Thursday, July 3, 2014

48 Hours in Neukölln

48 Stunden Neukölln is an arts festival that takes over basements and backrooms and empty storefronts all over the neighborhood for, you guessed it, forty-eight hours - from Friday evening to Sunday evening.

On Friday night, while walking toward a bar to meet a friend, we saw a sign and heard music from a side street. We went over and walked in to a smoky room, where a crowd of about 20 people were entranced by a one-man band playing two giant metal didgeridoos and an apparatus of percussion instruments. After walking to our meeting location, a bar called Ä, we brought our friend back for the musician's last song.

Then we grabbed beers at the spatkauf (liquor store) and walked around the darkened neighborhood with bottles in hand, finally starting to fit in with the locals. It was really fun to wander the streets and pop in the various art spaces that we happened upon. We found a small photo gallery in a storefront, with a photographer developing photographs of visitors on the spot. We also saw a collection of drawings on leather in the back of a cafe, and another small photo gallery with little square prints of what appeared to be Instagram photos of Berlin. Next, we discovered another gallery space in the back of a bar, with about a dozen simple drawings by one artist.

Finally ready to sit down, we grabbed a table outside of a Latin bar on a small, cobblestone intersection with bars on all corners. It was crowded with people spilling into the street, with occasional scolding by the van of police parked right in the middle of it all.

On Saturday, we headed out to find a particular gallery we'd read about. While walking down Flughafenstrasse, we saw a place with white ribbons tied in crossing patterns all around the entrance, and a big crowd of people outside. A woman gestured for us to come inside and told us, in German (our friend translated), that "the circus is about to start". There was a queue inside, waiting to go through a curtained doorway. We had no idea what to expect on the other side of those curtains, so our anticipation built. Finally, the curtain parted and we all filed in to a very small, dark room, with two rows of low benches on one side. Everyone sat down. On the other side of the room, there were three performers frozen, like statues. While this is common before any show, what was interesting was that they remained perfectly still for several long minutes. There were two men and one woman, all wearing some form of a mask. The first man appeared to be some sort of reptile, but we're not sure it was meant to be that specific. The woman was in all white, with white feathers in her hair, and the other man seemed to be a tree, with branches in his hair, green fabric (moss, perhaps?) draped over his face, and a bark-like eye mask. All of the strangers in the audience looked around at each other, wondering if this was the whole thing. But then the reptile man began to make strange sounds, that increased in volume steadily. Soon he was speaking a made-up language and waking up the woman with a musical instrument. After some funny interactions, the two of them woke up the third man with music as well. All three of them began to create a melancholy song with haunting moans, a guitar, drums, and Tibetan bowls, which they then passed to us in the audience, encouraging us to contribute to their song. It was beautiful and captivating. It wasn't all serious, though - they interjected improvised comedy. For instance, when an unsuspecting person peeked through the curtain to see what was happening, the trio chased after them, chirping and squawking. The song ended when they all slowly went back to sleep, frozen with their instruments. After about a minute of watching these silent statues, the audience again looked around at each other, and those with musical instruments sounded them, which caused the performers to suddenly wake up and dash out of the room, skipping with excitement.

After an unsuccessful search for the original gallery we'd set to see, we made our way to a bar called Madame Claude over in Kreuzberg to meet a group of friends. Madame Claude calls itself an "upside down bar" because they have furniture fixed to the ceiling. It was a good place for a drink and a great way to end the night.

On Sunday, we walked to Gelateria Mos Eisley, which has the best ice cream EVER. We meandered around in Tempelhofer Feld for a while, then peeked into a cafe that had an interactive projection for kids. We crossed the street and decided to sit down in Engels cafe for a cappuccino and green tea. Back on the street, we stopped in to a little shop called ReFash, with upcycled clothing and a rambunctious little Romanian girl who became Shannon's personal shopper. After browsing for 20 minutes, we realized that people were walking downstairs into the basement. We followed and found ourselves in some sort of underwater fantasy world of jellyfish, aquariums, and odd sea creatures, all made of recycled material and found objects.

Further down the street, following our grumbling stomachs, we ate at a wonderful little Italian place called Zio Felix pizzeria. We ordered a delicious salami pizza and a beautiful mozzarella di bufala caprese salad. They have a really nice Spanish and Italian staff. Paula was even kind enough to write us tips for our upcoming trip to Barcelona.
One painting by Julius Jurkiewitsch
While walking to a particular exhibit that was on our list, we noticed that the church on Herrfurthplatz had been transformed into a small gallery. Paintings by Julius Jurkiewitsch were hung all around, depicting mysterious huts built on stilts in dark forests. They were beautiful, with rough but purposeful brushstrokes.

At last, we visited an open studio by artist Leo Jahaan. He creates paintings based on vintage woodcuts, diagrams, and drawings. They are unusual, colorful, and extremely precise because he uses digital techniques to transfer the images onto the canvases. This was an interesting contrast to the expressive works of Jurkiewitsch, in which you can very much see the movements of his hand.

This concluded our 48 hours of art in Neukölln. It was a difficult struggle to not buy more ice cream from Mos Eisley on the way back home. Seriously.

More photos from the weekend!

Leather art by an unknown artist

Walking down the street, seeing what kind of trouble we could get into

Rahsan's not too sure abut this one...

Instagram photos?

Instagram photo! Gimme a tack

Bitter beer (not so bitter, just me being a ham)

Brazil vs. Chile shootout. We didn't pay attention to the game AT ALL but our German friend insisted we stop outside this bar and watch the end. Everyone was on edge

Shoe rack planters.

Come in for a laandinggg!

Tea and coffee at Engels

They have a buffet there with comfy seating nearby.

Seen in Neukölln.

Zio Felix Pizzeria - go, go go!

Yum yum yummmm

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