März Musik

März – in German ‘March’ is the long month of transition in this part of the world. In between the neverending winter and the long-awaited summer, the darkness and the light, the Berlinale and the Freiluftkino season, the CTM and the Atonal. I actually love the feeling when the first, more intense rays of the morning sun burn my face on my way to work… on my bike \o/ (I love my bike, but I am not one of these Berliners riding their bikes even when temperatures drop to a negative scale!).

Two years ago, high on discovering all the new places in the city, I participated for the first time in the event organized by Berliner Festspiele in my beloved music cathedral aka Kraftwerk called ‘The Long Now’. The concept of it is to bring a super ambitious line up of electronic musicians for a 29 hours long event of the Daylight Saving Time overnight switch, allowing the participants to indulge into the darkness, even allowing some sleeping spots at the venue.

A year ago, alongside with the event, there were corresponding installations in the neighbouring Radialsystem V and Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien which were pretty amazing. ‘Extended Compositions’ showed e.g. the works of weapons transformed into instruments, shooting the music, not war ❤

In Radialsystem V, the Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota together with alif created a musical installation’Split in the wall’ with music as a concept of blood running through the veins – instruments.

The dreamy Long Now event will happen again this year from 25th March 18:59 till 26th March 23:59. Emerge in the lucid dreaming while in Kraftwerk, before the spring will take over the city.

And it all makes me feel how long was my winter sleep and how great is to face spring again. Simple, but happiness is free when this feeling hits!

Bosch – visions alive in Berlin

There is never enough of art in Berlin! February being a month marked by great festivals like CTM, Transmediale and Berlinale. Additionally, terribly cold and gloomy weather prompts people to spend more time not only in clubs and cinemas, but also in galleries. At the same time, there are some interesting regular exhibitions happening: and actually there are two of them focusing on Hieronymus Bosch, whose works may be never lose its powerful symbolics and complexity of describing the metaphors of the world.

I’ll start with the installation of ‘Bosch – Visions Alive’ taking place in Alte Münze among other interesting venues of Spree Werkstatten. In the dark and spacious environment, you can contemplate a 30 minutes animation of the most remarkable paintings of Bosch. Together with my friend, we stayed there for over an hour, hypnotised! This brings me to the point that maybe it’s a digestible way of bringing art and its history in a more inclusive way – since the installation is engaging people from different backgrounds. This way, the message of it can have a bigger impact.

And last weekend I decided to visit the ongoing exhibition of Hieronymus Bosch drawings and works of his copyists in Gemäldegalerie. There is not too much of original works, but those available are actually showing the impressive concept art from centuries ago. Apart from that, I was very impressed by the collection in Gemäldegalerie: if European paintings from 14th till 18th century is something you’d like to explore, this is definitely a place to go to. I spent some 3 hours last Sunday there and I still felt I rushed through it. Among the collection you will find not only Bosch, but also Rubens, Valasquez, Botticelli, Rembrandt and Bruegel.

So even though I still have not managed to visit all the important museums and galleries of Berlin in 2,5 years of time I’ve been living here, I can recommend Gemäldegalerie to those who live and breathe classical art.

Taipei 101 and more

During my latest trip to Hong Kong and Macau, I decided to spend a couple of days in Taiwan, since I have heard great things about it from my fellow friends travellers.

It was only 90 minutes flight away from Macau, so I could not resist the temptation, but I did not set too ambitious goals about the sightseeing. I focused mostly on its capital: Taipei, and the North of the island. Here I’d like to share my thoughts and experiences of staying for 3 nights in this exciting capital.

What was strikingly different to other places I’ve visited before in East Asia: Japan, Hong Kong and Macau is that it was still sort of ‘undiscovered’ and not touristic. Maybe it was a matter of the season, but I could probably list less than a handful of foreigners I met or bumped into during my visit.
On a flip side, it was very easy to get around and communicate with people: most of them spoke quite good English, and I was also very fortunate to meet Chelsea – a friend of a friend who used to live in Spain and offered to take me around her favourite restaurants and bars. I enjoyed this experience a lot!
However, even if you don’t know anyone in Taipei, the city has a very friendly and safe vibe. I felt very encouraged just to wander around the night street markets and old town, checking out delicious, fresh and vegan-friendly cuisine with 1000 varieties of tofu. I even risked trying the famous ‘stinky tofu’ which actually tastes really great (the comparison with the stinky cheese is very relevant here).
Taipei offers a lot of room of relaxation, including public hot springs in the Beitou district and green parks. For the first time I also enjoyed staying in the shrines, simply because they were not flooded by tourists (unlike in most parts of Japan) and offering a very spiritual experience.

The only hazard I spotted were the scooters: or people using them, not really respecting the order of the lights or other driving rules.

Taipei bridges amazingly authentic old town experience with stunning skyline of buildings like Taipei 101 or neon streets of Ximending. Apart from that the monumental sites like Chaing Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Grand Hotel or National Palace Museum are really breath-taking. I was pretty impressed by the street art and hipster backstreets with tattoo and designer clothing stores.

For more romantic souls (like me 😉 there is one more place you can’t miss: Tamsui. Not only for its ‘Love Bridge’ but more importantly: for its sunset, beach and a long walk in the park, followed by a ride on a speed boat. My journey to Tamsui ended up, no, not by any romantic encounter, but  at a concert of the Brazilian music and spotting some corgi dogs playing in a park. Well, call it a serendipity for me!

In one word: Taipei = 101 of lots of <3. With special thanks to Chelsea, my wonderful host!

Dancing thru the dark

 

I have to admit that 2016 was very abundant in terms of the art I saw: the exhibitions that made me think and the concerts I’ve attended. I do think a special focus for me is anything surpassing the boundaries in the contemporary art, with a focus on interpreting the classics and referring to the current musical trends.

I am not a professional dancer not an artist myself, but I do love exploring both (if this was not clear by the content of this blog yet). Here in Berlin I make sure to track especially anything by Sascha Waltz und Guests (from ‘Travelogue’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to ‘Le Sacre du Printemps’ and ‘Koerper’). This dance company has been showcased this year at Radialsystem V, Berliner Festspiele and Deutsche Oper.

Another highlight of 2016 was definitely the exhibition of Pina Bausch‘s works and deep dive into the history of her dance company, accompanied by the ‘Palermo, Palermo’ show only this month.

What I find special about the dance theater, is not only the physical, but also symbolic expression and freedom it brings. I have already confessed that for me personally letting go through dance is liberating and simply making me stronger, even if these cold and dark months have been exhausting.

Just like in the ‘Seasons’ march’ by Pina Bausch, there is a rhythm, which everyone has to find on its own, and at the end of the day, all the movements may feel similar. The work around repetition and symbols was one of the typical approaches in her Tanztheater, and I think it caries some universal truth. ‘Everything I do, I do as a dancer, everything, everything’ she said once. And I believe that dancing not only through the night/the season/and the darkness but also through the whole live can be a very good idea.

Gunkanjima – the possibility of an island

Hashima Island (端島), commonly called Gunkanjima (軍艦島; meaning Battleship Island) was one of the highlights of my trip to Japan in October. Situated just a couple of kilometres away from the port of Nagasaki, it is one of the most unusual places I’ve ever seen.

I found out about Hashima thanks to Google Earth and a friend of mine who has visited Japan earlier last year. She didn’t make it to visit the island, but knowing my passion for the beautiful decay and abandoned places, she knew that I will do my best to reach it during this trip.

Reaching Hashima proved to be not as complicated as I initially thought. Obviously, it depends greatly on the weather and sea conditions, but since it was awarded as a UNESCO World Heritage Site of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining in 2015, regular boat cruises to the island started to operate from Nagasaki port.

According to the tour operator, and my fellow travellers, cancellation of the cruises happen very often. Especially that I was visiting in the typhoon period, the dock on Hashima is pretty steep and landing not always is possible. I was lucky to sail when the sea was relatively quiet and on the way, I managed to hear various stories about the industrial revolution, Mitsubishi’s investment in the area that left impressive massive port architecture landscape in the Nagasaki Bay. However, a big part of the narration was also about the consequences of the brutal 19th century capitalism, and further decay of the settlements.

During the cruise, a former mining company employee was sharing both thrilling stories, and anecdotes about life on Hashima. Unfortunately, the narration was not always comprehensible or translated, so I could only read through his emotional language and further investigate about the industrial battleship exile.

Although the trip took only a few hours, it left me very impacted by the possibilities of afterlife for the post-industrial settlements. As the world will be hopefully becoming a more sustainable place in the future, endless opportunities or creating architectural memories of the massive coal mining, or steel industry will become a destination about learning about the past.

Uncertain journey(s)

Life is a journey, and it would be very fair to say that even if I am not travelling physically, the need for discovery leads me to trying out different things almost everyday. I mostly spent my summer in Berlin working, which was a great ride itself, with short getaways within Europe I had no time to describe but needed so badly to change air and perspective. Not to mention the quantity of gigs and showcases I’ve been able to see.

Now the summer is over and I am heading to a very distant destination.

Inspired by the title of the exhibition I saw 2 weeks ago at Blain Southern Gallery in Berlin I am ready to travel to the country I have long dreamt to visit: Japan. This mind-blowing installation created by Chiharu Shiota is open until the end of November, so if you have a chance to visit it, I truly recommend it. Full of hidden meanings and symbolics, it reflects very well the fragile nature of emotional bounds related to travel.

I love the feeling of the unknown waiting for me, this time multiplicated by the fact that none of the languages I speak may become handy, but rather the open mind and empathy. Exactly a year ago, a good friend of mine boarded the plane to Japan to travel for a couple of months in Asia. I was happy to trace herself  while she was discovering beautiful places, spaces and faces. Now I find myself in this amazing state of mind, ready for the new adventures, albeit for much more limited period of time.

The hunger for travel is a state of mind. And so is Berlin – very often I start missing this city the moment I board the plane. I will be back soon and will focus on seeking for novelty in my everyday life. Till I book another trip…

Jazzin’ Berlin

Berlin definitely offers way too many concert and party options. I even considered setting up a group therapy for avid music lovers suffering from the FOMO (‘fear of missing out’) syndrome due to the abundant line-ups, conflicting concert dates and exhausting party agenda. And it’s not only a ‘problem’ of EDM aficionados. This sweet problem adds up to sleepless hours of people who love jazz too.

I would like to share my experience with discovering jazz scene in Berlin, with or without FOMO. I think that the aura of this week matches the mellow and warm jazzy vibes to complement the cold rain and clouds. Autumn instead of August, there you go.

Starting from the X Jazz Festival, a great and ambitious Kreuzberg-Friedrichshein-based initiative bringing top-notch artist for a couple of days to this neighbourhood, through ambitious programme of Radialsystem V ending up with unplugged concerts of Bilal or José James, I enjoyed the jazzy programme in Berlin a lot.

Also, Boiler Room made a stop this year to present a few artists from the festival to the wider audience, including Ed Motta, Jazzanova and the amazing duo of Christian Prommer & Kevin Sholnar. How great their 60 minutes performances were, you can see from their archive.

Another great club on the list is Gretchen, where this year I was lucky to see Polish-origin Skalpel as well as DJ Shadow for the 2nd time. Both concerts were very different from my original experience.

There are still many jazz bars and clubs I haven’t visited given the mentioned FOMO syndrome and the lack of time. If you want to experience what I have had, plug in your headphones and set it off to enjoy the soundscapes of syncopassion and improvisation.

As one of my favourite songs says: “Jazz – the only way of life”.