October 28, 2017

AGB Open Sunday Part 4: Aphorisms, Cornering and Späti-Saufen

Aphorisms are a great way to stretch the brain, to think big, like universe- and humanity-big. They're also called "street poetry" or "literature's handluggage." Last Sunday at the library we did some stretch exercises in thinking. We thought for instance about how we are sweating in 2017. If the sweat of the 1970s was the one of sex, the 1980s the one of anxiety, then the sweat of the 2010s is absorbed immediately by sweat-fighting gear.  Or how we experience time in the 21st century? It's no longer the clutter time of the 1960s, or the empty time of the 1970s, the free time of the 1980s, and the slacking time of the 1990s. Somebody came up with the word "cornering" - it was translated into German as "Späti-saufen." We ended the workshop with a few thoughts about Die Bibliothek am Sonntag:

Umhergehen am Sonntag in der Bibliothek ist ganz vertraut und gleichzeitig so anders. Beides macht mir Vergnügen.
Wir frühstücken gut, dann ist alles wie immer nur in schön. 
Bibliothek am Sonntag, Menschen am Sonntag
Bibliothek am Sonntag ist ein Anfang. Ich bin für Bibliothek 24h jeden Tag.
Sonntag möchte ich lesen aber nicht in die Bibliothek gehen.
Die Bibliothek am Sonntag ist wie Wikipedia... nur in echt. 

October 19, 2017

AGB Open Sunday Nr. 3: Flash Stories or How To Think Of Things

Flash fiction is a bit like poetry. It acquires a mindset that is alert to things. "Do not dream of influencing other people," Virginia Woolf wrote in A Room of One's Own, "Think of things in themselves." Most of the time we don't really look because we're too busy with everything that's around the thing, like conventions and stereotypes. If you look and describe something carefully, you can call it a critical act. Last Sunday at the library we read some of Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons' stories in which things stop making sense. A critic called it Wort Salat. We also read a letter by Lydia Davis to a frozen pea manufacturer asking him to reconsider his art of packaging. We started the workshop by looking at coffee cups on the table and finished it with collaborative writing. It's a Kopfkino (cinema in the head) in the library, in which we used our many voices to create one:

Whenever I go to the library, I feel that everyone is staring at me. Ich habe schon wieder keine Bücher sondern nur Videos ausgeliehen... Hoffentlich schaffe ich es, sie rechtzeitig wieder abzugeben, egal ob gelesen / geschaut oder nicht! Ob es wohl jemanden gibt, der darüber nachdenkt, was eine bestimmte Person sich so ausleiht? Libraries are like monuments to silence, a place for thinking and reading, many voices being read all at once; a hum of voices; male and female, accents and exclamations - not silent at all. Sometimes I wish I could hear every one's thoughts as they are reading and concentrating at their desks while in the library. Denn viele Menschen sehen interessant aus aber ich bin zu schüchtern jemanden anzusprechen. Allen sehen so konzentriert und beschäftigt aus. In this sea of people and books, I want to swim along time and space and feel free. Unfortunately we're under time constrain at the moment, so we need to stop for now. Thank you. 

October 13, 2017

Preis der Nationalgalerie, Female Panels, and Who's gonna Win?

Panel at Me Collection for the exhibition Portrait of a Nation

I always brace myself before I go to the talk of the Preis der Nationalgalerie, which happens every two years. I know that the sound will be wrong. It always is in the back space of the Sarah Wiener restaurant (the sound quality is not any better in the restaurant itself, it's exhausting to have even a conversation there). And also, I mostly get upset thinking about the set-up of the exhibition: each artist taking up an own space so that they never cross each other's territory. But this time I was quite excited about seeing an all-female panel: the four artists Sol Calero, Iman Issa, Jumana Manna und Agnieszka Polska moderated by Alya Sebti, the director of the Ifa Gallery. An all-female panel is rare in the history of Hamburger Bahnhof. Actually, I doubt it has ever happened before. Only one week before I had been claiming to three female artists of Dubai, Zeinab Al Hashemi, Amna Al Dabbagh, and Afra Atiq, at the Me Collection that in Berlin I rarely to never see a panel about a group exhibition being represented by three female artists on stage. They had looked at me in surprise. In the interview, moderated by Arsalan Mohammad, they sparkled. There was laughter, spontaneity, even chatting about the breakfast in Dubai. 

However, last night at Hamburger Bahnhof the talk was so serious, quite tenacious to follow, and certainly no fun, so I left before it ended. I was wondering if this is so because we think we have to be deadly serious to be taken seriously and to show authority. It reminded me of the European workshop "For Women Scientists to Advance" in which I participated in my twenties. It was advised to me to wear a suit during a job interview, otherwise a woman doesn't convey authority. I was wearing the damn suit on my subsequent interview for Fulbright but that didn't prevent them (male jury) to tell me up front that they didn't send people to the US to go on vacation. It was the platinum blond hair that betrayed me. 

So, who's gonna win the art price? I guess it will be Sol Calero. It's the most multimedia, inviting-other-artists, performativity work of art. It checks all the boxes of what we want nowadays. But I want to have a look again at the work of Jumana Manna. She talked about how she made sculptures depicting muscles, pointing at how muscles absorb music. I was intrigued, this was strange, and although I've only been in the exhibition for a second, I remember those muscles are ugly big things on which my eyes lingered for a second. I like a good dose of ugliness, like Brutalism in architecture. I think we kind of need some good ugliness again in the art world (ugh Alicja Kwade / Jorinde Voigt overdose). Bring that shit in!  

October 9, 2017

Open Sunday: Sonia Sanchez and Afternoon Haikus at the Library

On the first Sunday of the AGB workshop Keep It Short! we thought about short thoughts, half thoughts, top of the head ideas etc. For the second workshop we explored haiku poetry - the art of few words and many suggestions. To do so, we didn't focus so much on the traditional Japanese haikus. We read the morning haikus of the African-American poet Sonia Sanchez, who writes with "razor blades between her teeth." In free association exercises we practised writing in all five senses, looking at the way in which they played out at that very moment while sitting in the library. At the end, we made a collaborative piece by passing by a paper and picking one of our favourite sentences we had written:


Aber Papier streichelt 
gedämpftes Licht der Bücherrücken, rhythmisch
schwach fühlen bei den Gedanken an dich
hilflos smells white
ach! Nase
grincement, gorge, google, glups
weiße Sonnenflecken


rascheln Blätter, knistern
calm taste of lukewarm coffee
grounded by smooth flowing concrete
gefangen Wärme in deinen Augen sehen
leicht bitterer Nachgeschmack des Kaffees
nichts mehr.

October 3, 2017

AGB Open Sunday Action: Keep it Short at the Library

The Amerika Gedenkbibliothek is my favourite library in town. I hang out there a lot. You can take your coffee to your working table, how cool is that! And now there's an action to keep the library also open on Sundays. For the occasion I'm giving the workshop Keep it short! about short format writing and reading, each Sunday in October at 3pm (come by!). During the first session we read a few of Maggie Nelson's 240 propositions on the color of blue in Bluets. We also did some finger exercises in shortness like the surrealist game Cadaver Exquis (exquisite corpse, in which you can se only the sentence of what the previous person wrote). It came out quite poetic. The first sentence we picked randomly from Maggie Nelson's Bluets:

We can not read the darkness.
We can only read the light...
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope for the unseen.
Sitting on a blue chair, she could see through her living room curtains, up into the morning’s gray-blue sky,
with a faint smell of smoke rising from the carpark below
just to cover the smell of dope.
Burn it all down
and start all over, not from A, from À
and all of what A can be. A is never there, really, it’s
only on a badge of an A-team member
It’s always good to have the option B.