Parlour Games is a series of stunning pen drawings by artist Sig Waller.
‘The drawings are based on some sixteenth century engravings called Theatrum Crudelitatum (Theater of Cruelty),’ Waller tells Dangerous Minds.
‘I’ve appropriated some of the imagery and drawn directly onto antimacassars and napkins. These cloths are generally used to wipe away and protect from grease and dirt and in this sense the series is about denial (personal or societal). Our capacity for cruelty and suffering is timeless, as is our ability to look away.
Waller studied Fine Art & Art History at London’s Goldsmiths College, before moving to Berlin, where she started her career as an artist under the alias Sig Waller’s paintings explore “the dark borders of our culture of excess, drawing attention to human destructiveness, human frailty and the delicate balance of life on Earth.”
Now based in Berlin and Brighton, Sig is planning her next artistic collaboration with her dead grandmother (using some of her sewing) and writing a book The Day the Women Stopped Listening.
When it comes to feminist-punk, there’s none more femme, nor punk, than the mighty Peaches.
So it’s no real surprise to learn that Peaches has been following the Pussy Riot trial closely, and has turned her hand to making both a video and a track in support of the persecuted Russian rock group.
A YouTube casting call went out last week, asking for fans to send in their own, pro-Pussy Riot footage to be included in the video. Well it is now done and dusted, and available to watch online. The track itself, called “Free Pussy Riot”, is available as a free download, and all Peaches is asking in return for her work is that everyone sign the Free Pussy Riot petition at change.org.
This is the statement Peaches and friends have made to go with the download:
Peaches, Simonne Jones, and tons of musicians, artists, activists, and free-thinkers are came together to make a video for this song in support of the russian punk feminist band PUSSY RIOT! Now that you have heard about the song and video, we want you to take action! Here is why:
In March 2012 three members of Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevitch, were taken into custody by Russian authorities for their participation as part of a protest at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. Their punk prayer is and was an act of free speech and the charges of “hooliganism” and detainment of the three women are seen by the world as a cruel heavy handed act of oppression, are being carried out to discourage free thought and speech in Russia.
If Russia wishes to be a part of the modern globalized world it must adhere to the standards and principles of a free nation where its people have the right to have a free and open dialogue about all subjects. Discussion, debate, and action are the basic building blocks of a free society. By following through with the prosecution of these women Russian political bullies are currently making a mockery of free speech, free thought, and Russia’s own country’s constitution.
We, the citizens of the world and advocates for free speech, DEMAND the immediate release of Pussy Riot. The verdict is planned for August 17th - let’s show Pussy Riot our support!
The charges and punishments facing Maria, Nadezhda, and Ekaterina are nothing more than a political stunt by the Russian authorities and Russian Orthodox Chruch to retain control over the Russian people and instill fear into the free-thinkers, political activists, and artists of Russia.
The world is watching, and we do not like what we see.
Ana Lola Roman is a singer, a musician, a dancer, a choreographer, a curator, a writer. She’s talented and beautiful, funny and smart. Has the looks of a silent movie star, a Louise Brooks in a Pabst film, with a hint of Audrey Hepburn, via Maria Callas and and Frida Kahlo.
An only child born in the early 1980s into a large Spanish family, that had emigrated to America, “during the whole Iranian Revolution Post-Oil Boom Era” in the late 1970s. The first 5 years were spent in a ghetto of Del City, on the outskirts of Oklahoma City. The family worked hard, worked harder, until they settled into a middle class suburb of OKC.
Her home life was European by nature, American by inclination. A heady mix of European sophistication and American pop, which informed her musical influences.
‘I’d have to say my first influences were a heaping helping of various flamenco singers listened to while in the back of my Grandmother’s Cadillac. It was a weird mix of environments and influences. Gracia Montes and Lola Flores…well, these women had soul, heartache, moxie, and power.
‘Mixed with that and the impending sensations of early MTV. I fell in love with David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” video when I was only 5 years old, developed a keen fascination with Numan’s “Cars”, and felt delightfully inappropriate when I witnessed Billy Idol’s curved lip.
‘I was only 5 years old when these things happened to me. And I knew right then that I wasn’t going to last long where I was. I was going to be restless for the rest of my life and end up somewhere as crazy as New York or Berlin.’
‘Then of course being 10 years old and seeing Siouxsie….that’s when everything fell apart and got worse, then I felt bitten by the vampire when Joy Division came along. That was the end of the road for my Oklahoma Journey.’
It wasn’t an asteroid but the fall of the Berlin Wall that wiped out this amusement park and its life-size dinosaurs in 1989. The Kulturpark Plänterwald was the only theme park in the German Democratic Republic, and once the wall was gone, the park soon sadly followed, eventually closing its doors (after a brief revival) in 2002.
I always preferred Len Deighton’s anonymous spy to Ian Fleming’s James Bond. There was something too glib and unexciting about Bond, like Superman you knew he could never be defeated, which made it all rather pointless. Whereas Deighton’s spy was fallible, awkward, funny and quite often messed things up.
When it came to the films, it was a more difficult choice. Sean Connery made Bond his own, and has never been equalled. But Michael Caine was equally successful with his interpretation of the Deighton’s insubordinate spy (now named) Harry Palmer in a trilogy of brilliant spy films. Of course, he later nearly blew it all by making two sub-standard Palmer films in the 1990s, the less said about which the better.
Here is Michael Caine with a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the second Palmer movie, Funeral in Berlin. The quality of this video is not brilliant, and yes, it does have an irritating text written over it, but there is enough fascinating things going on to make Man on the Wall very watchable.
Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City is a beautiful portrait of a day-in-the-life of the German capital. Made in 1927, the film is perhaps too beautiful, its carefully composed images present a story of the city’s aesthetics, rather a biography of its inhabitants.
Based on an idea by Carl Meyer, who withdrew from the production after disagreements with Ruttmann’s “superficial” stylized approach to depicting life in the city. Ruttmann saw the project as a “symphonic film [made] out of the millions of energies that comprise the life of a big city”.
It took over a year to film, with cinematographers Relmar Kuntze, Robert Baberske and Laszlo Shaffer, hiding their cameras in suitcases and vans to achieve an incredibly naturalistic effect. The camera is passive, like Isherwood’s Herr Issyvoo, observing with little comment, creating any sense of drama through use of editing and montage, a style inspired by Soviet film-maker Dziga Vertov.
Eighty-four years on from its release, Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City is still a beautiful and compelling film, which captured Berlin in its last days before the horrors of Nazism.
Unfortunately, the original score to accompany the film has been lost, so choose your own soundtrack to create your own mini-cinematic experience.
Let’s start with the painting, for that was the sign something ominous was about to begin.
In East Germany during the Cold War, you didn’t join the Stasi, the Stasi asked you to join them. This is what 19-year-old Hagen Koch discovered when the Stasi approached him and said, “We need you to help secure our country’s peace.”
Koch arrived in Berlin on April 5th 1960, to a city without a wall, without barbed wire, without division. He had been chosen for a specific job and was soon promoted to Head of Cartography.
It was a warm day in August 1960, when Stasi Private Hagen Koch arrived at Checkpoint Charlie and started painting a white line. No one took much notice, which was understandable, only in the following days would the enormity of Koch’s actions become apparent. For unknown to Berliners and the West, Koch was marking the ground for the building of the Berlin Wall.
Years later, Koch said the Wall was not against the West but “against the population of East Germany.”
It was also the first sign that East Germany’s so-called “Workers’ and Peasants’ Socialist Heaven” had failed, and marked the start of the slow and difficult demise of Soviet bloc Communism.
Further, the creation of the Berlin Wall led to a standoff between Russia and America that nearly caused World War Three.
How the Berlin Wall nearly led to War and how holidays brought it down, after the jump…
In The Real Cabaret, actor, Alan Cumming goes in search of the people and places that inspired Christopher Isherwood’s novel, Goodbye to Berlin and the muscial Cabaret.
Starting with Isherwood’s arrival in Berlin in 1930, and taking in a visit to his original apartment (immortalized in the opening paragraph of Isherwood’s novel), Cumming takes the viewer through the sex clubs and cabarets, to the performers, and writers who turned the Berlin stories into a multi-award winning musical. With contributions from Liza Minelli, and Ute Lemper.
Alan explores the origins of the Cabaret story in the writings of Christopher Isherwood and uncovers the story of the real life Sally Bowles, a woman very different from her fictional counterpart.
He talks to the composer of Cabaret about the inspiration for the film’s most famous songs and discovers the stories of the original composers and performers, among them Marlene Dietrich. Finally, Alan reveals the tragic fate of many of the cabaret artists at the hands of the Nazis.
The documentary pays tribute to the magic of the original film and explores the fascinating and often shocking reality of the people and stories that inspired it.
This is an excellent documentary, and Alan Cumming is quite superb as our host,
Few artists personify the spirit of demoralized post-‘60s Europe like Blixa Bargeld, the frontman for legendary German post-industrial music outfit Einstürzende Neubauten. Born in Berlin two years before the Wall went up, Bargeld leveraged his destroyed looks and singular voice—which Nick Cave likened to the sound of strangled cats or dying children—to make Neubauten the key progenitors of Western machine-age art.
As brought to our attention by TwentyFourBit‘s esteemed Peter Henry Reed (and fortunately for us English-speaking-only dopes), YouTuber Nevaree has seen fit to add English subtitles to Birgit Herdlitschke’s fascinating 2008 Blixa doc, Mein Leben. It traces Bargeld’s journey from young, torn-up Berlin musician to cosmopolitan middle-aged avant-garde artiste, actor, and gourmet, and features both answers to the heroin question and a visit with his charming mutti.
I started reading Christopher Isherwood in my late teens, when I became a “paying guest” to an elderly spinster, who lived in an old tenement in the west end of Glasgow. She lived in the top floor apartment, where I rented the large front room, with a view onto the oval-shaped park below. My landlady was in her late seventies, bird-like, translucent skin, who whistled and took snuff in large pinches, sniffed from the back of her hand. She had inherited the apartment from her sister, and the interior had remained unchanged since the 1930s. The hallway with its bell-chimes for Maid, Bedroom 1, Bedroom 2, Parlor, and Dining Room, all still worked. In the kitchen was a range, and a small scullery with its fold-down bed, where the servant would have slept. Coal fires were in all of the rooms except mine. Of course, there was the occasional modern appliance, a TV, a one-bar electric fire, and an electric cooker, which was still in its plastic wrapping, and not to be used “under any circumstances”. Food was cooked over something that looked like a bunsen burner (what my landlady called “a blackout cooker”), and chilled products were kept in a larder. As for hot water, well that was never available, as the boiler was kept under lock and key, and toilet paper was sellotaped, to ensure I bought my own. The front door was locked at eight o’clock and the storm door bolted at nine. After ten, she never answered the door.
At the time, I was reading Goodbye to Berlin, which as you can imagine very much suited my surroundings. Like Isherwood’s character, Herr Issyvoo, I was surrounded by “the tarnished valuables and second-hand furniture of a bankrupt middle class.” A mantel-clock, a heavy glass ashtray, a green baize card table, orphaned figurines of a shepherd boy and shepherd girl, tending to their flocks, a large wooden bed (one leg broken) made in the 1920s. But perhaps, most significantly, was the fact my landlady had worked in Berlin as a furrier for a department store during the 1930s, and she often told me tales of her time in Germany. “Oh those Hitler Youth,” she once said, “Such smart uniforms, but the terrible things they did.”
At times it all made me feel as if I was living in Ishwerwood’s world, as in the evenings I would hear the whistles out in the park below. But unlike Herr Issyvoo, these were not young men calling up to their girlfriends, but dog owners calling to their pets.
The son of landed gentry, Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was born in 1904, at the ancestral seat of his family, Wybersley Hall, High Lane, England. His father was an army officer, who was killed during the First World War. His mother, Kathleen, had a fractious relationship with her son, and she later featured in his stories.
At school he met and became life-long friends with W. H. Auden and Edward Upward. He attended Cambridge University, but found he had no interest in his studies, and was sent down for writing a facetious answer to an exam question. It was while at university that he became part of the famous literary triumvirate with Auden and Stephen Spender, who were hailed by the Left as “intellectual heroes.”
Instead of studying, Isherwood wrote an anarchist fantasy with Upward, centered around the fictional Mortmere:
...a village inhabited by surreal characters modelled on their Cambridge friends and acquaintances. The rector, Casmir Welken, resembles a ‘diseased goat’ and breeds angels in the church belfry; his sidekick Ronald Gunball is a dipsomaniac and an unashamed vulgarian; Sergeant Claptree, assisted by Ensign Battersea, keeps the Skull and Trumpet Inn; the mannish Miss Belmare, domineering and well starched, is sister to the squire, and Gustave Shreeve is headmaster of Frisbald College for boys.
Though none of the stories were published at the time (and Upward destroyed most of them later on), it was the start of Isherwood’s writing career, and led on to his first novel All the Conspirators in 1928.
Stifled by England, Isherwood followed in his friend Auden’s footsteps and moved to Berlin. It proved an historic re-location, one that inspired the first of Isherwood’s important novels Mr Norris Changes Trains and Goodbye to Berlin. Literature aside, Isherwood’s main reason for going to Berlin was “boys” - blonde, working-class youth.
Isherwood supported himself in Berlin by working as an English tutor, and he used this experience to form the basis for his Berlin stories, and the creation of his eponymous central character. “I am a camera,” Isherwood famously wrote at the start of Goodbye to Berlin, for he saw Herr Issyvoo as “unobtrusive, sexless,” someone who could only observe, and examine the lives of those around him. When later asked why he had not been more explicit about his character’s homosexuality, Isherwood said that if he had come out, then it would have been “a production,” something that would have “upset the apple cart” for the other characters. The poet Stephen Spender claimed Isherwood once claimed he couldn’t imagine how people behaved when he was not in the room.
During the 1930s, Auden and Isherwood wrote a series of plays together, The Dog Beneath the Skin, The Ascent of F6 and On the Frontier, which dealt with their own identities and the idea of masculinity as exemplified by a hero. They also traveled to China to cover the Sino-Japanese War, and published a diary of their exploits. It was this war that convinced Isherwood to become a pacifist.
Perhaps because of the horrors the pair had witnessed in the East, Auden and Isherwood traveled to America in 1939, just before the Second World War began. It was an event that led the two writers to be castigated as “cowards” and “deserters”, for leaving their country in its moment of need - as if Auden or Isherwood’s presence would in some way stop the advance of Germany. Auden stayed in New York, living in a house with the stripper and pulp writer, Gypsy Rose Lee, and novelist Carson McCullers; while Isherwood moved to the west and California, which he described as more “dreamy and strange”, more theatrical.
Here he reworked some of his Berlin stories, but he lacked the zest to keep him inspired. Like many other writers, Isherwood turned to Hollywood for financial security, but had the sense to realize he wasn’t “some great genius prostituting [himself]”:
“I always realized it was very good training, and it made you realize things that you often lose sight of, by getting so arty and literary, that is to say, the fundamentals of telling a story, and the very simple things of putting A before B, and B before C, and getting it all sorted out, and telling it in a direct visual way, and that is always you can learn by working for the movies, and it doesn’t matter what it is.
Auden thought it nice work if you can get it, and said “At least you sold dear what is most dear.” Isherwood scripted a Rage in Heaven (1941), starring Ingrid Bergman and Robert Montgomery and The Great Sinner (1949), starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner. Later, in the 1960s, he co-wrote the screenplay, with Terry Southern, for the classic film version of Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One (1965), and then co-wrote, with Don Bachardy, a memorable take on Mary Shelley’s gothic horror, Frankenstein the True Story (1973), with James Mason, Michael Sarrazin,Jane Seymour and David McCallum.
During all this time, he continued to write novels, most notably Prater Violet, based on his first dealings with film-making and the rather brilliant, but under appreciated, Down There on a Visit. On a more personal level, in 1953, he met Don Bachardy, the man who became his life-long partner.
In the sixties, Isherwood achieved considerable success with his “devastating, unnerving, brilliant book” about middle-age, A Single Man. The novel’s central character George, is like Isherwood, and describes a day in his life, when he no longer fears annihilation but survival, and all the debilitating side affects old age will bring. Isherwood said the book was about:
“...middle age, because what I wanted to show was the incredible range of behavior in middle age, part of the time on eis quite tending towards senility, and other times one is rash that is way a way boyish, and apt to indulge in lots of embarrassing behavior, at the drop of hat.”
In the 1970s, Isherwood returned to the Berlin of his youth with his autobiographical memoir Christopher and His Kind, it was a crowning achievement to a literary career that had already delivered at least three or four of the twentieth century’s best novels.
Gore Vidal has said Isherwood is “the best prose writer in English,” which is perhaps true, as Isherwood’s writing is subtle, clever, and is always fresh, even after repeated readings.
This documentary A Single Man: Christopher Isherwood 1904-1986 wa smade not long after his death and composed from a selection of interviews from British TV from the 1950s-1970s.
For fans of Isherwood, the BBC has just completed a drama Christopher and his Kind, adapted form Isherwood’s book, starring Matt (Doctor Who) Smith in the title role, which will be broadcast later this year. Further information can be found here
The rest of ‘A Single Man: Christopher Isherwood 1904-1986’, after the jump…
Dangerous Minds pal Chris Campion wrote this morning to alert me to something going on right outside his own apartment window today: More than 2500 German police officers are evicting the tenants of a former (now legal) squat in the Liebig 14 tenement block in the east Berlin district of Friedrichshain.
So there are 2500 cops. Guess how many residents there are? 25! Still, about a thousand protestors turned up to support the (legal) tenants. The most amazing thing about this is that the German police are apparently being used to enforce the will of a private landlord. Just imagine the cost of that little operation!
Demonstrations and publicity stunts are planned across Berlin throughout the day. Already, protesters claim to have paintballed the famous department store KaDeWe, Berlin’s answer to Harrod’s, along with the town hall in the district of Schöneberg, where John F Kennedy gave his"Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in 1963.
The building, which has 25 bedrooms, four kitchens and five bathrooms, was first squatted in 1990, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. After Berlin’s housing board took ownership of the house in 1992, the squatters signed a lease making them the legal residents.
After it was sold to private developers, the lease was passed on to the current occupiers, who range from 19 to 40 years old and hail from around the world. One British resident, a 24-year-old PhD student, gave her name as Sarah.
“We were told we have to leave because the landlord wants to renovate the house and divide it up into expensive flats, which is what has already happened to other alternative housing projects like ours,” she said.
“People with not much money are being forced out of Berlin city centre. This is not just about 25 people losing their home, it’s a protest against the gentrification of the city and ordinary people all over being priced out of their local housing market.”
Sarah refused to say how much rent she paid, but it is widely believed to be a token amount. German media has reported that the rent is still set at 1992 levels, which equates to just €1 (85p) per square metre per month.
The district mayor, Franz Schulz, criticised the eviction. “It is not a good day. We’re losing an important alternative project,” he told Inforadio.
Most of today’s protesters were in their 20s or 30s, but standing by the police line on the south side of Liebigstrasse were an older couple from Munster, who looked on with concern.
“Our daughter is one of the residents,” said the 60-year-old university professor, who did not want to be named.
“She has lived there for 10 years now. We come and visit every month or two. It’s almost like our second home. I know many of her housemates and they are nice, peaceful people. It’s crazy that the city of Berlin is allowing this to happen.”
Berlin has always been a bastion of innovative cultural work, and one excellent example of this is the Digital Tattoo Productions outfit.
Comprised of the husband/wife team of video artist and animator Edna Orozco and sound artist Dean “Tricky D” Bagar, Digital Tattoo have executed video-mapping-and-sound projects on historical sites in both their home countries of Colombia and Croatia.
They also recently worked on the body-centered dance theatre piece Quia, performed in Bogota and excerpted below. Check it out and keep an eye and ear out for these folks…
Nearly anybody within proximity of a radio or TV in the last 30 years knows the hits by Los Angeles synth-pop band Berlin. In fact I just heard them in my local grocery store, no joke. Utterly shameless in their sincere pretentiousness and desire to appear European (hence the name, duh…) they nonetheless knew how to craft a hit song as well. I had never seen these pre-fame very home made looking promo clips before including what seems to be a practice run at their future mega hit, Metro. The first clip here, however, with its weathered VHS vibe, absurd attitude and solid analogue groove, could easily pass for a current ironic hipster chillwave band or something you’d see on Tim & Eric.
It’s great to see that Berlin’s Atari Teenage Riot—electronic anarchists and creators of the “digital hardcore” sound—are back and in terrific shape. Predictably, what was first slated as a reunion for a few European shows has turned into a full-blown world tour for Alec Empire and Nic Endo, along with new Rioter CX KiDTRONiK.
Throughout the ‘90s, ATR spread sonic fire from the nexus of hard techno, thrash-punk and noise, with their members (including formers Hanin Elias and the late lamented Carl Crack) also releasing solo projects on their own Digital Hardcore Recordings label.
As shown by this stage invasion during their appearance at Zurich’s Fusion Festival from this spring, the Riot seems back on in full force.
After the jump, relive ATR’s famous 1999 anti-fascist May Day riot in Berlin, with commentary by Empire…
Dangerous Minds is a compendium of oddities, pop culture treasures, high weirdness, punk rock and politics drawn from the outer reaches of pop culture. Our editorial policy, such that it is, reflects the interests, whimsies and peculiarities of the individual writers. And sometimes it doesn't. Very often the idea is just "Here's what so and so said, take a look and see what you think."
I'll repeat that: We're not necessarily endorsing everything you'll find here, we're merely saying "Here it is." We think human beings are very strange and often totally hilarious. We enjoy weird and inexplicable things very much. We believe things have to change and change swiftly. It's got to be about the common good or it's no good at all. We like to get suggestions of fun/serious things from our good-looking, high IQ readers. We are your favorite distraction.