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Wounds, Not Miracles

3 min

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

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

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

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

“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
Teresa Althen

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.

Bob Last

“Difficult Fun”––two words that describe Bob Last best.
“Bob Last, The Man from Fast. The sound of serious young men. The definer of Post Punk,” says Bill Drummond of the KLF in his memoir 45.
Fast Product was Bob’s record company, which released singles by the Gang of Four, the Dead Kennedys and the Human League in the late 1970s. Jon Savage writes in England’s Dreaming: “You could say that Fast Product stands at just the point where Postmodernism fully moved into popular culture (…) You could say that for all that period’s speed, wit and passion, that the drive of the media industries was unstoppable: and you would be right.”
Fast was Accelerationist Pop. After splitting the Human League (with Heaven 17 as the other part) the album Dare was Bob’s masterpiece. Totally pop, a ‘fuck you’ to the music business, a provocation, ‘These are the things that dreams are made of,’ a political intervention (Bob says: “Yes and no”) and––Dare was really successful.
Bob always was a Situationist.
“People thought classical music had a value and went to see plays and things, they were culturally sophisticated, but in my mind they all seemed incredibly naïve and simplistic compared to some kid who might be in a band in his bedroom. They all had a very thick sense of right and wrong and value and so on, whereas the fantastic thing about pop music even as it carries on reinventing itself, even in its more bland phases, is that it’s about not being fixed.” This is from an interview Georg and I did with him in London. It filled almost an entire volume of 80*81:
#7: “I Love My Time”.
I met Bob when we both worked on an Isaac Julian film. We were the white boys, both vegetarians, both socialized by pop. Later he helped me on the soundtrack of Baader. That’s why it’s so good.
Today Bob produces films. He even had an Oscar nomination.
There is still a film we never got made and we should. It’s called Allied Forces.

Sandra Bartoli
Hilmar Schmundt

Some people say that Sandra grew up in the Dolomites, could ski before she could walk and studied architecture and landscape architecture in Italy, the US and Germany. Little do they know. Sandra comes from the future, that’s all you need to know. Everyone feels at home somewhere, and for Sandra that somewhere is tomorrowland. Her nostalgia for the future started early. When she read A la recherche du temps perdu as a teenager, that lost time was, of course: the future. Her favorite movies: Blade Runner, Donnie Darko and Repo Man. When she studied the 400 year old villas of Andrea Palladio in Venice, she saw it as an archaeology of possible tomorrows. Here’s the thing: She reads spaces like novels. Her architecture is always about telling stories – often like a garden of forking paths, with multiple contradictory plot lines. She runs a thinktank together with Silvan Linden, they call it Büro für Konstruktivismus. That name might seem like a nod to the hyper rationalist belief of the twenties in utopian urban planning. It could be half ironic, half serious. Which half is which is sometimes hard to tell. Their exhibition “La Zona” depicted failed cityscapes in all their sublime ugliness: Empty parking lots, failed high rises, the disasterscape of Tchernobyl. Blade Runner is more than a movie, it is a mindset: I want more life, fucker. Need a travel guide for the future? Get Sandra’s and Silvan’s magazine called “Die Planung”. One of their issues is dated 2036. Not a bad start for futurophiliacs. Another issue is dated 2048. But even that era for Sandra might already seem a little outdated. There must be a more futuristic tomorrow somewhere just around the corner, she might think: This particular future seems so… 2048!

Holger Friese

We asked Holger if he could write some tec-picks. If he can show #60 from the other side. What is behind a website, behind a blog system or a WordPress page? In his lectures in Canada in 1980, “Introduction à une véritable histoire du cinéma,” Jean-Luc Godard said that he always wanted to film a landscape from behind. That’s nice.
Holger didn’t want to report from the other side, from the back-end. From this wonderful poetic world full of codes and tools and widgets and a bookmarklet called “Press This“, ––a little app that runs in your browser and lets you grab bits of the web. And also: “Use Press This to clip text, images and videos from any web page. Then edit and add more straight from Press This before you save or publish it in a post on your site.” Got it? You can also drag-and-drop and right-click and shortcut or you just call Holger and ask him to make it easier. And nicer. Get it out of the way.
Holger is a fan of codes and, like an adventurer, he wants to be alone with them. Not long ago there were much more codes floating around. Now it’s buttons and tools and Press This, consumer-friendly it is, but much less beauty to it. Holger once said that we could go back to the old Internet when everybody moved on to the social networks. That is a nice vision. Like Chris Marker stayed with his cat Monsieur Guillame on Second Life long after it had turned into a deserted and abandoned realm. Guillaume’s first life ended many years earlier anyhow.
Holger is also a graphic designer. We made books together. Nice books. And websites. Great websites. He came up with this beautiful archive. Holger is also a visual artist. He showed an Internet piece and an edition on a floppy disk (remember those?) at the documenta X. Nevertheless, graphic design and art and all these things are kind of solved (if there was any problem). They are okay, doing well, making money, sleep tight. But codes are pure and raw and problematic and alive. Holger, tell us more about the other side. Please.

Sam Chermayeff

“SAM CHERMAYEFF. SPY OR COMMANDO FOR HIRE”, says a business card Sam’s father Ivan designed for him when he was a boy. When I first met Sam (we briefly bumped into each other a couple of days earlier), he was wearing a headscarf and guarding a Pierre Jeanneret chair. By the early morning hours, we had become friends and worn all kinds of things. It was the same night I met Bobby. Sam has done many things, such as living in Tokyo and working for SANAA, curating the Architecture Biennial in Venice with Sejima, or setting up shop in Berlin together with the wonderful Johanna Meyer-Grohbrügge under the name June 14. We are all entangled in many ways. But that’s probably not what is essential about Sam. He builds things as much as he tears them down. I often have a hard time talking to him. He leaves gentle slivering marks on your life. Sometimes, he will give you things, such as an odd little Tiffany ashtray, a spoon by Sejima, or a piece of the material he likes to work with. Sam is silver.

Wounds, Not Miracles

3 min