NO NEWS NEWS
EX LIBRIS
May 22, 2022
SWEET NOSTALGIA
 

Nostalgia, that sentimental yearning for the good old times, is a tricky subject. Some people can’t get enough; others can’t stand it. But no matter which side you’re on, there’s no denying that the past has a certain way with us. It shapes how we experience the world around us, after all. In a spatial sense, this is especially true for Berlin – a city that has undergone tremendous changes in recent years. The performance series Disappearing Berlin seeks out venues that are about to be transformed by commercial development, marking the in-between phase through artistic interventions that turn feelings of loss into moments of beauty. Meanwhile, the year 1816 is not something to yearn back to, yet it’s worth revisiting when trying to understand our present – as in Timo Feldhaus’s highly entertaining new novel, Mary Shelleys Zimmer. Designer Fraser Croll, on the other hand, is not ashamed to revel in a bit of that sweet nostalgia, making bootleg T-shirts that are devotional objects for millennial longing. And that’s more than OK too.

Thanks for reading,
Hans Bussert

 

MOURNING FOR LOST PLACES WITH DISAPPEARING BERLIN

“WE’RE BACK <3 SAVE THE DATE for DISAPPEARING BERLIN with FLORENTINA HOLZINGER,” reads the announcement on the Schinkel Pavillon’s Instagram. Followers of the independent art institution were sure to take note, and word has quickly spread through Berlin’s art circles. Since 2019 the Schinkel’s offsite program has been tracking the city’s fast-changing real estate landscape through a series of artistic interventions: from the iconic Bierpinsel, a hallmark of the city’s ’70s futurism; Quartier 206, the high-end shopping mall with unfashionable little businesses; the animal testing lab nicknamed “Mäusebunker”; mom-and-dad dancehall Café Keese; as well as many others. Disappearing Berlin has brought dancers, musicians, video artists and poets to places that are at the center of the Hauptstadt’s fight over gentrification.

The series’ success lies in its site-specific approach, explains Marie-Therese Bruglacher, Disappearing Berlin’s artistic director. “We’re not a production house with huge financial means, our way of working is a lot more improvisational and based on the means that we find on site. So basically, the artist and the site itself have a say in what’s about to happen.” At 31, and not from Berlin originally, she found it incredibly encouraging to see how many people in the city want to bring about change and are looking into new modes of channeling their voices and working together. Bruglacher, who was in the midst of organizing another event at new real estate development when No News News spoke to her, takes stock: “It’s incredibly rewarding to dig into these many sediments of cultural, social, artistic and spatial practices that have been shaping the city for such a long time.”

Disappearing Berlin’s next – and for the time being final – event is an example of how difficult it can be to find a suitable space for invited artists. The upcoming performance by choreographer and performance artist Florentina Holzinger had to be rescheduled multiple times due to last-minute cancellations. “We wanted to work with Florentina since the end of 2019,” says Bruglacher. “It has certainly been challenging to find a space that met the artistic requirements we proposed. It’s kind of funny that the performance now takes place at the site that originally made us invite her.” Said brick building is one of the oldest in the Spreestadt, an area of Charlottenburg on the banks of the city’s river. The entire complex is due be torn down this summer, replaced by yet another set of bland offices and luxury condos. Holzinger’s performance “Étude for Disappearing” will fuse elements of minimal music, stunts, and a drifting car. The choreography is framed as an étude or study, drawing inspiration from Chopin’s musical compositions intended to be performed as live practices. The pre-release video of a BMW spinning circles on the site’s vacant parking lot hints at the kind of high-energy performances Holzinger has become known for.

Far from running out of steam herself, Bruglacher has high hopes that Disappearing Berlin will continue. A new round of funding has been applied for, which would start in 2024. Until then the team is looking at smaller pop-ups and collaborations with partners that will allow them to explore the series’ operating modes as an artistic and curatorial practice deeply entangled in the city itself. And Berlin still has a lot to offer. Bruglacher keeps a list of unfulfilled dreams and places, where technical or financial restraints have yet kept her from using them as stages: “There is the TU Umlaufkanal, the entrance roundel of the TV tower, the Olympia boxing ring, the Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark and the former Karstadt Sport at Kantstrasse. Oh, and there are the many unique and beautiful staircases that you could never do an event in because they’re simply too small…” It seems that while change makes some of Berlin’s beloved places disappear from public reach, there is still a lot to hold on to. In the end, Disappearing Berlin is really more about a mindset than the collateral damage of commercial development. As Bruglacher says: “The city consists of all these little elements that we can only see if we really tune into it.”

Florentina Holzinger Étude for Disappearing takes place on 29 May 2022 at Gutenberstrasse 10, 10587 Berlin. Doors open at 6pm. Register here.

 

“NOBODY WANTS TO BE THE ‘REMEMBER WHEN’ GUY”

By Sami Emory

Several years ago, Fraser Croll was on the hunt for the perfect Home Alone tribute shirt. He searched and searched but to no avail. So, instead, he made one himself. Soon after came an Annie Lennox tee. (“I guess that’s the best way to summarize where my influences are, and my work as a whole,” he says.) Now, several years later, the Glasgow-based designer makes and sells a rotating collection of bootleg shirts and merch based on his favorite films, bands, artists and “things I loved growing up” via Swedish menswear destination Très Bien – one of Croll’s earliest supporters – as well as out of his own online shop. Croll operates by demand. If a design, such as his Cannes sweatshirt, seems to be hitting particularly well, he may increase the print run – while still keeping to a strictly limited quantity. As a result, his designs – from Brett Easton Ellis tees to his Death and Glory zine – often sell out, and quickly. Over DM, and then email, No News News talked to Croll about his inspirations, the nostalgia sweet spot and receiving a cease and desist from The New York Times.

Bootlegging is thorny territory. Why does it appeal to you?

It comes down to just wanting to make your own version of stuff that you like. Putting all the best parts from something you are passionate about into one design. Some of the best shirts you can buy are the ones you get outside the venue for cheap, not the official ones inside being sold by an artist out band.

Nostalgia can be a tricky area. Some people can’t get enough; others can’t stand it. Where do you – and your work – fall on that spectrum?

I think there’s always a sweet spot. Nobody wants to be the “remember when” guy. And not everything needs a shirt. It should always be about making interesting things at the end of the day.

In general, what has the reception been like for your shirts and sweatshirts?

Reception is good, as I say. People seem to be into it which is always nice. The New York Times sent me a cease and desist a few years ago and then stole the design back off me. Other than that nobody has threatened me with any further legal action. I’d like to think anything I make is a celebration or an homage to whatever the subject is. It’s never meant to be plagiarism, or a way to make a quick buck.

What's next?

Keep making things I love. It would be cool to work with other brands which I have dabbled in. But mostly just keep putting out cool stuff. There are a few designs I am proud of that are good to go so it should be a good summer.

Sami Emory is a writer and a co-founder of the indie mag Nobody. Originally from California, she now lives and works in Berlin.

 

MARY SHELLEY AND THE ASH CLOUD THAT HAUNTS US TO THIS DAY

Imagine this: A volcano erupts and the emitted ashes aren’t just a nuisance to flight schedules in the Northern Hemisphere – as happened in 2010 with Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull – but disrupting the planet’s entire climate causing famine and cancelling summer. This is the setting in Mary Shelleys Zimmer (Mary Shelley’s Room), Timo Feldhaus’s new novel that connects the Tambora’s 1815 eruption in Indonesia with a series of events under Europe’s now-sulfurous skies a year later. The hyper-omniscient narrator mashes the poster boy of German Romanticism, painter Caspar David Friedrich, with a depressed Napoleon sitting on St. Helena with Mary Shelley as she conjures her Frankenstein. Only, after a while it becomes apparent that the catastrophe’s fallout has a much longer-lasting impact, creating what, in fact, will become the “monsters of modernity.” Here, Feldhaus shares images from his moodboard and reflects on what prompted him to write his book:

“The monsters are always people. That’s what the 18-year-old Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is all about. The monster she came up with was not at all as clumsy, green and wooden as it would later become via pop culture. I followed Mary Shelley through her life because she could see – almost prophetically – into the future. Her creature is bigger, stronger, can learn faster and responds more emphatically, which humans can’t stand. I believe that her monster is definitely a prefiguration of artificial intelligence – after all Frankenstein is considered the first sci-fi novel. Mary Shelley asked herself over 200 years ago something which still concerns us today: How do we relate to a new form of life? Are we afraid of it? How should we learn to love it? As the laid-back Goethe in my book says to his adversary (the ever romantic-glowing Caspar David Friedrich), “You don't have to really do anything.” I wanted to write about the past, and suddenly realized that it’s actually about the present and where our modern age began: a world-wide climate catastrophe, the beginning of the Anthropocene and the doubt that suddenly shadows the idea of the Enlightenment, alongside its faith in science and reason. The invention of Germany and its nationalism, celebrity culture, bodybuilding, vegetarianism, free love and people wanting to clean up language. And, of course, the lousy weather. In short: The time when the monsters of modernity were created.”

Timo Feldhaus’s Mary Shelleys Zimmer (Rowohlt) is available in German. Follow the author for updates on readings and other musings here.

 

EXLIBRIS.BERLIN

Editor: Hans Bussert (V.i.S.d.P.)
Art Director: Enver Hadzijaj
Copy Editor: Redfern Jon Barrett
Contributor: Sami Emory

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