The Academie der Kunste second part of the Site and Space exhibition is at the Hanseatenweg building that has a Henry Moore Reclining Figure outside. There was a time when no building was complete without a Henry Moore outside it. They're dotted around the world all over the place, but does anyone ever look at them now and say ‘I want to make sculpture just like that?'
This exhibition is really a catchall to show anything they can get hold of, which I don't mind, as there are terrific things in it. Here there was an extremely fascinating mixture of Man Ray photographs, Picasso sculpture, painting and drawings, Marcel Duchamp's reproduction of ‘The Large Glass,' a film of the Alexander Calder ‘Circus', a film of a Samuel Beckett play, Morandi paintings, Klee paintings, Max Ernst early paintings, an exquisite tiny drawing by Malevich as well as paintings, a large sculpture by Louise Bourgeois of what looked like a large bunch of penises bunched together like asparagus, perhaps growing like that, but carved or cast in what looks like a rose marble but could be a polymer. So all of that, did I mention Matisse, Bonnard, and Nauman all in the same breath too?
What stood out, apart from the intense pleasure of looking at a good selection of works each, from all the above, was a shockingly authentic film by Jean Genêt, ‘L'Amour'. It distils poetry out of violence and is compelling to watch, however brutal. A very long way from contemporary camp anonymity. I stood and watched it all the way through, but mostly other people would look transfixed for a few seconds and then seemed to get uneasy and move on quickly once they realized what was going on in this prison with the prison guard and the prisoner who had the sexual power. That plus films by Gordon Matta-Clark and others by Jean Painlevé suggesting the Fourth Dimension, were riveting. What a lot of great works to see.
One film of Gordon Matta-Clark showed him pasting up advertisements and then graffiti ‘From the USSR with Love' on the Western side of the Berlin Wall when it was pristine white, and being questioned by the guards as to what he was doing. This was in 1976 and that means that he must have been the first to do graffiti on the wall, so starting the avalanche that followed. Historically that is important. It was touching to see the West Berliners queuing up to go up a staircase to a platform contraption so that they could look over the wall at the East where perhaps their home had been. They weren't giving even a glance at what Matta-Clark was doing with his art pasting and spraying cleverness. Like Banksy at the Israeli Palestinian wall. Maybe it takes outsiders just to kick things off.
A last bowl of borsht with Tom at Gorky Park as he's off to England for a few weeks break from being a Berliner artist.
Clement Greenberg writes: ‘I think a poor life is lived by anyone who doesn't regularly take time out to stand and gaze, or sit and listen, or touch, or smell, or brood, without any further end in mind, simply for the satisfaction gotten from that which is gazed at, listened to, touched, smelled, or brooded upon.' Uniquely, these past four months in Berlin have been for me, saturated with all that. Time and space given my full attention as the days and light unfolded.
Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra': Let us at least talk of us, you who are visual, grim though it may be. Remaining silent is grimmer, all truths that are kept silent become toxic.' His troubled mind seems to float on a sea of violent hurt anger; the open wound delineating tenderness and much sensitivity, yet easily swings to sepsis. Undoubtedly, careful reading and searching thoughtfulness can dig into oneself for interpretation of meaning, going beyond the surface slogans that appear to promote horrors. As when it is written, ‘For far too long woman has harboured a slave and a tyrant within.' So one thinks about that as well as, ‘Die at the right time.' But when he writes, ‘you are going to women? Then don't forget the whip!' even if preceded by ‘hold its mouth shut: or else it will cry over loudly this little truth.' Then it would take a huge amount of exploratory rationale for me to accept that as reasonable or valid. Stinking chauvinism I say.
I am going to take a break from all that deep searching, and with relief read volume four of ‘Clement Greenberg, The Collected Essays and Criticism, Modernism with a Vengeance', edited by John O'Brian, University of Chicago Press. He writes intelligently, simply, joyfully, with conviction. I especially enjoy his ripping into other critics and putting them right.
Coming home to the studio last night the road was blocked off by the police and fire engines. Trams were piled up, about half a dozen both ways waiting in a jam. Apparently a large tree had just fallen right across the Kastanienallee stopping all traffic. When I went back the next day to view the scene there was no trace of it. Everything had been tidied up without a trace.
Last night I went to a B&W German film (with English sub-titles) at the St. George English Bookshop. Under the DDR, it had been banned for being critical of the judicial system. Filmed and set in the late sixties and early seventies it showed the drabness of East Berlin at that time.
There must have been a few Germans in the audience, as during some scenes that talk about terrorists sabotaging the safety of the East there were loud barracking shouts heckling the screen characters. This was an authentic banned film made at the time. The current film "Life of Others" that has won Oscars, also shown here in this Berlin bookshop, is a glamorised version, but both are riveting.