I thank you for your voices, – thank you, – your most sweet voices. (Banksy for the Wimp: Shakespeare Edition Nov 9)

Potsdamer Platz blackboard

I saw the play I am looking for on this 9th of November in Banksy for the Wimp: Shakespeare Edition performed this year in an incredible production of the Donmar Warehouse directed by the artistic director of the house Josie Rourke. I sat, thanks to the magic of NTLive, in a movie theater here:

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It once looked like this:

Potsdamer Platz 20s

Fires burnt and windows shattered here too on November 9, 1938:

Kristallnacht

And then it looked like this:

Potsdamer_Platz_1945

They turned it into this:

Potsdamer Platz1

Until 25 years ago today this happened:

Potsdamer Platz 2

The play I am looking for today couldn’t be better suited for this place since while it takes us back of the times of Ancient Rome it deals with democracy, misuse of the system, and the power of manipulation of the masses. On the one hand we have a successful general who only reluctantly runs for consul. He despises the plebeians and their expectation to have a say in the governing of Rome and really only does it for his mother – yeah, why else? On the other side stand two tribunes those role it was to protect the interests of the plebeians against the actions of the senate and the annual magistrate. They are professional politicians interested in their own position of power at least as much as in the needs and wishes of the people they represent. And they know exactly how to use them.

But the most important player in the arena isn’t named nor has it a single face. It is a ‘many-headed multitude’ – the people who’s vote the Roman general needs but who he despises for their lack of service to the state and the people who’s mouth and champion the tribunes are meant to be. In the Donmar production their voice was painted on a wall like it happened on the western side of the Berlin Wall or like it happens every day by street artist everywhere. And while democracy is the system that by definition means that this voice is what proposes, develops and establishes the laws by which their society is ruled, it is this voice that rules all societies because in the end no society works without people.

Like with everything there are problems attached to this voice starting with the question who is part of this voice and how does one deal with the fact that it will never be a homogenous choir. As snobbish and elitist as the Roman general might appear the question of service to the society vs. demands at it is a legit one. The voice might be dimmed or muted by threats (until it roars that is). But the biggest danger to the voice is posed by the voice itself – it is its proneness to manipulation. A leader of whatever kind that knows the voice behind him/her, knows how to play it, train it, tame it etc. is the most powerful one there is, while a leader who loses the voice will not be leader for long anymore.

In the play, while the general’s own words brought about his fall, it was because the tribunes incited the plebeians to start another riot that the general spoke the words in rage. In real life we should never forget that Hitler was democratically voted into office and used the laws an elected parliament had made to create the Third Reich. People believed into the regime or it wouldn’t have worked, just as people believed into the regime that built the Wall.

Until they didn’t. Until they took to the streets and tore the Wall down.

The same place. The same people. The same voice used to so different ends. What made the difference? In these days you hear a lot of people claiming that it was them from David Hasselhoff to an armada of politician. But I think it was the interest of the many-headed multitude for something beyond the self and daily life paired with knowledge and education. We were bombarded with propaganda – from the east just as from the west. Whether it was ‘Proletarians of all countries unite!’ or ‘Democracy is the power of the people through the people for the people.’ the part that seemed to have stuck was when you unite your voice will be heard and will move Walls. Our voice, our most sweet voice is the difference of changing things or being used.

Back to the play I’m looking for today. Do you know now what character Tom Hiddleston portrait at the Donmar Warhouse? Send an email until Nov 9, 2014 midnight EST to banksyforthewimp@gmail.com for a chance to win. Check here for rules and more about the contest/art project.

A Grayish Illumination Full Of All Souls

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I spent the last months – really since April – to show with From Berlin With Love that though a network of friends can not prevent a war, it is able to show the world what it can be. Friends all over the world accepted my dare and put the trash bags I designed for them into the streets of the places they call home or they will do so in the weeks to come. It’s based on the centennial of the begin of WWI, it’s (peaceful, arty) attacks in the vicinity of innocent bystanders, but they mean to show that common ground – the place where friendship starts and that makes it possible for us to easier accept our mutual differences – can be found anywhere, if you just look.
What wonder that when I was asked by some friends to create something special for them, I fell back on a friendship, you can witness on Twitter if you care. It reminds me of Schiller’s ballad The Hostage (Die Bürgschaft) in so far as it makes me want to scream like Dionys (though I am no tyrant to start with in the least):
“‘Tis mine your suppliant now to be,
Ah, let the band of love – be three!”
It is the friendship between Deborah Harkness and EL James.
Last year in early fall, between Marbon and Samhain (fall equinox and Halloween) I did a series that was based on Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy. She mentioned a medieval alchemical manuscript – Aurora Consurgens – with 38 illuminations depicting allegorical representations of alchemical elements and described 2 more that according to the story line were part of a hidden, earlier copy of the Aurora. I recreated or in the two cases created the 40 illuminations in an art deco style and each of these paintings bears the number of the place the original illumination has in the Aurora.

The Aurora starts “Everything good comes to me along with her. She is known as the wisdom of the South, who calls out in the streets, and to the multitudes.” And the two new illuminations (which Harkness added) are accompanied for him with: “Turn to me with all your heart. Do not refuse me because I am dark and shadowed. The fire of the sun has altered me. The seas have encompassed me. The earth has been corrupted because of my work. Night fell over the earth when I sank into the miry deep, and my substance was hidden.” And for her: “From the depths of the water I cried out to you, and from the depth of the earth I will call to those who pass by me. Watch for me. See me. And if you find another who is like me, I will give him the morning star.” These lines aren’t just fitting for Matthew and Diana, they could also describe Christian and Ana.

Given the friendship between Harkness and James, the similarities hidden deep in their stories and that I already played with numbers in the Aurora C40 series I decided to create a number 50 illumination. It depicts the conceptio stage of alchemy both with a human couple and with orboros/ fire drake entwined in an inseparable knot, from their bleeding wounds drips blood that brings new life. It’s a traditional way of depicting it though usually the one or the other couple. I liked the naked couple for the sex theme. The snake brings in the idea of temptation and the forbidden fruit. Sun and moon stand for the opposites that unite. The wounds are representative for equally their past wounds that need healing and the BDSM element. The room of pain is blood red too and reminds Ana of a womb upon first entering – conceptio. Of course, I also chose this specific alchemical design as well because it relates back to the All Souls Trilogy, but my words to that could be spoilers. I don’t do spoilers. And who already read Book of Life will recognize it anyway.

London in Paintings: Ginger and White at Belsize Park

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Your sign ‘All our tables are communal…’, normally it would have the power to send me running. Introverted with a side serving of Asperger people fascinate me as much as they frighten me. The prospect of possible need of communication with perfect strangers triggers all sorts of embarrassing eventualities given that my true super power is the ability to jump to the worst conclusion in a single bound.

Normally. It happened that I had just landed in London and had found my way to my friend’s apartment when she whisked me away to one of her favorite cafes in her neighborhood for much needed latte and some bites. In the sunny but cool spring air surrounded by a motley assembly of Londoners I was at ease; so much so that in the 10 days I spent in London I returned three more times.

Once, I even braved sharing the largest of all tables, which accommodates twelve. I hid in my book, which was just as fine with everyone there. But every time I looked up I had this glorious cupboard with the cutest cupcakes, homemade brownies, almond- and banana bread in front of my eyes. It highly influenced the painting’s structure and coloring.

The little details – the barrel with the blankets, the mosaic, the number above the door etc. – I took ‘notes’ of them during my last visit on my last full day while forgetting my latte over the sketch book in my hands. I can get lost that way. And yet I still know that the banana bread was just the way I like it – not too dry and with enough hint of spices.

I added one thing though from the neighborhood: Primrose Hill with its remarkable view of London’s skyline has sneaked its way into my heart just like Ginger and White. From up high there I caught my first glimpse of Regent’s Park, sealing my decision that it was the place for my friendly ‘art attack’ From Berlin with Love. I returned until the twinkle of the lights and reflecting sunlight became as familiar to me as the view from my windows and I left a piece of me sitting on the lush grass waiting for a warm summer night and magic in the air. The skyline replaced the simple board with the hooks for the jackets which supported said sign.

Ginger and White, it’s one face of London for me. Thank you for your hospitality. I painted – my chosen type of communication – to share the love.

It’s not Love without a Fiddle – The Avengers Rescue Chagall’s Dream

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Marc Chagall (Moishe Shagal) was born in 1887 near the city of Vitebsk in the Pale of Settlement. The Pale of Settlement was a stretch of land at the western border of the Russian Empire that included modern Ukrain, Belarus, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, where all the Jews of the Empire were confined to live under strict regulations. This restriction gave rise to the Shtetls, the typical Jewish market-villages of Eastern Europe that provided the community with everything from schools and hospitals to an own language and identity.

At the time of Chagall’s childhood Vitebsk had a population of approx. 66,000 people; half of the population was Jewish. The city was almost completely built from wood. And though his father was employed by a herring merchant, doing what Chagall recalls as ‘hellish work, the work of a galley slave’, and his mother sold groceries from home, the main source of income of the Jewish population in town was from manufacture of clothes, furniture and various agricultural tools.

Chagall was the youngest of six children. His parents were observant Hasidic Jews. Despite or because of their hard lives they found spiritual satisfaction in a life defined by their faith and organized by prayer, though this made them outsiders in a frequently hostile society. It made his father get up every morning summer or winter at 6 o’clock to go to the synagogue and pray.

This, his Jewish identity as the boy from simple means from the rich, but doomed culture of the shtetl, influenced Chagall throughout his career. Whether he lived in Russia, France or found temporary refuge in the US, whether he tried his hand in Cubism, Symbolism, Fauvism or Surrealism, he always remained the homesick boy, whose work was one long dreamy reverie of life in his native village of Vitebsk.

He was homesick for a place he left in favor of his passion and life: art. And soon he was homesick for a place that didn’t exist anymore but in his memories and dreams (from a population of 240,000 at the time of Nazi invasion only 118 inhabitants of Vitebsk survived WWII and the city was mostly burnt down). He used his art to keep dreams alive as well as the memory of his wife Bella, who died in 1944 – a death that blended in his mind with those of the millions of victims though it happened thousands of miles apart and in the security of New York. Had he known of the Avengers he probably had wished them to come to the rescue. So, I sent them out.

But this isn’t just about the extinction of a unique, Jewish way of life by Nazis. Just as the extinction of the Dodo isn’t just about the disappearance of a hobnailed, flightless bird from a tiny island that didn’t know any predators until humans landed at the island’s shore. It is about diversity – evolution’s greatest strength and nature’s biggest beauty – that frightens us humans and can bring out the worst in us.

Being different was the key to survival for our earliest ancestors. Being different is the key to success for a company in a crowded market. Being different is the strength of every actor, writer, singer or artist. Being different is what enables The Avengers to become heroes.

But until the success becomes visible, and often even after, being different in whatever way equals bearing a scarlet letter. It turns you into the miscellaneous group of ‘them’ that has to be distinguished from the ‘us’ by any means. It is what made us introduce terms like race, nation and culture, but also normal into our thinking and acting.

While it isn’t the diversity that should scare us, but the idea that ‘us’ is superior and hence preferable to ‘them’, because ‘us’ and ‘them’ are as interchangeable as label as ever can be, it is apparently as much part of human being as the need to find a place to belong is. And so The Avengers remain misfits as well with an idealized place of their dreams worth keeping alive and defending; very much like Chagall.

It brings to mind another world filled with Joss Whedon’s creativity and a quote whereof: Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It’s harsh and cruel. But that’s why there is us (ahem): Champions. It doesn’t matter where we come from, what we’ve done or suffered or even if we make a difference. We live as through the world were as it should be to show it what it can be.

OK, I can live with that ‘us’.

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Ironman photo (2)
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Chagall_Bella photo (3)
chagall original IMG_1240

(All painting of mine are acrylic on 73.5 x 51 cm paper)

Banksy for the Wimp

Don’t you even start to think I can’t see all those question marks in your minds. ‘What is she doing now?’ Well, let’s call ‘Banksy for the Wimp’ the unloved bastard of my insecurities and frustrations.

Brene Brown says in her book Daring Greatly, we are more prone to criticize in an area we lack security ourselves. As I am a rag rug of insecurities – partly because of my little flirt with Asperger, partly because I simply think too much, and partly just because – I have a plethora of areas to choose from. Yet, the one thing I define myself about is my art and its impact. And I compare. And I judge (No, we shouldn’t judge, but I am no angel and I do.) And there was something about Banksy that made me want to hit a wall with my head. Repeatedly.

Before I say another word: I don’t know Banksy as a person. He might be the sweetest guy all around. This is not in any way a criticism of him as a human being. And as I point out later our understanding of art is probably closer than it appears from a look at what we do and especially, how we do it. So, no personal offense meant.

That said, art is a cultural tool like bow and arrow, writing, pizza or music. They change because our culture changes or to express it differently, each tool develops with the cultural constrains it has to fit.

Take the example of music: As the standards for performance, the methods of transmission and distribution and the methods of consumption changed, so did what we are offered and play. The internet enhanced this process. Musicians have access to a never known range of influences to draw from and can publish their creations on thousands of different platforms without having to go through labels etc. It’s a market of niches without a real center. Everything goes somewhere (This implies already a problem: without direction no development as development always suggests one knows where one means to go in an abstract way at least…).

But technology is not the only aspect of our culture that shapes our tools. We live in a culture of personality which pursues what Susan Cain calls an extrovert ideal. The beginnings can be traced back to Max Stirner who developed a philosophy of a consequent individuality. He said that the ego is always there in everything and nothing should be more important to a person than him/herself. It is a philosophy of pure egoism, which took without being widely known by name roots in a newly anonymous and highly competitive society (end of the 19th/ beginning of the 20th century, around the time when psychology became the new science too, what is no coincident). It let to the belief that extroversion is a way to outshine the crowd. As Susan Cain points out in Quiet today we don’t just believe that extroversion makes us more successful, we even think that it makes us a better person.

Duchamp named Max Stirner’s philosophy as one of the columns of his ideas; the other being Poincare’s work. Duchamp again was one of the main influencers of modern art and his readymade Fountain (an urinal signed with the pseudonym R.Mutt) was in 2004 selected as the most influential art work of the 20th century by 500 renowned artists and historians. He concluded that it is the artist’s choice to call something art and that the exhibition or presentation is a creative act itself. As with extroversion this idea took a life of its own. What was meant to distinguish retinal art from conceptual art led to the belief in show and image cultivation over everything.

That’s what makes me look weary at this Banksy phenomenon. Yes, you can say it is because I am not a show master and never will be one. To put it into a nutshell, I lack any and every self-marketing ability. It makes me question whether I will ever be a ‘real’ artist in today’s world and not just the skilled talent, who never made it. It fuels my insecurities especially after finishing such a big project like Aurora C40 with what I believe to be great art in it and important ideas, but again no big bang and sparklers show factor.

But then, what about the tool’s influence on culture? Can a change in the tool have an impact on culture or will it always be only a reflection thereof?

Do you remember that what might feel like hours ago with all my babbling I said that Banksy’s and my understanding of art might not be very different? Drumroll as this is the point where I make an argument for this theory. Beyond the self-expression we both have a message or messages we want to bring to the people and not wait until the people come to a gallery or museum. We mean to pick people up where they are, from their daily grind, confront them with bigger ideas, involve them, make them think, maybe even feel good for a second and smile. He hits the street. I send my shoes out on the street and use pop culture references to start from a common ground with those, who usually not look at art. We believe that the tool we wield can influence our culture and help change things, maybe even this pesky belief that loud is always better.

So, maybe ‘Banksy for the Wimp’ is also a silent, tongue-in-my-cheek genuflexion in front of another as crazy as they come smarty pants.

Forgiving

If you had to put a religious label on my, Jewish would probably do the job. Though born on Halloween the Samhain festival is probably my favorite. I did pick up the habit of meditating. And yes, I wouldn’t want to do without my Christmas tree and Holly Night celebrations. The last is not because I believe it to be Jesus birthday. A lot in the story points to the fact that Mary and Joe were on their way to the temple for one of the high holidays, probably Passover or Sukkot. That would put the birth into spring or fall. But the new religion had to compete on a highly competitive market and offering less holidays wasn’t an option. The winter solstice had always be connected with the connotation of rebirth of light, light representing wisdom and salvation, life and survival. Well, it was a logic choice. I like it because it belongs to my twisted family’s tradition. Like other things it gives me a framework and anchor in the empty space that we try to fill and call life.

Anyway, I brought it up because Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year is coming up. We all hope to be written into the book of life, to be given another year to heck finally find out why we were given a life in the first place. And with this hope comes the tradition to ask for forgiveness for the trespassing, we committed in the year that ends.
Sorry
We are human. We all do stupid things. We hurt and feel pain. And while we are so fast to judge others for it, we all hope to be forgiven and still loved. It’s one of the most frightening things to blink and suddenly find yourself alone in the darkness. Life is hard enough as it is already when others do help and share our burdens with us.
I don’t ask though I am sorry for every instance my actions have harmed someone. I forgive. It’s hard when the thorn is still deep in the flesh. But holding on to a grudge is energy better spend at a more positive place. Hence, I forgive. Shanah tovah ve metukah. Have a good and sweet new year.
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Note to Self

Note to Self: Once again I am at a point where I just want to give up. Where Ann Hathaway said her husband makes her life a long string of beautiful yesterdays, I think my life is made up of these points. But giving up would mean giving up life, since art is my life now. That’s not just a metaphor. There aren’t a lot of people left I actually talk to or who would just hug e. It’s my own fault, again. I long for social interaction and company. But when an opportunity for communication arrives, I come up dry or with all the wrong things. And I hide again and hurt those who love me with absence, while in my head I’m a lovely, outgoing person.

Self to Note: Suck it up, jellybean. Find another project and then another and another, since that is the string your life is made of and that is all worth it. Chop, chop. Stop whining, get going.

Flashing

Way back in the beginning of Bones, in the pilot, Angela flashes this guy at the information desk of the airport to get his attention. Well, there are time I feel like some flashing isn’t such a bad idea. But whom?

Well, my latest painting is done. Post on it will be up tomorrow. Personally, I think it is as gorgeous as it can be, something that should make even Pink proud. But before she’ll ever learn about its existence – flashing