Yesterday in Sofia I met an old friend from London, we walked and talked for five hours. From Wrangelkiez to Alexanderplatz via MartinGropius Bau, dusty cakes at the end of Oranienstr, a long monologue of love for Berlin. The summer has made another of its occasional and unseasonal appearances. I can’t stop smiling, can’t stop talking.
The city changes around us as we leave the protective embrace of Kreuzberg. The graffiti changes, dissappeers. At the very edge of Mitte, crossing and crossing again the ghost wall. Imaginary borders.
The city’s history for Petri, is Christiane F and Bowie, the Zoo, the West, pre-Wend and now, years later, all of this is new.
At Check Point Charlie we make our ritual crossing, side stepping the actors in their respective uniforms, the tourists, the sudden bustle and noise that has been growing on the streets for a block or too. We look at the hoardings with their stark black and white images, imagining, re-imagining, remembering.
I read an account of a single escape, the only way to understand. The remaining parts of die Mauer are now sad saint’s bones. A smashed grey splinter of concrete, pissed on and inscribed by the night writers, the Autonomen; a constant reminder.
We follow the line of it at the Topography of Terrors, housed now in a hole in the ground as the money disappeared in a constant wrangle over costs and architecture.
Beuys proposed that the hieght of the wall should be raised and now looking at what remains I thought he was right. That this was perhaps less the mordant wit of an artist but rather a more insightful, more Sympatische gesture.
The wall’s relatively domestic dimensions make it all the more chilling. A kind of low budget cruelty, dumb but fiendishly astute pyschologicaly. This wall was in places designed to be seen over, the poverty of its construction making it paradoxically harder to erase.
Petri tells me that on his last visit here, the windows of the train were blacked out as they crossed the GDR.
Yesterday at the Martin Gropius Bau we saw Brassai’s photographs of Paris at night. These images, dismissed as over familiar, endlessly reproduced, proved revelatory.
Brassai stalked the streets of Paris’ seedier quarters with 24 plates but never shot more than a couple of frames of the same subject (three for commercial work) and yet these images are technically perfect – Pont Neuf looms from the fog, the statue of Marshal Ney raises its sword and from the swirling mists and the word HOTEL is picked out in neon.
In further room a sequence of six images show a man fallen on the street. They are taken with a respectfull detachment from overhead. The cameras impartial gaze. A crowd gathers, an ambulance arrives, leaves, the crowd disperses, the street is empty now but beside the tree where the body lay there is a patch of grey. It feels prophetic.
We venture out into the haunted atrium, both of us dazed by the intensity of the last room in the exhibition, prints from a fifteen year obsession with graffiti and the textures of walls, their scatological marks recalling Debuffet but also reminding me of Penk.
Around the corner from the Exhibition, the world’s largest balloon, we’ve no reason to dispute it, is tethered by a single rope in an ecstatic celebration of vertigo. We find ourselves lost in the Jewish Memorial and with a sudden enthusiasm for sight seeing wander via der Bundestag to the Brandenburg Gate and as night falls to Bibelplatz, Der Neu Wache, The Cathedral, der Altes Museum, der Insel and finally, to Alexanderplatz and the Fernsehnturm and a U-bahn back to Kottbusser Tor.
We eat cheap falafel and a Doner by Gorlitzer Bahnhoff and head off in to the night with Lorraine to Weiner Blut, Die Weisse Taube and Bar 11.