Friday, May 30, 2014

Onkel Toms Hütte

The U-Bahn trip to Haus am Waldsee has the viewer travelling to the end of the U3 line. The second-to-last stop on that line is Onkel Toms Hütte, a modernist housing estate named after Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 anti-slavery novel, but also a series of rain shelters placed in a beer garden in 1885 by a local landlord.

These estates were started in 1926 by architects Bruno Taut, Hugo Häring, et al., and completed the year before the Nazi's took power in 1933. Had I more time I would have liked to visit these estates, but as I was rushed, I set it aside for a later visit.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Haus am Waldsee

At the press conference Juan tells us that the ideal order in which to experience the exhibition is to begin at Haus am Waldsee, followed by the Ethnological Museum at Dahlem (four U-Bahn stops to the north), then the biennale's ancestral home -- KW -- at Mitte.

The day before the press conference, Juan allowed me to follow him as he supervised the Haus am Waldsee installation. Although I hope to write a larger profile elsewhere, what follows took place within the first five minutes of our arrival.

Juan helps Angela Bulloch and her assistant load in her sculpture.

The bleed from Carla Zaccagnini's installation is interfering with the sound of Slavs and Tatars' installation at the end of the grounds.

Juan discusses the problem with Slavs and Tatars' Kasia.

The Slavs and Tatars installation: two massive sound speakers.

As we return to the haus, Juan is on the phone to the preparators, whom he asks to turn Carla's speakers towards the visual elements of her piece inside.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Berlin Biennale Press Conference

The Berlin Biennale kicked off Wednesday with an 11am press conference at the Ethnological Museum in Dahlem. KW founding director Klaus Biesenbach (far right) gave the biennale his blessings, though for some reason felt the need to tell us that "not all the work in this exhibition is great." How Klaus knew this (what is "greatness" anyway?), I am not sure, because very few people had seen the exhibition in its entirety, and Klaus was not one of them.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Dorothy Iannone (b.1933)

Tomorrow is the Berlin Biennale press preview. If I have time, I will visit Dorothy Iannone This Sweetness Outside of Time: Paintings, Objects, Books, 1959-2014 at the Berlinische Galerie Museum of Modern Art on my way back.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Olaf Nicolai

East German born Olaf Nicolai is among the 53 artists taking part in the 8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art. He is also among curator Juan A. Gaitán's six member "Artistic Team".

Atop this post is an image of Nicolai's sculpture Portrait of the Artist as a Weeping Narcissus (2000), as exhibited at the 2002 Biennale of Sydney. Inside the Berlin Biennale catalogue (still under wraps) is a fiction Nicolai wrote through the eyes of scholar Péter Szondi.

A couple days ago Nicolai sent me his text, which begins with Szondi and an aerial photo of a failed post-1989 (East) German shopping mall.

Szondi has studied the aerial photograph closely -- the access road to the site is not easy to find. he is supposed to be meeting the site manager, Herr Falkner, at the mall's rear entrance. he also has his mobile number.  but he is reluctant to phone to get directions. his conceit makes him smile.

Recall how early in Chapter 1 of Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), Stephen "turned to the flyleaf of his geography and read what he had written there; himself, his name and where he was.

Stephan Dedalus
Class of Elements
Clongowes Wood College
County Kildare
The World
The Universe"

Saturday, May 24, 2014


Above is a reflection inside Bar Italia on Kreuzbergstrasse last Tuesday morning. Below is a reflection outside the KW bar that afternoon.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Two Eights

Coincident with the 8th Berlin Biennale is the 8th election of the European Parliament.

The poster atop this post sits outside the apartment of Antonia Hirsch. Is the woman in this poster of voting age? Perhaps not. Is her character the author of the text that runs from her throat to her sternum, a text that begins with a line from Martin Luther King's speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28th, 1963? Presumably. If someone were to vote for this party, would that help to free this woman from her textual shackle? That is the idea.

Below is the motif chosen by the Berlin Biennale to advertise itself.

In most cases, half of eight is four. But in this case, eight is in its concrete form. Thus, half of eight (8) results in a variant of two curly brackets or, as they are known in the UK, curly braces ({}).

Here is a discussion on the use of curly braces.

Here is an instrument of social control.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bergmann to Wildenbruch

This morning I biked along Kreuzberg until it turned into Bergmann, after which I veered left onto Hasenheide, left onto Hermann, then right onto Sonnenallee and into Neukölln. The purpose of my trip was to visit Nicole Ondre, who, after some months living in Berlin and travelling to Hamburg for her schooling, opened a studio two weeks ago across the canal on Wildenbruch, where she is making work towards an upcoming exhibition at Diaz Contemporary.

Bergmann is a familiar street to me, and while biking along it I could not help but notice how much it has changed since my first visits to Berlin in the 1980s. Now that the city has completed a number of infrastructural projects it had started years ago, projects that seemed to go on forever, Bergmann, too, has settled into what it was destined to become:  a street of boutiques and restaurants, not unlike Vancouver's Robson Street in the late-1980s, when the mom-and-pop shops gave way to franchises.

This in turn got me thinking about how Vancouver has changed from a city divided into a multiethnic working class eastside and a largely white upper-class westside. Just as Berlin was divided into East and West (albeit more dramatically), East Vancouver is now said to begin not at Main Street but much further east at Boundary Road, the official border between it and the municipality of Burnaby.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Awoke at sunrise to the echo of an empty bird chirped street and the occasional zoom from one of the city's many 12-cylinder cars.

Not much planned on this day apart from a visit to the old neighbourhood (Schöneberg) to take a picture of my beloved Cafe Sur, and to the south of it, my favourite night spot, Felsenkeller, which, besides a verboten on music and TV monitors, serves towering glasses of lager and the best wurst. In the meantime, new spots like Viktoriapark and its view of the city's southern aspect.

Yesterday was a hot one, and many were out in their summer clothes, some for the first time. At least that's what it looked like as I passed through the park, its soft green hills strewn with winter flesh (or winterfleisch, I suppose, if such a word were to exist).

Last night the Berlin Biennale team hosted another of what is now a regular 9pm social in the hof of their building on Auguststrasse. In addition to the team, these events have begun to include the artists and their teams who have arrived to install their work.

Goshka Macuga, who had such a strong presence at the most-recent Documenta, was there with some of her performers, as was Tonel, who, though based in Vancouver, will forever be associated with Cuba. But it was Olaf Nicolai whom I spoke with at length, a great looping chat that centered on the politics of form (to put it crudely).

Today I will visit KW to see what some of these artists have installed. Before that, a visit to the Hamburger Bahnhof to see what I can of Harun Forcki's Serious Games (2009-2010).

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Park am Gleisdreieck

Landed in Berlin yesterday afternoon after a most rational Lufthansa flight from Vancouver, via München. Following that, a long bus ride and a two-stop train trip to KW, where I was greeted in the hof by Juan, whose team had just announced the artists for the biennale and whose phone did not stop buzzing the entire time. Joining us at our table was Judy and Alberto, who, at the end-stage of a violent food poisoning, sipped tea while Juan, Judy and I did the same to our proseccos.

Although tempted by a second flute, I decided it was best to drop off my luggage before the jet-lag kicked in, and so from there Judy and I took the S2 south from Orienburger to Yorck, after which we walked through the newly-created Gleisdreieck Park (see photo at the top of this post) to Dan and Christian's new apartment at the south-east corner of Monumenten and Kreuzberg overlooking one of my favourite places for outdoor essen und trinken, Kurhaus Ponte Rosa, where we dined before the sirens of jet-lag arrived with their musicians.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Eugene Choo

Before yellow there was blue.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Friday, May 16, 2014

Liberty Bakery

Rumours abound (I am told they are true) that the Rodney Graham Family Studio has taken over the Liberty Bakery at the north-west corner of Main and 20th and will re-open it after a light edit.

Yesterday, while taking a break from writing, I rode my bike over to Main to see how things are going.

As you can see, RGFS has repainted the exterior in just the right white and just the right black, a treatment that only accentuates this gently French building. (I look forward to seeing what the studio has made of the inside.)

But as you can also see, part of the building bears the mark of its neighbour, Eugene Choo, who had earlier opened an annex shop inside its northernmost space, and, rather than allow the building to attract attention, has placed its brand before it.

I cannot say I am in favour of this. I know it is a branding gesture, but it feels like territorial pissing to me. Put another way: a case of less forest, more trees.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Helliwell Park, Hornby Island

This past February I travelled to Hornby Island with Scott Watson. One of our outings included a walk through Helliwell Park.

The picture above was taken from the cliffs. The pictures below, in and of the forest.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


During the summer of 2012, after returning to Berlin from a visit to Documenta, Antonia Hirsch took me to Pfaueninsel, a small island in the River Havel, near Potsdam.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Arbutus Corridor

Last week Canadian Pacific Rail announced that it may reactivate the 11km railway line that links False Creek and the Fraser River. To prove that it means business, CP has begun to clear the line of brush, some of which is quite dense.

Back in December, Gareth Moore and I walked the S-curve between 33rd and 41st Avenues, a section of rail where I spent a good part of my childhood.

Above and below are some of the pictures I took from that walk.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Palo Verde

The palo verde is a drought-tolerant tree common to deserts.

Friday, May 9, 2014


The ghosts swarm.
They speak as one
person. Each
loves you. Each
has left something
Did the palo verde
blush yellow
all at once?
Today’s edges
are so sharp
they might cut
anything that moved.        
The way a lost
will come back
You’re not interested
in it now,
in knowing
where it’s been.

Rae Armantrout

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Review of Myfanwy MacLeod, or There and Back Again

My review of Myfanwy MacLeod, or There and Back Again at the VAG.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Bedroom DJ

A tour of the "bedroom DJ" set-up.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Clark and Goldin

Two bedrooms. The first (Untitled, 1971) is by Larry Clark, from his book Tulsa (1971); the second (Couple In Bed, 1977) is by Nan Goldin, from her book The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1982).

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Saturday, May 3, 2014

A small room inside a bay window. A single bed, a table and chair, and a sink. I could manage something larger, with more conveniences, but I could never match the view.

Thursday's visit to the Or Gallery had me returning with two publications -- artist James Hoff's reprint of Emmett Williams's Anthology of Concrete Poetry and Walter Scott's Wendy Critical Reader (with book bag) -- both of which sit on the floor beside my bed.

I am tempted to remove the plastic that encases Walter's book and bag; but as it is the kind of plastic that makes an unpleasant sound, I will wait until I am dressed and have had my breakfast, first.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Led Zeppelin III (1970)

When I was growing up and my friends and I abandoned our piano lessons to teach ourselves stringed instruments, it was not Led Zeppelin's second and fourth albums that inspired me, but their third album -- Led Zeppelin III. And while true that I too taught myself to play guitar, it was not an electric that I chose to spend my basement hours with, but a mandolin.

The cover of Led Zeppelin III was designed by Zacron (Richard Drew), whom Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page met at Kingston College of Art in the late 1950s (other notable musicians of that era who attended art school include Eric Clapton and John Lennon). Although the cover remains the same on the 8-track, cassette and CD versions, the l.p. cover is die cut and features a rotating circular panel inside.

Led Zeppelin III is a strange album that kicks off with a track ("Immigrant Song") that belongs more to Led Zeppelin II . However, from that point on the album is basically a roots album that, oddly enough, has less to do with people leaving and arriving ("Immigrant Song") than the importation and amalgamation of musical styles (blues, rock 'n' roll). "That's the Way" is my favourite song on this album.