My initial impressions after a week in Berlin: Currywurst is really just a hot dog in spicy ketchup, beach bars are an amazing idea and it is a tragedy that New York does not have even one of them, and the bigger the Warhol the better.
We stayed at a hostel called the Rock-n-Roll Herberge that caters to touring bands. I was apprehensive, but for a ridiculously low price, I got a great room with bathroom en suite. My only complaint was that the street-art theme of my room seemed to be insects, which was a poor choice for someone who is nervous about crawling vermin, in general. The room came with a great breakfast that was thoroughly enjoyable as long as I avoided the gaze of the bar’s regulars–aging punks who would be enjoying their third beer of the day when I rolled downstairs around 11:30am. I think the staff and patrons would have been more welcoming to me if I had had visible tattoos.
Three art moments stand out:
Saw Cody Critcheloe at Peres Projects. I don’t usually like video art, but this was so amazingly well-done, I adored it. The movie played in a room he had decorated in mod black and white complete with coordinated, over-sized floor pillows for your lounging pleasure. We were there on an ungodly hot morning, and I was happy to recline, fanning myself with a weathered street map, through the whole film (I just hope I didn’t get lice). Critcheloe is the master of gesamtkunstwerk, and I’m only sad I didn’t remember to say so at the time. It would have been so German.
We visited the art collective Tacheles where I bought a darling lemon-head sculpture (that is smiling at me from my desk as I write this) . I’m not going to focus on how bad the art was because concept of this place is so right on. As we learned at an anti-gentrification protest later in the week, Tacheles is one of the last unregulated squats in Berlin. Without anyone telling them it’s okay, they’ve set up art galleries, studios, some sort of farm, and a beach bar to benefit the resident artists. When we were there, there was a two-man band playing sorta-pop-reggae. Beach bars–a casual assembly of sand, grass-hut bars, volleyball nets, and BBQ grills–are everywhere in Berlin. They line the Spree River, but also appear far from the water’s edge, in the middle of urban Berlin. I don’t really get it, but I love it. The best one we visited was Kiki Blofeld that, in addition to the usual fare, had foosball tables nestled in wooded groves under plastic chandeliers. Clearly, hipster paradise.
I had intended an art death march, but when I got there it turned out I was happy to have a vacation that was also a vacation from looking at things and being indoors. The only museum we actually went inside was Hamburger Bahnhof (though we admired many museums from the outside) that was a based on a private collection and housed in a converted train station. It’s Twombly, Rauschenberg, Richter, Beuys, and Warhol heaven. And there were some large, super accurate models of bugs that I don’t really think were art at all.