We are just back from Berlin. It was a long drive, but Barbara pointed out highlights along the way helping us catch up on our German history. First we met Barbara’s 6’7″ son Hano (sp?). I don’t think I know anyone else that tall, but it was his soft probably tenor voice that really caught my attention. He is just starting a new business making switching systems. Fortunately he and Rudolph (Barbara’s husband) came to the lecture, because no one at the gallery really knew how to work the projector. Barbara translated because a few people in the audience did not speak English, but interestingly other audience members jumped in to correct her if they felt she had mistranslated. Because it was a smallish group we could show the books, which is always better than just seeing them in slides.
Our first dinner which was prepared for us by our host, an artist and director of the gallery where we presented, featured a whole Hokkido squash (they say pumpkin) served with a savory whipped cream intensely infused with garlic and spanikopita. During the days we were there we went to museums and of course the Reichstag and the Brandenberg Gate. Tana’s knee is bothering her, which along with my crooked gamboling, made it a little hard walking around the city. We also got to visit Gerhard and Christa Wolf. She is a very well known writer and he is a publisher of Livre D’artists. While we showed a couple of our books it was clearly about seeing his pieces. He publishes a limited edition and a trade edition. He very generously gave us a few of the trade copies. They are East Berliners, and in the GDR days they published banned writers because they were making art not literature. They are both older she’s 81, he’s 80. In Berlin, most of the conversation seems to be about the years of the wall and the east west divide.
Christa Wolf objects to the use of “the turn” the expression generally used to describe the reunification. She believes that the people should determine the language used not the politicians. I suspect that if a good leftist socialist had coined the term it would not be as annoying to her. In general her interest is in the change of language, especially the inclusion of words of commerce (capitalism). In some ways it is not unlike the project in Darmstadt. Our project is pretty simple, but certainly is about how language can inform or baffle or lead astray.
Rudolf drove home and we took a detour to visit his childhood home. It is in a small well preserved and apparently stable village (although only one of the formerly nine bakeries still exists). We had coffee with fresh milk from the dairy next door. One of the interesting things is that they can pick fruit from their own trees and take it to a press and get their own juice and pulp back. Rudolph explained that his grandfather built the house in 1910] and started a seed greenhouse. His father died in the war. As the only son of 11 children he was supposed to continue the nursery, but his aunt took over the family greenhouse/seed/seedling business. At 90 she is living in a senior residence in town, but still goes up to the house every day and is planning her seedlings for next year. There is still quite a large vegetable plot. I couldn’t help notice it wasn’t fenced at all.
Barbara has built a beautiful studio there. They are seriously thinking about selling their house here and moving to the country house. Barbara could build a great papermaking studio in the basement. There are doors directly outside. It’s only a half hour from Kassel, so it’s not really that isolated. She’d like for us to think up a project that could be included with or more likely run parallel to Documenta in 2012. This needs a lot of thought.
When we left on Wednesday for Berlin we discovered that the paper we had ordered wasn’t going to work. It didn’t have any sizing, aka waterleaf paper, and the grain was in the wrong direction. Today Wolfgang said that they need to use the big press and print four pages up. That means we need over 1,000 zeros and 700+ ones. We had 100 of each and could only set one double page spread. Maybe we can get it done this week, seems really hard to me, but who knows. Wolfgang brought Tana a Lindt Chili chocolate bar. I expect it will be gone by the end of the day.