February 24, 2011
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berlin street art - ALIAS (and if you know who the other artist is, let me know!)
I’m standing at the outskirts of the crowd, partly out of care and partly out of cowardice. I’ve never liked crowds, and if the crowd is a demonstration surrounded by police in full riot gear, I like it even less. For some reason we’ve come to a stop and none of the people around me seem to know why. Everyone’s going ‘what the fuck’s up?’, but there’s no announcement, no information. We stand around for quite some time before we can hear something being said over a megaphone, but exactly what is impossible to hear. The conclusion everyone draws is that it’s over now, that the police has stopped the demonstration from going any further. We’re on a long stretch of street without side streets and it’s very crowded. People start moving a bit, but there’s really nowhere to go. And then, pretty much out of the blue as far as most of us are concerned, the police line advances and in the middle of the crowd people start screaming. I’m right at the edge, so the police are pretty much trying to push me back in to the crowd. Luckily, and most likely because of the aforementioned cowardice, I immediately notice what’s happening and manage to sneak through a gap before they close the line completely. Behind me I hear two girls begging to be let through, panic in their voices. As I push my way through the crowd of people now desperately trying to get away from the erupting turmoil, I see several people holding their faces in extreme agony. People are screaming for water. And at first it’s like my brain doesn’t really want to process the information, it’s just too bizarre somehow, but then I realize it’s tear gas. They have fired fucking tear gas straight into the crowd. That’s when I also realize I have to get out of there. Fast. And I’m very lucky, not only do I get out, but I also manage to find a spot where I can still see some part of what’s going on. And I see people trying to get out anywhere they can, some try climbing over a 4m wall in a courtyard hoping to find a way out in the adjacent one. Out in the street people are running and the police keep pushing the crowd together and backwards even though there’s not really anywhere for them to go. More tear gas, more screams. I don’t know how long it lasts, but it doesn’t take the police that long to clear the street from most of the people. But the sirens keep going all night. Read more of this post
February 21, 2011
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I’m sitting in the dark of a movie theatre, immersed in images, a depiction of a life lived in the century before this. Paintings, the talk of art and of life. Faded photographs mixed with images of paintings radiating with color. It’s a movie about Otto Modersohn, a German painter, made by his great-grandson*. A movie about his art, but just as much about his wives and their art. These women, their stories, they resound in me, touch me to the core of my being. Their desire, their longing, I can feel it. Their journal entries reach out from across the oceans of time and grab me. I am mesmerized. The past becomes alive. These women become alive.
His second wife, Paula Modersohn-Becker, a brilliant artist, more significant than her husband as the judgement of posterity would show. She wants to be free, she wants to live without the ties of a marriage, and he tries to meet her half-way. He let’s her go to Paris, let’s her leave their life behind. In 1906 that decision must have been more than radical, for both of them. But then he goes after her. Maybe it was a mutual agreement as stated in the movie, but when I hear the lines from her diary about her burning desire to be free and then the later realization that “she wasn’t made to stand alone” I can’t help but wonder. Was it resignation or maybe pity, or a combination of both, that made her ask him to come and join her? She gets pregnant and they leave Paris to go back home. She gives birth to a daughter and then passes away. What does that mean? I don’t know. But I know what it’s like to want to be free, to want to get rid of the emotional ties, the shackles of love that hold you prisoner in a life you don’t want to live. It hurts so bad. And sitting there in the movie theatre I can really feel her pain. The movie has me in a firm grip. I’m enchanted by all these stories, these women and their struggle to maintain the balance between society’s expectations and their own dreams. Read more of this post
February 2, 2011
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Today a squat is being cleared in my neighborhood, Liebigstrasse 14. It’s a house project that’s existed for 20 years and were the occupants, through negotiations with the Berlin senate, got legal tenancy agreements in the early 90s. But then, in the late 90s, big money came in and wanted to buy the house from the WBF (Wohnungsbaugenossenschaft Friedrichshain ≈ Friedrichshain Housing Association), who was the current owner. And as we all know, money talks and the house was sold. The only problem was that the people who were actually living there wasn’t he target group the new owner was looking for. He was looking to make a profit, and with his current tenants that was not very likely to happen. So their leases were cancelled. They however, had no intention of moving anywhere. As far as they were concerned it was still their house. A house they had lived in for 20 years and renovated themselves. After going through the usual rounds in the legal system the eviction was confirmed and the current tenants where to be kicked out. By force if necessary. And of course force was necessary. Read more of this post
February 1, 2011
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There’s about 8 of us. A motley crew of unemployed academics shuffled together in a room to participate in a course on how to successfully apply for jobs. We are here to find the way out of unemployment and get our lives back on track as it were. Today we will be taught how to get through the job interview.
“So why did you study philosophy?” she asks me.
“Because I thought it was interesting.” Not the most elaborate answer, I know, but it’s the short version of the truth.
She smiles a condoning smile: “Yes, that’s the way it is when you’re young and don’t know about the labour market.”
And for a second I feel stupid. Clueless. Because in a way this career consultant woman is right, studying philosophy is not a very smart career move. But then logic and reason return and I realize that what she just said is actually a perfect testimony to everything that’s wrong with our famous western civilization. It’s all about making yourself attractive on the job market. To get ahead of the competition. Adapt to what the almighty Market wants. The greed game. Consumerism. All bottled up in that one remark. Studying philosophy, yes the follies of youth… Read more of this post