own templates.
Still, I shouldn't complain too much, it's already pretty good and this is new territory for me. I haven't really scratched the surface now that I think about it.
I'll post a video of this once I line up the OSC with some vinyl-ing on The Arouser.
December 02, 2008
I have posted a link to this online petition as it is of particular importance to artists, creatively minded individuals as well as those who like freedom of speech. The Federal Government's newly proposed Internet censorship regulations are frankly, myopic and draconian. I urge you to support this petition. The release from Get Up!: The Federal Government is planning to force all Australian servers to filter internet traffic and block any material the Government deems ‘inappropriate’. Under the plan, the Government can add any ‘unwanted’ site to a secret blacklist. Testing has already begun on systems that will slow our internet by up to 87%, make it more expensive, miss the vast majority of inappropriate content and accidentally block up to 1 in 12 legitimate sites. Our children deserve better protection - and that won't be achieved by wasting millions on this deeply flawed system.
I have posted a link to this online petition as it is of particular importance to artists, creatively minded individuals as well as those who like freedom of speech.
The Federal Government's newly proposed Internet censorship regulations are frankly, myopic and draconian. I urge you to support this petition.
The release from Get Up!:
The Federal Government is planning to force all Australian servers to filter internet traffic and block any material the Government deems ‘inappropriate’. Under the plan, the Government can add any ‘unwanted’ site to a secret blacklist.
Testing has already begun on systems that will slow our internet by up to 87%, make it more expensive, miss the vast majority of inappropriate content and accidentally block up to 1 in 12 legitimate sites. Our children deserve better protection - and that won't be achieved by wasting millions on this deeply flawed system.
December 01, 2008
The other night at the Earpoke concert, Christian Haines got me onto a recent application for the iPhone/iPod Touch. TouchOSC is a touch interface that transmits data over a WIFI network (such as numerical values.) The application features dials, sliders, toggles and matrixes for controlling such values. After gettin hold of it last night, I decided I would spend my day off grappling with its exciting potential and my limited skills with Max/MSP. After some assistance from Christian and the OSC website, within a couple of hours I was controlling a simple oscillator patch with the lappy in the backroom and myself (with Touch) on the front porch.
Excitement he quoth!
The OSC Route MSP object can be downloaded at: http://cnmat.berkeley.edu/downloads
Now my attention's turning to the potential for existing patches of mine such as the Sumi_matic (loop module) and the Arouser. I'm also very excited about the possibilty of using this interface to test installations and site specific projects remotely.
Expect videos soon.
November 29, 2008
I spent the best part of the morning and the early afternoon finishing up some tracks which will make up a new release entitled Tiefurt. It's a project that was thought up shortly before going overseas back in August. I won't go into great detail about the concept right now, I'll save that for an imminent upload and release in the next couple of days.
November 24, 2008
(in) (ex) terior is a sculptural installation I've been developing since August with the assistance of my mentor Robin Minard. With the concept worked out upon returning to Australia, the challenging aspect of constructing the sculpture faithfully got underway a couple of weeks ago.
Now with the speakers, pigment and preliminary audio in place it's nearly finished - a good thing too considering it's also the final creative installment of my Masters project.
November 23, 2008
My good cousin Ben gifted me some kitsch vinyl on Friday afternoon after work. Viva Mexicana! is a delightfully camp set of traditional Mexican tunes set to a Go-Go flavour - lots of horns and some nice marimba spots. I did a spontaneous bit of spinning on my turntable (with ipod synth) this afternoon and came up with this little tune: it's Mexicana A-Go Go! (1.7 MB)
Perfect for tequila binges, mild acid trips and commencing revolutions with bucksome chiquitas.
How ironic I should start working under my new stage name (redrobin) and come up with something completely inconsistent with my previous output.
November 22, 2008
For the sake of clarity, I have now assigned myself the psuedonym of redrobin for the area of my output associated with turntables, electro acoustic wanderings and similar activities. I'll be retaining my name proper for my more acoustic song based meanderings.
November 18, 2008
Last night I played a turntable/ipod set at COMA's Hipnote Spring Sessions. At nearly an hour, it was the longest set that I've played in this guise and I had been concerned whether I could sustain it for an extended period. It went reasonably well I think.
The selection of vinyl included the La Boheme 78, some 'Mantovani Ole!' (good for castanets), Trumpet A Go Go (more like marimba a go go), excerpts of Bowie's Low and Heroes as well as a dash of Blondie. The ipod touch featured for the first time, including some synth textures over vinyl crackles early on and the generative Eno/Chiver's Bloom application which got chopped and diced towards the end of the set.
Someone thought that the set worked really well, dividing it into two sections - First Half: foreboding, Second half: EROTIC. Nice to see I finished off on a good note.
Setlist (excluding segues):
A Room For Departure
November 10, 2008
A couple of weeks ago I invested in a new iPod. My mk1 Shuffle bit the dust whilst overseas so I figured it was time to upgrade. The nice thing about the Touch model (aside from the WIFI and iCal sync) is the hours of procrastination that can be spent fooling around with the many applications floating around on the net aether. Of particular note are the music making apps including a wonderful generative music making program by none other than Brian Eno and software developer Peter Chivers (read about it here.) As nice as it is on its own, I decided it was time to add my own bit of flavour to it by running it through the trusty Arouser. The results are so-so, but interesting nonetheless.
November 08, 2008
Performing with turntable, ipod and tape. Appearing as part of COMA's Spring Hipnote sessions, Daniel Clohesy (contemporary jazz) also performs.
When: Monday 17th November 08, doors open 8pm
Where: Wheatsheaf International Hotel, 39 George Street Thebarton
Cost: $5 (COMA members), $8 (non-)
November 05, 2008
November 03, 2008
I have contributed a video/sound work for Jason Sweeney's Faceless project. Entitled 'Shoegazer' it examines concepts of self-examination, narcissism and loneliness. Cheerful themes we can all associate with an attempted (and failed) life on the Internet. The work is also an intentional stab at the 'nothing' videos that one comes across on YouTube (see: 'My Life As An Emo', 'Leave Britney Alone!!!', etc.) The video is taken from a walk by a river in Munich. The audio is an amalgam of the original audio capture, a bit of processing and mobile phone audio.
November 02, 2008
For the past week on bus trips to work my blackbook has been periodically filled with notes and diagrams for the creative works portfolio of the research project. It's common knowledge that when you spend an extended amount of time on a couple of works, they'll inevitably evolve, suiting a new idea or repair themselves after a stunning failure. Both the Teapot Work and Sumi_ have been in this situation for awhile.
In the case of the Teapot Work the main issue was presentation - the original idea was for a performance/installation situation that closely resembled the work that inspired it, Alvin Lucier's I Am Sitting In A Room. And that was the problem really. On Saturday morning I recorded a handful of iterations for both the red and white teapots, capturing the sound of teapot and playing the recording back into the teapot four times. As an experiment I left the window open as I recorded the first and successive captures. The sound of street traffic and birdcalls found their way into the teapot, which in turn subtly articulated the resonances at play. The drone of a vacuum cleaner in the room next door created an interesting effect whilst I was recording the white teapot.
During the week when I was thinking of ways I could define this work better, I reminded myself of the association between the teapot and its cultural connotations - as a ceremonial and domestic object. I thought about its domestic meaning and decided it should be better incorporated into this context. After listening to the recordings I made on Saturday morning the action of leaving the window open to the world outside seemed like a good idea. Along with this and other sounds of the house (vacuum cleaner, conversations, radio, music) the teapot is posited in a domestic and identifiable context. I'm still to make recordings of the green (big) teapot and Lauren's heavy metal teapot, further updates soon.
This work has been troublesome for most of the year. Since exhibiting it in an early form about a year ago, I immediately identified some problems with it shortly after seeing it in the gallery context. The main issue was the fact that the two elements in operation (sound and image) were physically distant to each other and thus didn't make the intended perceptual relationship between the two convincing. During a discussion with Robin Minard back in April, he suggested some ways of bringing these elements closer together, but nothing seemed to stick.
In Germany last month, whilst exploring a sprawling exhibition in the Hamburger Bahnhof I settled on the best way of presenting this work. Where in the early version of the work, the loudspeaker would sit on the ground facing up towards the observer, the loudspeaker would instead be suspended and brought up to face the observer at waist height. A second loudspeaker of a smaller size would be suspended at eye level, albeit behind the print. As the work is observed the sound element would oscillate slowly between the two speakers, from the visible loudspeaker the upper hidden one. This would in the first instance, direct the observers attention to the source of the sound and a visible symbol for listening (i.e. the loudspeaker), then as the sound moved to the hidden loudspeaker, this would assimilate the sound with the detail of the print. I tested this a couple of nights ago and despite some niggles it seems to be on the right track.
The idea for the third and final work came rather belatedly whilst I was in Europe. Expanding on some ink drawings I've had sitting around for awhile, I decided I would use this image as a blueprint for a sculptural sound object that operates on two independent and unified states. It's difficult to explain succinctly at the moment (it is 3AM after all) but I will say it's similar to the process of Sumi_, the exception being that it's more ambitious.
November 01, 2008
Since I got back from Melbourne last Saturday I've had barely any time to sit still, let alone post something here. The week has been consumed with work drudgery and my evenings have been spent with mental recovery. No matter though, today has been a nice change of pace allowing me to work on the research project, revisiting the tpot work of yore and contemplating the adding some final touches to sumi_. Since I've got a family thing to run off to shortly the details on this morning's activities will be posted shortly.
October 23, 2008
Arrived back from Europe/Malaysia on Tuesday morning, the jet lag has been nasty. No matter though, I'm beating the body clock and heading to Melbs for a couple of days to check this sound art exhibition.
October 18, 2008
It's the middle of the day and we're on our train to Frankfurt from Munich. Munich was a nice place to relax and not do that much, same as Dresden I guess. The weather's been quite good, save for a freezing shower a couple of days ago. This train journey's about three hours and so far (halfway in) we've seen barely anything outside the window aside from some wind turbines slicing through the the thick clouds that cover everything beyond 20 metres of this high speed train. When we arrive we're checking into our hotel then going to the huge Murikami exhibition at the Frankfurt Museum of Contemporary Art. Then it's a good nights sleep before we make our passage home tomorrow.
By the way, our hotel is like a lounge bar from 1999 crossed with the decor of the Twin Peaks white lodge. Awesome?
October 17, 2008
Nothing to report of great note from the past couple of days, relaxation and casualness have taken the main priority for the final days of our time in Germany. Markets, museums and buying belated gifts for family members, etc. Tomorrow we train it up to Frankfurt for our last day proper before flying back to Australia on Sunday afternoon.
October 15, 2008
Lauren and I are taking it easy this evening watching some Family Guy dubbed in German which makes it twice as amusing. The German version of Judge Judy isn't so much...when they start to shout I get chills. We went for a walk by the river and parklands early today, taunted some friendly ducks, threw stones into the water and made videos of me walking across pebbles. It doesn't sound like HOT FUN but it's good tepid fun. Munich itself is a nice town - we found a new media art gallery in a disused subway station (see image) exhibiting work by artists from Tiblisi, which always makes for interesting viewing.
Aside from televisual procrastination, Max patching has been the order of the afternoon and I've also made some field recordings outside our hotel window which actually sound like a sound installation.
October 14, 2008
An exhausting day. Up at 5am to catch a train from Dresden hbf to Munich for check-in by 2pm. The streets of north Dresden looked haunted and moody as we wheeled our luggage through the streets to the Neustadt station. We were half awake, but the combination of mist, weird sounds, tall apartments and an eerie light emanating from a cemetery made us walk a little bit faster. The journey from Dresden to Munich was about 6 hours with a couple of stopovers and changes in the backwoods of the old East. Numerous towns and stations we passed early on were in states of dramatic disrepair - the blackened concrete, broken windows and metre high weeds pushing out of buildings pointed to a past (or current) decline of sorts. By the time we reached Hof (20km west of the Czech border) things were cleaner and maintained, from Nuremberg to Munich the vistas got more impossibly sleek and refined. We haven't had much time to take in Munich yet, aside from a doner after we'd settled in our room. It's a busy town though, I think it's going to be a fun couple of days. The wonderful balmy weather we got in Dresden seems to have carried down south too.
Oh, I've been making some music/art too. More so in the past couple of weeks.
October 13, 2008
The sun at this time of year in Dresden is pretty intense. Both yesterday and today we left the hostel at about 11am to find the streets in long shadows with lazy light like it was six o'clock in the morning. The sun barely rises out of the sky before it drops again in the late afternoon. Turn into the light (due south-ish) and pre-suspicions about its apparent weakness are dispelled by the blinding glare bouncing off the cobblestones and shiny buildings. One pair of sunglasses between two do not bode well for headache prevention. The river, bridges and surrounding buildings (patchwork, blackened and scarred) look beautiful in the afternoon light. That is when you're not directly facing it.
The area of Dresden that we're staying in (Neustadt) is probably the most entertaining of the two main sections. Oldstadt Dresden is by far the more historic section of this city, but the presence of awful aggressive Italian/Polish tourists was getting my ire yesterday which at times put me off the beauty of the Zwinger and other famous landmarks. Neustadt in a nutshell is a sprawling matrix of four story old skool apartments (1900 stylie & bomb-free), funky cafes, jazz clubs and proper punks/bohemians everywhere. The graffiti (excluding the territorial piss-stains) is quite good too - especially the colourful stencil art that adorns the underside of the bridges and backsides of buildings.
The record stores here (which I'd heard favourable things about) are a bit of a letdown - overpriced and lacking esotericism. The adjacent erotic bookstore looked far more interesting.
October 12, 2008
Whilst this vacation has been an excuse to eschew more real-world responsibilities for a short while, I though I'd take some time to cover some ground that night have been left out in previous posts. In some cases intentionally for the sake of 'thought purity'. Namely....
Since Robin became sick a couple of weeks ago, I've had to persevere on the art practice/research front. Whilst I was in Weimar I made some attempts to organise a meeting with the sound artist Rolf Julius, as anybody familiar with my line of work will know is an important influence. Unfortunately he was one his way to a routine visit to Finland for the week so I lost out there, Robin also informed me he was just diagnosed with terminal cancer which is pretty awful news. On a better note, I caught some inspiring sound art in Berlin and gathered enough initiative to start thinking about the research again. Since we've arrived in Dresden, my notebook has become a repository for coherent thoughts and ideas whilst the finishing touches to the creative works are becoming more concrete and foreseeable once I return.
After bashing my right kneecap on our bedframe last night I wasn't sure if I was going to get down the stairs let alone walk about and explore the city today. Thankfully the old joint loosened up from its agonising stiffness and I was able to get around reasonably alright for most the day. Dresden was once one of the most beautiful and cultural cities in Europe until it was firebombed to fuck-all towards the end of WW2. Hardly a 'strategic' target for the allied forces its destruction was intended as a moral blow to the German Empire. Barely anything remained of the city centre in the aftermath, an estimated 95% had been reduced to rubble and over 10,000 people had perished being blown apart, burnt alive or choking to death in the firestorm. Dresden today is a patchwork city, the remaining buildings have been amazingly restored to part of their former glory. Fresh stones and bricks sit alongside blackened originals, whilst entire sections of buildings and duplicates of statues complete once ruined buildings. I've never ever seen anything on this scale before, aside from the appreciation of the dedication and work that has gone into restoring the city, I couldn't escape a profound sense of sadness about what this place was once like and what its generation went through. For an interesting account of the Dresden bombing read Kurt Vonnegut's seminal Slaughter House 5 (if you haven't already.) The Zwinger (a gallery cum palace) also has to be seen to be believed.
October 11, 2008
Today we left Berlin in the morning due South-ish for Dresden. We arrived in the unseasonable warmth which was perfect for the short walk from the north station to our hostel. After settling in we embarked through the surrounding district (north of the city centre) which is full of nice restaurants, record stores and bars. Later the masters research which I've avoided until now found its way into my notebook as I made couple of recording by our secondfloor window. Strange how that works.
October 10, 2008
The East Side gallery near the Ostbahnhof is one of the last remaining segments of the Berlin Wall. In 1990, on the first anniversary of re-unification twenty artists from around the world were commissioned to create artworks on an Eastern side of the wall which extends for over a kilometer. Recently the gallery has been the subject of debate because it's falling into disrepair and funding can't be sought to keep it restored and protected from graffiti and vandalism. Also the area it occupies (along Berlin's main river) has been earmarked for major development which would result into the removal of the wall.
Later in the evening we went out with Asadeh and Adam (who we've been staying with in Nuekolln) for a night out in nearby Kreuzburg. The evening included a delicious soup, obtaining illicit substances near a very dark park and drinks in a few local establishments, including a devastatingly camp place called Roses (see picture.)
October 09, 2008
After a late rise we went to check out the Hamburger Bahnhof's exhibition of works by Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys and other 'contemporary' artists. It was all very impressive, especially the work of Beuys which I've never really come into contact with before (aside from maybe the odd brief Fluxus reference.) The enormous outer wing (like a kilometer long shipping container) contained the sprawling exhibition Cult of the Artist: I Just Can't Slice Off An Ear Everyday which featured of a wide variety of works which fit the decontructivist mould. Starting with some works by Duchamp (unfortunately no urinal) and ending with a purpose built space housing Ugo Rondinone's profoundly unsettling Where do we go from here (1996). Put short, large scale projections of clowns combined with sounds of heavy breathing and standing waves make for a disturbing experience.
Then it was off to Calexico! Complete with a performance in the crowd!
October 08, 2008
Today we headed out slightly east to check out a couple of the wall monuments, taking in some of the wild architecture on the way. On our way to the Jewish Museum we located Hansa Ton Studios (where Bowie/Eno) recorded Heroes, etc. Sounds a little lame, but standing on the steps to the door felt very special in a geeky fanboy sort of way. Onto the Jewish Museum, and despite the slightly patronising tone of their interactive museum, there were some impressive elements including the use of light in the building and the permenant installation by Menasche Kadishman Shalehet/Fallen Leaves:
October 07, 2008
Caught a train out the Zoo Station, took in a few of the sights and went to a couple of independant galleries we'd shortlisted for visits. A bittersweet suprise was the first gallery which was meant to have a new exhibition but was still bumping out an exhibition by one of my favourite sound artists, Rolf Julius. Since we couldn't get into the gallery, it was painful to see all of Julius' sound pieces (loudspeakers, bowls, pigments, etc.) cluttered together in he front room with us on the street seperated by a pane of glass. Like having your heart broken, really.
After we'd been offered a lamp and a bicycle by a strange man on the street we were spontaneously invited to an exhibition by a street artist going by the alias of El Bocho. The exhibition that night was very good, three artists taking urban style painting and transposing them to a more fine art context. El Bocho's work was really impressive - large scale canvases of girls faces with strong lines and a few intense colours. This was also a high profile gallery with stiff suits and flashy ponytails...it quite a spectacle to see psuedo-street art sell for upwards of 30K Euros.
Following a couple of wines we headed back into Mitte and found some bars. It's the first time I've had the pleasure of a Red Russian, it may be the last. Later on we observed the phenomena which is legalised prostitution/hustling from the comfort of a boho cocktail bar. Imagine doppelganging Russian Dolls, white leather, peroxide with bumbags and you get to picture.
October 06, 2008
Writing about my movements is becoming increasingly difficult as this city is constantly distracting me with its beauty. In brief, today we wound our way around the Mitte arts district, had some great soup and I bought a couple of exciting sound art books.
October 05, 2008
The Sunday bells rang out across Nuekolln this morning with uneven clangs and dissonance. I fell out of bed in the hope that I could get a recording down only for them to fade out as I got the microphone connected. The rain which had started to spray Berlin yesterday afternoon was still falling. Lauren and I rugged up with several layers including gloves (gloves!? when was the last time I ever wore gloves!?) and ventured outside.
We headed into a contemporary arts district along Linden Strasse finding many enticing galleries which were not open being a Sunday, but found a couple that covered a variety of sculpture, photo media and a bit of sound art. After stopping by a Jewish deli for caffeinated refreshment, we fought the drizzle on foot towards Hansa for an exhibition of notation at the Institut Des Kunst.
The exhibition was startling in its scale. By the time we'd reached the entrance I'd already poured over original scores and hand-written notes by Legeti, Stockhausen and Cage, then as one room led into another equally sized one I realized this wasn't just another rote exhibit. Highlights included graphic scores by Kagel and Jun Paik and a 3-D realisation of Xenakis/Le Courbusier's Phillip's Pavillion. However, pinnicle had to Cage's Variations (I-IV) scores complete with notes and transparencies.
After all of that I didn't mind we couldn't find a train in the rainy evening, electing to trudge it on foot through the Brandenburg gate back into the Mitte for a quick dinner, picking up some Californian wine in the U-Bahn station and heading home to dry our feet.
October 04, 2008
I spent the morning the with the unenviable task of finding a jacket that A) would be warm enough to tackle Berlin's chilly climate and B) ensure I would like it/it would not be bulky/made to look like a nihilistic hoody. Thank goodness I found a tasteful tweed/plaid zip-up thing that keeps my chest from aching and looks nice.
Today we began exploring Berlin's many galleries and museums in the city centre. After the many anti-climaxes of Weimar the variety and sheer scale of what's on offer, the programmes themselves are already satisfying us. The plan was to fit in two or three art haunts though we only managed to check out the Berlin Guggenheim which had an interesting selection of photo-media and concept art picked from the 1960's to the present. It was very well curated with central themes of slipped identity and contradiction which was at times very humourous and confrontational.
Then it rained.
October 03, 2008
Our first day in Berlin proper coincided with celebrations for the re-unification of West and East. Being a public holiday most of the shops were closed, though restaurants and some department stores remained busy amid thousands of Berlin natives and tourists taking in the atmosphere. The main festivities were taking place by the Brandenburg Gate and spilling a kilometre up the Strasse Des 17 Juni to the Victory Tower. Earlier in the day we attempted to navigate ourselves in this vast and beautiful city. In one of the markets along the riverbank I picked through a huge collection of quality vinyl, sticking with a UK pressing of Bowie's Low and 801 Live, the latter being the closest I'm getting to the elusive Eno purchase.
October 02, 2008
Packed up and shifted out of our TARDIS room at Hababusch and made some boiled eggs for breakfast. Visited Robin in Hospital, a 2km walk south of Weimar which was good for circulation and my ongoing bleak mood. Robin's doing much better after several tests and procedures. Since he hasn't been able to eat for the past few days he's looking very thin, though he hasn't lost any of his good humour. Before leaving Weimar we managed to prolong our stay by an extra hour when we took the wrong bus which dragged us a few kilometres from the train station. Deciding to walk to the station was useful for us to vent our frustrations at this town and its indecipherable bus routes.
Since we hadn't reserved seats for the trip from Leipzig to Berlin we had to stand for the two hour journey amongst some friendly backpackers and a couple of huskies.
Upon arriving in Berlin, we navigated ourselves to Neukolln - one of the main multi-cultural districts of Berlin. Asadeh (who we're staying with) said that this place has been getting a bad reputation in the media - practically forever - and is informally known as 'the ghetto' or the 'Gaza Strip'. Asadeh agreed when I suggested to her such tags are mostly the result of a media beat up based on class/race/cultural prejudice combined with unemployment statistics and drug problems. The community here is predominantly Arabic with lots of smoking lounges, doner kebabs and people playing backgammon on the sidewalk. There are also contingents of east Europeans (Polish, Serbs, Hungarians, Russians), African refugees and a smattering of native art students. The more appropriate tag for such a place would be alternative, since this is one of the major areas for outsider art, public art, and interesting art in general.
On our first evening in Neukolln we were invited to a dinner party hosted by one of Asadeh's friends. I always enjoying dinner do's where you eat sitting on the floor amongst others and get to spend the evening discussing all kinds of philosophical things (chief topic: do animals have a 'langauge'?)
Weimar turned on a show of ecological hostility today with strong winds, spitting rain, leaden clouds and general nastiness. I'm looking forward to Berlin tomorrow and putting behind what have been a couple of dissapointing days. It's apt, this strange weather almost seems to be ushering us out of this place - beating the window, ravaging the trees and soaking our shoes.
September 30, 2008
Yesterday Lauren and I went for a walk through Weimar's northern districts of Tiefurt, Kromsdorf and Denstedt. We followed the river from the much vaunted echo viaduct through open parks and fields for about 5km until we reached the eeireely silent Kromsdorf and Denstedt - hardly any cars and people around, it was a little unsettling. We could have continued walking onto the more populated Ossmanstedt but our legs were getting tired and the absence of WC's lead to a decision to head back. Stinging nettles and bare bums do not bode well for a relaxed evening.
Today has been a bit bleak . Last night I got a call from my mentor Robin saying that he had been ill for most of the weekend. I received another call from him this afternoon with the unfortunate news that he has Pancreatitus and will be in hospital for the next two weeks. I'm pretty despondent about this since I'd only been able to spend about 20 minutes consulting him here in Weimar, the mentorship was the initial reason for travelling to Germany in the first place. I need a couple of drinks tonight. I'm wishing Robin a comfortable and speedy recovery. Lauren and I are cutting short our stay in Weimar by a couple of days and moving onto Berlin on Thursday. We may swing back by Weimar later in our trip but I don't know at this stage.
September 28, 2008
The past few days have been characterised by a familiar routine of casual sightseeing, coffee consumption, drawing pictures by the river and composing by night. A bit boring I guess, but kind of necessary after ten or so days of constant busyness. Today was the same, but we did spend a couple of hours exploring the Weimar Palace Museum which houses a vast variety of artwork from the 14th to the end of the 19th Centuries.
The first floor (13th-16th Century) had some facinating sculptural and minaeture works on display, constructed from ivory/glass/other that were so intricate and complex in their detail. Observing the Christian material, from an atheist point of view some of it was very beautiful, whilst some of the other stuff was downright offputting and self indulgent cack. I don't know what was really going down for some of the artists at the time, but some of this stuff is downright nutty/sadistic/surreal. It's not really my cup of blood.
Moving onto the second floor (17th-18th Century) our moods were lifted infinitely by the charming Rococo and Baroque works on display which were mirrored in the incredibly lavish decoration of the palace. Putting aside the artworks for a moment, this palace is quite exquisite - layered with complex timber arrangements on the floor (which incidentally creak with really old sound), festooned in lots of gold paint and oodled in fine masonry and general pimping. The use of natural light was interesting too.
The third floor (19th Century) is where the New Romatics and Impressionists kicked in with their colourful daubs of paint, speckly pastoral vistas and nubile nymphs picking fruit. I even saw a decent Monet for the first time!
For the rest of the day we resumed to our rich tapestry of normality walking through a beautiful cemetary with anonymous graves and went graffiti spotting in the dimming afternoon.
It was also the brightest, sunniest, warmest day we've had in Weimar so far. I can't believe I got away with only one layer of clothing for a change.