Saturday, November 14, 2009

Shout Out To C/O Berlin

So c/o Berlin has definitely become my most favorite museum in the city. It's makes sense because I love photography, but that is not the only reason I love the place so much. First of all, it is located in the beautiful Postfuhramt, the old emperor's mail depot made of honey-colored bricks. The building was in East Berlin and inside is rather run down, but thankfully, they didn't really restore it much (there is something called "Todrenovieren" here in Berlin, literally renovating something to death so it looses all its charm), giving it a very old school, "shabby chic" feel.

The museum itself is dedicated to contemporary photography and has had a lot of great exhibitions, several that I have been too and a couple that I missed (Annie Liebowitz for one. I just couldn't stomach the lines...) Right now they have the most amazing show of Nan Goldin's work called Poste Restante. I've been a fan of hers for a long time. In her own words, her photographs come from a place of relationship, not of observation. She photographs almost exclusively people who are her friends, people she loves. Her works is so incredibly moving, tender and intimate, but also raw and immediate. Because the people she loves tend to be from the edges of society (drag queens, drug addicts, gays, lesbians and bi-sexuals) she has gotten the reputation for always representing the "counter culture", but I think it is really only a coincidence. These happen to be the people she loves and, in the photographs, you can see her loving them; you can see how vunerable they are with her, how they show her a side that is fragile and exposed that they most likely would never show a stranger.

For Jasper's birthday I got a ticket to a talk she was giving at the opening of the show here in Berlin. We went there together with a good friend of ours and sat in the room that was once a basketball court during the GDR days, the markings still on the ground. I was struck with how warm Nan seemed. She is a tough New Yorker who has definitely had a "past" and yet something about her was so exposed, like she couldn't complete shield or protect herself from the crowd.

Last night Jasper and I had a babysitter (for the second time. Yipee!) and we spontaneously decided to go to the exhibit again (after her talk it was too crowded, so we only stayed a few minutes.) I loved everything about it, but the most wonderful part was the slide show with music that they played in the old gym where we had seen her talk. The "soundtrack" was about 20 minutes long with songs as varied as Casta Diva sung by Callas to I'll Be Your Mirror by the Velvet Underground to old school rap and blues. To each song a series of photographs was shown, while people stretched out in the dark on gray nagyhyde loungers. A lot of the photographs could never be described as "perfect": the composition was sometimes strange, with body parts cut off or something framed in a strange way. Many were out of focus. But what she captures each time is an intensity, a connection with herself and the subject. Even when the photographs were blurry you felt like it was because she was moving along with the person. I've also known her work long enough that I recognize some of the people, making them feel like old friends. Truly amazing. Thank you Nan and c/o Berlin!

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