Sunday, September 30, 2012

40 Days of Birthday: Day Eight

I’ve been trying to fight the sniffles for a couple of days now, but woke this morning to an undeniable cold. The Berlin Marathon is Sunday and they had a warm-up run today, open to everyone, beginning at the Lady Castle. It’s only 6k and while I’m woefully out of shape, I reckoned this would help me dust the cobwebs off. There was a time when even a cold wouldn’t keep me from running but these are not those days. Instead, at 9:30, when the runners lined up at the SchloƟ ready to make their way to Olympia Stadion, my family and I bundled up and headed to the farmer’s market.

The Karl August Platz Market is the first market I’d been to in our neighborhood and I’m again convinced about having made the move here. There were two bio (organic) produce stalls, tons of flowers, bio meat carts, pasta carts—everything most of the bigger markets sell, just walking distance from our house. Though my favorite cotton-off-the-bolt guy doesn’t sell there (he’s at Winterfeldtplatz Market on the weekend) there is a woman selling notions, trim, and tons of buttons. Scooped up some brick red, medium sized rick-rack from her for my collection. A bundle of sunflowers, a butternut squash, a kilo of onions, and some fresh rosemary also came home with us.

Late afternoon we headed to Prenzlauer Berg for a sold out performance installation I was lucky to have gotten a ticket for early. It took place in the eerie, beautiful, catacombs of the Kleiner Wasserspeicher, ancient water tower, now haunting art gallery and performance space. The piece, part of the Berliner Festspiele Foreign Affairs festival, is by South African artist Brett Bailey who, in this work titled Exhibit B, recreated the unthinkable “human zoos” of the 18th and 19th century with intent of shining a light on the ruin of colonialism across Africa. The brick bunker of the Kleiner Wasserspeicher, built beneath a hill, has petal shaped rooms that curve into one another. The space is cold and dark, but breathtakingly lit for this production. The rooms are fashioned as museum installations and spectators meander from exhibit to exhibit, which ranged from an 18th century Herero woman chained to the bed of a colonial officer to a contemporary Namibian man, recently immigrated to Berlin, standing on a shipping pallet. To witness, the piece was brutal, extremely uncomfortable, gorgeous, devastating, inspiring, humbling, and game changing, both artistically and ethically. 

Exhibit B creator Brett Bailey in interview

In the round center room of the brick walled bunker hung three historical photos of the severed heads of African men and women. These remains had been part of gruesome racial experiments, which eventually gave the National Socialist Party of Germany the ‘ideological and scientific’ justification to carry out the Holocaust. Beneath the photos, four heads of a Namibian choir ‘floated’ atop four columns. Colonial style chairs were set in front of them, allowing you to stay a while and listen as they sang the most heartbreaking four part arias. 

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