Saturday, March 31, 2007

nothing for passover

The Bas Jan Ader exhibition is opening tonight at the Kunsthalle Basel, so my Easter plans have just gotten a little more complicated. There will be ongoing screenings of the silent I'm too sad to tell you (1971) and two short films I have yet to see, Fall I and Fall II (1970), in which Ader falls off the roof of his house in California and off his bicycle into a canal in Amsterdam. I wonder how this will jibe with Yves Klein's Leap into the Void. That photograph has always seen a little cheap to me, and Ader, while no less ecstatic, seems too much the hysteric. Sort of like Joan of Arc to Klein's Elmer Gantry.

The exhibition will also have all the material related to Ader's final In Search of the Miraculous (1975), his solo trans-Atlantic voyage in a tiny sailboat. He wanted to cross the ocean alone in in the smallest boat on record to make such a journey and was lost at sea. I have to look into it some more, but this conceit may be a deal-breaker.

This work, On the road to a new Neo Plasticism, Westkapelle Holland IV (1971), is on loan from the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. A visit there is also in the works as it has taken on the Merzgebiete. Kurt Schwitters und seine Freunde exhibition with many more objects than the Sprengel Museum in Hannover was able to show. That installation was prodigious enough, but I will snatch at any excuse to go to Rotterdam again. Across the street from the Boijmans stands the Sonnenveld House, a completely restored Nieuwe Bouwen gem maintained by the rambunctious Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi) next door. Nearly three years ago, I visited the house during its public hours and had it completely to myself. I could tell interiors were an incredible luxury (Bart van der Leck carpets!) yet everything was very modest, almost miniature. It was as if the objects were deferring to the wealth of light and sheer fancy of the color (bronze walls!).

In this picture, I especially like the afterthought of the desk by the window. From what I've encountered since, the De Menil house in Houston comes the closest to matching the color sensibility of these rooms, but the Philip Johnson building is more bunker-like. With the loss of light, the objects inside become more meaty. This difference has also has something to do with the willful reinstallation of the De Menil abode as it stood when I was last there (Brancusi's The Newborn as a doorstop!).

Friday, March 30, 2007


My desk faces a window that faces west. The sunlight is especially strong starting around 3pm and lately, with the seasonal change and Hamburg being rather north, I am treated to radiant sunsets on those days when I am home and lucky enough to catch them. I would rather work with my sunglasses on than draw the curtain or move all my furniture around. I do get distracted by my reflection in my computer screen, as the strength of the natural light during the afternoon working hours puts the lumens of the laptop to shame.

I can't say I've been especially impressed with spring since I moved from Los Angeles almost twelve years ago. But this has changed here in Hamburg. In L.A., spring is mostly an olfactory delight: you notice the eucalyptus more and can smell the wet screen doors in the morning. In Hamburg, spring is entirely a visual spectacle, and not because of blooming flowers or leaf buds; rather, the sunlight is unreal, no matter what time of day. It's a bit like walking around in a television douche ad from the late 1970s. Everything is hazy and rosy and looks warm even if its still a bit fresh out.

Last night was the first night I could sleep with the window open since September. That night is always my favorite one of the year.

Yesterday I also went to get my teeth cleaned for the first time in a year and a half. My insurance here is apparently excellent, though I remain bewildered by it and keep expecting a bill any day now. The hygenist was very serious and asked me questions about what kind of toothbrush I used, electric or manual (electric), in what order I brush my teeth (from left to right, front then back, upper then lower), how often I floss (4 times a week, I lied), and she showed me a better technique for flossing the molars way in the back. Then she looked me earnestly in the eyes and, very sincerely, said:

Aber eigentlich haben Sie wunderschöne Zähne.
[But you really have wonderfully beautiful teeth].

Thursday, March 29, 2007

does not bode well

This is the Zivilamt in Basel, where T. and I are getting married.

This is the Schloss Bottmingen, where we are going to eat afterwards.

When I sent my mother these pictures, she wrote:
"I love it! It looks like The Shining."

Fassbinder's endings

The first Fassbinder film I ever saw was Fox and his Friends. I had occasion to think of the ending of this film on the U-Bahn today as I was coming to terms with what it would mean to return to Boston in February after nearly two years' respite.

I am planning my first trip to Munich in August. Sometimes I find it helpful to pause and try to picture a city I have never been to before. For Munich, this would be the ending of Fassbinder's The American Soldier. I believe this film was shot there.

I just now realized that both films end with a dead man in a subway terminal.

too much dough

I was in the mood to bake a challah this afternoon around 4pm. Now I have a vat of tasty bread dough sitting on my desk. If I don't go to the movies soon, it will never get the chance to rise. I keep poking at it, picking away little tastes off the vaguely organ-like doughball. I especially love the smell of yeast coming from the bowl. I like my bread beery.

This reminds me of a scene from Das Kaninchen bin ich [I am the bunny rabbit], in which the protagonist receives the news that her brother is under arrest as she's kneading bread dough. Every time I see this film, I get distracted trying to guess what kind of bread she is making. I think I can tell from the consistency of the dough and to what extent it sticks to her hands.