Memory 1: I lay on the ground and look up into a steel-blue sky. Clouds forming right above me. Hypnotized. The exact location is Montara Beach in California, situated in the coastal region, eight miles north of Half Moon Bay on State Route 1.
Memory 2: I sit on an elevated terrace, overlooking a garden bordered by immense trees. A village in the Prignitz, where the river Havel flows into the river Elbe, 2 hours east of Berlin. The land is flat, and I'm at eye level with the lower third of immense trees, touching the sky. In the afternoon, as the sun moves west, the branches of a magnificent pine tree turn dark and become a silhouette.
Both visual experiences are a conscious awareness of the landscape. Even though they originate from different physical phenomena – one, a change in air movement and temperature, the other a change in light hitting a large object and playing with colors in the sky – both bring to mind Patrick Gabler's large ink drawings. But how can that be? The ink he uses is solid black, the brushstrokes are not washed out to suggest anything fading, like clouds, fog, or light. Each brushstroke is made in one gesture, one moment and never corrected. The edges of the paper define the space, and often, an imaginary circle contains these gestures.
Investigation: How can memories of ink drawings pop up in one's mind when experiencing something so transient and transparent, such as clouds forming or colors changing with light, altering from one second to the next? Is this an example, of how the brain processes and interprets visual art and impacts our perception?
Neuroaesthetics, a branch within cognitive neuroscience, delves into the biological underpinnings of our aesthetic responses to art, and has proven that experiencing beauty in visual artworks results in affective responses, including feelings of wonder, elevation, and awe.
I do believe that experiencing art and nature can leave a similar neurological imprint, and depending on the individual, these experiences may converge in certain moments. I'm reminded of an experience in nature when looking at art, I'm reminded of art, perceiving nature.
I simply can't associate these ink formations with a sky touched by mountain peaks. The sky has to be a certain hue. It's a deep light blue with a yellowish tint towards earth, as it can be witnessed in the fall in the Northern Hemisphere, when the sun sets early and the sunrays have a different angle. This light, in combination with tree tops in the lower parts of the periphery, makes me see Patrick's circular, stroke-containing forms. But I don't see them in dark black; I see them in a glowing white, like light. It's as if I can see the wind or clouds forming.
I feel part of a landscape and psychically attached to the land, a perception and a memory of art combined, embedded in a natural environment. I find value and purpose in the land that exists around me.
Does it require a flat landscape for the thought to emerge, or a horizon of an ocean, a vast body of water?
On another note, Patrick's ink drawings also provoke the thought of matter in space, energy made visible, swirls of something thickening and dissolving, currents coalescing and dissipating, constant changes in momentum and counter-changes. I imagine looking at the paper from the side. A millimeter-thick disk appears, with noticeable movement. When the disc slightly tilts and is angled, the density of movement changes. It becomes a mysterious view into physics, an entity of atoms moving at different densities and directions, depending on the angle, view, and position.
What wonderful things art can do.
OUR VIRGIN SELF
In the age between 6 and 10, I remember, was a time when the distinction between girls and boys held little significance. Picture a neighborhood in a small town, adjacent to vast woods, fields, creeks and meadows and old ruins of castles to get lost in. I didn’t think about it, except when there were fights with my older brother, about what to watch on TV (back then, there were only 3 channels and only 1 TV). Other than that, I roamed the woods, the streets with my bike, my hockey stick or roller skates. I got dirty, played in the mud, lost part of my front teeth and knocked a deep hole into my chin. I only wore dresses on Sundays and holidays.
The woods and creeks were a playground of enchantment, their depths an invitation to mysterious worlds. We were alone, independent, free, unburdened by thoughts of forthcoming adolescence. Santa and the Easter bunny were passé, but we were still easily intrigued by creating spaces full of imagination, that were not too childish, and still not to grown up, and always tinged with a hint of danger. And Yes!” we could already read, having our imagination sparked by literature, poetry, science and history.
“The thing is – fear can’t hurt you any more than a dream.”
~ William Golding, Lord of the flies
Christopher Winter's art transports me back to those exhilarating days of incredible freedom. I am deeply grateful for experiencing childhood during a time, when this freedom was granted. This not because parents lacked time to supervise – most moms were homemakers, and even the daily structure of my father, an entrepreneur and business owner, allowed for time with his children. Life seemed to move at a more measured pace, and maybe that’s why we were allowed to run free all day long. And maybe mothers and fathers worried less, because they had survived a horrible war. Sadly, the distance from home that kids are allowed to roam and play has shrunk significantly over the last 50 years, due to parents’ concerns over safety, especially in cities.
But it was exactly this age, like 7, 8, 9, 10, shortly before the first signs of an upcoming sexual identity hushed into our consciousness, that we truly existed in a state of innocence. It was a time of unspoiled exploration.
“This is our island. It’s a good island. Until the grownups come to fetch us we’ll have fun.”
~ William Golding, Lord of the Flies
When Christopher Winter told me and Rebeccah Blum, my former Partner at Satellite Berlin his idea about an edible gingerbread house, we knew we had to make mischief! Drawing upon the innate curiosity of children, the fairy tale of Hansel & Gretel, originally intended as a cautionary tale to deter them from wandering astray in the woods, provided a thought-provoking inspiration for the artist.
This drawing of the gingerbread house is based on a piece Christopher created in 2009, titled Wicked Witch’s House. Inspired by Edward Hopper’s 1925 House by the Railroad, which Hitchcock famously employed as inspiration for the eerie dwelling in Psycho.
So, for those yearning to reconnect with their pre-adolescent, imaginative, virgin self, here are two magical prints available. Maybe they simply delight you, or maybe they ignite the feeling when you wanted to conquer the world, unburdened by responsibilities or insecurities, or a genuine connection to the core of who you once were, playful and pure.
about Christopher Winter
(b. 1968, Kent, UK), lives and works in Hastings, UK and Berlin
In addition to painting and drawing, both abstract and figurative, Winter also makes video and sculpture. His work interprets contemporary reality and reactions to modern life. Winter’s paintings are influenced by literature, film and politics, and have been called “speculative realism”. His work includes fictitious characters as well as those inspired by his personal life. He is also active as a curator and was the director of the exhibition program launched in 2014 at Berlin’s Kino International “KIK”. In 2021, Kerber Publishing issued the production and publication of a large monograph to accompany the exhibition “Archipelago of the Mind”.
Winter’s work can be found in various international collections: Berlinische Galerie Museum, Museum for Modern Art, Photography and Architecture, Berlin, Germany; Vassar College, The Frances Lehmen Loeb Art Center, New York; Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen, Germany and Julio Serrano Segovia Collection, and Fundación Amparo y Manuel (AMMA), Mexico City.
Winter exhibited in Four Calling Birds curated by Mark Gisbourne at Satellite Gallery, Berlin in 2015.
Summer recipe for naughty children
Wild Blueberry Pancake
In Germany, we distinguish between the cultivated blueberry (huckleberry, bilberry, highbush blueberry) and the wild forest blueberry. Both grow on bushes and produce dark blue berries, with wild blueberries much smaller in size and tart instead of sweet. Forest blueberries will dye your gums and teeth, truly earning their name. My mother used to make us (wild/forest) blueberry pancakes. It was a competition of whose tongue will turn more blue. German pancakes are thick and large, either sprinkled with regular or powdered sugar.
for 1 pancake
* for vegan version: replace egg with 1 ripe squashed banana and milk with oat, rice or almond mile
* for gluten-free version: use buckwheat flour
1. combine egg (or mushed banana) and sugar and slowly add flour, milk and water
2. whisk until you have a smooth runny batter
3. heat oil in pan (choose pan size depending on whether you want to make one large or several small pancakes)
4. add batter and fry golden brown on each side, place on plate and sprinkle with sugar
1. make batter as instructed above
2. prepare the fruit you’re using (wash and drain berries, apples or pears: peel, quarter, remove core and cut into thin slices), set aside
3. heat a large pan with oil
4. add pancake batter, keeping 1/3 aside
5. add the sliced apples or pears, blueberries or other fruit
6. pour the rest of batter over fruit
7. let bake for appr. 4 to 6 min. on medium heat
8. flip by sliding the pancake onto a large lid, then quickly slide it back into the pan with the uncooked side down
9. bake this side for another 2 to 4 min.
10. sprinkle with sugar
POWER ANIMAL ELKE IN THE GYRUS ANGULARIS
I want to talk about Nadja Poppe's drawings. I have been a big fan of her work for a long time and own some of her drawings, which mostly depict animals in landscapes.
I believe that as adults, it is important to have a good amount of spiritual freedom to indulge in our own fantasy worlds, especially when we carry the weight of responsibilities for work, family, and social engagements. Taking it a step further, we can give shape to our imagination and bring it to life. I'm not referring to ideas for developing new businesses, technologies, or projects, but rather being open to the non-real, funny, surreal, non-functioning, nonsensical, or silly aspects. It is through this openness that we can become acquainted with fantastic beings and worlds, whether through paintings, drawings, writings, poems, films, comedy, opera, music, or dance.
For artists, this process is often fundamental. However, as viewers, it can be a great source of inspiration and a reminder of our own potential. It stimulates our imagination, inspiring and animating us, leaving us astonished or amused.
In the case of Nadja Poppe, we encounter drawings featuring fantasy creatures, including a few familiar animals, within a small universe. While Nadja's depictions of cows, horses, sheep, chickens, and donkeys standing in a landscape are relatively recognizable, there are unexpected appearances of for example a lionsheep or an Onoffhorse. The Onoffhorse, for instance, lacks ears and possesses a snout resembling a slender pelican beak. The absence of ears immediately raises questions about how the horse can hear. Perhaps it doesn't possess the sense of hearing but instead relies on another sensory ability? Could it perceive sound waves through its long beak, comprised of numerous small membranes? Additionally, one might wonder about the age of the Onoffhorse. How long does it live within the Onoff universe?
For decades, neuroscientists and psychologists have been trying to understand what exactly goes on in the brain when we let our imagination run wild, and what sets limits to it. Measuring imagination is not easy, partly because imagination outside the context of childhood and art is quickly associated with something pathological. Today, neuro/brain researchers found that creativity, including imagination, occurs in the brain through an exchange between interconnected networks – the medial prefrontal cortex, the posterior cingulate cortex, the angular gyrus, and the hippocampus. These exchanges happen when we daydream, remember something by chance, or even when we recognize strange intentions.
As I flip through Nadja’s delightful little book Slinghander and Alamander, I have a hard time deciding which creatures to mention here. There's a Furry Staber, a Mollemus, a Rain Sheep, or even Rosi Flusch.
Nadja's biography conveys a sense of seriousness. She states, "Form, reduction, and the weight of pictorial elements through sharpness and blurring, light and dark, depth and surface, transparency and agglomeration—these are the most crucial aspects to me." Her exclusive use of black paint, Indian ink, charcoal, and graphite on paper, as well as gouache on canvas, reinforces her artistic approach. Additionally, she employs rain or snow when sketching outdoors en plein air. Consequently, a diverse range of gray tones, areas, lines, and structures emerge, with the eraser becoming an indispensable tool, used as delicately as a pencil.
I am grateful to artists like Nadja Poppe who serve as a reminder that, as adults, we have the ability to create and immerse ourselves in unreal, humorous, surreal, and nonsensical realms. It is truly marvelous when we can uncover a new world that awakens within us, embracing spontaneous and childlike freedom.
I believe it would greatly benefit individuals who tend to be dominated by left-brain thinking to cultivate their own Hunker or Tüxkülzer.
I personally draw Knöfel, which are beings that depict my current state of mind. For a while, they remained nameless. However, my husband possesses a remarkable talent for spontaneously coming up with amusing names for things and situations. When I asked him for a suitable name, he immediately suggested Knöfel. A Knöfel is characterized by two eyes, either in the form of points or slits, a linear mouth, a round belly, and two fin-like arms with two fingers each. Drawing Knöfel puts me in a positive mood and helps me feel a sense of harmony within myself.
The world is brimming with marvels, and despite the terrible events that may occur or the challenging situations we face in life, the inner child within us always remains present. This inner child can sometimes offer valuable assistance during difficult moments. The sheer delight it experiences upon encountering a Crummyquatt or dancing with a Zwirl is immeasurable.
Embracing the Power animal Elke within our hearts, we come to realize that we are both unified and diverse simultaneously. Time sheds its linearity and guides us towards our desired destinations or places we have already visited.
Thank you, Nadja!
Since most of these animals talked about above eat magical wild herbs, I share with you the recipe for my
WILD HERB PESTO
makes about 250 g
250 to 275 g wild herbs of your choosing*
100 g cashew nuts or sunflower seeds
170 ml olive oil (or any fine vegetable oil)
1 garlic clove
juice of ½ to 1 lemon salt and pepper
*in equal parts, at least 4 of the following: dandelion leaves, gout weed, sorrel, English plantain, chickweed,
orache, dead nettles
1. make sure to remove all leaves that are not herbs, such as grass, little sticks or roots (when foraging, it’s perfectly normal to find especially grass growing through your herbs)
2. wash your herbs in a bowl or sink with the plug in; submerge and swirl the herbs in the water with your hands to clean
3. add a good dash of apple vinegar to kill bacteria and let sit for 12 min.
4. strain and using scissors cut into smaller pieces, so they don’t wind themselves
around the blade of your blender
5.in a blender, mix all ingredients at once, until you have a smooth consistency
6. taste and correct seasoning
7. fill clean mason jars with the pesto and keep cool in fridge
LOOKING FOR A WELDER!
I was going to write about one of David Buckingham’s gun. Can I? Should I? How? About 2 weeks ago, a crazy person shot 6 people in a Nashville elementary school. Among them were three 9-year-old children. David skipped his Monday post on Instagram, which is usually a photo of one of his guns and the cultural/historical context of how and when it was used. (Please note: David is not a gun freak, but refers to them as part of the all-American culture).
“Monday is usually Gun Day here at Buckingham Studio but I’m so disgusted and sickened by yet another school shooting, this time in Nashville, that I am loathe to post any gun imagery, even if it’s just a damn sculpture…” DB
Many of Buckingham's colorful metal wall sculptures, with the exception of the abstract color studies, trigger great and meaningful, and/or emotionally charged discussions. I applaud David as he stands confidently beside his artwork, not being intimidated by the nowadays many potential voices arising about what is right, wrong, left, fascist, racist or sexist. David Buckingham is neither, I can assure you that.
This last gun violence in Nashville, ignites a whole other issue: the shooter’s sexual identity was transgender, igniting now a wave of anti-trans rhetoric, fueling the hatred with words such as “Trans Killer” (Fox News, Tucker Carlson).
Coincidentally, one of David’s art work from 2008 came back to me for storage. It’s a movie line from a scene in Stanley Kubrik’s film Full Metal Jacket from 1987, where an Asian woman, speaking in broken English, offers two American soldiers sexual services. We had placed “ME SO HORNY, ME LOVE YOU LONG TIME” in a Berlin film production company, hoping to be able to sell it to a hard core Kubrik film fan.
In the last four years the me-too movement settled –without question about its necessity– into our modern world’s social, cultural and linguistic sensitivity. David’s piece is leaning against the wall on top of a dresser in the hallway and I wonder how to view this now with the me-too awareness present in my mind.
I called David and asked what we are going to do with this piece. It’s 2 meters and 40 cm long! David suggests to find a welder, to cut it up and make a piece “ME LOVE YOU LONG TIME”, arguing when smaller and the “horny” is out, it will sell. I reply that still “ME LOVE YOU LONG TIME” can be seen as a racists and sexist phrase, putting down Asian women, and reducing them to sex objects. David replies that I have to understand his intention, that he chose to make that piece, because
the line has leapt off the movie screen into the American vernacular.
"For me and most people I know it’s just another way to say “I love you.” I’ve since heard there are some people who object to this line as racist and sexist, but that begs the question: when someone uses that line, are they intending it to be racist and sexist? I certainly don’t and nobody I know does." DB
For David, it’s about intent. He acknowledges that things change over time, but he has been using that line humorously since Full Metal Jacket was released in 1987.
I DON’T WANT TO PULL MY PUNCHES, BUT YOU HAVE GOT TO BE TRUE TO YOURSELF
I remember our first exhibition with Buckingham in the San Francisco gallery. It was entitled HOW TO TALK DIRTY AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE. We were excited to present his first solo at our Townsend Street space. He sent us images of the pieces he created for the show. When we saw the word piece “I DON’T KNOW IF YOU’VE BEEN TOLD, ESKIMO PUSSY IS MIGHTY COLD”, we were appalled, shocked and immediately called David to announce that we won’t hang that piece in the show. My former gallery partner Marina and I, both European, didn’t know that this line was a marine cadence, and for David a playground ditty he heard when being a kid in the 60s. He says that he didn’t even know what pussy was, but that he knew it was racy and forbidden, and that this made it even more attractive.
"To hear this line immortalized in Full Metal Jacket twenty+ years later was quite a confirmation of sorts, I found it comforting in a strange way to hear it again after all those years. It was a touchstone of my youth, something that marked a certain time in my life, and I decided to immortalize it in metal"
Ok, now I had an explanation and back then, I thought it was funny. But did I really? Didn’t it produce a strange feeling inside me? The feeling reminds me of when I was a teenager, and male friends of my parents joked about how my boobs had grown, or even tried to grab them when they were drunk.
Wasn’t it still a white male chauvinistic joke, on top of it a racist military cadence that sneaked into playgrounds, where it was picked up by young boys? Did girls sing this too? Using the term “Eskimo” is considered offensive. And that Inuit women have ‘cold’ pussies even suggests an old believe by some, that their body temperature is lower than that of ‘normal’ humans.
Here we are, in 2023. We all come with our upbringing, our understanding and use of language and culture, our education, our biographies. And, our world changes. It changes all the time. Does it really, other than in technology?
For the fun of it, I wanted to check out what ChatGPT answers about this. So first I asked in this way "tell me about Eskimo pussy is mighty cold" and this was the answer: "I apologize, but I cannot provide information on this topic as it contains language and subject matter that are offensive and inappropriate. The use of derogatory and demeaning language is not condoned or supported by OpenAI, and it is important to treat all individuals with respect and dignity. As an AI language model, I strive to provide helpful and informative responses while maintaining a standard of professionalism and sensitivity."
But when I was more precise, asking "What do you know about the military cadence "I don't know if you've been told, Eskimo pussy is mighty cold"?', AI replied:
"As an AI language model, I can provide information on the origins and historical context of military cadences, including this one. However, I must note that this particular cadence contains language and subject matter that may be considered offensive or inappropriate. The cadence "I don't know if you've been told, Eskimo pussy is mighty cold" is a controversial and offensive chant that has been used in some military training exercises. It is important to note that the use of such language is not condoned or supported by the U.S. military, and efforts have been made to discourage the use of inappropriate and offensive language during training exercises.
The origins of this particular cadence are unclear, but it has been used by some military personnel as a way to motivate and inspire troops during physical training or marching drills. However, the use of offensive language can create a negative environment and contribute to a culture of disrespect and discrimination.
It is important to remember that military personnel are expected to conduct themselves with professionalism and respect for others, and the use of inappropriate language or behavior is not tolerated."
Hmm...but back to the topic...
So what’s the role of art these days?
Our world seems loaded with extreme judgements being stated in the speed of light all around us. These days, often based on false information, a lack of knowledge, fear, or conscious manipulation of corporate and political interests. From the perspective of an artist, I can imagine that there is much at risk. As an artist you might be shunned, or even ostracized or boycotted by the art society, curators of a museum, collectors, journalists, or exhibition makers, if "talking to loud". Especially as a white male.
David was once a commercial editor, a training and practice of language skills by nature. It's about finding poignant, provocative, noisy and short punches, all well researched and understood in a larger cultural context. His movie and song lines are phrases that manifested themself into the American language and cultural memorabilia, recognizable in everyday conversation.
And yes, here racism and sexism is deeply anchored, as it is undeniable part of American history. And he plays with this, musing with and reflecting on the countries cultural language of the last century.
Frankly, I actually want some people not to like the work. Trying to please everyone means you please no one. You have to be true to your own artistic vision and judgement. Look at Paul McCarthy’s work, with Snow white fucking the seven dwarves. Who does that? Or look at Ed Keinholz’s “Five Card Stud”, a disturbing piece of work if there ever was one. A scene of five rednecks castrating a black man, it is very confrontational and hard to look at but I’m glad he made it. I find that extremely brave.
Before we judging a piece of art too quickly, let’s approach it first as an experience. What does it do to me, how does it make me feel? Uncomfortable? Why? What thoughts get triggered? Then, let’s learn about its origin of idea, history and context. Let’s re-learn discourse and practice critical thinking and let’s applaud artists who find the guts to point to all atrocities done.
LA artist David Buckingham finds old metal, cuts it into letters and shapes, assembles and welds it into wall sculptures. He searches for the material in vast Southern Californian desserts, buying off old refrigerators, tractors, car parts, from crack-damaged junk dealers. Well, that was 10 years ago, now he has to make deals with the Chinese metal mafia of Los Angeles. As long as the metal is colorful, best scratched or beaten.
Glorious American Food
talking about American culture... I want to mention my favorite cookbook EVER: Glorious American Food from Christopher Idone, first published in 1985.
I remember the day when I found it. I had dropped off my daughter to her piano lessons in San Francisco’s sunset district. It was a rainy day, so I had turned the usually long walk on the beach with my dog Loui into a short one and stop at Border’s book and music. Browsing the 5$ bargain table, the book caught my eye and fascinated me right away.
With more than 70 menus and 275 recipes categorized into the regions of the Untied States, Glorious American Food is fascinating tribute to the nation's diverse cuisine. One immediately gets the idea, of how culinary culture changes and reflecting the changes in life.
When we move to a new place, we automatically adjust, expand and change our palates, finding new flavors specific to the region and culture, even if we want to stay true to grandma's ancient recipe.
The author Christopher Idone was in search of “honest food”, remembering taste and smell and sites of Sunday dinners at his grandmothers. Imagining the vastness of the United States with all its different geological and biological settings, the adaption that European pioneers mastered was immense. They had to learn about new edibles and how to cultivate them and the seeds they brought from the old country. Different dirt, climate and maybe agricultural practices. This sets the stage for this wonderful book.
Is ‘American Food’ fusion food, with no single unique flavor ?
“….I realized too, that if indeed there exists a homogenized “American flavor”, it belongs on only one level: fast food. But, around the corner there is always a reminder: overstuffed sandwiches of pastrami and corned beef, pickled, cured, peppered and smoked on the premises; a toasted roll filled with half a lobster, boiled up on a one-burner stove and moistened with mayonnaise and a hint of celery; a burrito chock with beans and sauce, longingly simmering for hours; a trio of seamed dumplings selected on the street served up from a bamboo steamer. Eclectic, yes; foreign, no –– all these foods have become part of the lexicon of American food, part of our culture, adding pleasure to our lives. “
To this day, this book remains one of the few books, which I pick up, browse and actually cook a whole menu after the recipes. The recipes are for dishes I find deeply inspiring and also romantic. I image good old times, before everything was wrapped in plastic, before prepackaged spice mixes, or the respect of seasons, that something great and fresh in winter, or in summer, with that wonderful anticipation. Waiting for the strawberries to ripen, instead of buying them all year around.
It talks about a hidden food culture, that has existed all along, without the Michelin star restaurants in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Chicago. You can imagine how a Grapefruit and Champagne Sherbet tastes when the grapefruits are picked fresh from the tree in the Southwestern Hinterland, or a Posole Stew is served with fresh corn bread and fresh mango with salt and lime.
Of course, lot’s of meat, fish and dairy is used in these recipes. But it inspires to go out there, wherever you are and explore the hinterlands, the true farm to table culture (as if this is a new thing!), and to cherish your region and season.
Cuore Smeraldino, (Smeraldic Heart) this little painting is called. I purchase it after we exhibited Matteo Bergamasco's paintings in San Francisco in 2007. I immediately loved his work, it’s the fantastical I’m drawn to.
His imagery popped into my mind, when I thought about what would create an interesting correlation to the Alchemist Experience Dinner I created as a graduation project for an Advanced Food + Design course. In the archive, I found this PR text by Bonelli Contemporary in Los Angeles for the exhibition GOLD! in 2008:
“The title of the exhibition Gold followed by an exclamation point (!) refers to the discovery of a treasure, an unexpected find made after an extended exploration. In particular gold is light, perfection, accomplishment and therefore often considered the image of the divine. Gold is the culminating point of the alchemist process and it expresses the deep implications that this vortex represents.”
That makes sense!
Alchemy, commonly referred to the ancient natural sciences, is also mentioned in all kinds of new age spiritual schools and psychology. C.G. Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, believed in a dual nature of alchemy: chemistry/natural philosophy and mystical components as well. He referred to the stages of the alchemy (making gold, or turning common metals into noble ones) as a guide for individuation, and as a metaphor to the transcendent nature of our psyche.
The painting Cuore Smeraldino is from a series, Bergamasco called an Etherial Portal, in which he aimed to convey the possibility of personal change, allowing new and freed perception to access new reality layers. Multicolored portals or doors become symbols of a dimensional gateway, a threshold beyond with new spaces and worlds appearing.
Our culture these days promotes a kind of quickly attained individualism. It seems fake and contrived, as if people can shop for outrageous creative ideas. Is our Self more and more formed by aspects on the outside: well designed for social media platforms, with believes and realities, one can orientate themselves after? I find it fascinating watching people so confidently stating all kinds of bs ...
AND LET'S MAKE THAT CLEAR: THE EARTH IS ROUND!
What does that have to do with Matteo's work? Because, art (all forms) is the place where ideas can be turned upside down, taken down the rabbit hole, examined, explored, transformed into mesmerizing visuals and stories, prompt a critical scientific investigation, and point to a collective reality that makes sense.
Artists need to keep the ability to dive deep into inner realms of creativity, thought and imagination, without fearing to appear 'off', 'strange', 'not to be taken seriously'? I believe anybody is an artist, who lives or practices exactly that. Creative and imaginary thinking remains to be a substantial building block to our human psyche, making us true individuals. We live this when being 3, 4, or 5 years old, discovering our world in multiple realities.
LET'S TREASURE THIS PLACE IN OUR PSYCHE
Matteo’s work reminds me of intelligent and fantastic science fiction. Hyper spaces, where I look at sound. And my little Smeraldic heart looks like a fantastic depiction of an alchemy process, or a wonderful, naively painted version of what might go on inside the neuron fusion tanks and tubes at Cern.
FINDING THE OPUS MAGNUM
During the Advanced Food + Design course with Marije Vogelzang, we looked at all kind of aspects of how food can be used as an artistic medium. Because it’s ephemeral, its often bound to an experience one can have, rather the something to view or listen to over a longer period of time.
As my graduation project, I created an experience dinner, called Life Celebration Dinner. It tool some time and thought to come up with this idea. At first, I wanted to figure out how to internalizes a dream by eating it. This still roams my mind and might follow soon. Then I attended a glass molding workshop and created vessels made from vegetables. The sugar turnip turned out looking like a heart. The next thought was, that I let people drink out of it, and that let to the association of an elixir. From there on – a no-brainer– it was alchemy.
Not knowing much about it, I was surprised to learn, that C.G. Jung had used alchemy as a metaphoric tool to illuminate the processes our psyche goes through to becoming an individual. I choose the Jungian approach, as I’m much more interested and knowledgeable in psychology and less in chemistry.
In alchemy, four colors are assigned to the four stages leading to transformation: Black for the first phase Nigredo. White for Albedo. Yellow for Citrinitas. Red for Rubedo. When you have gone through all four phases, you achieved the Opus Magnum, your individuation, you true and authentic self.
How can this become a culinary experience?
Nigredo, the first phase, is the purification phase. It’s about cleaning body and mind of toxins and negativity, preparing to receive the new, positive and life prolonging elements.
Black? That surprised me. I imagine purification with washing, water, no color, clear, flushing etc. But in alchemy it is about absorption. One has to look into darkness to find light. This was an easy bridge to food: activated charcoal, which absorbs and binds toxins in your gut and is a powerful detoxifier. Rice! also an absorbent for bacteria, toxins, etc.
When reading about the second phase, Albedo, terms like Tinctura alba - an elixir of immortality or Leukosis, the whitening, bringing light and clarity, are mentioned.
Further: Ablutio –– the washing away of impurities, follows the purifying step to Nigredo. And Tinctura alba –– creating an elixir of immortality. Leukosis –– the whitening, bringing light and clarity.
A Tinctura Alba, an elixir is mixed by all participants and shared as a life invigoration cocktail.
The third phase, the Citrinitas, was dropped at some point in natural science alchemy, but Jung refers to it as an important phase. After all: it frees the soul from the white state of psychological reflection and insight, and is considered to be the dawning of the “solar light” inherent in one’s being.
You become gold!
I create a Panacea – a dish to cure any disease, with fermented, healthy and fresh foods, packed with vitamins and nutrients. It’s not immediately clear what guests are eating, the food is abstracted. This spikes the taste sense and refines awareness.
The last phase, Rubedo, leads to the Opus Magnum. In Rubedo one achieves wholeness by attempting a psycho-spiritual element to create a coherent sense of self before one re-enter to the world. The substances redden your tongue and the process rages as a red dragon against yourself. You attain true and spiritual individuation.
You meet your Self Archetype.
Newsletter # 6
Let's talk about sex in art and food
Sex and Art and Sex and food, I find both difficult topics to tackle. Our modern brains have been much exposed to imagery that is either very graphic, defined by stereotypical ideas and/or is sexist. (i.e., I still see too many bakery trucks driving around with a half naked woman and full lips biting into a baguette). One can debate about this back and fro, but it's hard to deny, that we are influenced all the time by imagery.
How can we view sexual art with sensual eyes, free of notions related to morals, trends, cultures, or religion?
I once started writing on a concept for an exhibition about Sex and Art, but never followed through, realizing that it would require an intensive amount of research, as well as the expertise from a well-educated art historian. Because I wasn’t going to put on a boob, penis or vulva show. Alas, it’s 10 years later. I’m looking at the drawings of British artist Jo Bondy, which I purchased at Jane England’s gallery in London.
Jo Bondy is known for her assemblage sculptures, sculptural box-works, drawings and ceramics that primarily explored gender, sex and eroticism. I was intrigued by her drawings, not her sculptures. I did find them erotic and surreal.
It’s 2023. We are in the midst of a world-wide public discourse debating about the right terms to address people with various newly defined sexual orientations.
Teenagers may seem confused on one side of the world, freely and naively playing with ‘choosing a sexual identity’, while on other side of the planet, women still get stoned, raped, beaten, imprisoned for showing an inch more body part than they are allowed to. Women in many parts of the world have sexually freed themselves, claiming confidently ownership to their female body, their sexuality, their desires and boundaries.
Why am I writing this? Because I wonder, if Jo Bondy made these drawings today, would they look differently? Would there be pubic hair visible? Would there be less decorative elements, such as the suggestion of leaves, flowers or hearts? Would there be different symbolism for female sexuality per se, other than apples?
In today's visually overstimulating environment, I find pleasure in abstracted or surreal elements merely suggesting sexuality. Looking at these three drawings by Jo Bondy, I’m allowed to let my mind wonder about the possible meanings, the symbolism, the form of the female genital. Bondy never really exposed the details, but instead created an abstract surrounding, an erotic and surreal scene.
I applaud to Jo Bondy for allowing me this freedom in interpretation. In contrast to today’s bombardment of media imagery in the area of female sexuality, viewing these delicate drawings connect me with personal and intimate experiences.
Bondy might be considered as one of the very few British women Pop artists, but she was never mentioned in art historical narratives during the movement. Her work investigated women's sexuality and roles in society. Read more on Jane England's website...
It was actually this project by dutch artist Marthe van de Grift, that led me to review Bondy's drawings. Next to the delicate works on paper, this is much more radical and allows for a wide range of personal interpretation.
I got to know Marthe during the advanced food and design course. Marthe is pregnant and fascinated witnessing how the female body, mind and soul changes during pregnancy. She created an experience, imagining an infant's perspective when breastfeeding. A chocolate breast filled with pudding to drink and eat from, hung on the wall, for somebody to indulge in. The breast is to be sucked on and eaten without the use of hands, to amplify a more dependent state.
Our group watched this video, and emotional reactions exploded amongst all of us. We see a guy licking a female breast. His tongue is carefully caressing the nipple. Within seconds we see the taste buds being activated as the sweetness of the chocolate gets noticed. Now the mouth opens to a sucking motion. But in between the tongue keeps licking the nipple. As a mother who breastfed, this was the confusing part. A baby may use the tongue searching for the nipple and then latches on and stays on the breast. Besides seeing an adult licking the chocolate boob, the use of the tongue makes it sexual too.
We knew that Marthe is pregnant and that this was her topic. Still, on and off, while watching, I thought this is like porn. At the same time I found it very erotic. And it made me feel like a voyeur witnessing something very private. All changed once the first drop of milk poured out of the breast. I started feeling uncomfortable, and suddenly the sexual notion of it all transformed into something very biological. When the breast fell apart and all the pudding plopped out, it was a brutal, almost as if I got punished for watching this very private scene.
In our group, we all had similar reactions and were fascinated, how a single object, the chocolate boob, connected to the single activity of sucking on it, can stir up such a multitude of emotion in us viewers. It depicts a profound human experience, whether we were breastfed or not.
'Breastfeeding' by Marthe van de Grift shows the narrow path our minds can walk on. We tend to switch between the gentle, soft, and natural versus the sexual, pornographic and brutal ways we view female sexuality. Like Bondy, it leaves room for own interpretations and emotional reactions. I find enormous freedom in that.
I thank Marthe that I can share her work in this newsletter.
You can watch the full video here.
THE CREATIVE MIND
When do you feel your imagination sparked?
I learned about Müller’s art during an art consulting gig in Frankfurt in 2019. I was fascinated by the power of his works, how vibrating and mesmerizing. This particular drawing triggered imaginary expansion of a perceived movement.
When you glance at the lively assembly of ink blue lines, do you also see forming rivers, rays or air streams, and feel your imagination sparked?
Where does it begin?
Where does it end?
Does it get wider, narrower, or does it fade out into a void of white, or a void of dark ink blue?
The lines are suggesting a change in direction, lending the drawing objectivity, plasticity and maybe something figurative.
Looking at this visual of a moment in time, it creates an impulse to follow a train of thought completely free, not bound to any preconceptions, except the very own. In this act of viewing, we may feel invited to explore, discover and acknowledge the creative mind, which exists in each and every one of us. Like an underground river, that is constantly flowing, but barely heard and not seen, we just forget it’s there.
German artist Thomas Müller creates stunning work with pencil ink, ballpoint pen, crayon and paint on paper, sometimes a shard of glass that serves as a ruler. He has widely exhibited and is represented by galleries Florian Sundheimer in Munich, WErner klein in Cologne, Michael Sturm in Stuttgart, Patrick Heide Contemporary Art in London, Bernard Vidal - Nathalie Bertoux art contemporain in Paris, Kristof de Clercq in Gent, and Galleria Torbandena in Trieste. His work in included in numerous institutional collections, including Centre Pompidou, Hamburger Kunsthalle; Staatliche Museen zu Berlin; Kunstmuseum Bonn; Staatsgalerie Stuttgart; and Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.
“Attraction and repulsion,breathing in and breathing out, vigor and laxity are poles between which my work oscillates…My work generates its energy and vitality precisely from these polarities and tensions.”
Müller’s piece is a true inspiration to be reminded, that creativity and flow are inseparable.
Do you know what food design is? If you think it's about making a dish look pretty...not at all!
When I tell people, that I study food design, they often automatically assume, that I learn how to do food plating, meaning making things pretty looking on the plate. And then I get excited and explain, “no, no, no, it’s about using food as an artistic medium to convey one’s creative ideas... food connects people with people, connects us humans with our very existence, as we all need to eat, and therefore all need to grow or hunt or harvest or shop, or steal or beg for food. We have a body full of most intelligent senses, and I want to start creating experiences for all of them.
It started with Inés Lauber at Satellite Berlin. We had developed the module VITAL FORCES, a think tank exploring food culture of the past, present and future in connection to the arts and sciences. The topic took a hold of me and urged me to want to learn more. So here I am, calling myself a culinary explorer and investigator, and re-discovering my own creativity.
“Food design is applying design thinking to the act of eating. In the latter the designer involves broad topics like politics, identity, health, culture and landscape into a design with food. The design can be manifested as a dinner, a dish, an installation, a workshop or a book. Many times, eating design is not about food directly but wouldn’t be possible without food."
I hope this enlightened you a bit?
Here some images of recent projects...
Work in progress: Proteins, a visual exploration of structures and colors of proteins we eat (above), and protein strands as seen under a microscope (below)
Being in the here and now
Meeting and spending time with John Giorno was one of the highlights during my time as a gallerist, and remains a gift I deeply cherish. Besides John being a great artist and beat poet, he was a man full of stories directly connected to the many things I heard and read about when I was a teenager and young adult. As a teen I was an 80s hippie. As I aspired to become an artist, my cultural interests were rooted in ideas of the 60s, 70s and 80s.
In 2012, my friend and cultural journalist Gaby Hartel connected me with John and proposed that I host a performance and exhibition in my gallery in Berlin. I met John in his loft in NYC. He welcomed me with his grand smile and sparkling eyes in his apartment, showed me his studio and also the basement, William Burrough’s bunker. We liked each other and agreed to a performance and an exhibition.
In Berlin, I was living with my daughter and our dog Loui adjacent to the gallery, a 180 square meter large old Berlin apartment with 4,50-meter-high ceiling, directly in the heart of Berlin-Schöneberg. When John came, he stayed in the guestroom for several days. John was an avid Buddhist and meditated in between working on the drawings for the exhibition, having some coffee or tea with us in the morning and visiting friends. The exhibition was entitled YOU HAVE GOT TO BURN TO SHINE and consisted of 33 water color works on paper, all square and framed in a white, simple frame. That’s what he wanted and it was beautiful.
The performance was a special gift, the exhibition a success. It was only natural to me, that after meeting John, I wanted to keep an artwork as a memory to this wonderful man and the time shared. As I often did, I gave my clients the right away, but kept an eye on I RESIGN MYSELF TO BEING HERE and decided to purchase it.
I had moved back and forth, between San Francisco and Berlin, twice in my life. The cities are very different from each other, in vibes, in architecture, in culture, in nature, in life style. These differences are part of a variety in lifestyle and surroundings I seek, but it’s only now, that I understand this being a part of me. I used to compare, make one worse than the other, probably to not miss it too much. I switched them around, hunting after the place where the grass is always greener. What I had imagined San Francisco to be, turned into something else over the years, making me feel uprooted and like a constant visitor. I wanted to be back in Berlin, left and visited San Francisco and New York regularly. The social and cultural attachments in all places were significant, and for a time, I got to a point of feeling fragmented. I had to learn to train my thoughts, changing the constant comparisons of what’s missing, into appreciating both worlds and the abundance this lifestyle entails.
Once you learn to listen to your thoughts, you also notice the self-degrading chatter.
Meeting John had sparked the impulse to really go into depths of practicing things like ‘accepting the moment’, ‘being in the moment’, ‘accepting what is’…We so easily say it, but it’s difficult to be it. John emanated such a calm and loving presence, sincerely listening and paying attention to anybody, no matter who.
I RESIGN MYSELF TO BEING HERE became an assisting tool to change my habitual thinking. The artwork is my visual mantra. I look at it consciously, when I feel I want to chase the greener grass, ignoring the one I’m standing on. It’s a reminder to count my blessings, to prioritize the important things in life, like love, respect for oneself and others, to appreciate. It's a reminder to be OK with confronting a challenge, a difficult time, because we know, all moments pass and new ones will come.
John Giorno was one of the most loving, kind-hearted and accepting person I have met in my life.
The actual poem “I resign myself to being here” is 9 min. and 44 seconds long, and you can listen to it here on soundcloud.
DO THE DEAD EAT?
Somebody once told me “Food and grief are closely intertwined in many cultures.” Really? Hmm … I remember when struck with heavy grief, food was the last thing I thought about. Even when my siblings and I had to think about the funeral food for our parents, it was more about the space, where best to hold the funeral dinner. I also remember the sense of appetite being distorted. I didn’t think about it, neither did I feel hunger. Only as I sat down and ate something, I noticed that I was hungry. However, the need to cook for people who grief seems to be pervasive, as a helpful thing to do.
Either way, it’s the time of the year to celebrate the dead and ancestry. Celebrations of remembrance and honoring seem to differ throughout the world: from gloomy walks to the cemetery and painful moments kneeing on hard benches in cold catholic churches in small towns in Germany, to the bright and colorful festivities of Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos.
I wonder about the various food made served during rituals. Often, it is special food prepared for the occasion, served in dedicated vessels or leaves from a plant, or food used to represent something else.
The Japanese Obon festival is directly related to the Chinese Ghost festival, a tradition Taoists and Buddhists celebrate in numerous East Asian countries. Ghosts and spirits, including those of deceased ancestors come out from other realms to visit and sometimes need guidance to not get lost, when traveling between the worlds.
For example, during Obon, cucumbers and eggplants are transformed into vehicles for the ancestors to travel or ride back ride and forth. Simply by sticking wooden chopsticks in as legs, the cucumber becomes a spirit horse Shōryō-uma and the eggplant Shōryō-ushi a spirit cow.
As a big Hayao Miyazaki fan, I’m reminded of the film Spirited Away, with the many always eating, never restless and unsatisfied ghosts, tormented by an insatiable hunger, constantly needed to be fed with tons and tons of foods.
@ Studio Ghibli/Miyazaki. The ghost "No-Face" (カオナシ kaonashi, lit. "Faceless") from Spirited Away, is able to react to emotions and ingests other individuals to gain their personality and physical traits. "Kaonashi is a metaphor, the libido that everybody secretly harbors." said by Miyazaki himself. No-Face is also a spirit of temptation. Suffering is caused by desire and the only way to avoid suffering is to deny desire.
Pitru Paksha, a Hindu version, honors their ancestors through special food offerings, which must include dishes of sweet rice with milk, sweet porridge, rice, dal, spring bean and pumpkin, all served in silver or copper vessels and placed on banana leaves.
When creating something dedicated to the memory of a person, someone you love and miss, it makes sense to choose sugar as an overall choice for taste. In Sardina, Su Mortu Mortu, is the celebration of the dead commenced on October 31st, our Halloween. Sweet baked goods are made and when setting the table, an extra table set is placed for the deceased, with the exception of forks and knives. I guess here is some suspicion left.
I imagine cooking my parent's favorite meal. But would I eat it?
My mother liked this canned meet stew called Ragout fin (French ragoût fin, "fine ragout"). It's a ragout served as an appetizer of classic German, especially Berlin cuisine, made of white meat and offal in a white sauce. Prepared from veal, sweetbreads, calf's brain, tongue, back marrow and chicken breast, depending on recipe sometimes fish, it is all cooked in light vinegar water or steamed in butter and cut into small cubes.Second ingredient is a white sauce made of light roux, broth, white wine, anchovies, lemon juice, cream and steamed mushrooms, alloyed with egg yolk. Cubes and sauce are mixed, heated in a bain-marie and then baked in cups, scallop shells or vol-au-vents (puff pastry molds) with breadcrumbs, cheese and butter. Ragout fin is subsequently seasoned to taste with worcestershire sauce and lemon juice.
I mean, check out all the animal products in one single dish. (it reminds me again of Koanashi) ...no wonder, Berlin is the vegan capital of the world!!!
When my father was younger, he loved pea and lentil soups, kale with potatoes and sausages, and his self-raised smoked trout. When aged, he loved potato latkes with a sweet turnip molasses (Rübenkraut) and Viennese Sacher Torte.
I don’t remember my grandparent’s favorite food. But I do remember what my grandmother like to make (Quark cheese cake with sweet mandarines from a can), I think my grandpa loved to eat sausages with mustard.
Food trends change, a bit like fashion. The dishes I remember from childhood seem to me a kind of “forgotten food”. But without cooking and eating dishes like Ragout fin, I guess I still honor my mother by remembering this. After all, times and circumstances our ancestors lived in, are also reflected in the food they ate and prepared.
I share a recipe from my cookbook modern german food from a berlin kitchen, available as an Ebook here, remembering that this salad was served in lots of restaurants when I was a child.
grated raw root vegetable salad