Archive for the ‘zeitgeist’ Category
It was called “Dressing the City und mein Kopf ist ein Hemd” and focused on the relationship between people, clothes and urban space.
Sounds strange – and I guess that’s what it was. But in an interesting way. I mean, what do you expect: it’s performance art!
For the audience, the performance has no real starting point and no defined end. All of a sudden, you’re in the middle of it.
There are numerous actors and artists doing things simultaneously at different spots (dressing, undressing, relating with each other or with the clothes they’re wearing or the city architecture).
Let your intuition be your guide – or just follow the crowd of people that quickly forms around the artists doing their thing.
Since different artists act out their scenes simultaneously, you’ll never be able to see everything. But that’s just like in real life: while you’re concentrating on one aspect of your life, one “story”, other things are happening right next to you that you’ll never know about. Maybe you’ll just hear about them later or see the remnants of these other life-stories, scenes, dramas…
The artists who thought up “Dressing the City” are Angie Hiesl and Roland Kaiser. On their website, they explain the ideas behind their art performance:
Clothes are our second skin, the membrane between our body and the environment. They are the link between our inner and outer worlds and make a public statement.Clothing is a non-verbal means of communication and delivers signals that relate directly to our social role.The issue of clothes and all their associations – whether social, cultural, aesthetic, historic, religious or moral – leads directly to Hiesl and Kaiser’s original form of expression: the provocation of our senses in public space.
Provocation is something that’s difficult in a city as cosmopolitan, diverse and tolerant as Cologne. The people here are pretty unfazed by what they see on the streets every day. So during yesterday’s performance, some passers-by just walked on without looking when a woman or a man were undressing down to their underwear in public.
When an older gentleman crossed the street and saw this lady more or less dangling from a traffic light, he worriedly asked “are you all right, Miss?” – much to the amusement of the bistanding art-lovers, who were well aware that this lady was part of an art performance.
At first, the onlooking art-lovers didn’t know whether this procession was part of the performance. Or was it a group of evangelical Christians who wanted to preach against this decadent form of art? Neither one. In liberal Cologne, everyone just went their way and let the others be.
You can see another great interaction between art and real life in the film I posted above. About 4′ 20″ into the film, you’ll see a little kid who’s obviously very curious, what these two people are doing out on a park bench in their underwear. In the next scene, he and another kid are totally fascinated by one of the actors taking off his shorts in public. Hilarious.
Dressing the City und mein Kopf ist ein Hemd will be performed at least three more times in September, 2011. Go see it if you have the chance. And if you’re not in Cologne, Germany, don’t despair: Angie Hiesl and Roland Kaiser have taken some of their art performances to other cities and countries – even as far away as China.
Please support the petition against the destruction of the Cologne Theater or Schauspielhaus. http://mutzukultur.de/
Granted, the Schauspielhaus isn’t spectacular post-war architecture, but it has an aesthetic of its own. And the building is part of a larger architectural ensemble by Wilhelm Riphahn that is thought through.
In a city like Cologne, which hardly has any architectural coherence, destroying such an ensemble would be a crime.
Rebuilt from the ruins of war
More than 70 percent of Cologne was reduced to rubble by the bombs of the Second World War. In the post-war years, the city was hastily rebuilt.
Interestingly, one of the first big construction projects the citizens of Cologne started after the war was building a new opera house and theater. And architect Wilhelm Riphahn was assigned with the task.
Much of the 1950′s and 1960′s architecture in Cologne is nothing but mediocre. But Wilhelm Riphahn’s buildings have a higher quality. In addition, they are integrated into a grand design, a larger post-war reconstruction plan for the whole city.
Parts of that grand design are still visible on Cologne’s Hahnenstrasse and on Offenbachplatz, where Riphahn built the Oper, Schauspielhaus and Opernterrassen.
Big plans but no money
In recent years, many of Riphahn’s buildings have been torn down or disfigured through so-called modernization. The architectural ensemble made up of the opera, the theater and the Opernterrassen restaurant on Offenbachplatz, however, could still be saved.
But city officials doomed it for destruction. The city council voted to tear down the Schauspielhaus and the Opernterrassen and to preserve only Riphahn’s opera house.
In 2008, an architectural competition for a new theater building was called. The jury awarded architects JSWD and Atelier d’architecture first prize, but very bluntly said that “architecturally, the project does not meet the expectations. … The architectural form … lacks one essential necessary property: an identity that is adequate for the purpose of the building.“
Some of the features that made the jury award this design first prize have meanwhile been scrapped due to lack of funds (e.g. the so-called “Lichtgraben”). So it’s already obvious that what might be built in the end will be even worse than the architectural plan. And that wasn’t very inspiring to begin with.
If you ask me, I’d say the design for the new theater looks like a giant department store or like a parking garage.
In any case, one thing that’s certain is that it will be much more expensive to build a new theater than it would be to renovate Riphahn’s 1960 Schauspielhaus.
Let’s preserve this integral part of Cologne’s post-war modernist architecture.
Please sign the petition against the destruction of the Cologne Theater at: http://mutzukultur.de/
One of my favourite places in Macau is ‘38 Lounge’.
It’s a rooftop bar that feels like it’s straight out of a James Bond movie.
‘38 Lounge’ is situated on the top floor of the Altira Hotel on Taipa Island, which is the island right next to Macau Island.
The islands are connected by a number of bridges so that it’s easy to go back and forth.
38 Lounge is purist and stylish
The Altira is all about restrained elegance. You feel it the moment you step through its front doors.
The hotel lobby is very minimalist. Some marble, some dark wood and some tall bamboo plants. There’s a pleasant scent in the air.
A bell boy calls the elevator for us and we ride to the top of the building.
As we leave the elevator, we’re greeted by a breathtaking view over Macau Island.
After we’ve taken that in, another Altira staff member shows us the way to the ’38 Lounge’.
What’s even better is sitting outside on the lounge’s roof terrace. The view of the skyline of Macau and of mainland China is breathtaking.
And another nice thing up here is that ‘38 Lounge’ has Macau’s longest happy hour. It lasts from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.
Usually, the English language China Daily newspaper makes pretty boring reading.
But this morning, I nearly choked on my buttered toast when I read a story in this paper about the first Chinese sex theme park.
Love Land is due to open in Chongqing in South-West China in October.
It will feature giant replicas of genitals, sculptures of naked humans, a photo exhibit about the history of sex and sex technique workshops.
Not bad for a country, where sex is still something that you don’t talk about in public.
So it’s no wonder that this project has sparked a heated debate in China.
Is Love Land vulgar or educational?
China Daily quotes Liu Daiwei, a policewoman from Chongqing, who says that she’ll feel uncomfortable to look at “these things…when other people are around.”
The paper also cites an unidentified netizen as saying “these vulgar sex installments will only make people sick.”
The manager of the sex theme park, Lu Xiaoqing, says was prepared for Love Land to generate controversy.
According to the China Daily Lu says that he’s building the sex theme park for the good of the public.
“Sex is a taboo subject in China, but people really need to have more access to information,” the China Daily quotes him as saying.
“I have found that the majority of people support my idea but I have to pay attention and not make the park look to vulgar and nasty,” Lu says.
“We hope our Love Land can also become a landmark in Chonqing when it finishes,” Lu goes on.
I wonder what Chairman Mao would say to all this…
UPDATE: On Monday, May 19, 2009, the China Daily reported on its front page: “Sex-theme park closed prematurely … With its adult and explicit themes, the country’s first sex theme park proved to be ‘too hot’ for local authorities, and was torn down over the weekend … ‘Vulgar, ill-minded and misleading’ was the official reaction on the park, which was slated for an October opening.”
My cultural highlight this week was a visit to Kolumba in Cologne. This museum has been around for almost a year now, but you know how it is: when you’re not a tourist, when you live in a city, you never really get around to seeing the sights…
A couple of friends had already been to Kolumba’s new building, designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. They’d all raved about the architecture and the exhibits.
But the fact that Kolumba is the art museum of the archbishopric of Cologne somehow didn’t help to get me excited about it.
Was I ever in for a surprise
Kolumba is very different from your average museum. One of the unusual ideas here is that the exhibits aren’t organized in a time line. You don’t walk through the ages and see how ideas and styles evolve over time.
Instead, pieces of art are juxtaposed: a medieval statue next to an Andy Warhol. A gilded baroque angel next to an abstract yellow painting. An elaborate silver reliquary from the 13th century next to a small meditative painting by Alexej Jawlensky from 1937 that’s almost completely black.
Architecture and art
It’s not just the juxtaposition that brings these works of art to life. It’s also the space that they’re given in this amazing architecture. The building is minimalist, yet spectacular. The architecture doesn’t take center stage, but works extremely well with the artworks.
Hardly any rooms in the museum are square – instead, Zumthor surprises you with new room shapes and heights at every turn you make.
A courtyard for contemplation
One of the most magical spots of the museum is a little courtyard, which used to be the graveyard of Kolumba church. Today, it’s a place for contemplation – fine white pebbles, some trees and some chairs.
When you sit down here and look around yourself, you see the ruins of the gothic Kolumba church that used to stand here until it was destroyed in World War II.
Behind these walls is a site that shows the excavated ruins of the medieval church, but also of the Roman houses that were there even before the church was built. Then you have some 1950′s architecture by Gottfried Böhm, who rebuilt parts of Kolumby church after the War. And finally, above all and holding it all together, is Zumthor’s 21st century architecture.
Giving art the space it needs
Another thing that adds to the Kolumba museum’s effect is that the rooms are not stuffed with all the artworks that the church surely owns – the curators limited themselves to a few exciting pieces. Some of them aren’t even by well-known artists, but seen in this context, they suddenly gain new impact.
You really start thinking about the art in a different way when you see it presented in this museum. It’s awe-inspiring, sublime, stunning.
I came out of that museum feeling inspired. Small. Grateful.
And I almost feel ashamed for having entered this shrine wearing camouflage shorts and flip flops.
More pictures here.
Cologne witnessed Europe’s biggest gay pride parade this weekend.
20 000 marchers and more than 70 floats snaked their way throught the tightly packed city streets on Sunday.
An estimated half a million people watched the parade. One million people joined the gigantic street party downtown, which lasted the whole weekend.
With sunshine and temperatures in the upper 20′s Celsius (that’s somewhere in the 80′s Fahrenheit), Cologne’s downtown streets were absolutely packed with people.
Groups you never knew existed…
Onlookers watched the members of gay sports clubs march by, saw floats sponsored by Germany’s major political parties and witnessed how gay-friendly companies like IKEA and Ford made their stance on diversity a selling argument.
The German soccer federation DFB sponsored a float embracing gay soccer fans, there were gays and lesbians from rural areas advertising the country life and the parade also included self-help groups of gay and lesbian handicapped people in wheelchairs.
But what made the parade fun were the many individuals in elaborate costumes and the many fringe groups standing up for their rights. You saw some things there in that parade that usually remain hidden from public view on the other 364 days of the year…
Come along for the ride
This year, I was invited to ride along on a parade float. A friend of mine had organized the float to advertise his online pharmacy “Fliegende Pillen” (or Flying Pills).
Our float came complete with a Brazilian dj and a group of beefy dancers who walked in front of it. My friend had even decked them out in very revealing red and yellow outfits with giant plastic pills.
The crowds watching the parade just couldn’t get enough of the hunks who were walking in front of our float. I think there must be thousands of souvenir pictures of them tonight.
Up on our float, it was just amazing to see all those people standing on the sides of the streets having a good time. From up there, the crowds looked much bigger than the 500 000 spectators that official sources estimated.
It’s a big party for everyone in Cologne
People in Cologne love to party and they love parades. So the annual gay pride parade has really turned into an event that draws the crowds – be they gay or straight, old or young.
That’s one reason why I love this city. It’s extremely tolerant. In Cologne, there’s a saying that sums up the live-and-let-live atmosphere here: “Jeder Jeck is anders” – everyone’s crazy in a different way.
So with that kind of an attitude, it’s no surprise that the city has turned into the “San Franciso of Western Germany”. It’s estimated that at least 10 percent of the city’s one million inhabitants are gay, lesbian or bisexual.
Turning the tables
With all the gay, lesbian and transgender visitors who came to town this weekend for the gay pride celebrations, it’s almost as thought the tables had been turned: you saw more guys holding hands and more women kissing today than straight couples.
Germans really went wild during the past weeks of the European Soccer Championship. They’re a soccer-crazy nation. And they showed it by proudly displaying the colors of the German flag: black, red, gold.
It was their way to show their support for the German team at the championship.
Everywhere you looked, you saw black, red and yellow during the tournament that ended last weekend.
People painted their faces black-red and yellow during the games, they wore black-red and yellow Hawaiian-style necklaces, they hung German flags out their apartments and flew the flags from their cars.
Anyone selling these patriotic paraphernalia must have made a fortune.
Guilt-free flag-waving during the 2006 World Cup
Proudly waving the German colors is still pretty unusual in this country. Patriotism doesn’t come natural here on account of how the Nazis abused patriotism and national feelings to reach their goals between 1933 and 1945.
One is how this year, a clever vendor of all things black-red-gold unashamedly tried to sell some leftovers from 2006 .
I saw these wallets with an embroidered 2006 at a shop in Bonn earlier this month. Maybe soccer fans were so enthusiastic about the little soccer balls and the national colors and that they didn’t even realize the wallets were commemorating the World Cup two years ago (where the German team came in third).
Cars and airplanes
The other unusual thing I saw was how a flight captain hoisted the German flag on his plane at Mallorca airport in Spain Sunday afternoon. This was shortly before the final between Spain and Germany was due to begin (The German team later lost the final 0:1).
Oh, and for those of you who are wondering: yes, the flag was pulled back into the cockpit before the plane took off from that Spanish airport.
I felt uncomfortable when I visited Dresden this past weekend. It was the first time I’d been to the city in almost 15 years and a lot had changed since my last visit.
The most obvious change was that the central parts of the city around the Church of Our Lady, Frauenkirche, are being reconstructed. The idea is to give Dresden back the charm it had before the city was destroyed in one night of horrific bombings, February 14 – 15, 1945.
The last time I was in Dresden, the Frauenkirche was still nothing more than a pile of rubble. But that pile of stones was a powerful monument to the destruction the war had left behind.
Whether to rebuild the Frauenkirche or to leave its ruins as a war memorial was a controversial discussion in Germany for decades. In the end, the “reconstructionists” won and the church was rebuilt, using all the original stones that were still salvageable and usable.
Today, you can see which stones are original and which are new – the old ones are blackened by time, the new ones are light beige.
Nevertheless, what impressed me most in the Frauenkirche was the original rooftop cross, which is now on display inside the church. It is bent and battered, parts of it have broken off. It tells the story of the destructive force of the bombing raids – and if you’re a believer, it can also symbolize the triumph of good over evil and destruction.
The area around Frauenkirche used to be the heart of Dresden. Nothing much remained of it after the bombings.
The houses around Frauenkirche may have been built to resemble the originals, but you can see that they are new reconstructions. If the houses were really old, you’d see sagging roofs or crooked windows. But here, everything is perfectly right-angled and painted in fresh colors.
These houses look like the ones you’d have in a model train set. They look like “Old Europe” in Disneyworld. But they don’t look lived-in.
Recreate the past or start from scratch?
But what do you do with a city that was as badly damaged as Dresden? Can you recreate it as it once was? Or should you make a new beginning and build a modern city?
To some extent, that’s the approach that was taken when the city was part of the German Democratic Republic. The communist city planners levelled the ruins and built broad new boulevards and pre-fab concrete housing units.
On “Prager Strasse”, they created a combination of new shops, restaurants and apartment blocks in the 1960’s.
It was any city planner’s dream – but any resident’s nightmare.
The dimensions were totally off, not on a human scale. And the “concrete brut” certainly wasn’t very inviting or appealing. It was your typical socialist-style shopping boulevard with lots of open space and little to do in that space.
Since German unification, there’s been constant reconstruction on Prager Strasse. The gigantic apartment blocks have been given a face lift, other buildings have been torn down and replaced with structures that seem more appealing today.
Maybe they will wish the GDR architecture had been preserved. After all, it was testimony to a part of the city’s history. It was also concrete evidence of a philosophy of post-war urban reconstruction. And from an art-historian’s point of view, it was an architectural ensemble that made sense. Almost a Gesamtkunstwerk.
The future is the past
But unfortunately, Dresden’s try at modernism just wasn’t what people want. Human beings don’t feel comfortable in “living machines”. They want individuality, buildings on a human scale and maybe even the charm of yesteryear.
And that’s why you can’t really hold it against the Dresdeners that they are now trying to rebuild parts of their old town. That they are trying to make it as beautiful as it once was. That they are trying to pretend…
Maybe then, we won’t even notice that they’re not original.
After all, that’s just how it is with the city’s Semper Oper now: rebuilt in the 1980’s, it already shows many signs of wear and tear. And the casual visitor today won’t even notice that the building isn’t even thirty years old.
Related post: Baroque splendor at Dresden’s Pillnitz Castle
This morning, I heard on the radio that the musical “Hair” premiered on Broadway exactly 40 years ago today.
So if 1968 was the “…dawning of the age of Aquarius” – what is 2008? Its sunset? Or is this the deep dark night already?
According to “The Official Hair Website”, the show has been performed in countless countries across the globe, but apparently never in “…China, India, Vietnam, the Arctic and Antarctic continents as well as most African countries.”
40 years ago is closer than 10 years ago
I was too young to see Hair in the theaters when it first came out. My first encounter with the story was when I saw the movie ‘Hair’ by Milos Forman. I guess that must have been in 1979 or 1980.
Back then I thought the story was really dated and far removed from life at the onset of the 80′s.
The funny thing is that it’s probably closer to us today than it was in 1979.
Not only that the U.S. is once again entangled in an unpopular war. Also look at what people are wearing: psychedelic prints, frayed jeans, longish hair.
Been there, done that.
The difference between the original hippie fashions of the late 1960′s and today is that back then fashion was a political statement. These days, the torn jeans already look that way when we buy them at Abercrombie’s at an exorbitant price.
And the slept-in-hairstyle today is carefully coifed, blow-dried and gelled.
But as far as funky hairdos are concerned, nothing beats these ladies anyway.
They’re stone carvings of Apsara dancers at Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple. And they were made in the 12th century.
How’s that for avant-garde hairstyles?