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David Knowles
People
When David and I talk about Berlin, we agree on one thing: Berlin is a city of strivers, not of dreamers. In 2009, David was a performer splitting an apartment in Neukoelln with two friends. “I play music and dance really crazy, like a worm,” he explained to me. “It really fucks up my back.” The apartment belonged to a philosopher, and was crowded with books. The oven door was jammed and didn’t close completely, but baked an apple cake perfectly at low heat. I never saw one of David’s shows, but when he ran low on cash, he moved onto our couch, saving his money for ganj. When we eventually fell into collaboration on an artist’s book project, I remember him most for his tempered reactions to the long bus rides, trudges through the snow, desktop computer boxed and hauled to various corner desks throughout the city, waiting for access at the national library, endless discussions about the print budget, shut doors, loud arguments, and most pressing of all, the shortage of pay. There was never enough money. David and I were far from home, far from the lessons of trust and the authority of an education in which the successful completion of a task engendered pay, pride and wisdom. Berlin was an altogether unfamiliar parade, driven by ceaseless cultural production, surplus identity, and an amplification of the self. As we grappled with this new place, I would devolve into histrionics. David would simply say, “You’ve been kind of rough lately.”

On my way to visit David at his Chinatown gallery in New York, he asks me to pick up a coffee for him around the corner. The bridge from graphic designer to exhibition designer was first erected in Berlin. Looking through the glass window, I can see David talking to a visitor. I open the door with my offering.
People
David Knowles
by Mei-Lun Xue