music in berlin

i love you but i've chosen disco

for most of my time in berlin, i’ve been doing a whole lot of listening. mostly to the ambient sounds of the public realm. usually ‘outside’.

but, i’ve also made sure that i’m taking in as much music-based experience as i can whilst i’m here. the relationship that germans and berliners have to music is particularly interesting to me. especially as it’s like a super-extended-remix version of the relationship melbournians have to music.

there is such a wide variety of stuff going on, so it’s been a great chance to just dip in and out of all kinds of styles, venues and times. i could, if i wanted to, spend every night of the week going to see electro-acoustic performances. or dance to techno. or see a classical performance. or go see a rock gig. thankfully i have neither the time nor the money to do so, otherwise i’d never sleep, eat, or do what i came here to do.
but, it’s been great to sample in small doses.
last week i went to a choir/orchestral performance of giuseppe verdi’s requiem – part of it, the dies irae, is surely in every tim burton movie ever made. well, it was the 90-minute whole piece. all fire and brimstone and judgment day. counter reformation-styles, in a protestant church. awesome.
a few weeks ago i went to peaches’ ‘operantomime’ peaches does herself – celebrating 10 years of her career and all the love sex gender-bending fuck-you rock-out that comes with it. it was pretty goddamm spectactular, that’s for sure.
last night peter newman and i stood at schieslischer’s tor u-bahn and listened to two members of  krautrock/90s slacker band, camera, absolutely kill it in the entrance to the station on a practice amp and a hollow wooden stool, with marakas on the ‘kick’. it was fucking amazing, genuine and reminded me of the brilliant BBC documentary on krautrock (thanks stan!)
this week i’m off to a couple of experimental performances in my local ‘hood, one of which i think will feature chris abrahams, home-town pride, and some raw composition work at ausland – a venue i haven’t been to yet, but hosts some brilliant gigs.
every weekend i go dancing until at least 4am. it’s pretty rad. and the relationship berliners have to dancing in a club is awesome – there’s not commandeering of the dancefloor here, kids. everyone faces the front and you dance. if you’re with friends, you dance beside each other, and if you’re there alone, that’s cool – we’ll all dance with you. it’s such a great public action.
and, boys here dance. pretty well, and even when it’s as ugly as sin, they’re doing it with committment – it’s awesome. there’s no sense that a guy is just approximating dancing so that he can get in a girl’s pants – there’s hardly any direct sleeze on the dancefloor, but it’s all hot as. it’s fantastic.
and there’s this weird music/dance style that i’ve called the Berlin Skip. there’s probably a proper name for it, but that’s what i call it. the music is a little bit soca/a little salsa – i think it’s called ‘gypsy sound’ and everyone dances essentially the same to it. i liked it when i first heard it and danced for a couple of hours, but now it’s just too repetitive and i can’t do it anymore. i need a little more variety in my dancefloor action, thanks 🙂
it could have been honolulu
speaking of which, i’ve been to berghain a few times (it’s massive, they dance all night, it’s all about the freaks in there). although last weekend i got rejected! weird! but in a way, completely fun and part of the crazy/random/i-do-what-i-want ethos of the place that i actually really value.
interestingly, i haven’t been to see a band play a straight-up rock/punk gig since i’ve been here. which is kind of hilarious, given my previous intensity towards the genre. to be honest, all the flyers i’ve seen are for pretty big american bands i have no interest in seeing, and i haven’t quite plugged into the kind of venue that hosts great bands from germany. i’m sure it’s out there, but i’ve been so enamoured with the electronic music goodness, that i figure that i’ll just head to the tote when i get home to make up for it 🙂
before i leave, i need to go to the opera, a couple of baroque/romantic performances, and if i can, get to a stockhausen performance too.
i don’t have a whole lot of music in my own collection that screams BERLIN, but the couple that do at the moment are on high rotation – black cab from melbourne, who obviously recorded their album call signs in or after time in berlin – there are multiple references to the city in their songs and the church bells they sample ring outside my apartment at 12 and 6 daily. listening to this album really adds to both the city and the album – it’s like i’m really IN both of them.
the debut album from beak> does something similar – with the dark, electro-romantic-atmos feel about it, it’s a perfect soundtrack to the elemental darkness, cold and wind that is enveloping berlin at the moment.
thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

berlin breakfasts

i don’t think i’ve really posted about thoughts about berlin since i’ve been here. perhaps that’s because it’s taken a while to gather them. and still they are a bit wacky.

but one thing i do love about this place is the breakfasts.

and not just to actual food, but the nationwide committment to the partaking of frühstuck. in every cafe, even if the coffee tastes like suspension of sand, cork, dishwater and the faint whiff of coffee essence; the breakfast will be great.

i spent the first two months having breakfast from this viewpoint, at rooftop studios.



i finished up my residency there last week and kind of miss my little morning ritual looking over berlin, but thankfully the breakfasts in the new place have been just as amazing.

here at home
Alicia and Breakfast
that’s alicia – she came and stayed for a few days – living through a house move, an exhibition install, the ensuing come-down and a shit-hot peaches concert. as well as the typical grandma-style life i lead.
Saturday Breakfast

or at the cafe downstairs, sloerm. that’s pronounced ‘slurm’, for all you futurama fans.


they don’t have a set vegetarian breakfast, but i’ve been making one up and it’s pretty special. although they put sliced carrots in the müsli and i can’t quite work out what the deal is that. maybe it’s ‘cos they’re good for me.

regardless, berlin is still all about the awesome breakfast.

guten appetit!

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

art fair mania

don’t they know we already have too much information? maybe it’s some kind of ploy where if you blast a stack of data at people, whatever sticks is worthwhile remembering.  like i mentioned in another post, there were six art fairs on this weekend. i only managed three because i went to berghain until 7am and couldn’t manage more than one on saturday.

sunday was devoted to dancing in the streets, so i didn’t attend any art fairs. and, because there was so much to absorb, i’m only going to talk about two on here: art forum and preview – because that’s the kind of girl i am – binary.  and, i’m even going to review them in the reverse order that i saw them.

well, it’s my blog and i’ll do what i like.

berlin art fairs have a strange feeling about them, as berlin isn’t a city that is swathed in collecting cash. all the big money for art investment happens in the south/west and so there’s this strange sense of futility or abandon about them, backed up, perhaps, by the fact that frieze and the london art fair extravaganza is next week, which is where the money comes in.

my understanding of preview was that it was the emerging art/gallery fair, so i was quite suprised at the prevalence of painting and digestible sculpture. not really a lot of boundary-pushing. in fact, i saw more of that at art forum, really. my summation from preview was that the only thing that was really ‘new’ about the fair was the economy behind it; without long histories or financial support/investment/weight behind them, there was no risk being taken. 

i saw more ‘risk’ from artist being supported by the bigger galleries. in fact, it reminded me that risk is actually the privilege of the privileged – with art, collecting, setting up a business, gambling, eating.

a few notable exceptions, obviously.

this is a gallery i love in london and check them out whenever i can. if i’m completely honest, i don’t think they showed the best work that they have at this fair.  i spoke to one of the staff and it was their first time at a berlin fair, so perhaps it’s a little bit of putting feelers out for them. but they did have some good work by artists anonymous, who i haven’t seen in a while and a beautiful paper-based animation from a rotary contraption by juan fontanive, whose bike film i saw a while back.

galleri maria veie
the only gallery, in both art fairs, to really deal with the site and to take control of it. maria (who was super-nice to talk to) and her artists built an amazing ante-chamber within the small booth space as a space to view the excellent video by and also as a work of art itself. it was like a unicorn mixed with high math geometrical sculpture. super-nice. and it crowded out the space in a way that made it attractive – you had to line up to get in (almost). for me, this shows a boldness and a level of engagement that is not only attractive in an artist, but in a gallery. go team.


galerie leuenrothdaniel behrendt
these paintings were a.mazing. i literally gasped when i saw them. almost sculptural paintings of super-flat post-war architectural facades – walls, with a simple window. or just a wooden window, they gave a life and a stickiness to these utterly depressing spaces. and it’s pretty much the only way i would ever spend more that 0.12 seconds looking at such a space. they were so divine. and a combination of matte fine finish, with thick, lush, trowel-finish. seriously, if you buy painting, buy these. they’re amazing.

foundation for promoting contemporary art – michal smandek
a nice, simple work: model for a sludge leak made from glass and concrete, then the documentation of a larger version done in an old industrial space – a constructed black ooze coming out of the wall. always poignant (hello gulf of mexico, hello hungary)

actually, most of the eastern european galleries were killing it – making the most interesting works/exhibits overall. i guess it’s unsurprising, given the history of eastern-european risk-taking in art, but i will still a bit intrigued.


kunsthaus erfurt
two nice works about pixelation – a site-specific coloured paper installation by martin pfeifle, which cheered the whole place up to no end and a series of beautiful triangular pixel drawings by DAG. i’m not always a fan of pixel drawings, they can be a little dull, but these were such a perfect combination of abstract, form and system that i forgave and fell in a love a little.

a few other things i noticed:  a surprising number of amateur signage. boo. not a lot of women artist. boo. not a lot of politics. boo.

so, that’s my review of preview.


art forum

art forum is pretty big. and although not as big as i imagined there was still soo much stuff to see, as there is in any art fair, so i made sure i prepared, had my list of galleries/artists i wanted to see and launched in with as open a mind as possible. 

by the way, the architecture at the messe in berlin is out-of-this-world awesome. built in the middle of the fascist regime (1935-37; Richard Ermisch), it is furnished like something out of a grace kelly movie – i felt like we all should have been wearing dinner suits and maxis.

in the middle of my rounds, i went to one of the talks, held on the mezzanine level and moderated by texte zur kunst, which was one of the highlights of the day. i think the onsite discussion and critique is a really important part of the commercial nature of the fair, each connected to the other.

overall it was just OK. a few excellent works, some nice chats with peeps i already knew (from australia and london) and interesting to see the focus away from painting and more towards everything else.

so, highlights.

johnen galeri – tim lee

just a small photo-based work, but after seeing his daad exhibition and now this, tim lee is now one of my new favourite things. a diptych recreation of  the merce cunningham poster from 1953 with tim as the solo – in his trademark grey button-up shirt, black jeans, thick geeky glasses and salary man haircut. hot.

one of the only other galleries to really deal with the space well – a combination of aluminium geometric shapes and video/sound work of a ballerina en pointe. a beautifully dichotomy of soft/hard and understanding of space by Jen DeNike and Sarah Oppenheimer.

roslyn oxley9
as one of the consistent big guns in australian art, unsurprising that the artists that rosox had on board were great. hany armanious, mikala dwyer, michael parakowhai, newell harry and his palindromic neon. awesome.

häuslerfred sandback
i know he’s been gone a while, but the guy continues to float my boat with his site-specific geometric/spatial works and diagrams. they had a small red work between the two walls at häusler that made my heart skip a beat.

yvon lambertdouglas gordon
excellent conceptual works – especially the two wall-text works – both abandoned mid-sentence: one of graphite i am the director of my own downfall and the other carved into the chipboard, i am the author of my own addictions. i liked the form of the latter, but thought that the words were a little overstated. and vice versa.

arndt – ralf ziervogel
a suite of small exquisite and depraved drawings presented really cleanly – on with a black right facing page on a series of small shelves, squished right into the corner. quite an easily digestible format, but with the right amount of gross to make it interesting.

pianissimo – ingo gerken
this was the kind of show that people who aren’t artists, or aren’t that into art history would hate. but i loved it – it was a stack of responses to conceptual works from history, mostly really well done in a quite subtle and understated way. i laughed out loud. for real.

he added his name/birth year to the top of list of saatchi exhibitons, entitled my life and the saatchi program, he added a purple strip of colour to an image of ellsworth kelly minimal paintings, and a photo of a john baldessari image with a post-it note as an echo of the plain interrupting the plane. see? art geek stuff.

contemporary fine arts – max frisinger
i met max in hamburg and his work is on a similar plane to australia’s ash keating. although max still trawls the streets for rubbish by hand. it was great to see his works sell out and interesting to see how he had ‘contained’ a practice that is usually site-specific, or at least very gallery-site-specific.

and i also really liked the sector focus intiative in the middle of the grounds, which had a series of emerging spaces who invited another emerging space to join them and both of them had booths that backed onto each other. it acknowledge the community aspect of independent spaces and made for an interesting study.

i did come away from the forum a) feeling like australian artists still match up with the best of germany, especially when we’re rigourous. and b) that an art fair is an art fair is an art fair. having said that, i’ve not been to the biggest three: frieze, basel or the armory, but i wonder how different they really are.

image credits: ralf ziervogel installation at arndt, from the art-forum-berlin site. newell harry reverse missionary (nerveless rats hesitate/as venereal theists rest) from the roslyn oxley9 site.
thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

dancing in the streets again.

dancing in the streets_0010

today i spent the afternoon pretty much back at the start of my masters research: in a silent gig in public, dancing to music with a bunch of people in headphones. public/private/public.

the first time i did it was at ars electronica 2007 and it kickstarted my investigation into sound in public, the role/symbol/place of headphones in public and the ensuing 2 years’ masters degree on all things related.

today was a silent parade for climate change, organised by 350 org and it was mad-fun.

what better a place to dance on the streets as part of political action but in berlin! berliners LOVE their electronic music and LOVE dancing (i should know, my club-induced sleeping patterns are getting ridiculous). it was awesome.

dancing in the streets_0026_web

the vibe itself was fantastic – i dipped in and out of different shared experiences with it, giving it a diversity of engagement that really floated my boat, and made for an even more enjoyable and thought-provoking afternoon.

of course, each of these points of together/alone with the parade had slightly different aspects of public/private/public politics:

through the media
i had to join the parade halfway through. so with twitter and their hashtag, i connected with the parade halfway through. connecting as an outsider to the crowd using social media + political engagement, easy – media studies 101.

full engagement
then, i joined the party. i danced my arse of for a while in a group of others all dancing and enjoying themselves with a cracking soundtrack and lots of clapping, w00ts and smiles. we were all in this together, for a common cause and enjoyment. and we were surrounded by a bunch of people who weren’t sharing, but engaged with curiosity – watching and wondering and maybe feeling a bit like outsiders. [more on the ‘outsider’ aspect of such a situation in a minute].

separated engagement
as the parade moved, i grabbed my bike, headphones still in range and rode on ahead, physically separate from the crowd, but still sonically and technologically engaged [wirelessly]. it was pretty special – i was riding in my own space, listening to music on my own, unable to see/hear others, but just knowing that they were there. i think this experience is exactly why the internet works.

and i had the fuckin’ coolest extra little public/private/public moment –  i’m riding away from the crowd, passed the polizei van escorting us and one of the officers has the headphones on (so he can keep track of what’s happening, i guess). and HE’S DANCING TOO!! i gave him a mega smile + bodacious wave and kept riding.
private citizen + public representative togetherness moment. swoon.

dancing in the streets_0038_web

separated, but with one other
another lone bike-rider with headphones caught up with me and together we were riding, dancing, w00ting and throwing our hands up in the air, having our own little private/public/private dance party. in fact, i think that confused people outside the ‘gig’ even more – just two crazy girls dressed in black, on bikes, wearing headphones, dancing like maniacs with each other. but it was another one of those moments of sharing an experience with another person, as part of a wider crew, that was just priceless.

i decided to do a part of my listening to the city project as part of the parade, so once the crowd stopped at the park on spandauer straße, i turned the radio headphones off and became an observer. my observation was largely based on what i could hear (which is hilarious when you’re hearing what everyone else cannot), but it was still as an outside observer. there were lots of people also observing what was going on – some knowing a little bit about it, some not knowing and quiet alienated, others unknowing, but fascinated, or nonplussed. interesting levels of understanding and public engagement.

one thing i noticed is that having ‘outsiders’ is an important dynamic to an event like this. it generates curiosity, a point to engage, thought and ‘difference’. the alienation is not didactic, or perhaps even intended, but i did notice that because people couldn’t (or didn’t have to) engage, they stood around and watched, thought and perhaps envied the process. i know that the advertising peeps crave that juicy experience a lot, but as an artist and activist, it was the first time i understood how it could be used for good.

full engagement again.
and, right at the end, i put the headphones back on and danced with the crowd for another little while. the level of dancing reduced by the time we got to the park, some just opting to lay back in the glorious autumn sunshine and listen, but the sense of common and einheit was still very strong, without a harsh word, or forced action in earshot. brilliant.

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx