Drinking in Art & The Art of Drinking
A full Saturday in Berlin, especially for a traveler and doubly so for a first-time visitor without public transit experience, requires twice a normal day’s energy; luckily, I still have my youth, and the payout is invaluable to my future, I think. As you will notice post after post, the memories of each day strike me as being so individually special and enjoyable that they require tedious verbal illustration.
Early morning, Ethan collected directions for us to see the Hamburger-Bahnhof Museum of Art in central Berlin, a contemporary museum near the largest train station in the city. Our directions, found on Google Maps, led us completely incorrectly – we ended up near an area called The Esplanade, which surrounds a river and contains several major international embassies, one of which I’ve included in the photographs above. Though seeing the Chinese and Japanese Culture Centers was kind of cool, we found ourselves undeniably lost until Ethan thoughtfully hired us a cab outside the Grand Berlin Hotel, and we were delivered to the museum.
The main exhibit, entitled CLOUD CITIES by Tomas Saraceno, was and is one of the most spectacular interactive art exhibits I have ever seen. Saraceno, an Argentinean-German architect, constructed large plastic bubbles of varying size from small human to small home, of which I’ve included several pictures. Some of these cities contained plants, water concealed in further bubbles, metal knickknacks, and black webbed micro-fibrous yarn tethering each to the other across a sprawling grand auditorium hall. The largest clouds can be entered, walked and jumped upon, sat or slept within, etc. There was, to be honest, a caveat: before entering, one must remove shoes, so as not to stain the plastic, and only one opening to the bubble can be accessed at a time, as two would cause a collapse in air pressure inside.
Another exhibit was by a man named Paul Lafolley called SECRET UNIVERSE, a peculiar and complex set of painting regarding the underlying processes involved in the human experience. Each painting took basic shapes known to occur in the cosmos in great multitudes – a hexagonal star, a vortex, a sphere – and attached to that shape a map of patterns for cosmotic phenomena, i.e. sexual intercourse, the development of a supernova, utopian philosophy. How to accurately explain the pieces eludes me; I have attached a few photographs, and I hope in some way they reflect the great beauty of Lafolley’s ideas, as well as the intense visual projection of his genius. That being said, less like Saraceno’s pieces or the ARKITEKTURA exhibit in the museum’s east wing, SECRET UNIVERSE was particularly esoteric. ARKITEKTURA was a collective of architecturally-themed works by such greats as Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre, and Jason Rhodes. Pictures might not be necessary here, but it should be mentioned that certain pieces stuck out strongly. For example, one film by a Hungarian artist seduced Ethan greatly: a carpenter designed a strong beechwood box from the inside, only altering the interior to be hollowed and then patterned in such a way as to collect sunlight. A short film, experimental in fact (in the words of JAS), featured a static camera at the base of the box that captured the inside of the case as the artist moved it through different positions in a forest; the film was so entrancing that, after works that had been minimalist and quiet outside, I nearly fell asleep.
Later, we joined Raquel for a tour through the uber-fashionable Hakescher Market section of Berlin. My camera was not swift enough to take photographs of the incredible clothes people wore and sold, nor was my mind primed enough to realize our walk around the district was accompanied by sightings of girdle-wearing, colored-umbrella-carrying prostitutes that haunt the area. The clothing of Berlin, my goodness, it just destroys me. Everyone is dressed well, every wonderful store is on sale, all the sweaters fit snugly and the corduroys come in many shades. It was all I could do not to drop my food-money on sweater vests, cardigans, long socks, scarves, and multibuttoned coats.
In the area, we entered what used to be an East Berlin squatter house following bombings in Berlin called Tacheles. The building is now a haven for international artists, vandals, sculptors, hipsters, and people on acid. Tacheles featured a man sculpting beautiful jewelry from antique silverware (he would not let me take photos due to a lack of copyright, and I could not afford more than a small, ill-fitting ring), as well as an artist named Alexander Rodin begging in posters German, French, and English that the German government RETURN HIS MATERIALS WHICH WERE UNLAWFULLY, UNPREDICTABLY CONFISCATED, WHAT THE HELL IS THIS, HIS HOME COUNTRY OF ROMANIA?
The rest of the night consisted of a tremendous Austrian meal with much wine, seltzer, spaetzle, schnapps, and in my case, pumpkin dumplings filled with goose meat over a bed of red cabbage, all in a rosemary and wine marinade. We followed with trips to several different bars lasting until about 3 a.m., an early night in for Berlin, but a certain someone whose name rhymes with Beethan could not keep his eyes open by the time of the fourth bar. Such is the way of the short and curlyheaded.