Adolph Menzel (1815 – 1905)

October 12th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink







Josef Albers (1888 – 1976)

May 4th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink


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Anni Albers (1899 – 1994)

May 4th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink




Book Review – “A Seventh Man” John Berger & Jean Mohr (1975)

March 7th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

a seventh man


When I was a boy and living in Germany, I played football for the local village team. It was a mixture of Germans and British sons of RAF parents. Over the 4-5 years of playing for them, we would often play teams who had a few ‘Turkish’ kids in their team. These were likely 2nd generation immigrants, the sons of some of the people that this book talks about. The few immigrants seeking work who were able to stay in Germany and bring/have their family there.

I do remember being told on more than one occasion (though the way childhood memory works, who can be sure?) by team mates, both British and German, that the Turks were ‘cheats’, ‘dirty’ and ‘smelly’. I can see in my minds eye the German boys holding their noses so I could fully understand.

The one distinctive memory I actually have of playing against a Turkish boy was during a game on a very hot summers day. A lot of the pitches we played on weren’t grass, but a kind of terracotta dust. It would kick up and get in your eyes, and if you did a sliding tackle it would leave a huge dirty mark along your leg like a hakeme brush. When I sweated, the drips down my forehead would collect the dust and create little trails down my face.

This boy (we were probably 9 or 10 years old) had tiny feet which made the ball look even bigger than it was, but he had incredible control, and could do Cruyff turns. He was very short but strong and had a big arse. His hair was thick and dark and curly and I couldn’t get the ball off him. I can picture him running around me and away as I desperately tried to grab his shirt, and lunged into a sliding tackle that got nowhere near him or the ball.

Mesut Özil was born in Gelsenkirchen in October 1988, a 3rd generation Turkish-German (“My technique and feeling for the ball is the Turkish side to my game. The discipline, attitude and always-give-your-all is the German part”), around the time I was in Germany (1986 – 1991). Gelsenkirchen was around 60 miles from where we lived, and in the 70’s many Turks made their way to this part of Western Germany to work in the then numerous factories.

Özil is my favourite footballer. There is a strange beauty in the way his body moves, the balance and grace and the certainty of movement. When he passes the ball he never overhits it, or underhits it – it is perfectly struck to allow the receiving player to take the ball without breaking stride. He can shape his body to make it appear he is about to do something else, without it being a showy dance like Ronaldo. What I really like is that he sees where other players are on the pitch, and can put the ball in the right place at the right time. I think at Arsenal it probably took the other players a season or so to realise that they could make unusual runs, and that they would be seen – to trust in Özil’s ability to find them. By having this ability, he creates unusual patterns on the pitch, of movement of players and the ball. He creates and that’s why I like him.

This book, like all of Berger’s, is sensitive and empathetic and generous. It’s specific subject matter (generally male workers from Portugal, Turkey and Greece moving to France and Germany) may be a little out of date, but the overarching theme of the trials and stresses and strains of being an immigrant is clearly relevant now. There is no real mention of refugees as such, or women and children, but if you want to try to understand what an immigrant may have to deal with when coming to a new country, you should read this book.

"The Seventh (A hetedik)" - Attila Jozsef (1905 - 1937)
If you set out in this world,
better be born seven times.
Once, in a house on fire,
once, in a freezing flood,
once, in a wild madhouse,
once, in a field of ripe wheat,
once, in an empty cloister,
and once among pigs in sty.
Six babes crying, not enough:
you yourself must be the seventh.

When you must fight to survive,
let your enemy see seven.
One, away from work on Sunday,
one, starting his work on Monday,
one, who teaches without payment,
one, who learned to swim by drowning,
one, who is the seed of a forest,
and one, whom wild forefathers protect,
but all their tricks are not enough:
you yourself must be the seventh.

If you want to find a woman,
let seven men go for her.
One, who gives heart for words,
one, who takes care of himself,
one, who claims to be a dreamer,
one, who through her skirt can feel her,
one, who knows the hooks and snaps,
one, who steps upon her scarf:
let them buzz like flies around her.
You yourself must be the seventh.

If you write and can afford it,
let seven men write your poem.
One, who builds a marble village,
one, who was born in his sleep,
one, who charts the sky and knows it,
one, whom words call by his name,
one, who perfected his soul,
one, who dissects living rats.
Two are brave and four are wise;
You yourself must be the seventh.

And if all went as was written,
you will die for seven men.
One, who is rocked and suckled,
one, who grabs a hard young breast,
one, who throws down empty dishes,
one, who helps the poor win;
one, who worked till he goes to pieces,
one, who just stares at the moon.
The world will be your tombstone:
you yourself must be the seventh.

Nibelungen – Fritz Lang

December 23rd, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Fritz knew how to compose a nice frame

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Book Review “From Germany to Germany” – Gunter Grass (2012)

December 22nd, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Grass Cover

Hmm. Yes if you like Gunter Grass (I do) but otherwise probably not, unless you’re really into the fall of the Berlin wall and the subsequent political situation in Germany(s). Interesting following the development of some of his fiction ideas in diary form. All in all though, don’t bother if none of the above interests you.

Book Review – “Goodbye to Berlin” Christopher Isherwood (1939)

October 9th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

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Yeah, its ok. Characters are well drawn. Not as saucy as I imagined. A lot of the interest in it is down to the pre-war descriptions of Nazi Berlin.

Dance/theatre review – “Ahnen” (Pina Bausch) Tanztheater Wuppertal at Sadler’s Wells

April 24th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink


It’s not possible to really explain what happens in this performance, it makes more sense as a list.

One body becomes two

Two bodies become one

Brick walls are built

Water falls on tarpaulin

A man jumps through a hoop into a wall (repeatedly)

A fully clothed woman lies in a perspex bath full of water

A lady climbs a ladder and gives painting instructions

A blind woman fires a gun

There’s a remote control helicopter (might be a reference to Vietnam?)

Someone is buried under hay

A women relentlessly polishes some sort of white chopping board

Bits of food are placed around the stage

A man dressed as a sort of hobo-native american chief sits at a microphone but doesn’t use it

And so on and so forth…

I liked this. There is no narrative that I can grasp, but the show is full of little pleasing bits and pieces. The music throughout is great; varied, interesting and well used. The first half is pretty frantic, lots of arm movements and running across stage, there’s a lot of running when a wind machine blows paper across the stage. The second half is quieter, slower and has more spoken elements and ‘conventional’ dancing. For me, its just a bit too long. It starts to become tiring and uncomfortable (maybe that’s the point! etc) and personally I wouldn’t mind a wee bit of narrative.


Photo by Tristram Kenton (Guardian)

Generally it appears to celebrate everyday movements, moments and props. Lots of things happen at the same time, so you can choose what to devote attention to. It is farcical and slapstick and absurd, though at times I thought it wasn’t funny enough (it’s no House of Fools) but as I was thinking this, the funniest bit happened. A man and woman take turns to mime acts of cartoon violence on each other, and its funny. I’m guessing they are a couple of long-standing and long-endured irritation. There did seem to be a lot of what I will call ‘over-laughter’ from the audience “ oh ha ha ha, that is sooo funny, a woman flashed her pants”. There was another good bit where a man translates a famous operatic tune (? I think…) from German to English.


Photo by Ursula Kaufmann

I liked the intro when a guy in leather jacket, ray bans and a kilt brought on some of the ‘characters’ to the stage with a satisfying strut. For me, some of the best bits were just the highlighting of movements that can occur everyday. The way the kilt swayed as the man swaggered. There was a point when a mid-50’s (?) woman in tight skirt and high heels ran round in a circle on the stage and I noticed the way her body was constricted, the way she had to totter on the heels to turn a corner, all of these little details are only ever possible if a mid-50’s woman in high heels, with large hips and a tight skirt runs in a circle. As pure movement it is satisfying and precarious.


Photo: Ursula Kaufmann

There are three moments of intimacy that I liked, one where a seated man has one hand stuck out in the air (“like an Egyptian”) and a woman approaches slowly, bends slightly, then quickly sucks his hand. A woman dusted a chair with a fur jacket thing. A man breathes into his slow-dance partner’s ear.

Generally, there was a feeling of childishness, repetition, aimlessness and movement for its own sake. There was also quite a lot of female anger and male impotence/uselessness.


Photo by Tristram Kenton (Guardian)

As the piece seemed to be nearing an end, the fire curtain came down on stage and made everything feel slightly claustrophobic. The kilt man came on and hung from a metal bar acting like a monkey, eating apples and spitting them out. Then another guy came on with a big rubber walrus. He tried to make it climb a cactus (the stage is strewn in huge cacti), then proceeded to climb into the walrus suit thing. Once inside he told two terrible jokes and clapped his flippers together. He got out, and looked at the fire curtain. He looked a bit bewildered. Two men joined the stage and started sweeping. The walrus guy didn’t know what to do. We thought this was part of the show. He left the stage, then came back on and said “the curtain is meant to go up, I don’t know what’s wrong”. We still thought it was part of the show. He came back and said “no, really, the curtain should go up, I’m sorry we will have to break for 20 minutes”. It should really have been the end, regardless. So, we left at that point, it seemed appropriate. Left on stage were two cacti and a rubber walrus. We didn’t get the chance to give them a round of applause, but it was a satisfyingly ridiculous ending nonetheless. Here is my round of applause.

Xpelair Taurus

March 19th, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

Here it is, the post you’ve all been waiting for…

xpelair taurus


I was walking past a work colleague’s desk the other day and spotted a fan. Wow, that fan looks familiar I thought. When I was a kid, living in West Germany, we had a fan like it. It was….The Xpelair Taurus. I remember the brown plastic fins (?), the satisfaction of pushing the buttons ‘0, 1, 2’. I can even feel the weight of it, how it was heavier at the back. I would put my fingers on the cage, imagining if it had the strength to chop them off. I realise now, I had affection for that fan. Anyway, that’s the model, up there. Apparently “the history of these unique fans is a bit vague” which I find hard to believe. You can watch a video of one if you like (over 5,746 views….?):





Sigmar Polke – Windows at Grossmunster, Zurich (2009)

February 16th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

I went to see the Polke exhibition at the Tate recently, which was a mixed bag. These windows are great though.

Sigmar Polke – Church Windows Grossmünster Zürich from ikonoTV on Vimeo.





Sigmar Polke - Grossmünster Cathedral, Zürich

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