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July 26th, 2011 | Posted by Eddie in Eddie Farrell (UK/DE) - (0 Comments)

Mornings, summer and winter always begin with a mug of green tea. Years ago it was espresso, then espresso with a cigarette and finally around 11 am, espresso with a sandwich and a cigarette. This continued until one day my stomach got really sore and my sister, a dietician spelled out the obvious. The pot of espresso doesn’t appear until around 10 am now well after I have lined my stomach with a good breakfast, more advice from my sister. Several years ago I replaced the daily two packets of cigarettes with 3 to 6 cigars a day, some weeks ago that also stopped.

Early morning tea is accompanied by the jingle of the laptop being switched on, a four note perversion of the Bernstein song New York New York ’s a wonderful town. For a former computer luddite I spend an enormous amount of my time staring into the screen these days keeping in touch through email and Skype, writing, editing film, processing sound, watching You Tube, listening to the radio and keeping an eye on the news.

Whether smoking or not, the hours spent sitting at the computer during the cold months have given me stiff-winter-legs, so today I decide while it’s still cool outside to take an early morning walk before starting work. Prior to leaving I check my emails and for any up-dates on the BBC news page about the Libyan situation, in particular, the reactions of the people and politicians of Great Britain. Since I started living in Berlin I view a number of British domestic affairs to be none of my business, I do however carry a British passport and consider it important to keep informed on her foreign policy, especially when it comes to dropping bombs on other countries.

From the coolness of the stairwell I step into a sunbathed street and make immediately for the shade across the road but not before checking for bikes. Berlin is more or less flat and therefore a great city to cycle around the only down side to this are the cyclists. Due to the amount of bikes that thunder down it, pedestrians are often no safer on the pavement than if they were to lie spread-eagle in the middle of the road. The two wheeled panzers that speed along are frequently manned by mummys-in-a-hurry top heavy with children, dogs, bags and boxes perched on every available horizontal surface of the machine. With the overall weight of a small elephant, little consideration is shown for any fool out walking on the pavement and even less to someone stupid enough to get in the way. I cross the road cautiously with the assistance and support of a car driver; whereas bikes are a menace the cars in Berlin can at times be almost freakishly too considerate towards pedestrians and cyclists, this morning is no exception as the approaching car sees me waiting on the kerb, slows down and beckons me to cross.

The bombing of Libya or the NATO No Fly Zone that Britain and France pushed for, began back in March, I was still smoking then. I remember puffing out gloriously rich plumes of cigar smoke while listening online to an episode of the News Quiz. Rory Bremner and Jeremy Hardy were joking about the way the government’s Foreign Secretary William Hague had pronounced Benghazi, (BenNGaaazzee) during a statement to the press, but however funny that was, British fighter planes had begun flying over Libya and British Bombs were being dropped on Libya. Back in 1986 on April 15th, I can remember standing on the central staircase of Grays school of Art in Aberdeen, telling Stevie O’Donnell what I had seen on TV earlier that morning; American planes, ordered by president Ronald Reagan, taking off from British air force basis, sanctioned by Prime minister Margaret Thatcher to go and bomb Tripoli or more specifically, go and get Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. The Libyan involvement in the bombing of a disco in West Berlin was the reason given for the American attack back then while in 2011, the protection of Libyan civilians is NATO’s stated aim while barely disguising their support for the Rebel forces trying to topple the Gaddafi regime. Today, Gaddafi still holds on to power in Libya after 40 years, Reagan is dead, Thatcher is even more senile and I don’t smoke anymore.

Starlings bounce into each other and roll around in the sandy soil of Teutoburger Platz giving a frenzied and chaotic picture of their daily schedule, blackbirds on the other hand stalk their regular routes alone and with purpose. Years ago I worked as a Hall keeper and each morning as I opened up the various fire exits around the building I became aware of a blackbird on his daily forage around the grounds. At first I thought it was just coincidence that any old blackbird happened to be there at roughly the same time and place but as this continued like clockwork for weeks on end the evidence mounted to suggest it was the same bird each day. Of course I couldn’t prove it as I can’t distinguish one male blackbird from another and although I often acknowledged his presence as one might a passing dog, cat or neighbour, blackbirds in my experience show no interest in our petty pleasantries and therefore no tail wag, purr or nod of the head was ever returned. And it is the same with the blackbirds I see this morning in Berlin, stalking without distraction through bushes, over the odd shrapnel-scarred granite paving slab and amidst the vast spaces, made over 60 years ago between houses.

Having got sick of the daily yahoo homepage headlines of -knobs, dogs, kiddie porn, crims, pop stars, film stars and footballers I changed my homepage settings a couple of years ago to Yahoo Deutschland, I am still met with a daily dose of Knoepfe, Hunde und Kinderporno, so at least now I read this guff in German. At the start of the NATO No fly zone regular reports appeared on Yahoo Deutschland giving me a very general overview of things, however because of a Royal wedding in Britain and probably also due to the slowness, in popular news desk terms of the NATO military operations, reports about Libya have begun to slide into the background.

Crossing Schoenhauser Alle I stop to look at the Solnhofen Limestone statue of Alois Senefelder the inventor of lithography. Erected in 1892 the sculpture is fairly pedestrian considering its subject’s innovative contribution to both art and newspaper printing, although the mirror reversal of the redlefeneS siolA chiselled name is a nice touch and it is uncanny how much the litho stone that Senefelder stares into, looks like a present day ipad. A little to the side stands a Litfassseuler, Berlin born Ernst Litfass’s invention to present public announcements and advertising in a regular and tidy manner to the public. One can only speculate and wonder at the volume and variety of information that has been displayed around this particular column in well over 100 years, displayed here today however, is the hard copy equivalent of yahoo homepage, large posters for the American, summer box office film, Zoo Warden. I am now on Kollwitzstrasse in Prenzlauer Berg, an area of former East Berlin that since the fall of the wall in 1989 has experienced a creeping gentrification that many Berliners call, chickey mickey. From this spot there are a number of streets, squares and boulevards named after individuals from the 19th and 20th centuries who in their own way sang out for the common good of humanity, often paying a grim price for doing so. One of my favourites is Paul Robesonstrasse, named after the American bass-baritone singer and civil rights activist. The names of Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Marx are also acknowledged just five minutes south from here where the latter of these 3 political heavyweights replaced Stalin, in street-name terms, on a certain Berlin boulevard sign in 1961.

While searching more purposefully online to get news on Libya I came across a film clip of a recent Prime ministers question time, David Cameron being questioned on military matters by, Leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband. Their exchange made no real reference to killing, war or destruction and even though the word “War” was mentioned once, both men appeared more focused on the battle to be seen as the best protector of the British tax payers’ money. At no point was there any reflection on what happens to civilians, (numbering 800 so far in a recent Pravda report on the NATO No Fly Zone over Libya) who get in the way of a Dual-Mode Brimstone, Paveway, Tomahawk or Storm shadow missile. Although the media named this PMQT exchange a percentage winning performance by New Labour’s Ed Miliband I could only make out a tuneless drone produced from two career politicians singing from the same song sheet and as far as I know neither have had a street named after them yet.

At the north end of Kollwitzstrasse I reach Danziger Strasse, a wide road with trams rumbling heavy yellow down the middle. Road signs tell me that if I were to turn right here I would be heading for Frankfurt and Dresden and taking a further left would see me on the road to Hamburg. I take the first left and head back to the flat. I could kill for a smoke.

It is just over 100 days since NATO began its operations over Libya. My online reading informs me that so far 5,000 strategically placed Great British bombs costing 250million strategically placed Great British pounds have been spent. Another report claims that in 2009 various arms trading nations including Great Britain sold $470million worth of weapons to Col. Muammar Gaddafi. Statistics like these are fairly easy to find in the news, delivered by politicians and traders with a confident, dry, matter-of-factness, statistics for casualties remain less clear.

Carry On Fighting

August 24th, 2010 | Posted by Eddie in Eddie Farrell (UK/DE) - (1 Comments)

glenrothes

I am no stranger to being beaten up. Teenage years in Glenrothes, a Scottish Newtown took care of that. It was the 1970s; flared baggy trousers, Simon shirts, Glam rock and loads of gangs. And although nearly all the boys had long flicky hair it was a time when boys were boys and girls were girls. Beating the crap out of another boy was respected and would earn you a position on the toughest boy league table. Lee, a good friend of mine had such a position and from time to time would be challenged to a square go to keep it. I remember when Jimmy Philip did just that, resulting in a marathon scrap over several school lunch breaks. Each day Lee would bring a change of clothes to school for his dinner time fight. This always began with a flurry of kicks and punches, which quickly settled into a stalemate clutch; straining red faces with hair, mouth and nostril pulling. Surrounded by a crowd of baying pupils on the outer edge of the school playing fields, they were finally pulled apart on the third day by McPhail, the Chemistry teacher. He punished their display of violence by belting them.

I was a useless fighter but because I was one of the bigger boys I would be challenged now and again. I had some stock defensive tricks which only succeeded in making my assailants even madder. I used one of these when a furious McMinn ran towards me at speed across the school yard. I waited until he was almost upon me then ducked down onto my hands and knees. His momentum sent him clattering painfully over my crouching body onto the gravel. When he got up however, boy was he mad. I took a real scratching and thumping before managing to hold things in a stalemate clutch that was thankfully broken up by the janitor. The problem I had was getting angry enough to hit someone back. In every fight or attack on me, and there were many in my teenage years, I can truly say I was never able to enter into the spirit of the thing. It felt too much like the attackers thing and all I could do was let them get on with it. I was strong enough in most cases to protect myself. This I did by curling up in order to cover my head, stomach and genitals. Then it was all about waiting for the other to get bored by punching and kicking themselves out.

When the Punk movement and attitude swept across the country in the late 1970s I was ready to tune into it immediately. Within this refreshing wave of change I found, a more constructive outlet for my own teenage anger which didn’t involve physically thumping my fellow man. The only problem being my fellow men didn’t see it that way. So, much like the effect of my earlier ducking technique it served only to make them more violent towards me. It was like I was betraying some old and noble tradition of kicking the shit out of people and the reprisals I received for my heresy from some of the most psychopathic upholders of that code were truly horrific. In getting my hair cut short and wearing different clothes I had also broken my cover. The attacks increased. On one particular night out with friends, I was attacked on 3 separate occasions each time by a different set of assailants, earning myself a dislocated jaw and putting one of my friends into hospital. By the time I left the Newtown at the age of 19, I had had my nose broken as many times as my age.

After Glenrothes, studying in Aberdeen in the mid 1980’s was relatively nonviolent. This may have been in part to the extra pair of eyes in the back of my head I’d acquired. However, the Aberdeen Casuals were riding high at that time and walking home from the pub one Saturday night with two friends we encountered a couple of them. We had stopped off at the all night Bakery in George Street. While being served the two sports-casual clad loons came in, one thin, wiry and nervous the other, just big. We left with our rolls and juice and continued our journey towards Kittybrewster. Shortly after we heard them close behind; a bit pissed, chanting and singing. Soon they were directing their venom towards us, which we ignored and kept walking. Still they kept snapping ever closer and louder from behind like yappy dogs at our ankles. Inevitably a skirmish broke out, but then ended just as quickly as it began. One of the friends, a gentle giant from Govern, suddenly brought a full bottle of Iron Bru smashing down onto the big ones head. For a couple of seconds there was complete silence then blood began flowing down over his face. We were all completely stunned, not least the one who was now standing with just the top and jagged glass remains of his Iron Bru. After that an odd peace ensued, we helped patch up the big ones head to stop the bleeding and began walking up the road together, with only the occasional outburst from the wiry one, threatening retributions.

I experienced a whole new aspect of violence or certainly the threat of it some ten years later in Edinburgh. Of all things I had agreed to go and play a game of Cricket for the Maccabi club. Over the phone a very charming elderly man had told me to just come along to the Murrayfield playing fields on a particular night and join in. I didn’t really know that part of town but had passed the Murrayfield Rugby Stadium many times on the train and had remembered a huge playing field outside which I took to be the one. On the evening of the game I gave myself plenty of time and walked up through the sparsely filled stadium car park. There was no one around apart from a tiny parking attendants hut in the distance so I continued on in the direction the playing fields. On reaching the large open field I found it deserted. Confused and getting slightly edgy about being late I headed over to the hut to see if they had any Idea where the cricket might be being played. As I asked through the window of the hut the benign looking man inside suddenly began shaking his head slowly and saying;

No, no, you don’t understand, you’re in big trouble for coming over the security fence. You’re going to prison.

This statement betrayed his character somewhat and thinking he may have gone a little mad in there I repeated my former question hoping normal service may resume. This time however, he just repeated his lines louder and with a lot more expletives. I was getting annoyed but thought it better to diffuse the situation by explaining that I had jumped no security fence and had simply walked through the car park towards the playing fields to see if the game of cricket that I was supposed to be playing that evening was being played there. And as it was not and as he was unable or unwilling to help me find it I’d better go off and do so.

You’re going nowhere. We have you on CCTV Jumping the security fence at the far end of the fields. Security is on its way. You’re going to prison.

Before I had a chance to say another word a younger man wearing a black security jacket and a large scar on his left cheek came striding towards me. He was shouting into a crackling walkie talkie and pointing and shouting at me.

Yeah yeah we’ve got him ######## You’re in big f***ing trouble! #### Yep he’s here in the car park########### You’re going to prison. You jumped the security fence and we’ve got it on CCTV######

I was desperately trying to make some sense of what was happening. Seconds before I was on my way to play an innocent game of cricket on a beautiful summers evening and now suddenly I was in a high security drama with violent undertones. The Scar-man now threatening me was a psychopath, no different from those I’d encountered 20 years before only this one was wearing a uniform. Cautiously I questioned his evidence. Could I see the CCTV film that I was being damned for as I know it would prove me Innocent? No, this would not be necessary, they had all the evidence they needed. Ok then, could I speak to someone in authority? This really annoyed him; everyone was really busy and anyway he was the authority! Quite quickly the prison threat disappeared and he had decided that I must leave the car park the same way I’d entered. I pointed out my route through the car park entrance to which he called me a liar and told me to get moving in the opposite direction. I refused and said I wanted to speak to the police. He started to move towards me. Apart from the man in the hut there was no one else around and I was not carrying a mobile phone. I knew the look in his eyes all too well and I knew what would happen to me if I didn’t do as he said. I was beginning to shake. I told him to keep his hands off me. I would do what he was demanding only because I knew if I didn’t he would assault me. I also let him know that I would be reporting him first thing to the authorities.

Yeah, yeah, do what the f*** you like. Now Move!

I moved in the direction he was pointing staying ahead and to his side so I could keep him in the corner of my eye. Crossing close to the outer end of the stadium building, he blurted out something quite odd, almost to himself; Have you any F***ing idea who is in this building tonight? I didn’t and to this day I have no idea who or what he was talking about. I continued protesting my innocence and telling him that I would make sure he would be made to account for his actions when he suddenly stopped. As I turned to face him he nodded to a darkened back stairway. With a demented smile on his face he suggested that we might want to go there and discuss the matter further. At that point I was scared for my life. There was no point in trying to reason with this Nutter anymore and the stupidity of what he was forcing me to do no longer mattered. I just had to get out of there in one piece. I stepped up the pace over the playing fields that I had never been on before and headed towards the 12 foot high security fence that I’d never been over. With some difficulty I made it to the top but fell badly onto my ankle on the other side. No cricket tonight or any other night after that then! *

Two weeks ago I watch the Peter Watkins film, Punishment Park, made in 1970. I had come across it by chance. In conversation with a friend I remembered an odd film about the crushing of the Jacobite Rebellion ( 1745 – 1746) which I’d seen in secondary school. Looking on line I found the film. Culloden; Made for the BBC by Peter Watkins in 1964. I also discovered it was Peter Watkins who had made The War Game; again, for the BBC in 1965. This film which dared to imagine the possible effects, during an outbreak of war between NATO and the USSR, of a nuclear strike on Britain, was thought to be too horrific for the medium of broadcast by the then BBC Director General, Hugh Carlton Greene and was not shown on TV until 1985. The films of Peter Watkins up to the present day ( he is now 75) have taken the form of docudrama, devised and developed with a majority cast of non actors. Within this structure the director is able to explore politically controversial issues by revisiting historical events or playing-out fictional ones. The dialogue is constructed from both the narrator’s voice, that sets the plot and comments on developments, and the voices of the cast, who often simply state their own opinions.

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The Peter Watkins, Film maker/ Media critic website, that I have been working my way through over the past fortnight, charts a life’s work of relentless campaign. I would urge you visit this site – obviously more comprehensive than anything I could hope to supply in this text.

This resource not only catalogues his films, their background, making and reception but also contains a number of statements made by the Peter Watkins. It is a considerable body of writing of heartfelt criticism, from a director with over 50 years experience, exposing the failings of TV, film and in particular the Hollywood Monoform, (MAVM as he terms it). It is also a heartfelt plea for change and invention: that recognises the international status of political debate but argues that new maps through which to engage in communication need to be constructed. (From a BFI biography by Will Fowler.)

The DVD version of Punishment Park which I watched, is introduced by a lengthy statement read straight to the camera by the director in 2004. It is heavy with information and delivered in a slightly stilted and at times, annoyingly earnest manner. After 10 minutes or so I was beginning to wonder if the amount of information given would ruin the film. With this prejudice I watched the entire film with the introduction twice in one day. Set and filmed in America at the height of the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, the docudrama imagines a training ground for the National Guard that convicted protesters can choose to participate in, in order to avoid a lengthier term in prison. Watching Punishment Park was both unique and extraordinary and at no time would I describe it as Spectacle. During the end scenes, the camera, verbally confronts certain members of the National Guard for their actions. Their blunt and matter of fact responses given straight to camera unexpectedly hurled me right back to the school yard, Glenrothes, Aberdeen and the Murrayfield Stadium car park.

*First thing the following morning I phoned up Murrayfield Stadium. I told the person in the Public relations office what had happened the previous evening. They immediately apologised saying with some exasperation that this had been happening all too often with the security firm they employed and they would be taking my complaint very seriously. In the meantime I was asked to write down everything and they would contact me in a couple of days once they had looked into the matter at their end and also checked the CCTV footage. I was very impressed with their response to my complaint. They had taken my complaint very seriously and I felt confident that the incident would be dealt with properly. I did as they asked and wrote down my report and waited for them to get back to me. Three days passed and I heard nothing. I ended up phoning them back and spoke to the same person. They were almost rude and dismissive of me this time and claimed to have only a vague recollection of the previous conversation. When I brought up the issue of the CCTV footage they almost triumphantly informed me that everything gets scrubbed every two or three days so no footage would exist of the evening I was claiming that the incident took place.

Drei Schreit fur alles

April 9th, 2010 | Posted by Eddie in Eddie Farrell (UK/DE) - (0 Comments)

I really enjoyed reading Julie Rafalski’s last blog on the flagship site, Henningham Family Press. I liked how just one overheard word on the tube led to such a flow of information. The whole subject of how one writes or composes was foremost in my head yesterday as I tottered along Invalidenstrasse on a beautifully warm spring afternoon in Berlin. I’d just got back from a hectic schedule of visiting family in Edinburgh and Accrington which had laid me up in bed for two days with a virus on my return. The 48 hour wipe-out had cleared my head enabling me to think about what I would write about in this month’s blog. And I realised for the first time that when I write anything I always start with a solid picture in my head which I then describe; so really the story already exists, I am just noting it down.

Berlin has changed so much in the few days I have been in the UK. The remaining snow, ice and grit has gone and the concrete grey sky of nearly four months has given way to the blue of Giotto’s Padua frescos. On Wednesday morning I sat at the kitchen table looking out at this blue and the 3 Poplar trees standing tall in the Backhof. Accompanied by cacophonous birdsong and drinking the first coffee of the day I leafed through a book I’d bought up a couple of weeks earlier.

The World I Live In is Helen Keller’s second book, she wrote it in 1908 at the age of 28 some five years after her first book, The Story of My Life. At 19 months a mysterious illness had left her totally deaf and blind. Until the age of 7 she was cut off from the world, when a half blind teacher, Annie Sullivan joined her in Alabama and together they began an intensive course of learning. Helen Keller’s hunger to be in the world speeded her learning and by 1904, with the aid of Annie Sullivan, she had not only written her first book but had also completed a degree at Radcliffe College, Massachusetts.

In the first chapter of the book we are introduced to Helen Keller’s primary source of contact with the world, her hands; the right one to see with and the left one to read with. She puts forward a fascinating point for all sighted people to consider:

Physics tells me that I am well off in a world which, I am told, knows neither colour nor sound, but is made in terms of size, shape and inherent qualities; for at least every object appears to my fingers standing solidly right side up, and is not an inverted image on the retina which, I understand, your brain is at infinite though unconscious labour to set back on its feet. A tangible object passes complete into my brain with the warmth of life upon it, and occupies the same place that it does in space, without egotism, the mind is as large as the universe.

helen_tr_web

Some chapters on, there is a photo of Helen Keller; a young woman pressed against a tree in a wood. The caption reads; “listening” to the trees. Looking out at the 3 Poplars, I wonder what she might have heard from them?

I am not very good at judging heights but I live on the 4th floor and the trees shoot up with straight trunks high above the window. Due to the extensive bombing of Berlin in the later part of the second World War, and the extreme shortage of firewood following, I would guess that they are about 60 years old. They are impressive structures and provide a habitat for a variety of birds and wildlife including the odd red squirrel (or Eichhoernchen, a fine German name). Back in November their leaves withered away, naked and stoic they have waited out the harsh winter. In March things began to stir again and in the freezing cold mornings I sensed them at work, farming and distributing whatever nutrients they could find in the sleeping soil and absorbing anything they could from the pale daylight. It was as though with every sinew they where hauling up new life from roots to the furthest most isolated tips high above the roof tops. A couple of weeks ago new buds in muted tones of lizard green and cherry lips red began to show. I would predict that if the young lady was listening to these trees she would experience something akin to that of the straining trembling body of a power lifter, drawing and gathering strength for the final push. And perhaps the joyous almighty scream, that any day now will accompany the burst into bloom, will be big enough to throw her backwards onto the forest floor?

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I heard an altogether different scream a day earlier when I reached the Hamburger Banhof – Museum fur Gegenwart. My walk in the sun had purposely led to the free admission afternoon of Berlin’s largest State collection of, Art since 1960. Of all the City’s Museums this one distresses me the most and not only because of the €12.50 entrance fee (the highest I know of in Berlin). The problem I have is with the automatic placing of work within a museum context, of many works which directly question their own positioning. The general feel of the place is of a curator’s/ DJ’s playground, resulting in acres of space (over 13000 sqm) strewn with large blocks of Joseph Beuys’s lard and broken bits of detritus from Fluxus performances. The most disturbing section is the never- ending Rieckhallen, the former Lehrter Banhof goods depot which now contains works from the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection. Here we find Gordon Matta- Clark and Robert Smithson, forever cutting up a house and running over a spiral jetty and yet another large Dieter Roth installation looking lost and abandoned. The check list of important names continues; Richard Artschwager, Marcel Broodthaers, Sol Le Witt, Rodney Graham and Duane Hanson. Actually Duane Hanson’s shopper at least seems to have made the decision to try and get out of there, although the hopeless expression on her face indicates just how far away from the exit she still is. A typically light and throw away gesture from Roman Signer of a hack-sawed spray paint can (Arbeits Platz.1999), is sealed off in a claustrophobic cell with a semi roped off entrance to make doubly sure no fun can escape.

arbeits-platz_web

Oh yes, and the screaming. This begins about halfway down the Rieckhallen close to work by Lawrence Weiner; a mildly defiant statement of his, under the circumstances reads, LEFT HERE – PUT HERE – FOR A LIMITED TIME (#426. 1976/2004). And a glass fronted case displays some of his collected publications, all mounted like butterflies. Walking on the screaming gets louder giving you a sense of being trapped in some conceptual madhouse. Before finally reaching the source of the yelling there is one last detour, as you enter one of Absalon’s completely white cell structures. In a very short life (he died at 28) Absalon made many of these odd live/work pods. His artistic career was developed through a steady stream of commissions and exhibitions encouraging the further design and building of these minimalist structures. So perhaps it is not too surprising to discover it is Absalon who is screaming. This we witness through a short film made in the year of his death, Bruits 1993. With hindsight the film is really disturbing and not only for its imbedded frustrated madness. One can’t help also seeing a jarring between the disciplined, reductive practice of the artist and the space that has been allotted and constructed by the gallery to show the film. I realise that there must be sound proofing concerns, but when considering that Bruits was made by such simple means; man in front of camera screaming for 3minutes and 28 seconds, then one has to question the chapel size box made to house it?

The third and final scream that I’d encountered in the last week was on the early morning return Ryanair flight to Berlin. I had managed to sit in an aisle seat with my right ear next to a very unhappy baby and my left positioned far too close to one of the cabins speakers. The combination of the child emptying its lungs and the continuous drivel of pre recorded advertising made Absalons efforts at screaming look very amateurish by comparison. The poor distressed child persisted through taxiing, takeoff and well into our journey and was evenly matched by the chirpy Irish and Scottish brogue belting out of the speaker. Perhaps after 45 minutes the child passed out only I can’t say I noticed because by then the soundscape had become one. As my 3.30am start that morning mercifully began to kick-in, I was still being assaulted by offers of smokeless cigarettes, exclusive perfumes, surprisingly bright Chardonnays and an excellent full bodied red. Screaming, screaming, screaming!

On the sedate S Bahn journey back into Alexander Platz I began to reappraised the baby’s screaming as that of an astute critic. Perhaps even one so young knew it was going to be subjected to an epic reading of a script written by the Fast Show’s Swiss Tony and had responded accordingly.

Did I really have all that in my head?

Ich habe vergessen; by Eddie Farrell

February 26th, 2010 | Posted by Eddie in Eddie Farrell (UK/DE) - (1 Comments)

ankuendigen – to announce

achten – to respect

anblicken – to look at

aufarbeiten – to reappraise

to look at again………………………………………………..

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Over the last few months I have been keeping a word book; noting down all the new German words I come across. Before the book, which is really 3 notebooks joined together to make something that looks like an alphabetically ordered phonebook, I had been writing everything down on bits of paper. However, having hundreds of scraps of paper lying around flat was too over whelming; can there really be so many German words? Now the book keeps all the words in one place and makes the flat a little tidier, although it has brought to my attention just how many I am forgetting; when I read or hear a familiar word, I say, ah yes I came across that word last week and logged it in the book. Only, I haven’t got a clue what it means, let alone its gender, if it’s a noun (very important in German) and its conjugation if it is a verb. It feels like stacking a shelf with books from one end and as you add more the first ones you put up, are being pushed off the other end, disappearing behind the sofa or through the cracks in the floorboards.

Christmas brought a new batch of books and DVD’s. Two have been of particular interest; the Bill Douglas Trilogy and the writings of Ian Jack; The country formerly known as Great Britain.

The 3 films by Bill Douglas are a wonderful retelling of the director’s difficult early life growing up in the East Lothian mining village of Newcraighall. I first saw the films in the 1980’s and remembered them as pretty dark, certainly My Childhood and My Ain Folk. Watching them again, I’m struck by their direct beauty, economy and intelligence in telling a story. Perhaps my awareness of the filmmaking of Bresson, Pasolini and Fassbinder in the interim has helped me to view them afresh, but there is no doubting, the power of Bill Douglas’s own forcibly silent voice throughout. The Trilogy is a gently epic composition, from darkness out into an intense euphoric light, leaving me with many of the film frames burnt onto my retina. In recounting his past Bill Douglas often makes a rich painting from something otherwise very ordinary; I note here one particular view of a bend in the road, which I take to be the one leading out of Newcraighall. The view goes far beyond one found by a location finder; we are looking at memory, a brotherly bond of image and storytelling embedded within the landscape.

bill-douglas_my-childhood

My good friend Keith Grant who gave me the Ian Jack book for Christmas, thought I may find an interesting link with the Bill Douglas Trilogy, he was right. Ian Jack also grew up in a Scottish Mining village, Hill Of Beath in Fife. The opening piece is about the writers childhood there, and indeed that of his parents; raising a family, growing old and dying in and around the same location. I am enjoying dipping into the various essays which I tend to read just before bed. The 12.10 to Leeds, written in 2001 following the Hatfield train crash inquiry, has reminded and re-appalled me of certain social/political changes that occurred in Britain during the 1980’s and 90’s,changes which confused and angered the public then and have continued to do so. Whilst reading I sensed it oddly melding with another lengthier book I was working my way through, Isaac Deutscher’s third volume biography of Leon Trotsky.

Before moving from London to Berlin I got rid of so many books. Most of them I gave to the Oxfam bookshop on Kentish Town Road. Over several months I sorted out the ones I would part with and once a week, take a couple of carrier bags full of them to the shop. I found it difficult not to look at the other books they had on sale; reminding myself I already had too many unread books and if I just took those to Berlin I would be enough reading for several years. On the last trip I saw the biography in the window. I knew next to nothing about Trotsky; something about his death with an ice pick in South America, but had a strong feeling I should know more. Although my packing was 3 thick books heavier, it’s been a purchase I’ve not regretted.

deutscher_words

Throughout 2009 I was gripped by the first two books – the Prophet Armed (1879-1921) and the Prophet Unarmed (1921-1929) last week I finished the final book the Prophet Outcast (1929-1940). In all, over 1,500 pages filled with facts, figures, names, events, politics and Ideologies from a pivotal point in modern History. Unlike the Bill Douglas Trilogy, Trotsky’s life (in terms of his years alive) begins light and leads into a central point of extreme brightness which fades abruptly to complete darkness. By Christmas 2009 I was wading through the darkness of Trotsky’s descent from political power and Stalin’s ascendency.

Ian Jack’s essay, also packed with facts, figures, names, events, politics and Ideologies from another pivotal point in modern British history, runs to just 40 pages. In these pages he sticks to a type of investigative writing, advocated by Katharine Whitehorn; that is to give voice to someone who is member of the concerned public and not that of the know it all authoritarian. Having said that he does come across as a rail enthusiast and this we can sense in the brief history of The Railway he tells; from Babylonia 2245 BC, through to the national rail chaos in Britain at the time of his writing. I was drawn into the story through his notes of conversations with various engineers and how they illuminate the subject of the Permanent Way; how a track is laid and fixed. Likewise, how the steel track was produced and developed. One engineer refers to this as a living thing, due to the skill and care needed in making, laying and maintaining the track.

Piece by piece we are given information making us appreciate just how complex a thing, a rail track is. Perhaps a lot of people know this? I have to confess I didn’t. However, what I do know and what I had forgotten before reading The 12.10 to Leeds is that one day I sat on a train and the announcement referring to me and fellow travellers as Passengers had over night changed to Customers.

From about half way his writing explores how this change came about. From the policy of the Conservative Government under Margaret Thatcher to privatise the nationalised industries of Gas, Water and Telecommunications (the author quotes Harold MacMillan, who called this selling off the family silver) Responding to criticism of the first sales not being competitive enough, the next, Electric, was broken up into smaller units. This increased competition, produced a highly successful sale and by doing so, secured a rosy future for popular capitalism in the UK. After the fall of Margaret Thatcher, Railways became John Major’s baby. In spite of rail privatisation being highly unpopular with just about everyone, he was determined to see the sale through. Following the example set by the sale of Electric, it was decided the railways would be carved up into smaller units. New controlling bodies appeared:

TOCS, (train operating companies) 20 of those.

ROSCOS,(Rolling stock companies)3 of those.

And RAILTRACK, was to over and under-see: Signalling, the Permanent Way, Bridges, Tunnels and some larger stations.

Leading up to privatisation, it was noted that the emphasis switched to an operators rather than an engineer’s railway. This strikes a chord with a comment from one of the disillusioned Permanent way engineers who Ian Jack interviewed, he said that most people where only interested in trains from the wheels up. He emphasized the upmost importance of what goes on below. Operators were also dominant in management; of the 13 board members of Railtrack only 2 had any previous railway experience. The confused and chaotic privatisation rumbled on:

6 Transport Ministers in 7 years.

British Rail, carelessly and cheaply sold off for £5 billion

Profits: for the private shareholders as share prices rise sharply.

Track Maintenance: under pressure from efficiency savings, leads to work being put out to competitive tender.

Resulting in: fragmentation in knowledge of the Track, the Living thing.

Accusations fly: putting profit before safety.

At Howe Dell, The 12.10 King’s Cross to Leeds express enters the curve at 115 mph- the maximum speed for that stretch of track – and comes off the rails. Four people die.

From the offset of rail privatisation we, the public had been bombarded with facts, figures, names, events, politics, Ideologies, scandals, sackings and deaths. We have been informed of everything and more through a flood of media reporting. And with bewildered disbelief we repeatedly witnessed the chaos at first hand.

(It should be noted that The Labour Party, then in opposition, made the appropriate, vote winning noises to the public; Tony Blair, the then leader of the party said, They (the trains) should be run for the public and stay in public ownership for the people of this country, while his shadow chancellor, Gordon Brown was privately saying to colleagues that, Privatisation will make the Tories unpopular and will save us from having to do it).  [taken from the 12.10 to Leeds text.]


To say exactly how the Trotsky Biography and the Ian Jack article merge is difficult; both writers strive to inform the reader clearly about their chosen subject and I believe they achieve this while never resorting to hindsight. But the melding I feel is something else and appears on another level, in contradiction to the black and white compositions that tell each story. I felt my role as a reader activated the text and brought me closer to the events described. At times becoming the everyman, a participant and witness of the period being described, one who is struggling to remember and process the mass of information being thrown in my direction. In such a position and in spite of my determination to maintain a clear picture, very often my view would cloud over into a very murky and inactive grey hue.

Here is a particular section from Isaac Deutchers biography of Trotsky. At this point (1928) Stalin has already had Trotsky forcibly removed from Moscow to Alma Ata in Kazakhstan, severely restricting his political activities and that of thousands of his supporters. (pg 457, The Prophet Unarmed )

He [Stalin] still shrank from sending the killer; he did not yet dare even to throw his enemy into jail. The odium would have been too heavy, because, despite all that had happened, Trotsky’s part in the revolution was still too fresh and vivid in the nation’s mind. He therefore planned to expel Trotsky from Russia. He knew that even this would shock; and he carefully prepared public opinion. First, he put out rumours about the new banishment; next he ordered the rumours to be denied; and, finally, he gave them fresh currency. In this way he blunted public sensitivity. Only after rumour, denial, and recurrent rumour had made the thought of Trotsky’s expulsion from the U.S.S.R. familiar and therefore less shocking could Stalin carry out his intention.

erinnern – vr: sich ( an akk etw) to remember

vergessen – vt to forget


Schools out. Berlin December 2009

January 4th, 2010 | Posted by Eddie in Eddie Farrell (UK/DE) - (1 Comments)

On Friday I finished an 8 week block of German Language learning and with that my head for the first time in two months has begun to clear a little to formulate a few thoughts.

Last year when I began to try and learn the German language I looked at a few course introductions on the internet. Only one has remained in my mind. The name of the course, I have forgotten but the essential question it proffered I have not; first and foremost, ask yourself seriously why you want to learn this language.

I can’t hide the fact that somewhere in my imagination I had fancied myself sometime in the future at an elegant dinner table flitting effortlessly between English and Deutsch with a suave cosmopolitan air. This fantasy I imagine came from watching films and also from having observed in awe certain friends doing this. One year on however, I am still formulating my answer to the question and this may be playing a part in the slowness of my Learning. Before going any further I must state that I would dearly love to be able to speak German in order to communicate on a day to day level with people in Berlin. Apart from anything else this shows good manners while being a guest in another country. Indeed this may be as good a reason as any and the only one necessary to focus all my energies toward blinkered learning of German. But for another inescapable factor; I am an artist with an inbuilt sense to question.

So sitting in my class 5 days a week other thoughts and observations have been coming to the fore taking equal precedence to sentence structure and to determining the correct case of speech. Having my attentions divided in this way can on occasions make the subject of German language secondary; as a mature student, the classroom set up is of equal interest. For here I am being given a mini-re-run of my school days; you know the ones that hit you like a herd of stampeding cattle and spew you out badly trampled somewhere in your late teens. From my perspective with a 27 year gap, although learning in classroom has got no easier, I am occasionally able to stand back from what is going on and consider things that I hadn’t had the space or words for the first time around. This may have been typified the other day when the teacher (meine Lehrerin) noticed me struggling through yet another exercise and in a gentle conciliatorily tone said, you know this is not about the substance and interest of what you are trying to say, this is about getting the Grammar correct. What came first, the chicken or the egg?

I would like at some stage to broaden this out a little more and not just be me, me, me , but too many of the thoughts I have on this subject are based on personal experience so for now and with apology, here is more about me.

I have been both cursed and perhaps blessed throughout my life with being dyslexic; even as I write this blog I know that I will have to check and re-check it a thousand times, before then handing it over to a grammatically competent friend to make a final check. All this in order to make it readable, acceptable….. Normal. To me, it is not just about recognising the necessity of taking such steps but it is also important to stop and consider how much of the original thought one had in the head is shaped and compromised to achieve this…. normality.

So what does a dyslexic have in their head? The official response to what I had in my head whilst at Primary school was to remove me from the normal class and place me in a remedial class. ( although the term dyslexia appears to existed since the 1880s, in Britain in the late 60s, it seems, certainly in the state school sector to have been unknown.) The removal from my class came about from being found by the teaching staff to be a slow learner. The irony of this is that due to my slowness of grasping the foundations of accepted learning, this dyslexic learnt very quickly a multitude of ways to protect himself from being humiliated every day at school. I used a combination of fading into the background and going on the offensive. From this hostile and chaotic foundation my schooling continued; the commitment to self preservation used up most of my energy and left only a fraction of time to vaguely note there were other things called subjects that I should be paying some attention to. Learning through this makeshift filter forced me to develop a system of discovery which occasionally touched on the official syllabus but very often went off at a complete tangent. As a result I wonder if I use any other parts of the brain that that normal learning doesn’t require or if I am just hopping frantically around within the regular channels, which I am told represents a depressingly low percentage of the brains capacity. Whatever that may be, I would say that the effects of a rigidly enforced system of education that presented itself to me as completely illogical, pushed me into finding alternative ways of gathering information from the world.

A while ago, I spoke to a good friend, a retired University lecturer, who had for several years been helping invigilate exams at Edinburgh university. He told me that dyslexic students were now allowed half an hour extra to read through the paper. This I told him was missing the point; all they would get from these students is an average attempt at being normal and answering the questions in the way that was required, when if throughout their time at University they were allowed to expand in their own way they may come up with something truly unique and complimentary to the overall subject. He was very interested in these comments and said that at no time in all the academic planning meetings he’d attended had he ever heard this point muted. And such is the academic world, in which education is now a massive ever expanding industry funnelled through an ever narrowing gate, rigidly governed by statistics and percentages that in my opinion continue to ignore the potential for real learning and instead target the fool’s gold pinnacle of the well paid job.

It is little wonder then with these thoughts igniting in my head that my regurgitation of the endless tables of German prepositions are taking their time to spew forth. To try and make room for both I had to expand my waking day to fit around the class which ran from 9.30am till 1pm, five days a week. This would not only mean staring at and fiddling with incomprehensible homework exercises in the afternoon, evening and into the early hours, but also falling out of bed at 6am every morning to stare and fiddle some more before the next class. Around the 4th week I began to seek refuge from this cyclical madness and found some from the writing of A S Neill in his book Schoolhill and perhaps more surprisingly the electric and Chicago blues of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and John Lee Hooker. Both sources were well known to me; the chapters of A S Neill tolled an obviously comforting chime connecting directly to my difficulties with formal teaching, the solace found in the sound scape generated by the blues musicians was a little less obvious though.

asneill

Straying onto you tube one night from the online language translator I sometime use I found myself spellbound by a particular recording of Muddy Waters’ Hoochie Coochie man. From the early 1980’s when I first discovered this music I quickly moved on from condemning the songs as sexist crap; the lyrics soon become nothing, one must take in the whole abstraction of sound and performance to discover an uncompromising struggle for humility and dignity. The film of Muddy Waters does exactly this, encasing it in a muffled, bleeding; an inexplicable audio beauty of his Chicago electric Blues from that period.

Both of the Howlin’ Wolf performances are incredibly raw documents of an uneducated man who knows everything and nothing and whose vulnerability allows you to see it all. Why was I drawn to these performances? I would find that difficult to say exactly, but in the context of my current thoughts they illustrate how a human being without a recognised and accepted useful ability can find their own form to directly communicate and articulate something incredibly rich and complex about the world. I would strongly recommend you take a look at them yourself.

Man has always been quick to exploit the world of its resources and to a certain extent this may have become his be all and end all. I would ask (and I know I am far from being the first) why can man not take advantage of huge technological advances to begin to seriously look more closely at himself? The perpetuation of this destructive cycle stands little chance of being broken when the main generator of innovation and insight is inextricably linked with behaving correctly within a strict formal education. And I would venture to suggest that the so called, outsiders, misfits, freaks (not my terms but ones widely used) collectively present a natural resource through personal experience for our civilisation to consider other ways of being. Not to be just creamed off, colonised, enslaved, exploited and wasted within an already failing system, but to be learned from and to help to develop a wider all encompassing mind-rich civilisation with unheard of and un thought of possibilities.

Now where was I……

brechen (to break) – hat/ist gebrochen

fahren (to drive) – hat/ist gefahren

fliegen ( to fly) – hat/ist geflogen………………….

The function of the child is to live his own life – not the life his anxious parents think he should live, nor a life according to the purpose of the educator who thinks he knows what is best. All this interference and guidance on the part of adults only produces a generation of robots.

You cannot make children learn music or anything else without to some degree converting them into will-less adults. You fashion them into accepters of the status quo – a good thing for a society that needs obedient sitters at dreary desks, standers in shops, mechanical catchers of the 8:30 suburban train – a society, in short, that is carried on the shabby shoulders of the scared little man – the scared-to-death conformist.

Extract from A.S.Neill Summerhill ( a pelican book) 1962

an der ecke: by Eddie Farrell

October 12th, 2009 | Posted by Eddie in Eddie Farrell (UK/DE) - (0 Comments)

 It has been a month of corners.

I suppose it began with looking down the Landwehrkanal from the corner of Luetzowufer and Klingelhoefer Strasse and realising for the first time just how close the Bauhaus Archive building is to to Potsdammer Platz. Potsdammer Platz, during the inter-war years was the busiest crossroads in Europe. However up until the fall of the wall in 1989 it was more or less a no-man’s-land. Since then, the massive rebuilding program at Potsdammer Platz has become a symbol and the ‘Showcase of reunified Germany’. From my vantage point on the Herkules Bruecke I could see clearly the profiles of Daimler Land and the Sony Centre, while in the corner of my eye the slightly sunken archive building; This view prompted a wave of questions to rush into my head, but I will come back to these a little later.

I’m not sure if I have ever given corners too much thought. A snap response makes them sound a bit bleak; you’ve painted yourself into a corner; go to the corner and face the wall you naughty child; we’ve got you cornered come out with your hands up.

cornersI suppose it’s how you look at what a corner is though. These examples suggest to me something draining, life-sucking and concave, not something convexly pushing forward and outward? Actually, can I describe a sharp angled thing like a corner as being a curve?

y-michael-wedgwoody-02-michael-wedgwood

A year or so ago Michael Wedgwood was obsessed with making simple drawings of just 3 lines; they were of the letter Y or the letter Y inverted. He liked what opened up from making these basic marks; both could be read as corners; one a corner to the floor and the other, a corner to the ceiling. Further to this, when a simple 2 line 90 degree corner is drawn out on paper I read it as either a 2 stage move; the end of something and then the beginning of something new or as a sweeping continuation of the same something.

Bruce McLean once told me about one of his favourite works made by Lawrence Wiener which he found,’ critical, intelligent, self-referencing and very succinct’. He describes it so, It was in the last room of The American Art Show at the Royal Academy, as you came round a corner into the room, opposite a statement said – TO SEE and as you turned into the gallery at 90 degrees on the facing end and last wall and piece in the show, it said, AND TO BE SEEN.

The month of corners continued when I found one in the street; a big multi-angled one made out of MDF. Berlin is a fantastic city for finding household goods (no longer needed by one party) which are put out in the street for others to take and use. I moved to Berlin with some basic necessities; clothes, books and records, over the past year I have supplemented these with several chairs, lamps, a hoover, a carpet, a clothes rail, a double bed and a printer; all clean, usable and found neatly stacked on the pavement with the note, FUR GESCHENKE. But what fascinated me about this board with two specific cuts taken out of it, was the intention of the person gifting it. Did they think someone might take it as a piece of timber, to refashion for another use or did they believe someone may take it to fit in an identical corner of their home? It remained propped against a wall on Choriner Strasse , each day I would pass and consider its intention. One sunny afternoon I took the time to make a quick drawing of it while starting to wonder if I may have the perfect corner to house it in the flat. Then after a week it disappeared. Taken away as rubbish, taken as timber or now sitting in the corner of someone else’s flat? I will never know.

Finding virtual corners in a city is one thing but some city centres such as Glasgow or Manhattan consist of nothing but, and this then becomes an essential part of that cities orientation; I’ll meet you on the corner of Sauchiehall and Lexington. Berlin, though not in any way a grid, has some good corners like the junction of Saarbrueke Strasse and Schoenhauser Alle, where a week ago I discovered a modest memorial stone to Karl Liebnecht. It was surrounded by conkers from a solitary horse chestnut tree that stands above and from which I collected a large bag of them thinking they could be roasted and eaten only to be informed by a friend that they are poisonous (perhaps then, a Karl Liebnecht memorial conker tournament instead for next year?).

The Dorotheenstaadtischer Friedhof (cemetery) is the final resting place of several German notables of the Arts. Around one specific corner can be found not only Bertolt Brecht and his wife, Helene Weigel but the finally rested bones and ashes of Heinrich Mann, Hanns Eisler and Paul Dessau who had been hounded around the world of the last century for their beliefs, politics and work. The Brechts’ corner looks like a leafy double bed with the two engraved boulders acting as headstones looking like pillows.

My favourite corner of the Alte Nationalgalerie is on the ground floor. Entering the first room on the left hand side you are immediately confronted by one of Gustave Courbet’s wave paintings (Die Welle, 1870) The best position to look at the painting is from the doorway, however, in a busy gallery this is impossible. So I have taken to sitting on the polished wooden bench to the left, where one can slide back along into the corner next to the door frame. From this angle you can view, undisturbed, the odd picture of two horizontal slabs, which freeze and flatten this mighty natural force.

But, back to my original corner on the Herkules Brueke. Since July this year, three German institutions, Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau and the Bauhaus Archive Berlin, have been celebrating the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the Bauhaus. This has seen an exhibition and a series of events under the banner of, Bauhaus. A Conceptual Model which has taken place in the hall and ground floor galleries of the Martin Gropius Bau. During this time the Bauhaus Archive building has been emptied of its exhibits and simply shown as a work itself, under the title of, Schoen angesehen or A beautiful sight. I have to confess that over the summer, whenever I had passed the building on a bike ride over to Charlottenburg or Schoeneberg, I’d mistaken it for being closed for renovations. This meant stopping off for a quick pee and a look at the postcards in the only part of the building that appeared open.

It would appear from reading the Exhibition’s accompanying newspaper, that 30 years on, the Archive building is not big enough for the ever growing collection and that something larger needs to be built for this purpose. This would then leave the original one, reconfigured from a Gropius blueprint to act as perhaps a library and a research centre. I have to say that I have always been underwhelmed by the Archive building and have found its spaces cramped and dark (the latter, apparently needed for preservation conditions), and completely at odds with the innovation and enlightenment of the objects, drawings and ideas on display.

The programmed debates listed at the back of the paper, have not only focused on the turbulent history of the school, but have also been debating the Bauhaus’s relevance in the world today. I had my own meditation on this while looking towards Potsdammer Platz, (post toilet und postkart) that goes under the banner of What If.

What if in 1989 the Bauhaus Archive building had been emptied and all the contents had been asked to make its way over to the barren waste land of cold war Potsdammer Platz and burrow down into the sandy soil?

And what if then, in the Spring , just like Paul Klee’s Pflanzen auf dem Acker picture of 1921, each idea and notion began to push its head out of the ground with the promise of something new and challenging to act as the founding structure of a new unified Germany at the heart of Europe?

The blurb accompanying Bauhaus a Conceptual Model says The Bauhaus is Germany’s most successful contribution to international art and culture of modernity in the early 20th Century, it also goes onto say that, Its dissolution in 1933……….as a laboratory and workshop of modernity was destroyed by a deliberate political act…….Considering the intentions of what the new Potsdammer Platz was hoped to symbolise, I could think of no better and poignant foundation stone than that of the Bauhaus; its history and its monumental legacy left to the rest of the world which was forcefully fragmented through ignorance and prejudice of the then political climate of its homeland. I would also add that I have nothing against the Architect Renzo Piano, but why ask him to coordinate this prestigious and culturally significant project when you have the work of the spiritual Godfathers of modern architecture and Design in abundance and in your possession? That is a little like choosing to book the Bootleg Beatles to play at your birthday party when you could have the Beatles.

So what if, following the Spring growth contemporary Architects, Artists and Designers were invited onto this site to study these new shoots and collaborate in helping them grow into something more like a living workshop than a Museum (this was indeed Gropius’s said intention and hope for the original Archive building).

And what if then the site began to grow into a network of never seen before Restaurants, Bars, Cafés, Hotels, Libraries, Theatres, Swimming pools, Concert Halls, Walk Way, Gardens and Sports Halls, etc. each with its own workshop/college and production centre attached, training and apprenticing a new workforce/student body, attracted from all over unified Germany and beyond.

What if you could enter a café and not only buy a cup of coffee, but also the cup you were drinking it out of and the chair you were sitting on?

What if you could go to the toilet and leave having bought the toilet you had used and the towel you had dried your hands on?

All wrapped, packed and replaced by the attached workshops as part of an economic learning exchange.

And what if Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s Licht Raum Modulator really was and not just an old quirky film dragged out now and again and shown at selected art institutions.

What if the names Lego, Imax and Hyatt were the names Schlemmer, Breuer, and Feininger?

Yes what if? All this and more was being constantly generated and regenerated at the former busiest crossroad in Europe

Actually, is a crossroad a place where four corners meet?

Brueke die Brig part II by Eddie Farrell

September 6th, 2009 | Posted by Eddie in Eddie Farrell (UK/DE) - (2 Comments)

20 minutes later I’m off the train and breathing in the clear air of Kirkcaldy.  Years ago the place stank of Linoleum, the weird thing was that the whole of Britain seemed to know about it; at Leeds City Station in 1980, I was having my ticket checked by an elderly rail employee; he looked at the ticket, punched it and as he gave it back said, Eee Kirk Kaldie. Ikun smelLeenolleeum frum thaa!

The production of Linoleum in the town was the doing of a Mr Nairn and although he and his factories are now well gone his benefactor gave a rather special collection of paintings to the Museum and Art Gallery that’s just a minute walk from the station.

The ground floor Museum has an eclectic collection of Fife pottery and memorabilia including John Thompson’s Scotland Jersey.  John Thomson by the way was born in Kirkcaldy and grew up in Cardenden.  He was the Glasgow Celtic and Scotland Goal keeper in the late 1920s and died tragically following an accidental collision with another player during a match in 1931.  The woollen Scotland Jersey now in a display case at the museum looks like his mother might have knitted it.

The Paintings which were gifted to the town are upstairs and include work from The Glasgow School and the Scottish Colourists, namely, Peploe, Cadell, Fergusson, Hunter, McTaggert and Hornel.  I have a soft spot for these pictures; as a teenager they were the first real paintings I had ever encountered.  On recent visits, I have found the clutter of stuff building up around the gallery space a bit depressing.  The only recent acquisitions seem to be 3 things by the Kirkcaldy born painting phenomenon, Jack Vetriano.  He is the scourge of any one claiming to be a painter in Scotland, for whenever you are in new company, whether formal or relaxed, within a few minutes of them finding out you are a painter, you find yourself spitting with rage and announcing to them that you do not consider Jack Vetriano to even be a painter!  While your gentle inquisitors sit quietly smiling, silently accusing you of being merely jealous of his fame and fortune.

Leaving his soft- scrubby-porn daubs behind I head down the staircase and out towards the high street of the Lang Toun.

Kirkcaldy has another famous son; the boundary signs announce – Welcome to Kirkcaldy, The Birthplace of Adam Smith.  My knowledge of Adam Smith is shamefully pitiful and somewhere along the line his name became synonymous with that of Margaret Thatcher.  Considering the two missed each other by almost 200 years, I have slowly been able to extract him from Maggie’s bed, (perhaps another theme for Jack Vetriano?)  But since working on this blog I feel I now must at least try and read The theory of moral sentiments, if not his more widely known book, The wealth of nations.  It would be too pat to now link the more famous book, which in 1776 advocated a free market economy as more productive and more beneficial to society, to the current state of Kirkcaldy High Street, but one can’t help but see something highly ironic in it all.

Kirkcaldy High Street is very long.  It runs parallel and one road up from the esplanade which faces south onto the Firth of Forth.  I’m not too sure about Adams Smith’s time but in the 1970s I knew The High Street as a bustling town centre with busy shops, restaurants, cafes and a cinema.  Today, it is just one of many high streets that has suffered from the general decline in heavy industry and a further onslaught from the out of town shopping centres.  But then, right there, not all that far from where the cinema once stood in which I saw Towering Inferno, Herbie rides again and Jaws.  Just sitting in between Greggs the Baker and a closed down discount store, there’s a small darkened plaque on the wall which reads. ……ON THIS SITE STOOD THE HOME OF HIS MOTHER IN WHICH HE LIVED FROM 1767 – 1776 AND COMPLETED “THE WEALTH OF NATIONS”

I ran into Adam Smith again that day, on The Royal Mile when I returned to Edinburgh; he stands just a little way down from where his friend, David Hume is sitting.  Unfortunately their enlightened spirit doesn’t seem to have touched the fat fingered sculptor (I presume he made the pair) who has entombed them as statutory statuary.  (Poor David Hume looks like an oxidised Jabba the Hut).

In part one I promised you two public toilet stories, here’s the second.  On my last day in Scotland we took another trip over to Fife only this time by car.  We stopped off at Wemyss, the birth place of Jimmy Shand and the last resting place of my father, then followed the coast up to Leven where we stopped for a toilet break.  As we approached a damp looking concrete bunker between the golf links and the beach a woman suddenly sprang out carrying a roll of orange cloakroom tickets and a money bag.  It’s 30p to use the toilet.  I was dutifully finding some change when I said in passing that it used to be free to go to the toilet in Scotland.  Aye it’s all changed now, she replied.

And changes are afoot or certainly back at the two Bridges.  The Forth road suspension bridge built in 1964, which we had crossed twice this day has problems.  The massive network of steel cables strung over the upright stanchions and support the road are corroding.  A friend told me about this several years ago after he had watched a TV program which had recorded the pinging noises coming from the fraying cables.  On hearing this I immediately thought about the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse (America 1940) and the otherworldly film footage made of it. Apparently, aeroelastic flutter had turned the road into a billowing streamer.  The first time I saw these incredible images I couldn’t believe it was a steel bridge that was oscillating and bending in such an extreme way.  I also remember getting emotionally involved with the drama of a dog trapped in the abandoned car on the bridge.  After an hour or so of these structural gymnastics the road finally cracked then shattered and fell into the river below.

Looking beyond the disaster movie aspect of the Forth Road Bridge, certain practical questions come to the fore; how do you get 20, 30 or even 60,000 vehicles (predicted use) over the Firth of Forth every day and as we are told, the bridge will be lucky to last until 2020, where does the money come from to build a new one?  While pondering this, something obvious struck me which I understand has been articulated by the Green Party and environmentalists some time ago.  Why not bring into the equation a drastic reduction in car use?  As good citizens of the planet, could this present crisis not be a perfect opportunity for Scotland and her newly reinstated Parliament to show the way.  To be enlightened.

the_skating_minister

Back on the Royal Mile is the Scottish Parliament.  It sits in and on a more forward looking plinth than the statues mentioned earlier.  A few years ago I took a tour of the building designed by architect Enric Miralles.  I was impressed by the layout of the debating chamber, which unlike the Palace of Westminster where the Government and Opposition face each other, here everyone sits facing forward; more like how an orchestra would be arranged.  We were also shown one of the offices used by Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSP’s). Each of the 108 offices, our guide told us with some pride, has been given a specially designed Contemplation Space; a small semi private window seat.  In this retreat, (the shape of which was inspired by Sir Henry Reaburn’s painting of the Reverend Robert Walker skating on Duddingston Loch) the MSPs are encouraged to take some moments away from the everyday grind of politics and to simply sit, relax and think.

contemplation-space

I asked an obvious question; do the MSPs use their Contemplation spaces? Our guide gave a small pause before replying.

I shouldn’t think they have the time.

I visited Scotland a couple of weeks ago. It was an early start from Berlin and as the plane juddered high above the Forth Estuary on approach to the Scottish capital, I hadn’t had a wink of sleep; the constant offering up of tea, luxury coffee, Panini’s, gambling and snacks (Snaarks),had seen to that. To my left through dark, puffball clouds I could see The Crags and Arthur’s  Seat cradling the cities east side and to my right, the two bridges straddling the Firth of Forth which lies between Edinburgh and the Kingdom of Fife.

When I accompanied my Brother in Law to Costco cash and carry at Loanhead a few days later, snacks were still the focus of attention, only this time they were enormous.  Everything about Costco is enormous, from a car park full of family 4 wheel drives to the walls of goods inside. I did what I always do when in large supermarkets; grab hold of a trolley and attempt to give myself purpose.  The trolley however, was massive; more like an open top caravan; I was dwarfed; my arms could barely reach across the width of the push bar.  This Alice in Wonderland status was highlighted when seeing everyone one else in the store in perfect proportion to their trolley.  Pondering replacing the barrow-baskets with the tiny trolleys that most supermarkets now have for kids to push around, I wondered if everyone would shrink down to the new scale? – A policy Nutrition Scotland would do well to consider.

Drinking Scottish beer for the first time in over a year, did nothing for my equilibrium; waking up one particular morning with a hangover from hell and a longing nostalgia for the chemical free Bier of Germany.  The Jordan Valley Food Store on Nicholson Street provided a welcome anchor point though; along with a selection of whole foods, they are still producing a Scottish/ Middle Eastern Snaark supreme; it is a scotch pie casing with either a nutty rice or chick-pea and onion filling.  These have been a favourite of mine for years and still retail for under a pound.

My two public toilet encounters occurred on trips to Fife.  The first was at the Waverly Railway station, where I joined a long line of tourists struggling to find exactly 30p in silver to put in the turn-style.  I always feel cheated when having to pay for a pee and I’m often transformed into a monies-worth lunatic, producing the behaviour that eat all you can for a fiver buffets can effect on some people.  So having had a pee I then hang around, over washing and over drying my hands, then unnecessarily considering, squeezing something out while I’m there.  Well, I’ve paid for it!

brig-2web

This concept is readily understood from Baker’s ‘human cantilever’ model with his assistant Kaichi Watanabe representing the live load. The pull in his supporters arms indicates the tension in the ties and the push in the lower struts the compression in the tubes.

From Waverly I boarded a Dundee train and within ten minutes was at the Forth Rail Bridge.  I remember the exhilaration I experienced as a child when crossing this red steel monster for the first time on my family’s move up north, to a fresh beginning in Glenrothes Newtown.  I was a little anxious of the crossing then, having seen a photo of the bridge some weeks before; due to its undulating shape I had expected more of a big dipper ride than a level train track journey across.  All the windows were rolled down that day and children wished and threw lucky coins out into the river below.

The über safe cantilever construction that makes the shape and scale of the bridge unique only really happened because of the Tay Bridge disaster in 1879.  So, from its completion in 1890 this once regarded eighth wonder of the world has successfully combated 120 years of constant rail crossings, harsh east coast weather and two world wars.  It’s a little sad to consider then that the large sickly yellow patches of restoration work that currently cover the Bridge, may be in part due to an attack of Compulsive Competitive Tendering; the Bridge has always had a somewhat Hans Christian Anderson story attached to it concerning its maintenance; painters would work from one side of the bridge with a special red paint and as soon as they had reached the other side, it was time to start all over again.  The story is almost as famous as the Bridge itself; a Zen like, life-long occupation.  In the 1990’s when I lived in South Queensferry, the village under the south side of the bridge.  It was possible to see a new, more efficient technique of maintenance being practiced.  This involved contractors, abseiling from the Bridge, spot painting and restoring the worst bits.  Looking at the bridge today I wonder how successful and cost effective the plan was, as the current extensive stripping and repainting of the hulk, (which is hoped to last for the next 20 years) has already reportedly cost 180million.

 Having passed above the Hawes Pier, ( the starting point for Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, Kidnapped), I take a last look over at the troubled Forth Road Suspension Bridge, then we speed off into Fife……….

Eddie Farrell: Speak

July 3rd, 2009 | Posted by Eddie in Eddie Farrell (UK/DE) - (3 Comments)

When I was 45 I moved to Berlin and overnight lost my voice.

7 months on, I consider myself to be in a very privileged place; floating between languages

These bright summer mornings I wake up early to bird song and the sound of the odd car on the road. Both posess an international language; (Olivier Messiaen may have queried this about the feathered ones; he observed that from continent to continent the same species of bird could have a different song.) But to my untutored ear the soundscape could be that of 10119 Berlin,  NW5 London or Fife, Scotland.

It is only when the radio is switched on that location becomes linguistically specific. The channel, Deutschland Funk, (nothing to do with the music of US black origin ) spews out a flock of words that soar and flap around the room and I begin another day of trying to Lug them. Slowly my catch increases; to put a percentage figure on it would be difficult, perhaps anything between 25 and 65 percent. From this I can get the gist and sometimes, completely the wrong gist.

It is one thing accumulating words but it’s another putting them into a sentence. On the occasions I have attended language classes, I have become utterly dejected as fellow classmates from Malaysia, Japan, France , Spain, Italy, Lebanon and Turkey, reel through conjugation tables and identify Dative and Accusative sentences. At the end of each class and in the coldest winter I have ever experienced, I became at times the unnamed vagrant from Knut Hamsun’s novel, Hunger; trudging the snow, slush, grit pavements, hating everyone around, because they could speak German and I couldn’t!  At times like this I would seek refuge in the Melodic language of Schubert and Haydn or convalesce in the silent ward of Renaissance painting at the Gemaldegalerie.

A sobering thought occurred to me quite early on when surrounded with exercise books full of indecipherable sentences and pages of my incoherent notes; language is an egalitarian currency, equally available to all. Was it this that attracted a young Noam Chomsky to study linguistics? My desire to live an enlightened life drives me on to try and learn a new system of speech. However, belief in the ability to do this often leads me to grimly meditate on the life of an illiterate pauper.

A few months back a friend noting my frustrations with language studies, offered this advice; You don’t learn language through the head it comes through the gut. At the time I liked the saying but wasn’t quite sure what they had meant. Another friend said recently, that they retain much more of a new language when they are relaxed; perhaps sitting in the sun, having a coffee and cake or a beer, taking in the smells, the air, the weather, the touch and feel of something. I offered up a similar experience with a life spent drawing in small books which I always carry around. On the odd occasion that I flick through them,( some going back 25 years), a whole flood of memories can come rushing back to the exact time they were made; the taste of a cigarette or a specific conversation. This is not the same for me when looking at old photographs.

I have noticed that if one does concentrate just as much upon the context as what is being said, you can pick up a lot. I mean, I dare say we could all identify a fire in the building by the clouds of smoke and fumes before we needed someone shouting Fire, to convince us of the fact. A final demand bill is easily detected by its warning total being printed in red ink; although this could be an occasion when you turn, not being able to read or speak that specific language, to your advantage.

It is here as an artist, that I begin to consider the pace of learning a new language; for once you get over the sudden shock of not even having the words to ask for the right kind of bread, and once you get use to, linguistically, feeling like a complete fool, then you can begin to enjoy the Tabula Rasa; a new beginning and all its freedoms.

I am currently reading a biography of Leon Trotsky; The Chapter of the book that deals with the first World War, talks about his brief time in Zürich. He, a Russian could read and speak French, English, Italian, German and Austrian, and he was just about to go off and lead a revolution!  Although there is no mention of this in the book, I have been thinking about another group of revolutionaries in that city, a year or so after Trotsky. For the Cabaret Voltaire, language had betrayed the world; the pen pusher, statesmen and Politician, had through their eloquent use of language, lead the world to the logical insanity of mass slaughter on the battlefields and in the trenches of the Great War. Even though the Dadaists could probably speak as many languages as Trotsky, they chose to grunt, scream, bang and dance; destroying and creating language and often saying much more with nothing.

Last Year I attended a lecture given by Gustav Metzger and really liked the point he made about waste in language. He focused specifically on the mobile phone and not just on the unknown damage it may be doing to the environment. He also spoke about the absolute waste of language through the mountains of unnecessary phone conversations had everyday.

In the past months I have kept in touch with people in the UK mainly through the internet . Whenever I speak to my good friend Michael Wedgwood on Skype, he is often accompanied by his 6 month old daughter. In recent times she has become increasingly vocal as she lies in the background, at first I thought she was distressed and kept asking if he wanted to check all was ok. Oh no, she’s fine. She is just making noises. listening to herself and learning.  Giacometti’s deathbed, is the other end of the life scale but one account told of the strange noises coming from the dying artists mouth. When asked if he was in pain he communicated that he wasn’t, he was just enjoying the sounds he was making. Shortly after, he passed away.

So now in Berlin, where each day I behave a little less like Kasper Hauser and speak a little less like a German version of Manuel in Faulty Towers; I must also be aware and alert to how the huge gaps in my language are filled in. Did I really move to another country in order to repeat all the things I was doing already? If that is the case by the time I am 90 I will be back chasing my own dusty tail and still banging my head against the wall, only then in fluent Deutsch. However, in these salad days, I should celebrate all the things a new country and language offer. Especially the absolute bliss of now and again, hearing, speaking, and understanding absolutely nothing.