THE PROCESS: Inspired by a documentary film showing the ‘not bad’ abstract-expressionist artist Jackson Pollock at work in his studio creating a ‘drip painting’, I came up with an idea.
Shown below is demonstration of ‘How I Write’. This is a ‘LIVE’ event, spread over the forthcoming weeks and (probably) months. To do so, I will write a short, ekphrastic story (a story based on a picture) and update the post each time I add something more. I will continue with editing (I edit all the way, as I go along, right until the end and then some more) and I will show the customary notes I make underneath a developing story, deleting them some time after they become absorbed into the story – or rejected.
When the story is complete, I will clean all this up and it will look like a usual post.
A warning (imagine, at this point, the wind picking up, a cloaked and hooded individual, face obscured, one hand holding a wooden staff, the other pointing off towards swirling, inky grey and dark black clouds, slithering across the horizon), this is just the beginning and may turn out to be a long and winding process. All mistakes and several errors are left in, until they are edited out.
Maybe return after a week each time you visit, to see how far I’ve got. Any questions, such as why am I doing this, please leave a comment. For deeper musings of a philosophical nature, get in touch in the usual way, via the contact page.
Of course, Pollock said afterwards that he was deeply unhappy with the documentary film, that by revealing his process in some way’d had a reductive effect – that he had ‘lost’ something.
Anyway… I am not so precious and have less to lose, I would surmise.
Here’s the start of the story:
If you take a good look around, there aren’t many women in the world with naturally blue hair, very few in fact. Hair scientists say this rare phenomena occurs as a result of a specific genetic defect, caught unawares, buried somewhere deep within our DNA.
Conversely, as a committed appreciator, I say it is a scientific wonder of genetics invoking a sense of awe, no less than a blessing from God’s can’t-leave-it-alone tinkering. And still, to this day, I can recall the circumstances in which as a young teen, I saw my very first one.
This will only take a short time to unpack, but for the sake of a physical context, a backdrop if you will, it is necessary for me to sketch in the circumstances in which I found myself.
For the best part of 2005, I had been co-habiting with Uncle Wilfried, in an apartment located on the far side of the Tiergarten. Elderly, plump, medium height, grey wispy hair, reddish cheeks, retired and more than a bit of an oddball, Wilfried had worked as an architect employed by the Berlin Urban Development Department. There, he had enjoyed a long career designing municipal buildings of function and some beauty.
An early claim to fame in his career had involved converting the few remaining buildings erected by the notorious, justice-escaping Nazi architect Albert Speer. The original, rather severe classicism, contrasted nicely with Uncle Wilfried’s vision for public conveniences – a provision in short supply up to the 1970s in West Berlin.
“So, now,” he’d told me, “you can come to Berlin and shit on Nazi ideology.”
Uncle Wilfried served as a trusty guide, showing me around the somewhat lesser-known sights of Berlin. One evening, a little drunk on red wine taken with his dinner, he escorted me to a secluded spot by the Landwehr Canal. This, he explained in genuine, solemn tones and not a few tears, is the spot where the revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg had been summarily executed in 1919. There, for a few minutes we stood opposite each other in the twilight, heads bowed in a respectful silence.
On that same evening, we trekked the long walk to Lichtenberg, on the other side of the city, to see her grave and the monument to the socialist martyrs in the Zentralfriedhof Friedrichsfelde. He may have been an oddball, Uncle Wilfried, but he was also very deep.
“Hey! Excuse me, young mehn.”
What? Who’s that?
“Young mehn! I cannot let you get avay with that.”
I beg your pardon? Who are you?
“Vell, who do you think, Dumm·kopf! I am the ghost of Albert Speer and I can’t have you spouting off like so and in such a vay about my architecture. If my grand designs for a new, vibrant Berlin acropolis are too much for you, you Banause, then I make no apologies!”
Excuse me, this is a monologue, that means one voice – and no interruptions.
“Severe classicism, quatsch! I’ve never heard such tvaddle. You can’t even pronounce my name properly: Speer, Speer, Speer – it’s Schpeer!”
Look, Albert Schpeer, I’m just telling it how it is, it wasn’t my invention: severe classicism, I stole that description from somewhere else. Look, who the heck do you think you are interrupting this story? You’re a fucking monster!
“So ein Misthaufen! How many times do I have to say it, I vas’nt at the Posen Speeches, not when Heinrich vas speaking.”
Himmler referred to you by name, in his speech.
“I smoke like a locomotive! At the time of the talking, after dinner, I’d popped outside and chain-smoked nine cigarettes. And no! Heinrich suffered from terrible vind, he would burp and fart in sequence, alvays this vay, and vhen he did, it sounded like my name, like so:
Al-buurp … Schpeeeeeer. You see? It vas an innocent escape of gas from his otherwise perfect upper and lower intestinal tract!”
I am not buying it. Ghost of Albert Speer, be gone!
Anyway, back to the story, where was I? Wilfried, architect, Rosa Luxemburg, the Bauhaus Museum? Yes, mhm, not all that interesting really, lots of chairs… Lots and lots of chairs, nice wooden floor in the café. Well, that’s most of what’s to say about Uncle Wilfried. The majority of Berlin, I valked – I mean walked, by myself.
One last thing to say about Uncle Wilfried. Sometimes I would awake to find him standing over my bed. He never touched me, he would just be stood there, staring through his large, metal-framed glasses, grinning – and then almost immediately turn around and leave the bedroom without saying a word. Like I say, quite a bit of an oddball.
Naturally, at the age I was then, it seemed we largely lived our lives in different time zones. This unspoken arrangement worked fine, eating and sleeping and doing our own things by our own time.
One evening, upon my uncle’s recommendation, I had sought out a district in the eastern part of the city known as Friedrichshain. At that time, the area had seen rapid gentrification over a short period, with restaurants, cafés, bars and private clubs setting up, concentrated around the vicinity of Boxhagener Platz.
On Simon-Dach-Straße, I found something resembling a pub. Now, it is a strange thing, the difference between a bar and a pub. Most sources of research reference the availability of cocktails, music being pumped out of loudspeakers, light snacks and younger people present, in a bar. Whereas a pub may have no music, basic beverages, offer full meals and harbour an older, local clientele.
Yet, I couldn’t find any distinction made for the architecture and very fabric of the buildings. This seems a strange omission. For, in my mind a pub is usually established in an old building, or at least as old as the surrounding buildings. Compare this to a bar, which can be found set up in pretty much any premises designed for retail. For me, this is the obvious distinction, albeit from a British perspective.
Over-sized leather jacket sister’s boyfriend gave me
cross between a bar and a pub
Lives lived in different time zones
Big pool balls, as big as 18th century cannon balls
Not having this argument with you
Stood by the bed watching as I slept
Glass summer house resembling Kew, a train station and a public convenience.
Speer fights back, interrupts the monologue (“), upset by criticism plus claims he was outside having a cigarette at the infamous Posen speeches in which the FS was explicitly referred to by Himmler.
I found myself left feeling permanently enraptured, from the moment I saw my first one.
Around about that time, back in the day, I lived in a seventh floor apartment along with uncle Walther, in Berlin.
walking home by myself in the city twilight, along the The Straße des 17. Juni
one in a billion (chances)