Art, Design, & Wanders Through Berlin

I started my mornings excursions with a trip to Körnerpark, the park I’d found on my stroll last night. I bought a coffee and pastry from one of the neighbourhood cafes, then went for a stroll around the park, settling down on a white bench (covered in anarchy symbols) by a old fountain. coffee and pastry on a bench in a park
I watched the gardeners at work, their wheel barrels full of white blossoms. I watched an old couple walk with their arms around each other as their dog bounded around the path. There were joggers, school kids, and people just passing through. It was very quiet – just the song of the birds and the squeals of children in the many playgrounds above. This place intrigues me – I wonder what it’s story is?

KW Institute for Contemporary Art

After I’d finished my coffee and pastry, I got on the train and headed to the KW Institute for Contemporary Art. It had been in the opening of the Art in Berlin book my AirBnB host had handed me, so I figured that was a good place to start.

The summer program was titled FIRE AND FORGET. ON VIOLENCE. Upon entering the gallery, I was met by a room full of black turnstiles (Daniil Galkin, Tourniquet). Then there was a robot drawing the boundaries of Isreal In sand. As I descended down stairs, I saw a tall chain-link fence with barbed wire at the top with heat lamps at the top. I thought that was a good idea – I like work you can interact with in some way. I went inside, warmed up for a bit, then continued my meander through the gallery (Jota Castro, Guantanamo).

There was a young girl playing a video game and when I stopped to watch, I saw it was a shooting game… in a gallery. The playing shot at art! It was hilarious! Then a security guard were burst on screen yelling “What are you doing?! Don’t you know what art is?!” Genius. (Hunter Jonakin, Jeff Koons Must Die!!!)

There was Light/Dark, a Marina Abramović and Ulay video from the 1978 playing in one of the curtained rooms. I’m usually not a fan of video art, but this was a piece with then doing their usual stair at one another… but slapping each other’s face.

My cheeks started to get hot after watching the video for a short while, but I thought I should continue. I was also curious to see how far the face slapping would go – and yes, it did speed up and intensify, but the neutral facial expressions remained (with some subtle winces. I was impressed – that couldn’t have been easy to get through! The video was 8 minutes, but I wondered how long the actual performance piece went on for. I know their works can be very, very long.

I had a “Holy shit!” moment with an installation upstairs. I had just climbed the stairs and upon rounding the corner was confronted by a row of riot police, all much taller than me. They wore visors over their faces and then THEY MOVED! I was like “Holy shit! Did I imagine that?! Are these real?!” They moved to subtly, that they could have been real people trying to stand still – shifting weight from one leg to another, turning their heads ever so slightly in my direction. It was absolutely terrifying – and I loved it! Here’s art that gets a real emotion response out of the viewer! I was still on edge for awhile after. (Julius Von Bismark, Polizei) hall and doorway of gallery
I wandered around the neighbourhood for bit, checking out the boutiques, looking through the windows of all the closed contemporary art galleries, and taking pictures of interesting posters I encountered (work related research?).

The Bauhaus Archives

With time marching on, I took the train and the bus to the Bauhaus Archives – and it was a double decker bus! I got a kick out of sitting up top and the sweet little bell noise it made when approaching a stop. It also had a screen where the stop’s name appeared, and an audio announcement, just like the public transit, the TTC back home.

The bus ride was very scenic. The bus went along a little canal with excellent examples of early 20th century architecture, and many parkettes – most of which had grown quite wild. I had trouble finding the museum, but when a man pointed me in the right direction, I wondered how I had missed it. It was a huge white building that looked very post-modern. photo of a white building  The Bauhaus Archives (museum) was a bit dry and smaller than I expected, but I’m glad I went. Entrance was 8 euros. Photos were not permitted, so I made do with notes. There was a great chair by Bauer that I thought I could make a variation of with Dad, lots of colour theory examples that made me think of my first of year university, and an interesting black and white photo exhibit of architectural details. I ended up buying the poster for the photo exhibit – may curse myself when I have to lug it around the rest of my trip, but hey – its the Bauhaus, and I really like the type treatment.


After the Archives, I went to Kurferstemdam which my friend Kai had recommended. It had a bombed out church and an endless stream of luxury good shops. I walked along the strip for awhile, admiring the clothes and accessories in the windows. Everything I was drawn too was around the 300-400 euro mark (they had prices in their windows!).

When it began to downpour, I hoped on the bus and then a couple trains to get home. I was cold, wet, and hungry, so decided to treat myself to a meal out. My host wasn’t home, so I texted her for suggestions. She told me to look at the map, but there was a number of places on the map. When I inquired further, she suggested the Italian pizzeria I’d gotten my coffee and pastry earlier that morning.

An Evening Out

I didn’t feel like pizza, but after wandering around for a bit, I ended up there anyway. I ordered a glass of their house red and a slice of pizza. The pizza was quite good – doughy bread like naan with real tomato sauce, salad mix, and cheese. The guy behind the counter seemed offended when I asked “Can I have a glass of the house red?” – “Of course! We are an Italian restaurant! What red do you want?”. I pointed to the first one he showed me. The pizza and wine came to 5 euros. (An excellent example of when English commonalities sounds weird when interpreted literally)

I sat at a table by an open window that looked out on a courtyard hidden by bushes and trees beneath an apartment block. On my table was a rose and a candle – it would have been quite pleasant if I wasn’t feeling grumpy and there were screaming children running around the table behind me. The wine and food made me feel better though.

I had left the house without my iPhone (charging) or a map (drying), so chose to keep in a primarily straight line when I went adventuring after dinner. I ended up on Karl-Marx Strabe which reminded me of Yonge street with all its neon lights, eateries and unappealing shops. This was very different than Yonge Street however. For one, the street was extremely wide with tall apartments lining the street. It made me feel very small and remember a passage from Happy City about how these types of layouts were built by communist planners to make people feel like life was grand. The buildings looked too old to be post-war, but what did I know about German architecture? pedestrians on the sidewalk Once I hit an H&M, I decided to turn back. I took a left onto the residential streets and took the back route through courtyards and a park. It really is stunning the amount of lush green-space Berlin can fit in areas with such high density. There were lots of cute, well-behaved dogs, drool worth bikes, and attractive young professionals (usually accompanied by at least one of the former) to keep my mind active as well. I wasn’t just thinking about urban planning…

I kept my eye out for a new interesting bar to try, but they were mostly dives or places for betting. I then tried to find the place I had been to last night, but despite my searching I did not find it. I went into the bistro near my AirBnB, but it was so crowded with people and no places to sit that I went out into the rain again. I then stumbled across a place I’d passed the night before and thought, “Good! I’ll go there!”.

The bar was totally vacant. I ordered a beer and the bartender said he’d bring it to me. I found a corner table by the window, bathed in red lamplight with a big candle at the centre of the table. there was piano jazz playing and it seemed like quite the spot. I wondered why no one was here… but nonetheless, I felt totally comfortable getting out my iPad and keyboard to work on the day’s blogpost. I had reflected on the walk that I hadn’t seen anyone with an iPad in Berlin, nor had I seen many laptops out at cafes or bars, People just seemed to go out to be social, not to work. That was different than home!

The bubbles in my tall stein of beer glowed golden in the candlelight. I happily poured water from the ice cold bottle into my tiny glass – the proportions of the two were amusing. I liked it, The beer glass was extremely heavy – made me feel like I was drinking a lot of beer when I probably wasn’t – but hey, I got a one arm workout lifting that glass!

As I typed, I watched the light dim outside and listened to the cars splash through the puddles as jazz continued to play on the speakers. Once my blog post was done, I opened a Bernie Gunther thriller in iBooks and danced in my chair to the music as I finished my beer. It was beautiful way to end the day.

See more photos from the trip on Flickr: Nell’s Photostream

Step count: 27,337

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