Cheap Funk #31
CHEAP FUNK IS A FIVE-REELER
Cheap’s latest radio show on Reboot FM in conjunction with the collective’s first feature film People Are Other People 1–5 presented at Akademie der Künster der Welt, Cologne.
“This radio show is also a five reeler. They were restricted to their homes. Unable to rehearse and perform live, they had to make use of what was available to them. They turned to sounds of their earlier selves. CHEAP FUNK IS A FIVE-REELER. The other is bound up with the self, within the self. Let the other speak through the self. Let the other merge with the self. I is an other. My body does not end where yours begins. This radio show is a film. A worn-out film, overextended, coming apart at the edges like a favorite sweater. In times like these, we need sounds of the other in order to make sense of the world around us, in order to conceive a world beyond the self. Sing along as you listen. We’ll speak in pace to your rhythm. Synch up to ours. Don’t worry. That doesn’t make us a couple. No exclusivity here. No monogamy. Copy that?”
Available online at ADKDW Cologne through August 20, 10 pm – 6 am CET, Vaginal Davis in CHEAP PEOPLE ARE OTHER PEOPLE No. 1.
Track slice portrait, portrait of the track slice as an artist
Drawing on print
From this void, 2018
From this void was recorded from the inside of a sealed prehistorical cave, after crossing the damaged structure. Miniopterus and Rhinolophus bats leave and enter the negative space through an empty circle, deliberately enabled for their survival and circulation.
Veit Laurent Kurz
The Dilldapp Memorial
Who is Dilldapp?
“Central piece and protagonist of this presentation is a Memorial. A memorial realized for my Alter Ego, The Dilldapp. A creature that assumingly entered my mind not even a year after my birth and since than hasn’t left.
My first connection/inspiration has been to the many new molecular and atomic fusions that took place when the Vesuvius surprised the nearby city of Pompeii through its sudden breakout. Lava and toxic gases melted physical entities into new constellation.
Technologic developed volcanos in form of nuclear powerplants. Ones that process highly radioactive material instead of lava. Together we arrived at the place of my nightmares and fears, Chernobyl. My Rebirth in 1986 as the Dilldapp.
The 26th of April 1986, two explosions in the Chernobyl Powerplant caused a cloud of highly radioactive Dust and Steam. Besides the effects radiation has on the environment and the physicality of any creature it became clear that it caused a variety of mental disorder. Somewhere between these lines the Dilldapp was born.
Now deciphering an object like for instance the elephant foot, a secretive object created by an atomic explosion very similar to a volcano eruption, that makes one realize that it buries physical information, atomic structures as well as a spiritual, dematerialized information so to entry into new constellation.
Born from radiation it is the Dilldapp, with all its knowledge and costume, its ability to make us laugh and cry, to remind and to accompany us humans in this step.” – Veit Laurent Kurz, 2020
Veit Laurent Kurz is the winner of the fourth edition of the Battaglia Foundry Sculpture Prize by Fonderia Artistica Battaglia, Milan and was nominated by curator and this year’s BFSP advisor Fatima Hellberg.
For further details and the full digital presentation of the Battaglia Foundry Sculpture Prize #04 please visit bfsculptureprize.com.
My first connection/inspiration has been to the many new molecular and atomic fusions that took place when the Vesuvius surprised the nearby city of Pompeii through its sudden breakout. Lava and toxic gases melted physical entities into new constellation.
Crocopazzo! (Mother’s Birth Scene), 2020
A hyperbolic comedy about a mother and her children that look to experimental modes of treatment, therapeutic practices and self-developed products to find their authentic person, and make the best of things.
The setting: an intimate tv sound stage. A host interviews each of them and guides us through the complexity of this unusual self-obsessed ménage to understand the method to their madness and wonders with the audience if they perhaps have found the answers. For sale and on display a family/cult and much more than just your average goods and services. Equilibrium is lunacy and self betterment is curse of capitalism.
Mother is exceptionally alive to language and gesture, to the layers of meaning in every utterance; Alive to power play and conscious and unconscious manipulations. She doesn’t see any pain, desolation or terror in madness. She doesn’t glamorize it or claim it doesn’t exist. Rather she believes that the family could generate psychotic behavior in one member who was selected more or less unconsciously to bear the brunt of family dysfunction. Although sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish which member of this family has been chosen. Perhaps it is mother herself…
On view by appointment
through June 20, 2020.
Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi
Schöneberger Ufer 61
Crocopazzo! preliminary monologue sketches for Host with Lily McMenamy
Music: Roman Lemberg
Script: Leila Hekmat
Crocopazzo! preliminary sketches for Lemon Drop with Lily McMenamy
Music: Roman Lemberg
Script: Leila Hekmat
CHANGE YOUR LIFE, 2020
Soundtracks for Artists Series
Untitled Richard Truhlar / Seth Price House Sound / Noidan Kodassa Aekie / Angel Olsen Only with You / Essai 11 Semool / Sonorous Stones In The Cave jelle Atema / Young Tiger Calypso Be Hrvoje Hitrec Eko Eko Ilhan Mimaroglu Immolation Scene Rangers Golden Triangles NGC891 Edgar Froese William Brunson Tapestry / Owen Sound Standard Table Of Vowel Equivalents Don’t Run Into The Dark So Quick Jon Bap / Kim Jung Mi Your Dream / Thorax Wach Huckepack und zu Hunderten in den Tod Maifestspiele einsteurzende neubatauten Cool Off Poetics John Angaiak Ill Rock u to the rhythm of the ocean Larks Los Paranos / Channelling the Power of Souls Into a New God Burzum /DJ Choppa X Files / DJ Aflow Gold Teeth / DJ Nervoso KUIA / Nganasan Two Male Reindeer / 20 Musicbox-SW-Mouthorgan 1 The Horse He’s Sick / DJ HVAD Korla Gabber / Decaléé DJ Perigoso / Sweet Enuff QSD / Wojciech Karolak Instant Groove / Can U Feel It fat Boys There’s no Stoppin Us Ollie and Jerry / I’m Leaving You Again New Edition / Afrique Tango Guem / KWJAZ once in Babylon
Echo Chamber, 2020
Video, colour, sound
Artist: Pleasure Wars
Video: Directed & edited by Morag Keil
Video, colour, sound
Crocopazzo! preliminary sketches for Felvis with Lily McMenamy
Music: Roman Lemberg
Script: Leila Hekmat
An Arrow Pointing to a Hole (excerpt), 2019
Video, colour, sound
Mud puddles are becoming blood puddles. It hasn’t rained in a while, so when you go outside and walk around—I don’t recommend it, it’s better in here—but when you go outside and walk around you’ll find it’s less and less water that’s gathering in the puddles and more and more blood. I mean, that’s okay—both promote and contain life, but blood is more particular, selective. Stickier.
On view by appointment
through July 4, 2020.
The monthly CHEAP Kollektiv radio program Reboot FM saluting the lyrics of the great Joni Mitchell, recorded separately in lockdown by Susanne Sachsse, Marcuse Siegelstein, Daniel Hendrickson and Vaginal Davis.
We’re home a lot. Our body aches. Our eyes hurt. Our head throbs. The muscles are sore, even through they’re not getting the usual action. We’re staying connected but we’re sick of streaming. “Let me just sit down in this chair for a change and listen to a little music. We thumb through the records and then it hits us, Joni.”
Photography & Eating is a short story written in 2013 based on Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff’s visits to photograph in tech startup offices around Berlin.
The accompanying photographs, taken more recently in 2019 and 2020, are from an ongoing series documenting renderings of new buildings at their construction sites around Berlin.
Photography & Eating
Calla Henkel & Max Pitegoff
Like all of these stories, it began with a problem. We watched as a young CEO in jeans explained to a reporter in a learned, excited tone: “We were looking for someone to go mushroom picking with in Berlin because we wanted to make a mushroom risotto and we couldn’t find anyone who could help us with that.”
The reporter nodded. “Why did you choose Berlin for Gidsy?”
At 11am on Monday standing on Neue Schönhauser Strasse, we ring the bell for Roomsurfer. Leslie answers the door and gives us a quick tour of the two-room office. “So what are you taking the photographs for?”
The wall near the door is covered in post-it notes with words scrawled in marker. Wine, Love, Travel, God, Salad.
“Like Couchsurfing meets Facebook.”
“We bring people together, who have, like…” Leslie motions to the wall of post-its. “…similar interests.”
After accepting a glass of water from Leslie, a delivery arrives from Amazon. “My French keyboard,” one of the guys sitting in the first room exclaims, smiling. The space is small, with fluorescent lights suspended above three groupings of beige desks. Talia from Spain sits in the far room with a vase of daffodils and two laptops open. She explains the concept behind Roomsurfer, who uses it, and why Barcelona is their second largest market behind Berlin.
“Yes, I totally use it when I travel. And all of us at the office are hosts.”
Walking into the next room, Talia says on beat, “Roomsurfer is an online community whose final aim is to share memorable experiences, build new, meaningful connections and offer and find accommodations.” Her hands move quickly as she talks. We nod, focusing the camera on her colleague hunched over his new keyboard.
Later that evening we scroll through Roomsurfer listings. “There she is.” We stop at a photograph of Talia’s apartment on Skalitzerstrasse. Another vase of daffodils, a moss-colored couch with a pink throw and a poster of a Greek island, maybe Santorini. “Let’s book a night with her.”
We continue scrolling. We find a friend of ours, Ilias, renting out his one-bedroom off Hasenheide.
On Tuesday, with a backpack resting on his knee, a young entrepreneur describes an “a-ha” moment, starting again with a problem. The interviewer from Der Spiegel offers a cigarette. The coffees arrive, and the conversation shifts towards nightlife.
Two years ago the entrepreneur was given 100,000 dollars to drop out of school and focus on his startup.
The interview continues.
“The expanding frontier of communication,”
“Alexander Ljung from SoundCloud”
1300 Internet startups have been founded in Berlin since 2008, 500 just last year. “All Berlin knows is change and disruption, and there’s nobody defining what the city should be, or what an entrepreneur should be,” he says, leaning back against his chair, pleased with his answer.
Around 3pm we get to Team Europe after stopping off at an Ullrich for bananas. Kristov greets us hurriedly from his desk. We wait with the receptionist while he finishes a “hot” email.
“We’re an incubator, which means we create a space for young startups to thrive; resources, advice, capital.” The hallways are lined with photographs of smiling people tacked above short blurbs. Kevin of ChicChickClub is from Toronto and loves Ruby on Rails.
Behind us on the wall, an iron on t-shirt hangs with Delivery Hero’s logo. “They’re worth about 80 million now,” he says, motioning to the outdated shirt while eyeing a cluster of what seems like high school age boys sitting in a glass-encased room.
Kristov pauses during the tour to show us a retractable wall in a boardroom. “After work we like to open it up and have a team beer.” I promise not to take any embarrassing photos.
The office stretches out over the entirety of the fifth floor, each room filled with young people on computers. We set up our tripod in a small room facing the back of the building with a clump of steel desks and glowing screens. After cheerfully chatting about the company, Jared from 9Cookies asks if he should look at the camera.
“No, just act normal.” He shrugs and returns to coding.
A few weeks earlier, on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s Berlin speech on the steps of Rathaus Schoeneberg, the American Embassy organized a panel on the future of economics in Berlin, with a focus on the budding tech scene.
“All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin.”
Flanked by flowers and microphones the keynote speaker begins: “Now more than ever, in a post-war, post-wall Berlin, innovation and open markets pave the route to freedom.”
Erin, having minored in theater and performing arts in college, is representing the photo sharing network BamD. “The conversation we are having today begins and ends with community, but for us here in Berlin, and particularly at BamD, it’s about a global community.” She pauses and looks at the audience. “It is true, we are all Berliners in some way…”
She passes the microphone to Giorgio Betolini, the CEO of Ploonge.
“Why is Berlin important to you and your company?”
“I think Berlin is like a child waking up after an inspiring dream. It’s full of young people from different social backgrounds willing to challenge themselves.” Erin rolls her eyes. Next, Lenard Krawinkel, the founder of Zoobe, responds. “Berlin is a city that carries you. It provides space to explore.”
The presentation concludes with a slideshow of co-working spaces around Berlin; smiling young people on computers, sun-drenched desks below graffiti murals of logos and edgy quotes. The crowd claps, soon to disband to iced drinks and paper napkins in the lobby.
Later that week, in an airport bar, Erin rips the cover off of a discarded CNBC magazine, folding it in half and sliding it into her laptop case. In loopy blue font just below the Gidsy cofounder’s chin, it reads: BRATS: borderless, restless, agile, tech-savvy… and your deadliest rival.
“In the rise of the micro-multinational age, the agile are poised to inherit the earth–Rise of the Roving Empires,” she reads aloud sarcastically making the bartender look up from washing glasses. Erin liked to joke to her father over Skype that she had joined the 3%, referring to the number of females in Berlin’s tech industry.
The BamD office, where Erin works, has an open layout with only a few glass-enclosed rooms with bright furniture and chrome tables. “This type of floor plan,” BamD CEO Nathan explained to Der Zeit, “is because ideas travel between people, not walls.”
There’s a foosball table, free Club Mate, massages on Wednesdays, and a large mural of the slogan NEVER STOP EXPLORING above the human relations desk. Leading down the hallway to the roof deck is a series of framed photographs, “highlights from the BamD photo streams, each in one of our custom filters.”
Meanwhile in California a German government plane lands. The Minister of Economics and Technology, Phillip Rösler, unbuckles his seatbelt and expresses his excitement to the six German entrepreneurs traveling with him.
Berlin’s unemployment rate is nearly double that of other German cities, but the tech scene is rapidly expanding and as Rösler stated in his speech at Startup Camp Berlin, “We are counting on you to boost future growth, increase prosperity and create jobs.”
The government plane is taxiing towards Peter Thiel, German-born billionaire, cofounder of PayPal, and the man behind the 100,000 dollar incentive for the young entrepreneur to drop out of school. In an interview with Der Spiegel Rösler had said that he prepared only one question for dinner that night with Peter Thiel. “What makes startups successful?”
Thiel answers Rösler with an oyster in his hand, alluding to his incentives for students to drop out of college and start their own companies: “It’s something you have to do around the clock, and that doesn’t compute with our existing educational system.”
“This is a conversation of youth.” He slurps the oyster.
On Wednesday morning we walk up the stairs to 6Wunderkinder. Vivian, from New Zealand, buzzes us in, commenting on the sunlight. We nod, adding that “it’s perfect for shooting.”
“The space is sort of a mess, we’re moving to the top floor next week.”
We chat about their long-term plans to move to the Factory, a partially Google-funded complex on Rheinsberger Strasse which “aims to bring established companies and startups together in a unique work-play sort of environment, which will even have a basketball court.” She pauses longingly, looking out the window as if imagining a scrimmage. “But it’s behind schedule — probably late next year.”
“Yeah, we’ll expand to upstairs till it opens, it has a terrace, it will be good for summer.”
Later that week, eating falafel, we will stare up at the Firefox banner hanging from the scaffolding on the future Factory and debate taking a photo.
“Help yourself!” Vivian motions towards a pan of käsekuchen surrounded by beanbags.
She tells us briefly about her reasons for moving to Berlin; her boyfriend is German and she loves the city.
“We develop Wunderlist, which is basically a task management system that you can use between all your devices. Whether you’re planning something wild like an overseas adventure, sharing a shopping list, or simple as keeping track of your daily to-dos.”
We nod, smiling. “And we just rebuilt the app to be native for all devices, Android, etc…” We photograph four guys in front of their MacBooks overlooking a construction site.
Created in 2010, Wunderlist is regularly ranked as one of the top productivity apps on iTunes, with over 9 million downloads. In an interview with The New York Times one of the cofounders states that “in the next two years we will have a multi-billion euro company here in Berlin.” With her hand resting on a bright green door, Vivian tells us with the same inspired intonation, “It’s exciting, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
In an interview over coffees at St. Oberholz, a former Apple employee describes Berlin as the last affordable metropolis. Picking at a muffin he goes on to describe the kind of “counter-culture” vibe Berlin holds for people who live in places like San Diego.
“It’s this crazy green field… There are a lot of creative people, and if you give creative people green fields, they build amazing things.”
Erin is seated on a modular cube in front of a line of yellow letters spelling out: If you have a brain you are a startup. Nathan, BamD’s CEO, is flipping through his iPhone with a flushed face. Erin reassures him, “It does something entirely different,” referring to Instagram’s new tagging feature. Nathan’s been jumpy ever since Instagram changed their terms of service to allow them to sell users photos to advertisers, and BamD has been scrambling to absorb those who deleted their accounts.
BamD is a community photo platform, not unlike Instagram, but with a more versatile interface for user communication: “facilitating conversations, through text and photo.”
Erin accepted the job after a string of Skype meetings with Nathan, who thought she was “personable and an excellent writer, with a unique voice.” We encountered Erin for the first time at a bar near Kotbusser Damm. She approached our table with a smile asking, “Can I borrow a chair?” We nodded and she picked up the chair, returning to a group of guys in jeans and Nikes.
We meet Erin the second time at the BamD office, her feet resting on a chair. When she sees us, she perks up, flipping her iPhone facedown and extending her hand. “Hi.” Her brand of enthusiasm is cautious but brassy and she, like everyone else, is “happy” to let us photograph her.
We exchange glances, remembering her from the bar; the one who asked for the chair.
“Do you want me to look at the camera?” We shake our heads.
“BamD is a photo sharing platform.” She gives us the tour while twice reminding us that she doesn’t normally give tours, but Cassandra from human relations is out with something. She is a writer.
Later, over beers, Erin explains that like Cassandra she is expected to absorb female duties at the company. She attends dinners that don’t apply to her job because it’s “better to have a balanced group” when out with investors. “I fell into it. I was studying creative writing and my roommate in college was running a startup out of our apartment. I wrote the copy for him instead of paying bills. He just sold the company…”
At the office, we photograph her sitting at her desk as she moves a tupperware out of the frame. I ask her if she likes Berlin, she says yes.
Looking directly at the camera she asks us if the art scene here is interesting.
We say yes. We ask about her writing.
“The type of writing I do here is all over the place. I have a specific way of saying things, structuring sentences, engaging people through plays in language. Also, I guess I’m behind what’s been described as the ‘certain directness’ which gives BamD its ‘edgy’ tone.”
“Are you the only writer?”
“No, but I end up having to rewrite and oversee everything to make sure it stays within the voice.”
“Can you describe the voice?”
“Maybe we should get a drink sometime and I can tell you about the voice,” Erin says smiling, playfully extending her hand out towards us.
Germany was voted the second most innovative country in 2013 according to GE’s Innovation Barometer, largely credited to its “growing startup sector.” 2013 is also the year the government came forward with its plans to support the “Silicon Valley phenomenon on the banks of the Spree.”
Two buildings up from the Soho House, German Chancellor Angela Merkel blankly stares at Holly, who is fresh from California and working at Wooga, a game design startup. “What do you mean by barriers?” Merkel asks, coolly.
Holly describes the difficulties of registering her address with the Burgeramt in Prenzlauerberg. “You’re lucky if someone speaks English.” Later she tells a reporter from Der Spiegel that she “fell in love with the city” and is really a musician.
“We don’t want money from you, but we want a more welcoming atmosphere,” says Jens Begemann, one of the Wooga cofounders. In a turquoise blazer the Chancellor responds. “Have you spoken with the mayor about this?”
“Yes,” Begemann says, “but everything that you do to help Germany develop a more welcoming culture really helps the industry.” Merkel nods.
They take her on a tour of the office.
“Who takes care of the work contracts?” “How many can play the game?” “What are the characters called?” “What did you study?”
Begemann explains that the money comes from sales on the premium version of the game. “What benefits are there to the premium version?” she asks, staring at a three-eyed fish giving a thumbs-up on an iPad.
“One could, for example, get magic dust more quickly to help beat opponents. Magic powder.”
“People pay for that?”
“We hire two new employees each week.”
Later in an interview with The Guardian, Begemann explains that he chose Berlin because “compared to other European capitals the costs for food and accommodation are really low. That attracts young and creative people from all over the world.”
We get an email from Erin.
How about Möbel Olfe this Tuesday? Around 7?
At the bar, Erin is antsy. Her copy is due in two days to introduce a new ‘graph’ feature onto the BamD interface. “Simply put, it converts your friends photographs into easily digestible analytics. It’s not earth-shattering, but in terms of communicating with photographs it’s very new.” Erin had spent the day reading the language of other photo sharing websites. “The annoying part is that Nathan doesn’t want to use the word ‘graph’ because of Facebook.”
We laugh. “Any good synonyms?”
“Chart, diagram, linear representation, layout. I don’t want to talk about it.” Erin says, turning her head towards the bartender.
We ask her if there’s a lot of turnover in Berlin.
“It’s all about holding onto talent.”
“It’s a migrant work force, where the fuck are any of these people from? And anyway if they’re good they can just stay at home and do this from their parents basement.”
“Then why are they coming?”
“Berlin is still cool so people are willing to move here. It’s always been cool to tech kids, compared to somewhere like London.”
Knocking back the last of her vodka soda, she adds, “If you can’t find the talent you want here, whoever they are, they’re probably willing to move here. And you don’t have to compete with companies like Twitter.”
“There was something like 900 million euros in investment funds last year, but it’s still chump change. Everyone will flare out if bigger money doesn’t roll in.” She pauses. “Berlin is ranked 15th in startup ecosystems in the world, there’s a long way to go.”
We ask what brings big money. She talks about SoundCloud, about SXSW, about Angel Investors, and the “retards” at Startup Engine.
“This city has a vampire thing right now. It attracts all these young people with ideas, and everyone’s caught between lifestyle and idealism with their projects, and then it all just gets sucked out of them basically for free.”
Erin motions to the bartender. “All setbacks are learning experiences, everything is exciting, fuckups are challenges, customers are friends, and the future is always fun. That’s the type of attitude,” Erin says chewing on an ice cube. “It’s a language game about lying, you have to be so adaptable you’re never telling the truth.”
“It seems like you just have to be really positive.”
“That’s not not true.” Erin says throwing her head back laughing. “Look, let’s do this again, it’s really nice to be around people who aren’t in the tech scene, but I’ve got to finish this Linear Layout Diagram.”
Before leaving Erin pulls her phone out of her pocket saying “You should check this out,” emailing us a link to Photo Hack Day Berlin. “Last year the winner was TouristEraser, which lets you take pictures without people in them by stitching and erasing anything that moves, almost cool, huh?”
Cutting his pizza in half at Il Casolare, Alexander Ljung, a cofounder of SoundCloud, describes Berlin: “It isn’t proven, the city itself is a startup in that way.” SoundCloud, a social music platform with over 38 million users, has become the poster child for Berlin startups since it moved from Sweden in 2007.
On Wednesday at noon, we follow an old man with a handtruck full of Club Mate and mineral water to SponsorPay. Sarah from human relations greets us and looks over the photo release form. A young intern is assigned to follow us. We apologize for taking up her time but she doesn’t seem to mind as she leads us to their second building.
“Just please don’t photograph the CEO.”
SponsorPay has had a 126% revenue growth just last year. “Value-exchange advertising is consistently increasing in its popularity thanks to its ability to drive meaningful engagement,” CEO Andreas Bodczek said in his usual chipper tone to Venturebeat.
Bodczek is doing a phone interview when we arrive. Finishing his lunch, he describes SponsorPay’s 300% growth in mobile business since January of 2012. He declines sharing the exact user growth and briefly touches on his time incubating SponsorPay at Team Europe.
“You could say it was good timing.”
Three floors of massive rooms filled with computers and calm faces. Wearing headphones, a guy asks if his screen is in the shot and he closes Tumblr. Everyone else ignores us. The intern describes her move from Munich. She’s been at SponsorPay for two months. “It’s been very interesting.”
There is no cheerful curiosity towards our camera equipment, or questions about what the photographs will be for. Everyone is sitting, silently staring at screens, desks squished together filling the massive space.
“They’ve been hiring about a dozen people a month, something like that,” the intern says to us in the hallway. Looking through the viewfinder at the “second fastest growing digital company in Europe,” we feel, for the first time, impenetrability.
We discuss this with Erin at the bar after she gets off work. Perched on a stool, Erin laughs. “The slip from startup to something static, a real company?” She puts her glass down and looks at us. “They don’t need you, that’s what you’re talking about.”
“Yes, need you. Everyone is everyone and you have to be young and relatable, it’s a system where the press is everyone, where the investor is everyone, where the customer is everyone.”
She points to her iPhone emphatically, “Everyone.”
“The other ones you’ve seen, they are all still ‘potential models’ which will either become real or blow away, even BamD. It’s why I had to be happy to see you.”
At 3pm we arrive to the office of Toast, situated in an altbau apartment building on the same block as the future Factory. Toast is another list-managing startup, this one for gifts.
“In late 2011 we really started analyzing gifting as it is a deep-rooted social tradition that has a major positive impact,” Frank, the CEO, says to us, his hands making circles at every adjective he used to describe the company.
“So many people told us the same story: ‘My boyfriend doesn’t know what I like,’ ‘I hate giving gift cards, they’re so impersonal,’ ‘My mom asks me what I want for Christmas and I never know what to say.’ It was obvious that we needed to build an app to make sure you can send and receive the perfect gift.”
The office is in one room of a co-working space. Frank gives us a tour. In the kitchen a job interview is taking place; a young woman describes her skills in Microsoft.
Silicon Allee, in a room in the back, is a blog founded by “a couple of expatriate Berlin-based entrepreneurs.” The blog hosts regular breakfast meetups at St. Oberholz, where the young tech community “networks over coffee.”
The six men working at Toast are all between 25 and 30 and willing to be photographed, except for one guy in a hoodie with flushed cheeks. “I just don’t like pictures.”
We talk a little bit about Toast, and about the Factory, which we can see under construction from the kitchen window. “The exciting prospects of Berlin’s tech future.”
“It’s interesting because it will be built directly on the line of the Berlin Wall.”
“Rent is cheap, and people have time and space to really focus on their ideas.”
In a video for VentureBeat, Simon Schaefer, one of the main investors of the Factory, stands on the building site, his hand extended, pointing towards Wedding, then towards Mitte. “This is the line of East and West.” He then points upwards towards the windows of a building nearby. “They used to sit up there and spy on the West with binoculars.”
Erin is already waiting at the bar, already one drink in. The light of her computer illuminates stickers of startup logos. “I’m fucking pissed.” I pull myself up to the stool next to her.
“Just have to rewrite a bunch of stuff because Nathan is scared.”
“Of sticking to the idea, he’s always trying to roll other shit in, it’s like we are good at what we do, we just need to keep sharpening, not adding.”
She closes her laptop and I order two vodka sodas. “How much do you get paid?” I blurt out.
“Not enough, that’s the thing, like I said; because the cost of living is so cheap here all these guys are getting paid basically nothing… and it’s ok. Everyone’s happy, so the standards are set low. But after this round of seeding we will be worth more, and he knows he can’t lose me.”
She asks me about my studio and I describe the Atelierhof Kreuzberg. “Rent is 320 for our big room, you should come by.” Erin likes our photographs and we plan on giving her one of the images from BamD. She likes hearing about fabrication, pricing and most of all art fairs.
Erin knocks back another vodka soda and puts her hand on my leg. She turns her head toward me, her red sweater falling off her shoulder. “You know, I did theater in high school.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“Yeah, I did a lot of improv.”
I tell her about starring in West Side Story in middle school.
“Improv is different.”
I listen, holding my drink near her hand on my thigh.
“The first rule of improv is you never say no. You’re always saying yes, always waiting for people to say yes back to you.”
“For a story to be built, if it’s going to be a long one, then the participants have to agree to a basic situation. Never shut people down and never ask real questions because it forces things into smaller representations.”
Erin’s hand is still resting on my leg. She continues, her voice getting louder and closer.
“Focus on here and now, never forget that everything that matters will happen directly in the scene to the people in the scene, nothing more and nothing less. Also, the best scenes take place somewhere specific, so choose a good location.” She gestures towards the bar.
Slamming her empty glass down with her other hand, she smiles. “Improv is about character change, there has to be change, all we can do is change. Mistakes, revelations, experiences, ramifications. It won’t be interesting without change.”
Looking me dead in the eyes, Erin moves closer. “This thing all of us are doing here, the startup thing, it’s the same.”
“Just say yes,” she whispers, her tongue nearly grazing my ear. She takes her hand off my thigh and grabs my drink laughing.
“Come over for dinner next week, it’s my turn to host a BamD night.”
“Sure,” I say as I slide off my stool, turned on and not knowing what ‘BamD night’ means. “Let me know what I should bring.” When I return from the bathroom her computer is open, and she is typing furiously.
Ritterstrasse 17 at 8pm
Perfect, see you then
The next morning at 10am we climb the stairs to Nxtbgthng. Paul answers the door extending a handshake. The office is on the top floor of a building on Oranienstrasse, sandwiched between furniture manufacturers and architecture studios. “We just moved in, so there isn’t much set up.”
“We build apps for iPad, iPhone, basically anything Mac related.”
Two men sit at a computer in each of the three rooms, which are divided by glass bricks. Paul moves a cookie package out of the frame and adjusts the brightness of his screen. “Can you see what’s on it?”
“We’ve worked with SoundCloud, Carhartt, Red Bull, Sleek Art Guide Berlin — actually, you might be interested in them.” Paul reaches for an iPad velcroed to the wall and shows us the Sleek Magazine website.
We pack up our tripod and tell them we’ll send the photos when they’re scanned.
Angela Merkel was a chemist before entering politics, a fact that is celebrated during her visit to ResearchGate, ‘Facebook for scientists.’ Merkel, in a green blazer, looks directly at the chief investor sitting near the window and asks, “is this your money you’ve invested or your parents’?”
After a quick tour of the space, Harvard grad and ResearchGate cofounder Ijad Madisch lists the company’s success stories. Merkel nods in approval.
Like Gidsy, ResearchGate bloomed out of an acknowledged problem. “We began when two researchers discovered first-hand that working with a friend or colleague based on the other side of the world was no easy task.” Pausing, Madisch looks at Merkel who is checking her watch. “We strive to facilitate scientific collaboration on a global scale.”
“We love Berlin, it’s a city which fosters experimentation.”
Offering a few words of support and thanking them for their time, Merkel exits the office with her security detail.
It was 3pm and we were late to Blinkist. Jan tells us over the phone that it will be easiest if we just meet him in the Betahaus café underneath their office. Betahaus opened in 2009, and aims to provide a co-working space that combines “a Vienna-style coffee house, a library, a home office, and a university campus.” Sitting by the window eating a pretzel, we eavesdrop on conversations in American English.
Jan bounds out of a door with a large smile, then leads us up a winding corridor of offices and plywood furniture. “Blinkist stepped up to solve a problem most people face. There are so many fascinating books out there, but so little time to read them. Their insights lie beyond our reach. We offer an easier way to discover great books and access their knowledge,” Jan says without missing a pause.
His partner Derrick, wearing a plaid shirt, chimes in: “really what we do is compress books in clear and memorable ways so that people can enjoy them, it’s a tool. That’s Ariel, she’s one of our interns.” Ariel was seated with a copy of Good to Great resting next to her Jansport backpack.
We move the camera up to her. “Do you want me to look at you?”
“No, it’s usually best if you just ignore us.” She smiles and returns to typing.
At 4pm, standing outside of a Turkish restaurant, we see the sign for Loopcam. Oskar buzzes us into their white brick office draped with colorful banners. It’s Friday, and we have Erin’s dinner later that night.
The Loopcam kids are young, early twenties, and we talk about Berlin, about Sweden, about SoundCloud, and a bar on Hermanstrasse. “You know we had this idea, but it was really the SoundCloud guys who pushed us to go to the next level.”
Loopcam is a gif generator, like Vine, but with photos.
“We are in the process of expanding into a full-blown social network.”
They want to know about the art scene in Berlin, and we ask them questions about investors. Shortly after our arrival the Versatel Internet technician shows up to hook up a router in the corner. “Do you know Erin, from BamD?” I blurt out while photographing Karin. “Yeah, blonde? We met her at one of the meetups last year.”
As I focus the 4×5 camera Oskar asks if it’s ok to make a ‘loop’ of me photographing. “Of course,” I respond, muffled by my jacket, which I’m using as a dark cloth.
They invite us to their party the following weekend, and we promise to swing by.
“We should probably just get vodka.”
Walking down Reichenberger Strasse towards Erin’s house with a bottle of Svedka, we listed all the startups we wanted to visit next week. Erin answers the door in a tight blue cardigan. “Welcome to BamD night, bitches!” The door swings open onto a crowd of twenty-somethings standing around a table.
“I hope it’s ok we only brought Svedka.”
“I prefer Grey Goose,” she responds, grabbing the bottle.
Erin re-introduces us to Nathan the CEO, Cassandra the head of HR, Daniel the head programmer, Patrick their designer, and Sebastian their CFO. “This is the main team, we are BamD!” Nathan says smiling contently. A couple of interns and part-time programmers don’t warrant introductions.
Gesturing towards the table with a beer in his hand, Nathan continues for us, “we trade off hosting a dinner once a month, which acts as a kind of ‘team chill’ moment and content generator for our BamD fooD stream.” He holds his beer up to Erin. “And by the end of this week, all of the past years dinners will be converted into ‘Pictograms.’”
Erin looks at him smiling, “there you have it, from the man himself. Pictograms.” She opens the vodka and lists what’s in store for the evening.
“First, lentil and chickpea salad with feta and tahini, and hummus — here, it’s good, try some,” she says, handing us a bowl of pita triangles. “Then carrot ginger soup, lamb cassoulet, and especially for Nathan, spaetzle. And finally, vanilla ice cream with rhubarb compote.”
“This looks beautiful Erin,” Nathan calls while photographing the flowers on the dinner table with his iPhone.
Erin pulls me into the kitchen to do a shot of vodka. “Never stop exploring!” she laughs, quoting the BamD motto and touching her shot glass to mine, her hand pausing on my waist. Erin stays to finish the soup while I go back to the others in the living room with Moscow Mules. Nathan asks me to hold them closer to the candles, zooming in with his index finger and thumb. “Perfect.”
“You should have seen last month.”
“So tell us about your work,” Patrick says, dipping pita into the hummus bowl.
We talk for a while, describing some of our previous projects and our relationship to photography. Nathan raises his glass, “You know I just think it’s so great that we have fine art photographers here with us for this dinner.”
Sebastian explains the concept of the beer chicken while flipping through the BamD stream on his iPad. “This was insane,” he says pointing to the screen. “ It’s cooked with a can of beer in it, you open it before putting it in and it just absorbs into the chicken.”
“But it was a bitch trying to get canned beer here.”
“It did get a lot of likes,” Patrick says with a midwestern American twang while handing out napkins.
“Ok, ok, ok, it’s time!” Erin enters carrying a large metal pot filled with carrot soup. “Wait, let me get it!” Cassandra holds her phone up, the flash bursts as Erin makes duck face behind a cloud of steam rising.
Everyone is seated around the table, laughing and chatting about things related to work. Sebastian tries to bring up soccer with us but quickly realizes we know nothing. Daniel tells us about studying photo in college.
Erin ladles the orange liquid into bowls, garnishing them with a dollop of crème fraiche and a pinch of sesame seeds. Holding up his beer, Nathan makes a toast. “Here’s to another month at the best startup in Berlin.” Erin smirks at me, gulping down her drink.
Looking at us Erin says, “Nathan was nervous to have you guys here for this, but I told him you’re not journalists and you’re not responsible to get it ‘right’.”
Nathan blushed, “No, no, it’s just this is supposed to be intimate. But Erin made me realize you’re artists, and BamD is really about sharing art with your network.”
“One happy creative class. Maybe I don’t really get what you guys want, but I also don’t really care, like I said, you’re not journalists,” Erin says adding pepper to her soup.
Everyone at the table takes their phones out before picking up their spoons, styling their dishes. “Nathan, lean in to your right!” Sebastian’s flash goes off. Daniel spoons the chickpeas while describing the flammkuchen he made in October. “It was really good, I mean Sebastian’s German and he liked it.”
I pause, looking at Erin. “I thought you said the press was everyone,” pointing towards her iPhone. Erin responds with a dry smile as if to shut me up. She reaches for the bread.
“Did you read that Guardian article on Gidsy?” Patrick asks, breaking the conversation.
“There’s no way they made 1.2 million in the first round of seeding.”
“Of course they did. They did.”
Patrick asks who’s going to Berghain with him later. Cassandra laughs, looking at us. “Patrick goes to Berghain every weekend, it’s not even a question anymore.”
“Did you see the thing about Klout becoming a social network? A kind of self help Ask Jeeves thing.”
Cassandra holds her phone up for a close-up of the lamb.
When the final glob of rhubarb compote is heaped on to the ice cream, Nathan announces, “another successful dinner, 194 collective photos for the stream!” A small round of cheers is followed by a pause as the table collectively holds their iPhones above their dirty dishes.
We take it as our cue to say goodbye and stumble out towards Kottbusser Tor.
Three days later we walk to Paul Lincke Ufer to visit the eelusion office. Climbing the stairs to the fourth floor, Claus opens the door smiling. “Welcome to eelusion. We develop avant-gardist digital games which combine the latest digital trends, like geolocation and augmented reality.”
The office is one large room with windows on both sides. Rows of computers break up the space, a mixture of men and women sitting, quietly chatting, and pointing at their screens. A group of six gather near a whiteboard and discuss the route of a video game character, plotting his movements with dotted lines.
“Berlin is really good to us,” one of the young women says while drafting an email. We photograph her, focusing on her peace sign ring resting on the computer mouse. “I mean, we could have been anywhere.”
Angela Merkel looks at her notes on stage in front of a large banner reading Internet & Startups in Deutschland. Her big move towards acknowledging the startup community is taking place in an old brewery in Prenzlauerberg. “Meine Damen und Herren. Ich will lieber nicht gleich so weit gehen und ‘liebe Freunde’ sagen, man muss sich ja vorsichtig annähern.” (“Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d rather not go so far as to say ‘dear friends’ straight away. One must be cautious when approaching one another.”)
I send Erin an email and thank her for dinner. She responds with an image of me eating soup and grinning.
Erin, wearing red lipstick, sits quietly in the audience with 175 other startup developers and investors. To mild applause, Merkel informs the room that they represent collectively 120,000 employees and 20 billion euros. Nathan whispers to Erin, “and how many emails.” Pausing, Merkel looks out at the audience and calls startups the “yeast” of the economy, nodding to the steel fermentation tanks just past the auditorium.
After the speech, over drinks, someone from WoodO chimes in, “At least she acknowledged that we’re going to be the ones to save Berlin.” The table laughs. A half dozen or so men in glorified hoodies and emlazoned t-shirts discuss with an online magazine the reality of any governmental change.
“What’s difficult is you have the same legal system for large corporations as you do for small companies. When you’re only six to twenty people you need very different contracts and tax structures.”
“The truth is if Pinterest was started in Berlin right now it wouldn’t have been funded, it would have been blown off as another cool idea.”
At a different table, Erin speaks with a reporter from The Guardian. “There is an attitude that there’s limitless potential, but the reality is we’re 30 years behind Silicon Valley, and even with 850,000 people working in IT in Berlin, there’s 40,000 vacant tech jobs.”
“Well that could be seen positively,” the reporter says, looking up from his notes.
“Not in terms of long term growth, or the attraction of big investors,” Erin responds, putting on her coat. “Also it’s a question of failure, Germans have it in their mind that if you fail you’re finished, there’s no spirit of learning from mistakes. That has to change before anything will be able to really grow.” She thanks him and sends me a text.
Merkel called me yeast, let’s get a drink?
in 30 at Olfe
Erin recounts the talk while finishing a vodka soda, pulling out her phone to show me images. “It was actually kind of exciting, maybe this is just the beginning.” I flip through images while she orders two vodka sodas. “How long are you going to do this?” she says whipping her head in my direction.
“What?” I ask.
“Infiltrate the startup world? Until you’re satisfied that art is somehow more homeopathic to the real burning questions of the world?” She paused, enjoying what she was saying. “Or until you become one of us? Or decide there’s no resolute difference, it’s all one creative shipwreck?”
Another pause. I stare at her, beginning to enjoy her anger. “Was there ever even a plan? I think the reality is you have none. All you can do is show the short circuit of the reality of what’s in front you like the plate at dinner. And there is no point, because it’s a stream. And right now I’m the plate.”
The vodka sodas arrive before I can answer. I gladly slip my fingers around the cold glass.
“So have you found what you wanted?”
I look her straight in the eyes. “Yes, I found what I wanted.”
We clink glasses, Erin cools down. Smiling again she exclaims out towards the room, “I like it here.” I nod, not sure if she’s talking about Berlin, or me, or Möbel Olfe.
Back at Erin’s house, dawn is beginning to creep through the windows at what seems to be the same rate the vodka is wearing off. I look for a glass of water. She hasn’t cleaned up from the BamD dinner, so I settle on washing out a wine glass. She laughs from the other room acknowledging the mess. She asks for water and adds, yelling over the sound of the faucet, that she’s “waiting to enjoy the ‘real and meaningful experience’ of washing the dishes hungover.” I make a thudding scoff while rinsing a second wine glass. After a pause, Erin yells back, “It’s a conversation of youth.”
On Monday we walk to Gidsy, situated right off of Adalbertstrasse in a large loft space. We’ve seen a half dozen or so interviews with Edial and Floris, the two brothers from The Netherlands who founded Gidsy, so we already know the layout of the office. Sarah greets us at the door, cheerfully asking about the type of photographs we want to take and if we need anything from her.
Gidsy is a peer-to-peer network, “stemming from the culture of collaborative consumption,” she tells us. “People often call us the AirBnB of experiences.”
A row of bikes line one side of the office, and a large wooden dining table sits in the middle of the space with a centerpiece of wooden letters spelling out GIDSY. “Those are freelancers for Etsy, they work here sometimes,” Sarah tells us as we move our tripod towards their side of the room. We photograph them from a distance.
Sarah describes why the company is based in Berlin, “It’s a hub — for Europe, for all types of people, energy and experiences. It’s a perfect match for Gidsy.”
While typing on her computer, she explains the variety of ‘experiences’ one can book on Gidsy. “Cooking classes, tours of neighborhoods or gallery crawls, supper clubs, craft workshops… Basically as a guide or ‘experience provider’ you create your event, set your prices and it’s open to the public. It’s a great economic engine for a city as diverse as Berlin.”
We watch through the lens as Sarah adds a photograph of an eggplant stir-fry to the Gidsy blog. “It’s creative consumption.” She pauses, her shoulders sinking inwards toward her screen, her voice trailing off. “It’s really all about making connections with people in a real and meaningful way.”
The Gucci Project
Yuri Ancarani’s contribution to the Gazette is a selection of photographs from his recent film collaborations with Gucci “The Artist is Present” and “Notes On Gucci”.
The Artist is Present
Directed by Yuri Ancarani
Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan undertakes an extraordinary vision quest through a world of curious scenes and tantalising dreams. The film, shot entirely on iPhone by filmmaker Yuri Ancarani, supports a collaboration between Cattelan and Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele, taking place on October 10 in Shanghai. Finding himself in the Chinese city, Cattelan explores the distinction between image and reality, celebrating the role of imitation—rather than raw invention—in the creative process.
Notes on Gucci
Directed by Yuri Ancarani
Artist and director Yuri Ancarani takes his camera behind the scenes and chronicles the journey of the Gucci fashions that walked the pink carpet at the Met Gala 2019.
Untitled (Party n Play), 2020
Video, colour, sound
Excerpt from work in progress.
Various erotic, narcotic and nostalgic detritus from the apartment and studio. Found materials were flattened out and digitised on a scanner. Intended at first to be pages of a book, but somehow also inviting to see in film. Here they become a musical dream sequence: exploded or suspended pleasures, sifting paraphernalia moving and out of the gloom. The cosmic contents of a grubby bedside drawer. Monitoring yourself, and trying to get away from yourself.
Music: Gigi Masin, Call Me (1986)
Pandemic Pandora: Petrolio, 2020
Video, colour, sound
Trailer for Ms Davis’ film adaptation of the novel.
Pandemic Pandora: Cloris, 2020
Video, colour, sound
With music By Glen Meadmore.
I made an audio piece with pieces of writing from David Richo “How To Be An Adult” and a phone conversation with my Ainte Pearl.
Gabrielle is going to mix it in with hers and Precious’s sound pieces, they’re all going to be different for our radio show on Montez Press. I wanted to send this to you for what you told me would be launching on the 24th?
Let me know what you think.
Also I am sending our website to you which doesn’t work for me on chrome but does well on Safari. We curated a library for Women’s Prison Association on the Lower Eastside for Wide Rainbow Library. I am a part of Wide Rainbow as well. Independent bookstore, Books Are Magic, supplied the books with the help of contributions. We plan to give the books to the women and families at the shelter on Mother’s Day.
Talk soon, take vitamins and supplements.
Hannah Quinlan & Rosie Hastings
Video, color, sound
Music by Owen Pratt
Subtitles taken from an interview with Gaby Sahhar
In Gaby, a video work named for the duo’s best friend, the artists present three vignettes highlighting intersections of gay culture (its iconography, politics and relationships) and the police (their tactics and their personnel).
The vignettes include: a montage of found video clips where active police dance to Y.M.C.A. at pride parades, often joined by celebrating paraders; an animatics sequence of a 1977 issue of Christopher Street magazine, extolling (white, male) gay communities’ propensity to rejuvenate disregarded neighborhoods and “save” Manhattan from the “slums”; and a recounting by the eponymous Gaby of his brief relationship as an eighteen-year-old with a straight-presenting gay cop.
Video, color, sound, 3:52 minutes
Music by Anthony Silvester
(cover of the original song by Jonathan Richman)
On the 6th December 2009, I screened a version of the film at The Gate Cinema in Notting Hill, I remember seeing part of Ellen Cantor’s Pinochet Porn there a few months before. Anthony had played a cover of the Jonathan Richman song live over a film of the Cézanne painting Fruit and Jug on a Table 1890–4. The projectionist wouldn’t let me come into his box. I’d first heard the song when I was working for Cerith, he played it to me in his studio, we listened to it on repeat, he was preparing for his show at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, we travelled there in 2004, he took me straight to the room where they keep the Cézanne.
If I were to walk to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston
Well, first I’d go to the room where they keep the Cezanne
But if I had by my side a girlfriend
Then I could look through the paintings
I could look right through them
Because I’d have found something that I understand
I understand a girlfriend.
That’s a girl friend
That’s a girlfriend, baby
That’s something that I understand
I walk through the Fenway, I have my heart in my hands
I understand a girlfriend
Oh that’s a G-I-R-L-F-R-E-N
Well that’s a girlfriend,…
The Trick Brain, 2013
HD video, 5.1 surround sound, colour
The Trick Brain will be accessible Saturday April 18 through Friday April 24.
You, standing DUMBSTRUCK in a bedroom, one guileless hand thrust down your […]
A solitary presence – fecund, mobile, agitated – stood swaying slightly in the yawning ear-pop absence left by the disappearance of all of these fantastical objects.
I understand your allegiance to – or your supplication to – or your powerlessness against – the impervious patron saint of ballistics and kidnappings.
Other than your gormless figure, a conspicuous absence of life here. No plants, for example; no evidence of a pet; not a single wilted flower, no darkened petal curling on the rug. Most worryingly, not a single cobweb.
Still, the sweet, cloying smell of overripe bouquets whipped out of your sleeve, speaks of an end in itself, doesn’t it? Silk flowers soaked in cheap perfume to overawe those bass notes of dead skin, the moulting, the paperbacks and stale bread. Also very much an effort to cheer us all up, so thank you for that. A simple conjuration – the manufacturing of a presence – to counter all this excessive dispersal, disappearance, absence. Something like an hourglass turning, troping perpetually – only filled with powdered glass. The powdered glass and plasma of a shopping-centre’s worth of touchscreen tech, rotating in mid-air, levitated by an off screen magician (initiate of chaos) as a gorgeous, portentous burlesque of your fucking desktop.
You carefully, quietly describe an alternative kind of exchange: value being relative to weight, to girth, height, wingspan, etc. – the characteristics of material provenance being shifted back towards some sort of fundamental taxonomic schema where – truthfully, you say – there is finally some sort of decency in evidence. A democracy of objects based, not upon their marketability, but upon a heady combination of their volumetric aspect, concerning their gravitational faculty (the sun superseding mercury, for example; the supermassive black hole tucked beside and beneath Orion’s belt buckle superseding every other item in the galaxy, for example) – and their conceptual sphere of influence. Spheres BOTH, you say – the sphere a consequence of an object’s gravitational lure upon itself, its reflexive attraction. A kind of narcissistic physics. Black holes forming as a consequence of a superabundance of egotism, the black hole’s self-love, it’s penetrative gaze being gamely accommodated by its own gaping and amply lubricated sockets. The result a perpetual bind of penetration and reception – a field of movement, of narcissistic gravitational heft so terrifically powerful that nothing within its a field of influence can escape. Hence, a deep, deep, deep melancholy within the hole.
(These things, agglomerated, approaching the infinite affect reminiscent of the brinking EVENT horizon of that dilated black hole lurking at the centre of every galaxy. Which is why they had to be dispersed, you say. (*LONG PAUSe […]*)
An egg, the shell of which the texture of sandpaper. –As opposed to the ubiquitous glassy nothing of contemporary haptics. ‘I think of youth’, you exhort, ‘when I think of the hyperfluency of surfaces abound these days’. Supple, greased. The notion of surface – of texture – so closely confederated to that of smoothness that we have, perhaps, forgotten that the latter is merely one in a monstrous lexicon of textural adjectives!
(*One hand still rummaging down there*)
The patron saint of corrugations, rivulets; those that labour in troughs, ditches, mines. The patron saint of concavities and biconcavities. Often understood as having lived most of her life in hermitage, at the bottom of The Cave of Swallows. –Twinned with the saint that patronises hillocks, dunes, ulcers, warts, protrusions, convexities. Who lived on the wing, predominantly.
The reliquaries of that gestural mother tongue.
Esoteric Erotica! As in, most of these things could easily be described as more or less marvellous dildos.
Artifice to strip artifice of artifice. As in, a pretty brilliant description of the work of irony.
An alternative movement posed as a counter to the familiar description of the smooth slippage of capital along warm, tilted glass – the windows of a supplicant skyscraper in the sun. Or picture a single scoop of slowly melting vanilla ice cream skating down the facia of your […] –> along with the concurrent atomisation of an ENTIRE BED (a bed still indented) into numerical abstraction that describes the chaotic trajectories of those drifting scintillas of nothing that riddle every lungful of fetid air at ever single point in the breathable universe.
Your movements are discerned, finally, as a sleight of hand – a gesture that dissimulates, misdirects – a means of smuggling an apparition past your shrewd but – and let’s face it – chronically dulled senses.
while this happens)
A process beginning with an absence depicted as presence. Though as an absence it is also, of course, a presence – albeit thinned to immeasurable, infinitesimal presence, haunted by its own not inconsiderable EX-bulk. Ex-movement. Ex-punches, ex-dismissals, ex-woundings.
Fifty billion years ago
The swollen relics of the patron saint of anthropocentrics and, um, undergraduates.
Permanent indentations in the sun-bleached-pale-pink deep-shag carpet. Dust-heavied swathes of which surrounding islands of intense, hidden colour and pattern; an archipelago of absent objects. The deep tracks made by the impatient dragging of heavy wooden things with sharp feet – murdered accomplices, expatriated bastards, entire suits of armour, nail-rivened fetishes, blades. Desire lines from bathroom to bed, kitchen to settee, settee to toilet – scrubbed into the wooden floor.
The patron saint of atrophy and ruin – of bog-land and greying skies drowning in still tarns. The relics of whom including a single desiccated coil of brain matter, housed and amplified by an elaborate golden reliquary in the form of an oversize (one presumes oversize) representation of the saintly brain, where each convolution of the sausages of neural network is angulated into forty-five and ninety degree complications, swerving in cuboid corkscrews to form, finally, the myriad knotted bodies of a nest of polygonal, computer-generated snakes. Or perhaps tapeworms. So, no hissing, no perceptible movement, just wet muteness. Mute and blind and deaf. Orally fixated, of course. A devouring muteness. Here, in the sacrosanct form of a reliquary, rendered in smoothed brass. Brass buffed by the tender touches of countless passing apologists, to a high, white-gold gleam. –Fading to a Bruise-Black (or a Mars Black, or Lamp Black or Ivory Black or maybe Paynes Grey or Charcoal Grey; perhaps the Parylene Black of Piano Black), in the folds, the deep creases. Dumb dark thoughts down there. A catalogue of phrenological superstition: the most groped areas being the seeming cerebellum and the frontal lobe, roughly. All of this, spotlit in the apse of a temple somewhere deep in the colonic catacombs of Paris.
I can think of nothing heavier than a human brain, really. A human brain on a marble slab. –Or a human brain dawdling on an anvil before a furnace. Gravity and the distinct lack of a skull describing its slumped immensity. Slimed, as if freshly birthed through a gaping trepanation bordered with amniotic marmalade. Or emerging instantaneously through a trapdoor on the stage from some primordial mire below. Hoving into view through a dissipating cloud of theatrical smoke.
The year two thousand
The relics of a system of capital that now seems so phenomenally archaic as to make me wretch. –A little hiccough of acidic ehatever shit. As if the system were emetic.
The patron saint of stubborn hermits, owners of esoteric bookshops; those who can only play by ear.
Something like a necklace. Inverted jewellery. Metal studded with driftwood; black, hardened orbs of dung. Something once slung heavy round the neck of those poor sorts condemned to be sacrificed. Passed from victim to victim like a disease and unlike a smile.
The impossibly rising and falling bosom of a cadaver. In reality that sleight of hand performed by a million prestidigitative maggots in grubby white gloves and tattered morning suits. Performed by the left hand while the clammy right yanks hanks of flesh from the rib cage, eats it and shits it. Eventually, the shit presuming the shape of the cadaver.
Crucially, the brain conjured will be of perfect equivalence to the absent objects. In every conceivable way.
Your idea here being to make ossification the locus of production. Or rather, to correctly understand a becoming-cadaver as a becoming-productive. To understand that there is no emptiness, only the fertile residues and mulched forms that will provide the genesis for another batch of seedlings. These words for example, are every one of them synonyms for the material of manure. […] [A]ssert your cadaverousness in every way and at every point possible.
These objects. Bobbing on the glassy surface of a becalmed sea at night. All that’s left of the shipwreck.
Relics of a secular saint. Unidentifiable, save for their corporal provenance. Swatches of skin, clumps of hair, crescents of nail, wads of […]. FORENSICS.
These things. Noumena, all. Orbiting some celestial severed head, de-faced – the things acting as a halo to blot out the violently cohering light of the sun.
Being the reliquaries of a blistered century. The twinning of centuries, millennia. […] twinned with […].
The patron saint of litanies, of weeping mothers, drowned sailors bloated with the bilge. A certain effigy in a certain chapel somewhere near Fiosele is said to weep tears of thick black oil. –In memory of every single material fucking thing.
The innumerable digits, limbs and dermic scurf of some vast, hydra-headed saint. The patron saint of poets and refugees, amputees and adolescents. Or the patron saint of knockabout fetishes and cut-glass jaw lines; of appalling palmistry and cigarettes; of swarming bees and mulched civilisations […] [O]f devastated clairvoyants and suicidal chain-smokers.
Elsewhere: more deep shag-pile. If you could only see it now. This haunted cartography of absent dressers, tables, sculptures, beds, chairs, chests, feet. The indentations alluding to the presence of a thousand invisible weights, each groaning under the extra burden of a single, singular figure.
A certain conception of figuration seems important to outline here, you urge. Rather than a figurative turn – tropic, metaphoric – a figurism that describes the charging of all forms; every form in this doomed apartment – with both history and with the actual thickened bodies.
The clairvoyant’s status – as a vessel for spirits, ethereal missives, certain demonic presences – requires a certain hollowing-out, an emptiness of character; the chain-smoker profaning this sacred emptiness, filling themselves to the brim with the dumb smoke-spirit. Rather than, say, the spirit of Apollo. Smoking as analogous to a brute sibylline gesture. Cigarettes and matches erected to form a crude tripodal structure to straddle the larynx, while gravity and sacred Olympian geography are corrupted so that the geyser of vapours is sucked into a descending plume to inhabit your oracular lungs. The prophesy? –More shitty smoke.
The twenty-second century
A mystic, ploughing through a pack of Gitanes. A mystic who, in her youth, might have modelled as the archetypal gitane of the cigarette packet. Now, here, depicted as greyly acquiescent to a fate prescribed by her some wretched auto-tarot reading.
Fourteen hundred and ninety two
The patron saint of the mercurial. –Each disciple acting as reliquary for the indigestible relics of the saint. Fingers lodged in alimentary canals; splinters of skull embedded deep in the palm, irretrievable.
In comprehending the value of things it seems important to think about how these things are disposed of. As in, the obsolescence of hair that is nonetheless still attached.
‘Invaluable’ being entirely conceptual here. Nothing to do with any conspicuous characteristic in and of. Wielded cynically, more often than not. As when ascribed to a person via the bastard jargon of contemporary public servitude. ‘You are an invaluable member of the team’. ‘I am an invaluable member of the team’. Or – and here your stomach turns – ‘Your friend over there is a highly valued member of the team’. A tone of fraternal conspiracy in evidence from the team leader, there. And you understand that your implicit role in the team is to remind every other member of their miserable valuation in relation to your invaluableness to the team. At night, you dream in complex, monochromatic schemas and charts, plotting increasingly convoluted patterns and graphs of invaluation – as both pinnacle and sewer of some intergalactic free market. The precariousness of your position expressed in the image of you surfing the speeding cusp where the prehensile longtail is perpetually digested by its own florid gut: An almond-shaped tube beneath a wave of lurid stomach acid. Flotsam of semi-digested tail.
The patron saint of broken conjurers and apocalyptic prophets. The convoluted route to beatification taking in the sleights of the white-gloved hands, the bouquets of silk flowers; the glistening, serrated blades sawn halfway through red-lacquered caskets; flourished hats, tails, etc. Arranged carefully at a series of roadside alters tended to be those weirdos patronised by the saint. As in, stooped husks of conjurers; illegible sandwich-boarded prophets.
A certain understanding of magic as a mode of inattention. Concerned with misdirection – the presence of one thing as misdirection from the disappearance of another. And obfuscation, of course. Meaning that the saint (patron to the unwashed, opportunistic masses) acquired her sainthood through deception – the judicious and highly affecting application of illusion. Which would sound cynical if it weren’t so opaque regarding the location and permanence of the line between miracle and the consummate performance of magic. Each illusion-cum-miracle operating around one of two classic binary structures: disappearance / reappearance (with some sort of a priori existential caveat) or conjuration / annihilation, which requires getting those pre-saintly hands dirty.
Each reliquarial chunk a neglected sigil for the desires of an entire, pulped civilisation. Husks of the once unbelievably wet. One particularly economical method of reinvigorating a sigil is through concerted masturbation, of course. At the moment of climax – at such time the universe is rent apart and the golden lids of your third eye part – you fling the sigil outward into that rift – figuratively speaking – wherein it will be revived by those particular cosmological energies, magico-geological pressures and counter-cultural constitutions.
Other methods include meditation, intense exercise, etc.
The date of emergence.
A polytheism that sets out the beginning of the world as the emerging of a cosmically-scaled earthworm from a wet, black trench furrowed into the barren field of infinite multiverse. The clear emphasis in the telling being on hermaphroditic reproduction.
Dislocation. As in a shoulder or a jaw, certainly – entire bodies, also. From trees, other bodies, rituals, the floor, the gods, etc.
Here, buffed to that high sheen by the loving caresses of the more reticent pilgrims. –Reticent pilgrims or wide-berthed trucks. Grazed bollards lining the path, each uniformly chipped and specked with the Parcel Force brown, or the DHL yellow. Delivering those velvet-lined coffers to house these relics.
A litany, really. Bellowed into a pillow by the convalescing hydra, frog-throated. Also, a Persian rug used as a pop-shield, the voice that muffled-makes it through, seems to be pronouncing something like an exquisite uniformity – of affect, I suppose – that, come to think of it, decries the particularities of my spritzed language – bemoans the disjunctive privilege of my vocabulary, instead singing the praises of my tongue (a tongue who’s underside is an underbelly daubed with woad or ink) to serve as an eleventh finger, carefully embalmed.
You are standing in a fucking bedroom!
Eulogised here at a respectful, funereal pace. Drifting slow through the thick, cloistered air – motes of dust long landed, one atop the other, to form weird geometrical, precarious objects. Materialised echoes of the objects beneath. Your head turns dumbly, your gaze focussed on somewhere the other side of the wall – somewhere in the street outside, in the drain, in a fucking bank.
The patron saint of ex-bankers, ex-prostitutes, your exes, their exes, the ex-planets.
A youthful magician holds a small red ball between his white-gloved left thumb and forefinger. He apparently takes the ball from the left hand with his right. Secretly he has performed The French Drop: the ball is still in his left hand.
The capable magician performs the seeming taking of the ball exactly as he would if he were ACTUALLY taking the ball. He does not put stress on the sleight. He gives but casual, passing attention to his SINISTER hand. His eyes rest momentarily on the ball as he reaches for it. Then his eyes follow the right hand – follow it naturally, convincingly, just as they would if he ACTUALLY seized the ball with his right. The words and posture he uses and holds being exactly the same as they would be if he ACTUALLY carried the ball away from the left. Also, the fingers of the left relax naturally. They relax, as does the arm – as if the hand were ACTUALLY empty.
The patron saint of the dyslexic, the syntactically perverse, the grammatically unfettered. These things might easily by understood as shrapnel. Or, just as easily, as precious stones. Or equations. Or fists. Or molten wax. Or a battlefield.
The ninety-eighth century
The nine hundreds
A walk through Carol Rama’s studio home in Turin through the photographs of Bepi Ghiotti. The photographs are part of the book Inside Carol Rama published by Skira, co-edited with Cristina Mundici in 2014.
La Casa Studio can be visited by appointment.
Via Napione 15, Turin, Italy (link)
Carol Rama, More and Even More, 2003
Courtesy Simone Pierini
Director: Simone Pierini
Producer: Mitzi Sotis
Director of Photography: Simone Pierini
Editor: Desideria Rayner
Music: Nicola Campogrande
With special thanks to Simone Pierini
I Chose the Latter Path
Aldo Mondino interviewed by Maurizio Cattelan
Maurizio Cattelan This is a question I ask often and the answers are always interesting. When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
Aldo Mondino After I served in the military. One Monday morning I had to decide: I either got up and went to work at my dad’s company or I stayed in bed. I chose the latter path and decided to become an artist.
MC I can understand that. Like me, in the end, you were escaping reality…
AM Just think: I have always refused to wear glasses. I embraced my myopia, which has led me to create works like Singe Singer, Jerusalem and even to my beloved carpets… Delacroix said, “The most beautiful paintings I have seen were some Persian carpets”.
MC Perhaps because he didn’t wear glasses either! (laughs) You have always been considered an outsider, but what is your relationship with Arte Povera?
AM Most of my works start from a conceptual background from the Sixties and Seventies, but I have never actually been that conceptual. What about you?
MC Me either. I’ve always thought that conceptualists take themselves too seriously. So, between conceptual art and painting, why did you go with the latter?
AM What I didn’t like much about conceptualism is that you fundamental collateral damage. Like this interview. Has this happened to you before?
AM Yes, I remember one time (it was 1969) when I painted a work entitled Mamma, Agnelli e Porcodio, which was confiscated right after it was exhibited: I was sentenced to pay a fine for blasphemy and didn’t work for a year.
MC Personally I think that blasphemy is simply the recognition of the existence of God… How did you take being called a blasphemer? If I remember correctly, this happened right before your mystical period and your trips to Asia…
AM Ironic, right? I don’t know how much that had to do with my discovering that I’m a blasphemer, but I was fascinated by all these rather mystical stories. I was intrigued by them. As is always the case during an economic crisis, people tend to turn to esotericism or an interest in other cultures. In the end, I followed this rule too.
MC So you never thought for even an instant that maybe it was better to forget painting and concentrate on something else?
AM I tried lots of other techniques, but the subject of all my works was always painting, because of the fatal attraction that binds us. That said, I also studied mosaic in Paris. I thought that if things went badly with painting, as a mosaicist at least I would always manage to find a tomb to decorate.
MC And if things also went badly as a tomb mosaicist?
AM If it had been up to me, I would have been a bullfighter, which I think is a metaphor for the artist, the man who can overcome fear through gestures of immense beauty. As an alternative, a shoeshiner: I love shoes and it gives me great pleasure to see them gleam. Maybe it was a mistake not to consider one of these two options…
MC What was the biggest mistake of your life?
AM I’ve been a great megalomaniac since I was a child, and this gave me the advantage of always managing to turn errors into possibilities very quickly. If I have one regret in my life, though, it’s unquestionably that I discovered India so late. It’s a trip I would have wanted to take forty years ago, but I didn’t because the Beatles, their guru, their holy attitudes and that infinite plethora of champion fans who followed them kept me from joining in.
MC You have always been independent in both art and your personal life. Has this ever made you feel lonely? What fascinates you most about India?
AM It’s hard to answer this question correctly, above all because it would be like trying to concentrate on a few lines why one is fascinated with art, dance, music and so on. Allow me simply to tell you about something that happened in Calcutta. A poor old man, just skin and bones and unquestionably starving, in a loincloth, with a walking stick taller than he was and carrying a bowl, long hair that had probably never been cut, an intelligent gaze and almost all his teeth a bright unnatural yellow, asked me for an offering. I gave him a few coins, thinking I was helping to feed him. The old man didn’t thank me, as if I had simply done my duty, and went off. I decided to follow him down the stone steps where they too, like everyone else, bathe in the Sacred River. The old man stopped by a little girl who was selling flowers, red and yellow, bought a few, paid for them with my money and, like a sower, scattered them on the waters of the Ganges. The flowers started their journey and I observed them for a long time until they disappeared. Maybe the old man wanted to teach me a way to pray that I didn’t know.
Published in Aldo Mondino. Catalogo generale volume 1, 2017
by Allemandi, edited by Archivio Aldo Mondino
With special thanks to Antonio Mondino.
The twelve objects presented here are identified by their place of origin. These objects have nonconsciously influenced my art work, yet have been within view in my home in Chicago — some for several decades, and are now photographed in situ.
My grandfather emigrated from Prague to Nebraska 125 years ago, bringing with him his portable pipe. On his farm close to where I was born, he discovered an arrowhead from a SiouxNations hunter. These two present-day objects signify early family history and happenstance. Some other objects have similar personal meaning with a known time-stamp, while most were simply happened upon and exist sotto voce.
Richard Rezac, 2020