Wednesday, 5 August 2015

"Ach, bist Du auch neugierig?"

This area of the former Kindl brewery in Neukölln, Berlin, is now an arts centre. If you visit their website, you will see from the nice photos there that many of the original features have been retained.

I came across the brewery by accident, on a mission to track down some friends of mine who live nearby.

"Ach, bist Du auch neuguerig?",  a man in cycle gear asks me. Here is where the Kindl area comes to an abrupt end at a yet to be filled gap. I am not the only "neugierig" or "nosy" one.*

I snapped this photo from a U-Bahn station wall: The photo is courtesy of the Museum Neukölln, and shows the brewery as it was around 1930.

* Actually "neugierig" can be literally translated as "greedy for the new", gierig means greedy and neu means new. The man used it to mean I was also curious or inquisitive, and despite its quite negative word root it is often used in a positive way. There doesn't seem to be a German equivalent for "nosy" though. One word suffices for all; A nosy neighbour is also "neugierig".

In German there also doesn't seem to be quite the equivalent of "Mind your own Business". If you do have the misfortune of having to use this phrase in German, it may be quite a mouthful: "Kummern Sie sich um Ihre eigenen Sachen/ Dreck". By the time you have said this, the moment will have probably passed leaving you mumbling incoherently to yourself. I have observed a higher sense of civic duty in Germany. This may be why I haven't heard this phrase used often, for example, when a stranger admonishes someone for crossing the road when the pedestrian signal is red. (I like the London phrase "to stick one's oar in", which means to meddle in other people's business.)

"Neugierig" could just as well be "altgierig", if you are greedy for the old, like I seem to be for old industrial buildings. That could sound quite conservative though. I like the way the word nose-y is such a physically descriptive word. I often follow my nose to the scent of an interesting place when taking pictures. No, I think I'll stick with nosing around as everyone knows what curiosity did to that cat.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The Teaches of (Lidl) Peaches

I have been staying in Berlin with my friend Kate. Our days seem to start and end later and later, but when they do start, it is usually with one of these delicious flat peaches (Plattpfirsiche) freshly picked from the aisle of our local Lidl.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Your Voice is You

Some photos from the opening night of HIDDEN DOOR in Edinburgh, which is a non profit arts festival which takes place in abandoned or hidden places in Edinburgh. This year it is at the old street lighting depot on King's Stables Road, right in Edinburgh's old town, near the Grassmarket. On until Saturday 30 May.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Sagrada Familia, Stained Glass and Selfie Sticks

I am not a religious person, but still when I walk into a church I expect to feel a sense of reverence. Although architecturally fantastic, the atmosphere of the Sagrada Familia was, somehow, inexplicably dead. I couldn't feel the mystery that surely should be part of the religious experience. Everything was wonderfully and colourfully lit. Illuminated plastic looking transparent nodes on columns blinked down at me like compound insect eyes. There were organic flourishes and details and, looking skywards, the columns grew like a forest canopy. 

Perhaps it was the hordes of tourists (including myself) in the church and the din of the ongoing building works (the church will take another 40 years to complete) that had displaced any atmosphere of religious feeling. In fact a sign recommended worshipers go down to the  chapel in the crypt where they could pray in quiet and contemplation.

I sat down on one of the stone benches lining the edge of the church and instinctively began to take out of focus images of stained glass windows and became more and more carried away until I was in a kind of trance. I think I was trying to recreate the mystery that I felt was absent in the church but soon my pictures became more and more about integrating the tourists into the pictures.

I have been fascinated by tourists and their rituals for a while. The tourists were involved in a ritual of taking selfies, almost religiously. They were unified in a common gesture, not of hands held together in prayer, rather holding the arm gracefully curved and aloft, cupped around the phone or wrapped around the selfie stick. I felt like an atheist to their cause, not having a selfie stick to hand to give blessing to our visit so that we may be granted eternal virtual life through our uploaded images on our social media pages. As a  ritual, it is perhaps profane in its self worship, but nevertheless still a ritual which responds to the fragility of being a human with an expiry date.

I found this vista of the Sagrada Familia (see last photo) where building is still underway and cranes were sweeping through the sky to be the most arresting part of my visit. "Why shouldn't a crane be as uplifting spiritually as a church spire?" says Momus in a piece on the industrial area of Osaka docks in Japan. You can make the pilgrimage to see the cranes at The Sagrada Familia until the building work is finished in 40 years and have your spiritual cake, and eat it.

Friday, 15 May 2015

You are still here

These photos were taken at the Miro Foundation in Barcelona designed by Josep Lluis Serp. The title of the post is borrowed from a piece by one of my favourite artists Mona Hatoum which was exhibited in one of the rooms in the collection.

The piece is a mirror that catches your reflection and asserts that YOU ARE STILL HERE with etched text. As in many examples of Hatoum's artwork, the piece works on your senses first leaving your thought processes to catch up. The text is refracted twice, and is also open to interpretation.

You are still here - a positive meaning, as in you are still here, alive, you matter.
You are still here - as in negative meaning, you don't belong here, move on please
You are still here - you are still, unmoving.

It was refreshing to come across this piece unexpectedly in one of the many museums of Barcelona we visited dedicated to great men (Miro, Picasso, Gaudi and Tapies).

Friday, 10 April 2015

Charging the Void

I took these series of photos for the last photo theme of "Personal" at the Democratic Camera Club here in Edinburgh. The vase in the photos was made by my dad who taught ceramics and was an art lecturer. 

I first wrote about the vase in a blog post called Forget Me Not three years ago. Unfortunately, the vase had just broken which prompted me to write about it. I also wrote about the other objects I had inherited from my dad and how, although I was sorry this particular piece had broken, I wasn't even sure if I had really liked it. Although I love some of his other works, I wasn't really sure what to think of this one. Then, I wrote about it as if I had made peace with the fact that the vase was broken, saying that memories of a person shouldn't have to be preserved through objects, especially if you don't find that object particularly attractive. I may have written that, but I didn't throw it away. 

When we moved to Edinburgh from Germany in 2013 I took the two heavy pieces of the broken vase (it broke at the "neck" so to speak) with me and eventually found a restorer. (It must have been one of the few moves where things get mended rather than break). I must admit when it was away at the restorers, I didn't miss it much and only remembered where it was when they called me a few months later. When I picked it up I was amazed as I couldn't see the break at all. 

I still don't really know if I like the vase. The project gave me the opportunity to find a way of photographing it now it was mended.  In these photos I wanted to show a process of relating to it, not just showing the object itself. Maybe because the vase dates from the 70s, the artist Rosemary Trockel popped into my head and I began to think about how she addresses feminism and politics in her work, and how she mixes the distinctions between craftsmanship and high art, all themes in her work at that time. I then conducted rather functionary arbitrary actions on the vase, like a performance. I used the vase as a pillow and also as a rolling pin. (as far as I could see there was no functional use to the vase, so I gave it one.) In another I used it for target practice, throwing screwed up pieces of paper to see if I could get one in the opening at the top. (Quite a futile game, but an interesting way to map failure.) I shook out its contents onto a piece of white paper (the vase became almost corporeal, dust and debris reminiscent of ashes). 

At the meeting the main feedback I received was to film it as a performance. The term "(positively) Charging the Void" was used by artist and lecturer David Grinly in his introduction to the theme of "Personal" on why we take photographs today. 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

The Ticket Collector

In 1997, I travelled from Prague, Moscow, St Petersburg overland on the Transiberian Express to China and then Thailand, Laos and finally Indonesia. On the way I collected scraps of paper, tickets, cigarette and match box packets, stamps, and anything that caught my eye. Below is a selection from that. I remembered this scrapbook after Benjamin Pollock's Toy Shop asked people to share their collections on their mini social gallery in celebration of the current Barbican exhibition, Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector.  If you want to see other people's collections and find out more about the Pollock's competition and how to share your own collections, see my last post or check out their Facebook page.

Mongolian money, stamps and maps

Moscow and ticket for Transiberian perhaps


The stamps on the left feature the Thai King Bhumbibol Adulyadej, rather coolly holding a camera here. 

China, water bottle, cigarette pack and ticket for Great Wall



Aeroflot mints, cigarettes? I am not sure.