Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Grids and Mirrors















Photos of the exhibition by the German artist Isa Genzken currently on at Inverleith House at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh, until 28th September 2014.






Thursday, 11 September 2014

Unpleasant Design

Unpleasant Design is a book by Selena Savić and Gordan Savičić that investigates obstacles, psychological and sensual manipulation in common/public spaces and offers ways to overcome it, often in a playful and creative way. After reading this book, I started noticing examples of this phenomena in my neighbourhood. You should buy this book, if only for its sandpaper dust-jacket.

The other photographs came about whilst trying to point my camera at something beautiful, of which there is, admittedly, a lot in Edinburgh, the castle, for instance. Unfortunately, my camera resisted all attempts to do this as if magnetically repelled until pointed towards something mundane, irrelevant and perhaps unbeautiful. Sorry, Edinburgh. But as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


Anything goes, at any time.  

CAUTION DO NOT CLIMB No-risk culture
Aw....was just about to wade in and enjoy my latte and croissant here.

Unpleasant design. Anti skateboarding lozenges. 

Unusual height makes sitting uncomfortable on this bench for longer time. (If you can get up there in the first place)

I've been in Edinburgh a year now. But no-one told me it was just a facade.


Capacity: 67,800 Seats taken: 1.      

Monday, 1 September 2014

I've been looking for freedom

Schöneweide, an area in southeast Berlin, in the borough of Treptow-Köpenick. After the wall came down, around 25,000 people lost their jobs here in the industrial complex belonging to energy suppliers AEG, which was no longer viable after reunification.  

The mural says: 'Give space to art, then the beauty of its soul will unfurl in freedom.' Many artists have recently moved into studios in industrial buildings which belonged to AEG, vacant for 20 years.
This is the new home of legendary beach club Kiki Blofeld. They had to leave Mitte/Kreuzberg in central Berlin in 2011, because the State of Berlin had sold their land to the highest bidder. They had the status of 'Zwischennützer' which meant that so as long as the land was not marketable, they could use it and pay cheap rent.
New home of Kiki Blofeld, 400 square metre hall for DJs and Bands, 1000 square metre outdoor space
We arrived on an overcast rainy evening so the club was closed as was access to the industrial buildings on Wilhelminenhof strasse, where there had been open studios and an arts festival a few months ago.

The State of Berlin sold part of the AEG factory areal (20,000 square metres) to investor Sven Herrman, an ex Stasi agent, for 432 471 Euro, about the same price for a medium sized flat in Central Berlin. The artist Ai Wei Wei, was prepared to pay nearly 2 million Euros for 4800 Square metres of this. (as reported in Die Welt)
Footloose? No a better soundtrack would be '(Everything I do) I do it for you' by Bryan Adams. Adams stepped in and bought one of the empty factory halls in November 2013 after Ai Wei Wei was arrested in China and was unable to secure the deal to move to Berlin. Adams plans to open a cultural centre there for artist and architect friends.


17 scientific institutions and 1300 companies are based in the traditionally industrial quarter along the river Spree.  Even 20 years after the jobs disappeared, employment is still very high in Schöneweide, people are economically disadvantaged, or as one blog puts it:' on the social atlas Schöneweide lies at the bottom' . Let's hope that if there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow if and when Schöneweide 'comes up', its for them too.   




Kaisersteg Bridge was rebuilt and reopened in 2007. It provides a shortcut for students of the University to the S-Bahn, just like it did for the workers of the AEG, Berlin's electricity company.
The University of Applied Sciences,  moved to Schöneweide in 2006. 8000 students from 100 different countries study here. Most of them, however still choose to live near the city centre.

Schöneweide had become a Neonazis stronghold up until recently with violent attacks on migrants and left wing people and organisations. This had obviously put many people off from moving or even coming here. 




Now the infamous 'Henker' pub, which had served as a meeting point for rightwing extremists since 2009 was evicted through the courts by its landlord. In April, the regional Chairman of the far right extremist party NPD closed his militaria shop located in the same street in Schöneweide due to lack of custom. DeGeWo, a housing association that owns 350,000 properties, has  included clauses in tenancy agreements than bans any products promoting extreme right ideas being sold in its commercial properties. (as reported on RBB )

Families have now also begun to move here from other areas of Berlin,  pushed out by rising rents in more sought after areas. Kiki Blofeld have leased the land until September 2014 to see if it is viable. They hope that people will make the journey to the club, which, after all is just a short ride by S-Bahn from the city centre. The owner, Gerke Freyschmidt says "They just have to realise that Oberschöneweide also is part of the city".










Other articles (in German)

http://www.nzz.ch/aktuell/startseite/im-osten-viel-neues-1.18201227

http://www.tagesspiegel.de/berlin/stadtleben/bald-in-berlin-oberschoeneweide-clublegende-kiki-blofeld-kehrt-zurueck/9698644.html


Saturday, 9 August 2014

Fleetway, a story in twelve photo fails

1.

Beyond the fence is a burned down farmhouse and a DANGER KEEP OUT sign. My camera club gains access through a gap in the fence. We are here with our middle format cameras,  to shoot real film! I have one '120' film, that's just 12 photos that I can  shoot today. One member nudges a carpet cleaner lying abandoned in front of the house casually with their foot. I circle the appliance carefully, not wanting to disturb it as if it belonged to a crime scene. They go. I stay at the house. Too long! The carpet cleaner is certainly appealing in its shade of retro blue. It's not working, but resting, like an out of work actor. On a carpet of leaves, it is just biding its time. Later, after processing the film, I see two teeth like marks on the left hand side of the film. The negative is split and damaged. Perhaps this carelessness is the start of it all.



2.


I have definitely stayed at the broken down farmhouse too long. I am starting to feel uncomfortable. After all, I am trespassing. Why didn’t I just cadge a lift with the others. Outahere. The carpet cleaner surely feels inadequately portrayed by the camera. Although I don’t get the film back for several weeks, it may already be perturbed that I have so rudely exposed the rust spots in its powder blue finish. It’s not daft. It knows how appealing it looks now that it has retro cool status. The carpet cleaner ceases to rest. Over the next few weeks before the film is developed it slowly springs into action, cleaning the photographic image away from the second frame of the film. It is in collusion with the house. In two weeks it manages half a frame, leaving a line to show where it has tidied.


3.

The farm, you see, belonged to a grand estate. The manor is just a ruin now. The walled garden is filled with snowdrops in the spring. At the gatehouse, near the entrance, a ‘friend’ of the estate has shows me the photocopied leaflet about the history of the manor.  'You see, the son and heir of the estate, he kept 30 stray dogs in the manor house, let it go to rack and ruin, can you see?’ She points to a photograph of a room and I say ‘oh yes I see, how terrible’, but I can’t actually really make out what is going on in the photograph, which has been reproduced many times . But I believe her, and now I can imagine the overturned dog bowls and torn upholstery and carpets ruined when I look at the pattern of indistinct inky blobs long enough.



4.


Where did this picture of my skin appear from? I remember focusing my camera on the springs of an upturned sofa lying at the side of the house. I remember photographing broken bits of roof slate on the ground. I used a semi-telephoto lens, and believe you me they are heavy and cumbersome on a camera like a Pentacon. But almost as soon as I reach this conclusion  I realise I am mistaken. It turns out not to be skin at all but flickers of fine fire on the photograph.



5.

However, these mysterious flickers turn out to be less benign than they appear. They have reduced the roof of the house to charred ribs. The film is reasserting itself. It wants to depict something concrete, not abstract, but it can only manage dilapidation. The camera is considering how many seconds, minutes, hours or days of consideration it takes to create a photograph and not just a snapshot. (The film and camera both are actually deeply afraid of ‘Bilderflut’ ((too many photos in the world)). The camera doesn’t have light meter. It might not be reliable. It isn’t digital- its never even heard of that.


6.


The house retorts with one cutting word ‘PAPER’. The meaning is not lost on the film. That is: Paper has no depth, something the film is acutely aware of. Moreover, in one hundred years time, implies the house, I will probably still be here, at least my foundations at any rate. But you will be blank, film. Any decisive moments you may have had will be long gone, chemically erased with age, colour prints do not last. Read the writing on the wall. It will probably last longer than you, which is why it was written in the first place!


7.


The photographic film, make of Fuji, is in a huff now. It frames the house’s empty window frame.The  empty window frame frames the film. It is an impasse. 


8.


Finally the film concedes. So what, says the film, I am not having a battle of egos with a burned down house that noone will ever buy. Listed, i.e. high maintenance, obviously. Meanwhile the house has lost interest in the self-obsessed film and totally blanks the camera. It wishes it could just take its charred old timbers and wander off just to get a bit of piece and quiet. It wishes someone would secure the fence to stop all these bloody photographers trapsing about. Without the house, the film, in frame eight, just exposes itself and is quite pleased with the result. It can never really show nothing, even if it tries, it muses. Even the camera has nodded off at the self-congratulatory tone of the film.


9.


The film remembers a painting it once saw and photographs it so it appears out of focus. What was sharply defined paint is now thrown into a blurry kind of parallel reality. It coins a genre: painting-realistic photography.

10.


 I recognise this picture but the film doesn’t. There is a water tower, you can see it through the window. There is an overgrown garden, growing in what used to be a stable. When I walked into the ruin past the DANGER KEEP OUT sign, two birds, startled, flew out of a bush. As I lined up the shot, two children jumped through the window. Then ran out through the door.



11.


 At least this one has got a straight line, and there appears to be no parallax or anything horrible like that. We could be facing a tower block or, if we change scale, a vent.  Or perhaps it is an edge where you can peer over into a void. No, look up! You are just sheltering under an awning. But still, it’s hardly the golden mean rule of composition, is it? It’s not golden, maybe mean. Having said that, the photo was most deliberate. Actually this photo had to be reshot to get the golden mean otherwise known as  rule of thirds composition just wrong. It is definitely not a snapshot.

12.










Wasn’t there a curtain in the house, pristine, white, like a feather to the touch, which was a surprise because everything around it was falling apart and the air smelt of charred wood, though the house “had burned down years ago”? Weren't the windows boarded up? I don’t remember it being that dark, not even when I blinked. I was there at midday, not such a great time to photograph a building, but definitely not so dark. Did I miss something? Was it the camera then that saw that darkness then? Or was it the film? Half snapped in the light. Half shot in the dark. Snapshot.  







Friday, 1 August 2014

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

I am beautiful, orange




On a bus
Straight to town
A little girl
Her grandmother, grandiose
Asks her: What’s your favourite colour, Blue?
Answers her own question with: Oh I do not like yellow
-each word juddering like the bus
And: I hate orange – as if she could spit the colour out

Still on the bus
Now straight in the town
To a shoe shop bus-stopped
In front, a woman waits in a dress
Pithy, its colour a bright orange zest
An orange that grates
Now that grandmother has infected my sense of taste
Its orange, impossibly so
Reflecting no cellulite texture
Orange and tasteless with the pips spat out

But grandma cries out loudly
“Oh, but what a beautiful dress!
Look, dear, see! She has a beautiful dress on!
Oh my, can you see dear, what a beautiful dress, look!”
It’s so orange, it is hardly a dress
Surely anyone can see that?
But she really can’t stop herself now
Pulping her fictive interest

For a granddaughter who I am not sure
Likes orange, or yellow, shoe shops or dresses
Or even her grandmother come to think of it
With her fatuous opinions designed to squash and remove her
But you hate this colour, I want to say
I feel angry, betrayed
For the granddaughter behind me squeezed out and mute
with the grandmother who spits colour all over the shop

The bus drives on, the orange walks away
Both leaving the town centre
A girl’s expectations pared down
Sits patiently as colour slowly exits the bus
Exhausted fumes of orange, yellow and blue
It’s not colours she likes, no, it is catching her own reflection
In shoe shop windows,
But now there are just houses,
‘So I must no longer be here’, a vague idea
The bus journey now interrupted by traffic lights green, orange,
stop.