Archive for the 'Museums' Category

Leibovitz Lecture


Last week I had some amazing luck and ended up with a ticket to the sold out Annie Leibovitz lecture at the C|O Berlin where her retrospective is up, “A Photographer’s Life.”  The space was beautiful and walking past the giant line felt pretty great, turns out Germans love her; I saw a “Willkommen Annie” cover story on at least 3 big newspapers the day she arrived.

I know a lot of photographers don’t feel this way.  My room mate, for one, who was her first assistant for many years back in the 90’s.  Fortunately for me he didn’t really feel like going (apparently she can be more than rude on set) and thus I ended up with his ticket.  A lot of other photographers who have never actually worked with her, like me, kind of cringe about her because she’s become one of those names.  You know, like Ansel Adams or (more full on cringe here) Anne Geddes.   The type people who don’t know much about Photography mention whilst in awkward getting to know you conversations with a photographer.  I know I’ve had to surpress an eye roll on more than one occasion when people mention those names, it’s happened to the best of us.


All that said when Leibovitz walked in, I stood on my tippy toes to see her and later on found myself taking as many photos as I could while she was nearby.  She’s a household name for a reason and although I still don’t get Anne Geddes I had a similar experience with Ansel Adams in which I went to a retrospective show and was floored by the beauty of his prints.  Sometimes there’s reason for the hype.


Also, I just finished reading the late Susan Sontag’s journals “Reborn” and since Leibovitz and Sontag were partners I was interested to hear her talk about her.  When she did the audience went completely silent, more so as we watched this very powerful seemingly guarded woman grow a bit emotional as she referred to ‘loosing Susan.’


“when we met she knew I could be better, I could’ve been a jerk or the work could’ve gotten better.  I never really could be the person she wanted me to be.  She had a high set of values.  I never felt like I could totally please her”

Apparently the “Women” book was Sontags idea, interesting fact.  I found the photos in the show of Sontag to be really beautiful.  I think it’s always telling to see the portraits the portrait photographer takes of their loved ones.  Leibovitz said that was the motivation for the show, after Sontag died she was looking through photographs of her believing in all their years together she’d failed to get any really great ones.

She went on to talk about the photograph of her Mother, from the Women book and how it has become so much more to her over the years.  Just before taking it her Mother had asked her not to make her look old and after when she showed her parents neither one liked it.

“We always had to smile for photos when I was younger, in the best and worst of times.  And my Mother always smiled in photos.  But, I began to distrust the smile, in my protraits you rarely see people smiling….later at the show someone came up to me and said ‘she looks as if she loves you in that picture'”


It was nice to hear some of the anecdotes behind the photos I’ve referenced since I was 16.  And yes I have to admit I was a bit star struck; it’s hard not to be when you walk through the rooms of people she’s photographed.  I mean just to have met all those people is a pretty amazing feat.  I know I know, you can roll your eyes if you must.


“as a photographer, my achilles heal: I like people to look good.”

Annie Leibovitz

Artists Annonymous

I almost started to run but decided walking quickly would be less ridiculous, I was only 5 minutes late and I knew somewhere in the back of my head I was the only one who would notice or worry about it.  That all seems silly now that I know the place.

The Artists Annoymous are three people.  Here is their website.  When I came in the first time on that weekend in Berlin, I met with Ed and he explained to me that they needed interns for an upcoming show in Amsterdam.  An installation based on a video game which would be built here then transported by trucks and set up at the gallery there.  After I moved here and emailed Ed about coming in he said great, wear something you can get dirty.


Ford and Harriet from inside the last bits of the pin hole camera

In my experience with photography I never got really good and dirty,  I mean you can’t really get chemicals all over without causing some serious damage.  There’s something quite satisfying about making things and coming home a bit more sore, with paint around the edges of your fingernails, and scrapes on your knuckles.  It’s a whole new sense of feeling useful.


Anna in the palm of a giant hand


Level headed Harriet


Serena and Winnie making paper flowers in the new open space

The first day I was there we tore down a giant pin hole camera that was taking up too much space in the studio.   Then we started to build. The process has been a lot of give and take, discussing, and cups of coffee stirred with ends of rulers or pencils.


This won’t be the Last Time

After an amazing three-day trip I had to leave Berlin.  Usually I hate such short trips, feels like you’re not being fair to the city or your experience by only seeing a fraction of the place.   However I felt like I covered a lot of ground and knew I would be back.


Before getting on the train I walked around Museum Island and attempted to take some photos of myself in Jessica Victory style (she always has these fantastic mid air jump shots that make me happy).  Now imagine me 4feet in front of my camera, which is propped up on my bag on self-timer, at around 10 am, jumping and smiling repeatedly.  Needless to say I attracted a small crowd of onlookers across the street that were all smiling and giggling.  I smiled back; awkwardness is universal.

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I had a nice fancy Cappuccino in a museum café and then some Curry Wurst (a Berlin dish of sausage with ketchup and curry) at the station and back on the train to Wurzburg.
On the train I felt so strange, this ominous hum about me that seems to come and go frequently these days.  I suppose it’s a product of travel, the excitement and anticipation of the next place, but it seems stronger now.  It makes me want to photograph everything.




It was really hard to photograph in a moving train but the scenery was gorgeous; I particularly loved these trees with what looked like tumbleweeds hanging amongst the branches.  It was lovely.



and everything changed


The next day I woke up and had a quick breakfast before jumping on the U Bahn to go to the East Side Gallery.  The introduction page of my guide book to Berlin says this is not a beautiful city this is a city that has been through so much that it seeps from each space.


The East Side Gallery is a remaining part of the wall that’s been left for artists to use as a canvas.  I took about 298749874 photos:


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Barbara’s Birthday



After a lazy morning we hopped on the train and rode out to the Museum im Kulturspeicher where we saw a great exhibit about Gabriele Munter, Wassily Kandinsky, and the “Der Blaue Reiter” (The Blue Rider) Group.





Print by Munter and Kandinsky in Germany with their cat.


Afterwards Barbara and I walked back into town and went to a beautiful cafe.  It felt like a really classic place, a bit of an Austrian vibe, and beautifully decandent coffees and desserts.


I had apple strudel (which came with a light vanilla cream to pour on top) and Barbara had a refreshingly not too sweet slice of cheese cake.


Later that night we went to an amazing live show of ‘La Banda Brassa’ which is a band from Barbara’s region.  She was explaining to me that even though they are singing in German it’s a different dialect than in Wurzburg so most people don’t know the lyrics, not just me.

Well it was truly one of the best shows I’ve seen, the first thing these guys did was play their version of german techno (mind you this is with tuba, trumpet, drums) which was hillarious.  Then after playing their set to a packed and dancing crowd; myself, Barbara, and friends included, they were given two or three standing ovations and started to play some classics I could sing along to.  “Around the World” by Daft Punk, really amazing in brass! And my personal favorite “Waterfalls” by TLC.  Can’t top that! Hopefully I’ll have pictures soon, I opted out of bringing my camera and instead brought a disposable.  And also wunderbar, the band did a birthday shoutout for Barbara!

The Day After

Exhausted emotionally and physically we slept in but had a few goals for the day.  Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), Sagra de Famiglia (the most famous Church in Barcelona), and Park Guelle.

First we went to MACBA to see the exhibits.  There were four floors, three special exhibits of three different artists work and one floor of the collection of the museum.  First the MACBA collection, which was very diverse many well known artists but also students of the University in Barcelona (which is right next to MACBA).  Mostly media installations and paintings.

Nancy Shapiro had an exhibit on the second floor she was one of the pioneers of feminist art she collaborated with WAR (Women Artists in Revolution) and was a key figure on the dissident New York scene of the 1960s and 70s.  Her drawings were very intense, often reflecting on war and violence, later her work becomes more optimistic but in all her work there is an emotional intensity that I think is fascinating. She also did a lot of mixed media and installations.  And I enjoyed the letters they displayed that she wrote to major NY museums asking why there were so few female artists with work on display.  Some examples of her work:

"The Bug, Hellicopter Victim" 1966

"Codex Artaud XVII" 1972

Then there was the Francesc Torres retrospective.  The famous Spanish artist from Barcelona was a pioneer of installation art and critically reflects on the diverse manifestations of culture, politics, memory and power through his very diverse works.

He also showed a series called “Dark is the Room Where We Sleep” (which was at the ICP in NYC back in 2003).  This was a series of black and white photos documenting the uncovering of a mass unmarked grave in Northern Spain; after photographing the forensics team he took some marvelous portraits of the local townspeople.  The whole project is very moving, you should find the book if you can.  At MACBA one thing he wrote that really stuck with me was the description of the church in this small town where they returned the remains to the decedents one by one.  Once they finished they all walked together to bury them in the local grave yard, buried together again but this time with a proper burial.

I didn’t get many photos of his work other than the above but it’s all very different.  His drawings and paintings were much different, very smart and funny in a critical way.  I really enjoyed it.

For some reason I can’t find the info on the third floor exhibition, maybe it was taken down but if I have kept a handout or something in my things I promise to blog about it later.

So after such heavy subject matter and after the events of the previous day Sister and I decided we were in need of a long relaxing lunch.  And for some reason we hadn’t run into many large well made salads in Barcelona so we decided to try to find that.  Also a place where there was no smoking, which is hard to find in Barcelona.  So we walked back towards the center and ate at a spiffy little place called Ma Ta Ma La.

Sister was so tired she was falling asleep at the table

Sister was so tired she was falling asleep at the table

delicious tapas!

delicious tapas!

After lunch we hopped on the Metro to go to Sagra de Famiglia.  This church is so crazy and, of course, gorgeous.

the metro station

the metro station

First of all it started construction in 1882 by the famous architect Antoni Gaudi, he worked on it for 40 years and it is still not finished today! They predict it’s completion sometime in 2026! I can’t imagine it complete because at it’s current state it is already over whelming.



The structure is so unique, very Art Nouveau, Guadi was influenced greatly by nature and he used hyperboloid structures (which I can’t even attempt to explain but let’s just say he had a passion for geometry.)  There are three grand facades; the Nativity facade to the East, the Glory facade to the South (not yet completed), and the Passion facade to the West and each of the towers represents different meanings or saints.  There is too much history to write here but it’s really interesting and if you’re ever in Barcelona it is a must see.

detail of the door (Alyson, Mariel you would've loved it!)

detail of the door; Alyson, Mariel you would have loved it



it left me speechless

it left me speechless

We decided we were too tired to go to Park Guelle that day and needed some rest at the apartment before Valencia.  We found a grocery store and bought an assortment of meat and cheese, some wine.

During our delicious and perfectly low key meal we watched some very interesting Spanish tv and did laundry.  We only had a washer and thought it would only take half an hour then we would dry it; wrong! It took 2 hours for the first load, and about 4 hours total just to wash so we draped our clothes all over the apartment, went to bed, and hoped they would dry in time because the next day we left for Valencia!

Also a side note; while we were at Sagra de Famiglia I noticed that unlike most Churches this one did not have a dress code (cover the shoulders and knees).  Obviously, because these two Spanish women waltzed in just like this: