My Berlin Chronicle

Shining bright like a beacon in the dark of Berlin nights.

by Victor Maldonado

Artist residencies anywhere are always a prize—that’s why I was especially honored at the end of last summer when galleryHOMELAND Co-Director Paul Middendorf offered me one of the spots for his  arts non-profit and Brooklyn based Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery’s International border smashing curatorial project the EAST/WEST Project in Berlin, Germany.

Last February I had the fortune of spending a little over a week in Berlin by taking part in RESPLENDENCY: Light and Art in the Modern Age.  I had a lovely time while residing at Gartenstudio, a space devoted to social forms of art, run by artist Malte Zacharias.  Comfortable in my own room with a shared kitchen, stocked with Stumptown Coffee, Foxfire Tea, and living basil in pots, I made myself at home.

Creature comforts.

No rest for the wicked.

A ten pound bag of coffee and two stoves - it doesn't get better than this.

Malte Zacharias running the show for Gartenstudio from his laptop.

I landed in Berlin’s Tegel airport at night and was greeted by galleryHOMELAND Assistant Director, Emily Henderson, who escorted me deep into the city and played host, facilitating every detail of my stay, she ensured that I made creative use of my time away from Portland.

galleryHOMELAND  made Berlin as legible as possible with virtual maps of all the organic grocers in town and points of interest in the neighborhood and paper maps for the incredible and punctual public transportation systems.

To make room for as many green screen paintings as I could fit in my suitcase I brought very little with me to Berlin with a few changes of clothes mainly for padding but that latter proved very useful for warm layers.

Innovative art shipping solutions for intrepid artists.

It was more than a bit surreal to be on the go with a small series of green screen paintings, created with the support of the William T. Colville Foundation, conceived of as memory banks for the process of immigrating and acculturating through the  television sets I grew up glued to  the streaming images of popular broadcast culture.

After a bus ride to Alexanderplatz, Berlin’s main transportation hub and a short train ride on the U-Bahn to Kottbusser Tor, we arrived to the Kreuzberg borough.  Alive and bubbling in late winter thaw, Kreutzberg is home to some of the best street art, bookstore/galleries, and restaurants for each kind of immigrant population that makes this borough so unique.

Kottbusser Tor Station was my compass.

With a week before the opening of the show at the EAST/WEST Project I set out to explore Berlin as an image of a former border city.  I was interested in walking the streets of Berlin and imagining it as a precursor for other border cities I was more familiar with like Tijuana, Laredo, or Brownsville along the Mexican/American border.  I wanted to get lost in Berlin in a way I could never let myself get lost in Tijuana.

Most of the day and sometimes late into the night I walked the frozen, snow covered, sidewalks, walkways and green spaces that delineated the former Berlin Wall.  Most of it is gone – so I relied as much on maps as asking people along the way.  What remains of the Wall is an amazing monument to the past and the limits of memory and context.

When the Berlin Wall fell, Kreuzberg went from an odd peninsula to the center of a rejoined city.  As an outsider and tourist most of the divided city seemed connected and accessible even under inches of snow.

Following the Mauer, German for wall, museum signs that direct tourists like me.

Checkpoint Charlie, the checkpoint at Friedrichstrasse, the most popular border crossing point between East and West Berlin.

Just South of Kreuzberg is the Mitte District where the EAST/WEST Project first opened in its original location.  It’s an area populated with the now fetishized rubble of the Berlin Wall and the architecture of its former hold.  It’s a district filling with high-end art galleries and shopping gallerias.

I was amazed to witness what once were imposing gates controlling human traffic now providing photo opportunities to endless streams of tourists groups.  And, once intimidating border guards, now seeming simulationist enacting the work of museum docents, enthusiastically helping those same tourists loiter a little longer.

Guard at the Brandenburg Gate plays docent for the tourists.

These were the kind of experiences I wanted my work and exhibits to create.  I arrived in Berlin with traditional paintings about the special effects cult of the American Dream and I would leave with strategies for tackling borders both as aesthetic and philosophically permeable forms.

Other great surprises during my stay as an emancipated tourist was visiting the Pergamon Museum, on Museum Island and the Book Burning Memorial near the Babel Platz and Opera Houses, on the recommendation of EAST/WEST Project Co-Director and Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery Director Leah Stuhltrager.

I had shared my action walks with her all week and she correctly assumed that the installation of the Ishtar Gates, from being raised in ancient Babylon then transplanted as booty to modern Berlin, and the minimalist tomb/library to Nazi book burning would be a moving and humbling experience for me to have and take home with me.

On Museum Island in the Mitte District.

A visitor to the Pergamon Museum seems giant compared to the scaled down model.

Rubble.

Not only was I leaving Berlin with a renewed sense of inquiry and relevance but I also was returning to Portland with more insights about border culture well beyond my own experiences.  That was exactly the kind of mental space I was hoping to have as I co-curate an exhibit about illegal border crossing with Linda Tesner for the Hoffman Gallery at Lewis & Clark College here in Portland.

From the start Paul, and everyone involved in the the EAST/WEST Project was interested in creating an opportunity for me to build on the work I did in Portland while also encouraging me to experiment in a new support system in an International venue where I could gain exposure to new audiences.

"Special Effects" installed and lit up ready for the opening.

The EAST/WEST Project was especially interested in spurring the kinds of cultural exchanges that could go on between artists from both coasts of the United States alongside artists from throughout Europe to produce a richer understanding about our global condition.

It was over all the lunches, informal studio visits, dinners, opening receptions and artist’s brunches that the most valuable kind of cultural exchanges occurred by having to frame our work for each other in a critical and inspirational language.  Over coffee and mimosas, lager and wine the artists, that gathered for RESPLENDENCY, were able to meet intellectually and emotionally through our work and practices and challenge and inform each other about displacement and the essentials that continue to make us accessible to each other.

A well catered and attended artist brunch thrown for EAST/WEST Project artists at Gartenstudio by galleryHOEMLAND and Dam, Stuhltrager Gallery.

A Beautiful Sound and Light Installation

Around Kreuzberg? I am, and at Gartenstudio is a fantastic light and sound installation by artist Sergio Canteros.

http://web.mac.com/scanteros/iWeb/SIMULACRA/Welcome.html

I have had the pleasure to hear Sergio and his crew rehearse before the opening, during the opening, and after. Its always sounded amazing to me! There are images on the site, but you have to see it in person. Also be sure to come towards the end of the gallery hours. Its darker that way and the only way to see it in all it glory. Its was rather soothing to sit with two dozen other people in this soft, yet powerful installation. I suggest you get some time to see this before it comes down…that is if you are in Berlin.

Drop by and see the installation and have some hot tea with your good friend Paul from galleryHOMELAND!

Berlin Collective Presents Sandra Peters

Dear Friends & Colleagues,
Please see join us for this event next Monday, Feb. 8, 8:30-10.

About this Event:
This event is an introduction to Sandra Peters film,
“Défilé des Ombres”, a screening in the gallery space, and a short dialogue between Marc Gloede and Sandra. Since this is a small gathering, we will have a chance to hear from the artist & to ask questions. Sandra Peters website: www.sandra-peters.com

Hosted by
Gallery Homeland & Garten Studio in Kreuzberg.

It is important to RSVP as we are now taking reservations through emailing:
berlincollective@gmail.com

To check out our upcoming events, please go to our website and
press: “Follow” on our new blog.

Cheers,
Berlin Collective, GartenStudio, and galleryHOMELAND

More info on the event and the Berlin Collective here

Berlin Collective:

http://berlin-collective.blogspot.com/

More Action In Our Kreuzberg Location

Saturday Night! Busy with exciting new openings and new spaces new The EAST/WEST Project Berlin.

Still from Hoolley by Kimberley Clark 2007 @ The GRIMMUSEUM

We were happy to have met our new neighbors at the GRIMMUSEUM

http://www.grimmuseum.com/

Their new show “Madonna Psycho Slut!” curated by Despina Stokou, was rather amazing. The space was beautiful and every room had another set of talented artists on display. The opening was hopping and we look forward to working more with them in the Future.

From short residencies, to installation, events, performances, and more, you are not to be disappointed with their space.

Down the street a few blocks is a great location and gallery space
The Future Gallery

http://thefuturegallery.org/

The Future Gallery is an ex pat that has been living and working in Berlin for several years now. Director, Anne Betting and Curator, Mike Ruiz have done a nice job with this small gallery. I highly recommend a visit there! Also their new show is also part of Transmediale!

Better Brain: Projected Manifestations of Futurity
January 30 – February 7, 2010
Open Hours: 12 – 5 pm

Action in the New Kreuzberg Location

It February now and we have seen lots of action at and around our new space for The EAST/WEST Project Berlin. This week has been busy with Transmediale! Lots of events and openings. We also just found out that this years festival is presenting work by Steve Lambert, a good friend of ours from NYC. See more of the events here

http://www.transmediale.de/

EAST/WEST Project BERLIN: URBAN NATURE: September 19th

Josh Arseneau (galleryHOMELAND/ West Coast, USA), Mark Andreas & Cris Dam (Dam Stuhltrager/ East Coast, USA), Kathleen Vance (galerie open / Berlin, Germany), Steve Schepens (Brot und Spiele Galerie / Berlin, Germany)

September 19th – October 18th

Opening Reception
September 19th 8p – on

w/ performances by Portland’s own Blue Cranes
Reed Wallsmith on alto sax
Johannes Haage on guitar
Robert Michler on drums
and
This Frontier Needs Heroes

gallery location
Memhardstr. 1 10178 Berlin

From Sept 19, 2009 – March 31, 2010 EAST/WEST BERLIN will be in the heart of Mitte within two blocks of Berlin’s major transit hub and famous TV tower, ideally located among some of Germany’s most recognized emerging art galleries and museums.

The project encourages cultural exchange by establishing a short-term (six months) project space for international artists to share, develop and progress contemporary ideas. Selected hot emerging artists from the East Coast (Brooklyn/NYC) and the West Coast (Portland/Seattle) will be traveling outside the United States to Berlin.

Visit the website here.

For more information please contact Paul Middendorf paul@galleryhomeland.org.

Hello world!

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