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About Gin and Tonic

Murat Suner about Vodka and the New Berlin
20.10.13
3 min
Post

Georg thinks about Gin & Tonic. I try to join with a mashed hangover brain. First of all, I resigned from Gin and Tonic a while ago after a short but disastrous period of overdosed gin consumption. The only exception was at our wonderful rainy kick-off walk over Alexanderplatz infused with Georg’s Alexanderplatz long read tasting – probably the most enjoyable scenic reading session I remember. Since ever, and particularly when approaching Alexanderplatz from Karl-Marx-Allee my wandering view sticks at this indescribably grey building, with probably hundreds of small square windows, which drives my phantasy towards darkness. A Gulag that has been forgotten to be removed. Then, with a grin that always lifts my spirit, I think of these lovely sayings: ‘Aus’m Alex wird nie was’ and ‘Spiel nicht mit den Schmuddelkindern’. These became something like a joyful imperative to me to look at many things, a key to how a society would keep its’ vitality and social mobility because life is in many ways about resilience and overcoming disrespect. It was really nice to meet the polite guys who put up the little bar to serve us Gin & Tonic after the scenic walk, and if we didn’t store ourselves in the tiny trailer box that sheltered us from the rain until the servants were ready, it would have felt a bit decadent to have us gentlewomen and men waiting to be served drinks. Vodka was New Berlin that lived up between the still standing ruins from second world war. Vodka leveraged the moneyless from a mentality of early post-war-era-austerity to a defiant yes we can. Vodka is potato. Vodka is Russia that conquered space but whose cosmonauts would still use five penny pencils instead of seven million dollar space pens which the NASA provided to their astronauts just to make notes in zero gravity. Vodka is occupy the new capital with nothing. Gin is The Empire. Tonic is the colonial emissary researcher, way too pale for the jungle, but too ambitious and curious to not find and examine the last undiscovered insect. Insects that provide the chitin which serves as the main ingredient of Tonic. Gin is the light handed gentleman standing in a club, but not the one we used to have in Berlin when dirty deeds were done dirt cheap. That’s done. I still prefer Vodka. It just brings me best through the night.

Alexander Giesche
People

Alex and I share both our office and our birthday. This combination has led to one of my favourite birthday parties so far. The party gives a good impression of Alex’s character. First of all it is hard to imagine Alex not celebrating his birthday. When some of us like to withdraw ourselves from the world when we have to face the bitter fact of “another year gone by”, Alex likes to share these moments and make it an occasion for people to come together. And people really like to come together when Alex invites them to, he has the ability to create moments of absolute presence, which normally ends in euphoric bodily reactions.
For our birthday party, he forced me to remove all the furniture from our office (very hard work). After that he installed colour changing LED-Lights, prepared big bowls of secret recipe punch and made me organize a slightly over dimensional audio system. Shortly before the party started he presented a performance on the roof of the building that included thousands of bees, an electronic drone (these military spying tools that have caused a lot of outcry recently and caused Alex’s eyes to glow––they do whenever he is unwrapping one of his regular packages filled with electronic toys) and himself.
The actual party developed in such a way that the next day all alcoholic beverages in the theatre building had mysteriously disappeared and a whole day of cleaning had to be spent on theatre premises. But months later people still talk about it.
Alex is not especially employed for parties at the theatre, he is artist-in-residence, something that had not existed before he arrived. There is no actual job description. But provide Alex with a room and some electronic equipment and he will create moments of pure presence. Art – right now!

On Gin and Tonic

Georg Diez about the meaning of a drink
19.10.13
1 min
Post

I want to start a little project: I want to uncover the meaning of Gin and Tonic. What is it about this drink? Why is it so of this moment? Why is the moment so Gin and Tonic? Where was it a while ago? Why is it everywhere now? Why is there no alternative? Is there no alternative? What is the secret? What is the truth? What is the lie? What is the myth? What are the facts? What is the story? Tell me, 60pages. I want to know. From you. So help me. Let’s write this story together. It is a story about today. It is a story about us.

Wounds, Not Miracles

16.10.13
3 min
Post

Every Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 I go to high school. The school is in Wedding, in a grand old pre-war building, with echoing halls, fluorescent overhead lights, and Koreans who can’t find their classrooms. I ignore their beseeching looks – I’m late to class myself – and take the stairs two at a time.

Inside Room 304, Reinhard, my philosophy teacher, is holding forth. I get out paper and pen and take furious notes:

Of course, I’m not really in high school. I’m just at the local Volkshochschule, an adult education center, which offers a philosophy class for non-native speakers. But everything about the setup screams being sixteen – sitting behind a desk; Reinhard’s easy charisma and wild gray hair, like the most popular high school teachers; the strong smell of floor wax; and my dorked-out joy, as I jot down the three different meanings of aufgehoben, and come up with a nifty pendulum illustration (which I’m pretty sure I also drew in 1998, when I was in high school in Singapore, learning about Hegel from my then-history teacher, Mr. Dodge). The fact that aufgehoben somehow simultaneously means nullified, lifted up, and held back makes more sense than anything has all week.

The Portuguese student raises his hand and volunteers a lengthy response to Hegel’s Dialectic, something involving Wunder that no one, not even Reinhard, understands. The Portuguese guy repeats it three times, to utterly blank looks, and then says forget it. This is a common occurrence. All of us can understand what Reinhard is saying, but we can’t understand each other, and find it hard to articulate, in German, what we think about being and nothingness.

Start over, Reinhard prompts the student. What does Hegel have to do with Wunder?

I think he’s talking about Wunde, nicht Wunder, says the other American woman in class.

Ja, the Portuguese guy says, relieved. Wunde, nicht Wunder. Wunde und Narben.

Wounds, not miracles. Wounds and Scars.

I jot this down, too. It seems like a crucial insight.

Later in the class, Reinhard hands out the poem “Stufen” by Hermann Hesse, and asks if we know the song “Turn, Turn, Turn” by Pete Seeger. There is a nervous silence, in which the American woman and I exchange looks, and somehow, I’m suddenly singing the song like I really mean it: “And a time to every purpose, under heaven.” I get a look from Reinhard like that’s enough before I hit the chorus, so I clear my throat and stop, disappointed that nobody claps.

That’s maybe the best thing about going to high school when you’re 32, you can sing a Byrds song without worrying if your bra strap is showing or if your shorts look weird or what the other kids think of the fact that you know the song by heart. And you can take notes that say “IMPERATIV! Stirb und Werde.” (Imperative! Die and Become.)

Victoria Gisborne-Land
People

It was a place where you speak English when you order and are surprised if the guy behind the counter who might or might not have been gay – it is hard to tell these days with the fashion in beards – answers in German. I had never been to this part of Friedrichshain and neither had Christopher, actually it was the part of town you only go to when you meet somebody who speaks English, I would say. A very nice part of Friedrichshain, Oderstraße, there is a large playground there, trees, it is calm, and there is Aunt Benny, a pleasant café where you get a small thing with a number written on it when you order and wait outside in the cold until the sun reaches across the houses and an Asian looking girl brings you your Chai Tea Latte. It all seems like a very small part of Brooklyn or Notting Hill brought to Berlin. Or is Berlin just a very small part of Brooklyn or London anyway? Victoria had suggested the place, she lives near Warschauer Straße, she said, in a different area, she said – I would have said that it is the same neighbourhood. Which just goes to show how little I know: of Berlin, of my time, of a few things. This is why we met Victoria. To help us. To move us along. To work with us. She is from Birmingham which is fine because neither of us has been there. She runs a blog about Neukölln which is fine because neither of us do. She was recommended to us by a woman with the nice name Ché Zara Blomfield who again was approached by Elvia Wilk who was brought to our notice by Gideon Lewis-Kraus, all three very nice names. As is Victoria. Gisborne-Land. We should ask her about this name, shouldn’t we?

Clemens Tissi
People

The first time I met him, I think, was at the store or gallery that he used to have on Potsdamer Straße before it became Potsdamer Straße. He was standing in the middle of all the furniture that he was designing at the time, lamps and tables made out of wood that was painted grey or white or black, very cubist in a way, very simple, very beautiful and very different from the stuff that he had stored in the back, his old life, so to speak – vintage Aalto chairs, Italian stuff, some Perriand stools, beautiful too, but he was done with that. It does not make sense to pay 3000 Euros for a stool, he said. It might even be amoral. He is Swiss, you know, I think. Are you Swiss, Clemens? Why do I think that you are? Because you are very rational? Because you speak in a very soft voice? Because you care? Well, you left Potsdamer Straße, obviously, as it became Potsdamer Straße, I don*t even know where your store is at the moment or if you have a store – we only met again a while ago in Paris at Hedi Slimane*s first show for Saint Laurent. I liked the show, you liked it too, I think, even though you were very sceptical, but that*s because you like Hedi so much. The show was about the woman as a western figure, it was a new woman that looked like she was from the 70s, she was proud and sexy in a very careless, maybe even dangerous way with great great leather pants in beige suede and large hats and shirts with frizzles, if that is the word, you know what I mean. Were you disappointed, Clemens? Hedi Slimane was so big in the years 2000. He defined what it could mean to be a man. Could he define what it means to be a women in the years 2010? I think the verdict is still out on that. You looked for Hedi after the show, but he was already on his way back to Los Angeles. We had dinner instead, the two of us, in this nice restaurant au bord de la Seine or somewhere, close to the Mairie. We both have not been back at one of Hedi*s shows.

Nimrod Kamer
People

Nimrod Kamer is the most weird son of this most beautiful Ashkenazi Israeli mother, and the legend goes that I had a one-night-stand with her eleven months before he was born. He is ice-cold and confusingly Jewish in his Israeli Un-Jewishness and utmost skinny. He looks like an innocent copy of Gene Wilder, having as much hair on his bolding head as his genetic relative Woody Allen in his youngest and most anarchic times of creation in the 70s. Thanks to his Rumanian EU-passport, Nimrod is entitled to hold due to grandparents, who escaped from Rumania some decades ago – he escaped to Europe from the mental occupation of the Israeli border-line-mood of “They-are-against-us-and-will-Ausschwitz-us-if-we-wont-occupy-them”. Today Nimrod made it and will make it big-time in the UK. In the midst of the bloody Zeroes, around 2005, I was introduced to him, the upcoming captain Internet of some big Israeli important magazine and a retired former Sudoko champ, then 25 of age and 20y younger than me, admired and loved by this happy, forlorn young hip left-wing-leaning Tel-Aviv clique for his pseudo-Dada-poetry, even invited to reading events and stuff like this. He made himself a name as a Wikipedia-expert for some Israeli culture-celebs, but – buy the way – was banned from Wikipedia years later, because of some wrongdoings. Since being unintelligent and slow-minded, I never really understand what actually happened, but a lot of Germans might love this story, if he will write about it, especially those who are convinced that the persecution of this WikiLeeks-hero (I forgot his name, what was his name?) was the biggest atrocity in the newest history of atrocities against mankind. In London there definitely is a market for his weird senseless anti-humor. The hipster crowd, following his clips on Vice Magazine, Don´t Panic, Channel 4 or Guardian TV, is mesmerized by his mini-mini Borat-appearance in his mini-clips, where he fools around, the Israeli nerd with his heavy Israeli accent, dressed in funky colorful combinations of APC or even some more exclusive fashionista brands as the young bright Rumanian Lord who bought himself for little money the title. I liked the one clip of him visiting some settler-enclave in the West Bank in which he had a Jewish skullcap on his head, describing himself to everybody as the real estate consultant of me, his patriotic uncle who wants to buy some biblical real estate (I was never allowed to talk in this clip). Nobody wanted to air this masterpiece, besides Putin´s Russia-TV because of the anti-American, anti-Zionist thing in it. But nobody uses Nimrod Kamer, he is only using them. And again, everybody, including me, loves and admires him. Be it his absolute unfunny TED-imitation-clip or his stuttering, shy lectures about how to execute a cool hashtag with your fingers, his gonzo-journalism, when he gets almost beaten up by body-guards of cheap celebs in Cannes, approaching them in order to declare that he un-followed them. He has a big obsession about “un-following” and tried to make a big hype about it. He rules on Twitter, with thousands of followers (did he buy them?), and even though I offered him a lot of money, he never made an effort to teach me the high art of tweeting. I do not know how this experiment of introducing him to the German and non-German crowd of 60p will end, but of course somehow it will end. And yes – I forgot – the most amazing and famous picture ever taken of me myself, which made it into the god-damn ABC morning news last year, with me as his mute body guard in London, with those over-seized, pseudo-authoritarian-looking Mykita-glasses that my Berlinish Maxim-Biller-domina ordered me to buy and wear a couple of weeks before. The pic is taken when Nimrod crushes the crowd of Paparazzi with a lookalike doppelgänger of Rebecca Brooks, shouting out loud that she is innocent, while I raise my hands to save her from all the cameras; the same Paparazzi, who actually waited for the real Rebecca Brooks´ hearing about her role in the phone-hacking affair as an editor of bloody Murdoch´s “News of the world”. My wife loves his humor, my 17y old middle daughter, who mostly detests my humor, gives me at least some credit for the fact that I seem to be his friend. And when I tell her, “Honey, I am not his friend, I am only used by him”, she wisely responds that being a friend or being used is actually the same shit.

Marcus Steinweg
People

“JA: REILLUMINATION macht SINN, denke ich.” This was the first email Marcus ever sent me, if I remember correctly. I was working on a translation of one of his texts – “Antigone’s Beauty”. In our correspondences, which are usually swift, minimalist and technical, Marcus uses CAPS LOCK to instill rhythm. You can hear his writing, just as you can see his words when he reads or talks publicly. He speaks incessantly, ardently, for his life, and for love. Marcus is about everything and everything is aporetic. What the mathematician Leonhard Euler formulated in his famous Seven Bridges of Königsberg problem – the foundation of graph theory, heuristics, optimization – Marcus does for philosophy, only his bridges are on fire. It’s strange when you are someone’s translator. We have never had a drink together and we only rarely bump into each other on some nights. But there is an intimate connection that establishes itself with real virtuality, with oscillating materiality, when I translate his language, slip into it, walk in his shoes, and for some reason, it works. Marcus is not a theoretician. He is a real philosopher. That someone like him, in our times, can go to the Bronx and give a daily lecture at Thomas Hirschhorn’s “Gramsci Monument” somehow gives me hope. In the tradition of Heidegger’s “Holzwege” (“Off the Beaten Track”), I hope Marcus will some day write a book called “Steinwege” (“Beating the Track”).

Livia Valensise
People

Let’s get down to serious business: she is the mind you can’t miss but can’t get hold of. She intrigues with profound silence and clever observations. She is the one that knows everything without you ever seeing her actually wanting to do so. She writes psychological theses and interviews about pubic hair.  Will know how to write a sensual novel and a commentary on surfing dogs. She will take pictures on celluloid that make you wonder how one can catch and create something that dreamy, even if you were with her at that very moment. She’s the one who will draw a picture of it all, of what’s happening with us, of glimpses of our minds, and I’ll feel like I understand something that I didn’t know before.

Jossi Reich
People

Jossi is the kind of guy who will wear a greenish tweed trouser by Dries van Noten from 2008 and a purple sweater by Acne from 2011 over a yellow, yes, yellow shirt by Prada from 2001 and a jacket by Helmut Lang, this kind of felt that Helmut Lang used to do back in the 1990s, in a sort of olive colour, I guess. Not that fashion is important for Jossi. Indeed, it’s hard to tell what is important for Jossi and what is not. Even for him, I guess. There is just too much going on, in the world, in his head, in his life. I have heard that he is a business man in Tel Aviv, but I have yet to see any proof of that. I have personally seen videos that show him singing as Joe Fleisch doing his very funky version of old Jiddish songs, sometimes rubbing against one chicken or another. I have heard that he writes. I do hope so, indeed, just to take the pressure off that head. And I have seen what Jossi does with his website: activism. Maybe that is what Jossi is, in all his manyfold ways, above all; Jossi is an activist. Always on the move, always some fight to pick, always some plane to catch. He knows people. A filmmaker here with this amazing project about the Holocaust, a musician there with this great tune out – right, almost forgot, Jossi of course also runs a record company. It is all too much! Maybe this also explains his way of dressing: There is more than one Jossi Reich, and the one you see in front of you is made out of sheer energy. Like a very strong wind blowing in the desert.

About Gin and Tonic

Murat Suner about Vodka and the New Berlin
20.10.13
3 min

On Gin and Tonic

Georg Diez about the meaning of a drink
19.10.13
1 min

Wounds, Not Miracles

16.10.13
3 min