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Berlin under the rain

November 1, 2017

 

 

Some would say it’s a telltale sign of a schizoid personality; others, that it reflects an everyday, whatever sort of attitude. Still, some would find it entirely normal – and it’s on them I am placing my bets.

 

I spent my entire summer island-hopping in the company of W. Sommerset Maugham’s Rain (brilliantly – just brilliantly – translated by Palmyra Ismiridou for Agra Publishers), Angie Saltabasi’s Berlin (Polis Publishers; my copy still holds traces of sand and simit in it), and art catalogues aplenty. Ok, so I did step on land now and then (deep, deep inland in fact, towards Larissa) but the point is I kept oscillating between the easy come of Maugham and Saltabasi, and the easy go of – heavy – theory. Oh well…

 

The openness of art criticism can be entirely charming. Especially when it actually has something to say. But don’t you too feel uncomfortable when reading a group exhibit catalogue and find that the curator obviously favours one artist among others? (Clue: there’s manifestly more words dedicated to him or her). Hegel used to say that taste is one’s subjective perception of what’s beautiful. I am not sure, then, what he would make of someone suggesting that an art exhibit, or a text, was “tasteful” or “in good taste”. 

Back to Saltabasi’s book, then. Back to her courageous language and her delightful mouthfuls of sentences. She holds a magnifying glass up to what I’d like to call New Urban Narratives. Oh well…

 

Most catalogues (the preponderance of catalogues, as Pambos, the footballer-cum-concierge of my hotel-like accommodation in Paphos would say) exhibit this new narrative turn. On the island of Samos, I insistently asked art historian and curator Katerina Gregos what she thought was the New Language visual artists were now using (I tend to carry such questions around with me every August). We left our conversation pending. It was conscious, on my part: I wanted to have an excuse to talk to her again. In the meantime, I happened to find the answer: curatorial texts are part of this new artistic language, these new narratives. Oh well…

 

W. Sommerset Maugham doesn’t need me. I need him. Rain is the most accomplished text I read this summer. Don’t let me start on the droplets and hailstones of his narrative! The last full moon of the summer is upon us soon (September 6h) and Geminis like me have their inner balance knocked over already. I know I need Maugham: he’s so precise, he moves me. Oh well…

 

Having read Maugham, I go back to those catalogues like Christopher Columbus once returned home with a new vision of the world. And I discover an entirely different story. The new language of visual artists is what comes away from the texts accompanying their works; – or, even better, the works accompanying those texts. I find room for this thought inside me, comforting myself that words have struck victory over the images. Oh well…

 

This summer has been a Twilight Zone for me. I’ve stood up to Reality, Knowledge, and Silence. I’ve clocked miles by the dozen, cause that’s how summers are supposed to be measured: in miles. Sometimes, of course, they’re measured in books. This one has been measured in catalogues galore. Rain, Berlin, my art catalogues, and Silence: I’ve narrowed my vocabulary to simple grunts. What? How? Do you want? Oh well…

 

I’m a diligent reader, if a bit unsociable. Being constantly reminded of the reasons Rain and Berlin were written, I kept asking the same from my art catalogues – to no avail. No matter. If there’s one thing I’m learning on this new job, it is to constantly recalibrate my horizon of expectations. Oh well…

 

It’s been a good summer overall. It’s stolen a chunk from my autumnal September, but I ain’t complaining. I’ve had an intense island-hopping July followed by August in Athens, a concept and a project in itself. I’ve had Rain and Berlin. And catalogues galore. A good summer, after all. Reading-wise at least. Oh well…

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