28 Feb 2010

East Side Gallery, Berlin.

A Berliner gem and definately worth a visit if you're in the area... and since the u-bahn and s-bahn is damn cheap compared to most modes of transport in the UK you don't need to fret about going over budget. I do love German public transport, yes - I am a sad little tourist that loved the novelty of being able to keep the tickets from the u/s-bahn, I loved how you have to validate a ticket and you get a date and place stamp so you can remember where you've been, and I love how reasonably priced travelling is.

I visited this "gallery" on the final day of our visit - along with many other sites of interest on the same day. Transport around the city is quick and easy (most ticket machines have an option to be in English which makes things easier of course!)

There is a section of the Berlin wall just a short walk away from Warschauer Straße s-bahn station, it is a 1.3km stretch of wall dedicated to art - I think it's a fabulous way to use somethingthat was in effect created for something ever so slightly evil. The gallery is called East Side Gallery, evidently named since it is situated in what was east Berlin - there are a few shops where tourists can purchase souvenirs and also a lot of hostels nearby with artwork covering the walls.

This, along with Tacheles (previous blog post) were among my favourite parts of the city... we ventured to quite a few art galleries but I prefer the more tangeable approach to art, I could feel the wall... I could touch the cast iron and the walls in Tacheles, I would have probably been fined thousands of Euro's if I touched an original piece by Andy Warhol.

I was relieved I managed to visit this area as it, along with more notable tourist destinations such as the Brandenburger Tor and other parts of the Berliner Mauer, I desperately wanted to see - the artists who produced work specifically for the wall definately did the eerie setting justice, the entire area is brightened up by the works - even if most are still related to the times when the wall was not broken.

no room for me on the sofas

I am writing this while sat at home, 2 days after leaving Berlin for "normality" - I couldn't get an internet connction for the remainder of the trip as more arrivals at the hostel and their late night shenannigans left the only available time for me to blog being at stupid o'clock in the morning - which after walking around Berlin all day I couldn't be bothered to commit to... yes, I am not a competant blogger, and I don't care.

I throughly enjoyed my stay in Berlin, the hostel was interesting to say the least - the staff were helpful (except when one tried to make out I was a liar, if you decide to stay there please remember to ask for your deposit back) - but on the whole it was manageable and fun, if that isn't too strange a word to use for somewhere you sleep. The breakfast was... continental, that's all I can say really - I got home and the next morning craved a bacon and egg sandwich more than I have ever before, I like salami and cheese but every morning is rather tiresome.

I could write an entire essay on my time in Berlin, but I have chosen to instead support a place I visited on the final day in the city... the Art House, or rather - Tacheles. This place is possibly the most fascinating building I have ever been in - there is also an outside space which I am not sure belongs to the art house but I will include it in this little "review" as it were, since I was utterly fascinated with the works there.

The building is quite literally a "squat" - an artists squat where people can exhibit pieces, create, sell or invite people to order comissions all under the same roof (or garden). The outside area holds caravans and outbuildings which house artists who work with 3D form; anything from woodwork to cast iron - lessons are given in metalwork (which I am quite disappointed I didn't notice until the final day in Berlin) and pieces are available to be bought... believe me, if I had space and the weight allowance in my luggage I would have purchased something to support the artist themself and the entire scheme.

From what I gathered, inside there are several exhibition spaces on several levels - I only ventured up two floors as that was what time permitted, but what I saw was well worth the visit. The main "hall" housed a large number of works, ranging from ceramic dolls, audio and video, oil and acrylic paintings, watercolour and inks, 3D and other styles all together in one large gathering that hits you as soon as you step out from the darkness. This internal space is in a dire state of repair, and I don't know whether it is because I 100% respect the artists' decision to exhibit in such a place - or whether it just works, but I feel as though how I am seeing thse pieces is how they were meant to be presented.

They gel together even though they are completely different in each way, this is a group exhibition and since my German is quite shocking I can't give any more information than that - but if I ever manage to take part in something like what I saw I would be overjoyed as my reaction was probably the same for anyone else who stepped in there - and this is much the same with the external area. I just love how everything falls in to place, rusted iron... painted boards, vehicles, old bath tubs, reclaimed materials, recyclying of old and disused appliances, you can see it all.

For the entire time I was either inside or outside on the site I felt as though I had found what I was missing, something collective - something raw and what I thought students did. I am in my first year of a degree and by the end of the three years I want to experience something like this first hand, maybe if Tacheles gets the funding it so desperately needs I might return one day to find my own pieces on the grubby wall, or in the cold outside. This is the fun of art, if there was no artwork in this building it would have been torn down by now - the art keeps the area alive, plus there's some damn fine food just around the corner.

25 Feb 2010

what are we gonna do?

I am not asking that question, but merely repeating what I can hear coming from loud speakers - this morning there is random 80's and 90's pop rock playing, it seems to be a different genre every morning, or rather every time I sit on these chesterfield sofas! Blondie right now.. oh wow, what a tune - caaallll meeeee ;)

Yesterday was the best day so far here in Germany, I say Germany of course because we ventured out of Berlin - we walked to the hautbahnhof in Berlin (the main station, there are several in the city inluding rather large underground (U-Bahn) stations - and rather easily managed to acquire a group ticket (of six, myself - four other students and Roger Hargreaves) to Leipzig Hautbahnhof. Also, I do know we have only technically been here 2 and a bit days but still, it was a great day. We arrived in Leipzig around 1pm, a rather late arrival if I can say! we met with Erasmus Schröter and his wife and spent a few hours in his "packing and framing" studio - including several powerpoint presentations and talks about his past and current work.

His work is most interesting, varying from work in the 70's and 80's during the segregation of east and west Germany - through the abandoned bunkers, "summer houses" more recogniseable as sheds, lost space and time with figures bathing in the darkness (infra red) and much more. We, as a group, spent over 2 hours in the studio listening to what he had to say about his work - both past and present. It was a surreal feeling being in a studio of someone so well known, whether it be a working studio or just a storage area - I didn't care. I walked away from that space with a signed copy of his most recent publication, and I was left feeling as though I knew hardly anything about the struggles in Germany during that time.

My dad was stationed in Germany during the time the Berliner Mauer was up - the Berlin Wall to us non-German speaking folk. He witnessed carnage, and how deprived those on the east side were - since Leipzig fell in the east side of Germany I guess the same could be said. It's amazing to think that 20 off years ago this photographer and his wife escaped from communism and managed to return "home" to a more normal way of life... I guess you can see in his work what influence that time had on him, he's definately worth looking up.

it's snowing in Berlin

08:10 – 24/0210

It’s snowing in Berlin.

After a lengthy late night tour of the city on our first day (including the Reichstag, the view from what can only be described as an observatory was spectacular) I am now sat here, ever so slightly annoyed because although there is a wireless internet connection available to guests – my computer seems to refuse to connect. Despite this I am definitely not in anything comparable to a “bad” mood, these “Chesterfield” sofas are comfortable, I can smell breakfast being cooked, and I managed to have a wash before the rush – WIN! ...internet talk aside I guess I was too eager to be out and about to sleep any longer.

Last night me, some fellow students (including two Erasmus students from Conneticut and New York, respectively) and Roger who I know as our contextual studies lecturer, dined in the Moon Thai restaurant just a short walk from the hostel – after such a long day (getting up at 6am to get ready for the journey, three train rides, a tube journey in London and in Berlin... and a flight of course, I guess we were hungry! I didn’t want to focus on food in this blog since well, i’m an art student and what should art students write about? I’ll give you one guess, we saw a fair bit of it in the Reichstag last night!

It amazes me the amount of what we know as “graffiti” just placed anywhere and everywhere in this part of Berlin, not so much where the hostel is situated but more down friedrichstrasse (forgive me, I cannot do the correct character) – and beyond. It is impressive, and nice to see that a city such as this is cultural rich but also “arty”. Today the students can either choose to visit Leipzig and possibly Dessau with Roger, to visit a relatively well known and practising photographer’s studio or have a talk with him, one of the two! I can’t quite recall right now. I’ll be sure to correct myself in a later post today if I am incorrect!

It’s still snowing in Berlin... 08:20am, better wrap up warm for the long and informative day ahead.

24 Feb 2010

internet finally

second day in to the trip and I finally figured out how to get wireless internet... after todays lengthy trip today to Leipzig I shall wait until the morning to post what I had typed prior to this about today....
So before takeoff I was typing an update for this blog using my phone, but I was rather abruptly ordered to “TURN THAT OFF” – of course I know the deal, phones have to be off during takeoff – but I was still annoyed. Apparently the flight takes just under an hour and a half, we took off at 13:20 and taking into account the time different we should be landing around 4pm local time – great, just in time for something authentic t eat.

Talking about something to eat, at the airport I couldn’t help notice the severe lacking of food places for those with specific dietary need – i.e. lactose, dairy, wheat, gluten intolerances. I am rather unfortunately all of the above, with dairy and lactose being the worst offenders – and it seemed that everywhere in the departure lounge only sold foods with cheese or mayonnaise included. Sure, this blog isn’t somewhere I want to bombard the reader with complaints but I thought in this day and age where everyone and their cousin seems to be vegan, vegetarian or other there would at least be somewhere less offending than what I found.

All around me I can hear German natives talking amongst themselves, are they going home? Returning for work? ...or maybe both? I guess it’s a novelty to see a grown up woman such as myself coming close to tears while the plane we’re strapped in to is taking off, I am not a fan of such things!
I am already thinking about what lies in store for us during this trip. It has been confirmed that those who wish to do so can visit Erasmus Schröter’s studio in the city, his work is based around the difference between eastern and western Germany, communism and many other things. Many examples of his work can be found online – I would link some but since I am sat on a plane and there is no wireless internet funnily enough – I can’t! I’m personally quite intrigued with his work. It will be interesting to hear about his work from the horses’ mouth, so to speak!

I don’t know whether anyone on this trip has had the chance to visit a working studio, nevermind that of a well known practicing artist such as Schröter's.

One of the hostesses on this flight is now advertising and trying to sell “smokeless cigarettes” - 6€ a packet, I’m sure smokers can handle 1.5hrs without nicotine. 13:50 – this flight is dragging a little bit, I have no idea where we are right now – possibly over France? All I can think about is getting to the hostel and getting my camera out to take advantage of the new surroundings, checking out the local area and getting some food!

23 Feb 2010

Flight Day

08:10 to London Victoria

08:40am - so the journey begins, I am currently sat in close proximity to a train lavatory whilst on my way to London Victoria – why? I guess I am embarking on something known as a “Euro Trip” but without the alcohol and other “enjoyments”. From Victoria I shall be making my way to Liverpool St, via the winding tunnels that lie underneath London – to catch a train to Stansted Airport – where am I going, or rather, were are we going you ask? Berlin of course! As the countryside passes by like one green and brown blur I am sat here informing Microsoft Word 2007 that I am going to Berlin, and oh how happy I am to say it. Fellow commuters sat around me have no idea, there’s a beautiful dog to my left whose “job” is to keep his friend and perhaps owner on the correct track – he is a guide dog, and as I am sat on this train which is taking me to my first destination I can’t help but ask myself... why did I pack so much into this trolley?!? It weighs a ton! No, actually what I am asking myself is whether anyone will be reading this when I finally and internet connection so I can post it to my blog – why am I sat on a train typing rather loudly and I guess annoying everyone else (other than the dog who just lay down, from this angle he looks just like a miniature lion).

08:45am – the train is slowing down, I think it is nearly at Bromley South, the interchange where I usually disembark in order to catch a connection to University. I don’t know why I am sharing this, I guess I am feeling quite contemplative since there is nothing else to do – type or stare into space, no one is talking, this is quite possibly the quietest train journey I have ever partook in, and I don’t mind one bit. “We will shortly be arriving at Bromley South” – oh so I was 5 minutes premature, it is now 08:50, wow – time sure is passing quickly (sarcasm). The train is so full right now, you know when it’s uncomfortably full and all you can feel is eyes in the back of your head from those who have to stand... at least the dog, who I shall name as “Gregory” since I do not know and will never know his true name, is in relatively high spirits. My spell check is telling me to change the last sentence to “at least the dog, which I shall name” – but isn’t the dog a being? “who” is much better suited surely?

I do enjoy this journey into London Victoria, not so much the journey itself but rather the sights you see whilst on the train – most notably Battersea PowerStation. I guess my whereabouts for my next update will be on the train to Stansted, I don’t think the scenery will be half as inspiring.

20 Feb 2010

time for relaxation

I feel as though I have been working like a pack horse today, not to sound too melodramatic but I really am aching all over. I worked 2pm-8pm yesterday and today was a gnarly 10am-7pm shift, while slowly starving to death and nursing a rather unhappy tummy - so pardon me if i'm quite knackered!

I should explain further I guess, I work at my local Boots - you know the advertisements on TV that run a million times a day? yes, and it's a nice place to work but when you're in early and have to wait until the last round of dinner breaks it is a bit shite. So for most of today I was daydreaming about eating chips and curry sauce, it was torture... reminded me of the good times at college when I would walk to "Kings" the chinese/chippy and have a cone of chips and curry sauce - MEGA! so guess what I had for tea? exactly that! okay... so I had king prawn korma and chips but it was near enough... and it was fabulous, the best comfort food ever after a long day at work.

It doesn't matter how often I work, or whatever happens - I will never understand why people grab at their Boots' Advantage cards and snatch them from my grasp before they have even updated, like the card would update before the customer has paid... I guess we'd all like it to be like that huh? there are so many other things that I would like to rant about too (regarded work) but we all know that employers check out t'internet so i'll shut up.

The point of this blog right here is, well, I tend to blog every couple of days and since I am travelling to Berlin on Tuesday... and I wont have anything to moan about for the duration of the trip, I figured i'd just have a slight rant now while i'm over tired :)

I am very much looking forward to getting out of the country, I haven't felt so relaxed for such a long time (except when at work) and avoidng all the crap that bugs me has really helped - so I shall continue to do so.

I'm falling asleep while watching WarGames, this is such a retro film... awesome.

I will report back when I am sat, bored stiff, at Stansted :)

17 Feb 2010

early morning photo session

Picture it, 8:30am - i've just woken up, I fall out of bed... I walk to the bathroom and wash my face, check out the mirror and then instead of continuing to get ready I went and got my camera... but not to photography my ugly mug, but to capture the weird shit I could see in the mirror when I did a little dance.

Don't ask why, I just did - I do odd things at odd times... I shot around 50 images of a fricken mirror, a few more of the selection are on flickr so you're welcome to check them out... I love the crazy lines and rather disgusting residue, would you have known it was a mirror if I didn't tell you?

So today has been one of those fabulous days you can't help but think back on at the end of it and think "wow" :)

I managed to secure a ticket to see Rage Against The Machine (official myspace) at Finsbury Park on June 6th (free show).

I found out Nevermore ("official" myspace) are playing at least one headline show in the UK at the Academy in Islington (one of my fave venues) aannnddd so many other little things that made it a great day.

In less than a week I will be departing for lovely Berlin and will be blogging here throughout the trip (t'is only 4 days so don't fret) and I will hopefully be blogging for my Uni website - i'd like to, don't think the tutor is impressed with me nominating myself though haha

So yes, the next few days will be full of productivity as I try to keep on top of the workload for this project [time and space] before I spend the best part of a week being a stereotypical tourist :)

14 Feb 2010

13/02/10 - Lamb of God @ o2 Academy Brixton

Brilliant show, epic setlist, amazing band.

Today is the 2nd Valentines Day in a row that I have been recovering after a LoG show, and it feels GOOD =D


I arrived in Brixton at about 6:30pm, i'd planned to just get there as soon as doors open but knowing the show was a sell out I figured i'd queue a little.... I wasn't happy with my decision when I got outside the old Astoria as it was raining, and the queue was quite literally the longest I had ever seen. Most of the previous times I had been to the Astoria there had been a queue but I guess I had got there early and the shows were not sell outs! after turning 2 corners and almost in a position where I could see the beginning of the queue, I patiently waited for the doors to open.

I entered the venue at 7:15pm on the dot, and was met to the sound of Between the Buried and Me opening their show - I bypassed the queues for the bar and merch stands as I hardly ever drink and I forgot to take cash with me and didn't particularily love any of the merch - I have enough LoG shirts to last quite a while! I made a hasty dash to the loos (clearly visable from anywhere in the venue - bonus!) and then took my place about 3 rows back from the barrier, not bad considering my position in the queue. BTBAM (official myspace) aren't a band I had heard much from, although I could tell there were quite a few fans there last night - I have no idea what songs they played apart from the closer which I think was called "White Walls" ? that was a good song and a crowd pleaser, the screeches of delight when it was announced told me as much.

August Burns Red (official myspace) were the next band to appear on stage after quite a swift changeover, and I was impressed. I know some friends are quite partial to this band and I was open to hopefully hearing something i'd enjoy, and I did. The band havent got the greatest stage presence ever, not from my angle anyways (being crushed... yes, 2nd support and getting crushed already) but the crowd were evidently impressed and knew all the songs played on the night. Apart from saying I enjoyed their performance there isn't much more I can say, by this point I was suffering a little with dehydration, I couldn't feel my feet (and thankfully couldn't feel anyone stamping on my feet either) and I was just a little bit hungry. I will most certainly be checking these guys out, I don't know how sustained they are as a band - or how popular they are over here, but I would definately see them again.

The changeover between ABR and Job for a Cowboy (official myspace) was somewhat longer than that between BTBAM - and since I wasn't exactly looking forward to this leg of the show I guess I was, at this point, getting a little agitated. The last time I saw JFAC was at Download Festival one of the years, possibly 2007 - it could have been 2008 but hey I am not googling it so i'll save that for you, and if you're a fan you'll know anyways... but yes, I wasn't impressed at all. The only thing I can put it down to is that I feel they are more of an indoors band, the sound at Download isn't great at the best of times (it's an outdoor festival, 3 stages, I was miles away from the stage) and plus I couldn't understand one word of the vocalist (even when he wasn't growling like a beast) so it wasn't an enjoyable show. This time, however, was different. I did feel they connected with the crowd, there were certainly a large portion of those sweating buckets who were fans (chanting "JOB, JOB, JOB" - they can't exactly chant "JOB FOR A COWBOY" in sync now can they? - it doesn't have the same effect as "MACHINE FUCKING HEAD" or "IN FLAMES" or "LAMB OF GOD" - for example). Much like the previous bands I didn't exactly know any of their songs, but I enjoyed their performance (and it was a performance, unlike what I witnessed previously) - the crowd did too, surging forwards like a mexican wave every so often and clearly happy to oblige to the frontman's orders. I was, however, happy when the time came for JFAC to leave the stage - some kids that were infront of me decided to bail too and I was ever so slightly closer to where the mightly Lamb of God (official myspace) would be standing soon.

It was inevitable that we'd have a much longer wait between bands in preparation of LoG, but the crowd were treated to some Nine Inch Nails over the loud speakers which was a nice suprise. All the stage gear that LoG have, artwork and everything else, were loaded out and put into position while everyone was chanting "LAMB OF GOD!" getting gradually louder until everyone simultaeneously stopped... it was, as I had expected. Once the room went dark, and everyone knew the giants were about to come on stage, the entire place erupted into mass hysteria and with everyone pushing forward I was winded the first time of the night by an elbow to the diaphragm (cheers dude). The opening track, from 2009's "Wrath", left everyone in frenzy - and by the time the song finished I was literally gasping for breath - this was DEFINATELY going to be a great show! I shant run through the show song by song, but I will list the setlist:
  1. The Passing
  2. In Your Words
  3. Set to Fail
  4. Walk With Me In Hell
  5. Now You've Got Something To Die For
  6. Ruin
  7. Hourglass
  8. Dead Seeds
  9. Omerta
  10. Grace (guitar solo intro)
  11. Broken Hands
  12. Laid to Rest
  13. Contractor

14. Reclamation
15. Redneck
16. Black Label

I bailed from the front during Set to Fail, I don't mind admitting that - I was either going to suffocate in there or just not enjoy the show, or bail and at least get to take pictures and enjoy the songs in my own way. I stood by a pillaar to the right of the stage with a great view, and from there on actually ENJOYED the show! Singing along to Walk With Me In Hell, Now You've Got Something To Die For, Hourglass, Omerta, Laid to Rest... the list goes on. The setlist last year in Manchester was good and I guess I did miss "Pathetic" and "Vigil" but hey, i'm happy as long as Omerta is thrown in there ;)

So yes, it was a brilliant show - I was an extremely happy bunny when I left the venue (albeit quite wobbly, my legs were dead by the end) and I do feel like i've been hit by a bus today - but that's what you expect at a Lamb of God show... nothing more, nothing less, and they always deliver.