Saturday, April 01, 2006

Color must be seen!

Another dispatch from the Kreuzberg front. It is a gorgeous spring day, kind of moodily on and off rainy/sunny, but it's finally warm. People are sitting outside on sidewalk cafes, the flea market is out in full force, and everyone has a smile on his/her face. I'm inside the gorgeous Cafe Sarotti on Mehringdamm about five minutes from my new apartment, for which I just got the keys and paid the deposit. As I type, a huge bouquet of pink tulips next to me nod to the Amelie soundtrack. Plus there is wireless internet here. Right this moment, life is perfect.

I had a very Christopher Isherwood moment two days ago when my host mother asked me to be the English tutor for her two little boys, Augustin (4) and Maximilian (8). I gladly accepted--it basically entails mostly speaking exercises, conversational English and helping them develop a lovely American accent. Ha! I bought Augustin (if you haven't seen the adorable picture of him on my Facebook profile yet, you must now and simply melt) "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and Maxi "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," which might be a tad too hard for him now, but it'll be a good goal for us to work for. It'll be great to keep in touch with my host family that way, plus it's a good gesture for me to pay them back somehow while earning a bit of pocket change every week.

I really should be working on my presentation for my language practicum class now, considering I have an appointment with my Tutorin in less than two hours. It's on an essay by Boris Groys on Walter Benjamin's famous essay "Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit", on the loss of the aura of the original artwork through modern methods of reproduction. Needless to say it's quite frustrating trying to figure out how to say the things I want to say in German. Groys' thesis is a reaction to and an expansion of Benjamin's assertion that the original is defined by its tie to a particular historical and topological place. Benjamin concedes that the overflow of reproduction is a necessary condition of Modernity, and that it actually enables the masses to experience art for themselves. His whole point about the necessary violence that comes with the destruction of aura is very Marxist indeed, but as a Berlin writer in 1936 he was railing against the Fascist takeover in Germany. Groys kind of runs off with his own argument in an inexplicable fashion--he says that because art on the Internet is grounded in a "website" and "net address", and is accompanied by historical "archives", the Internet hence re-territorializes art and makes it original. The essay becomes positively hysterical towards the end, with Groys going on about the magic and conjuration of spirits and ghosts from one's computer screen. Um.

I've been reading Max Frisch's Homo Faber. I borrowed the copy from my host father and it's a small little paperback from 1969 (the book was published in 1957). Again, another St. Paul's Deutschfamilie moment--one of my favorite experiences in German class was putting on Max Frisch's famous theatrical piece "Biedermann und die Brandstifter". I seriously rely on specific stuff I learned from Frau Hornor every day here and I'm so glad that I re-learned German from scratch from her. I'm also glad she made sure we all had good accents. There are some people in my class who write relatively well and speak without humongous grammatical flaws, but ohmygod when they open their mouths and say their "dRRy vieRRtel Stunde spAYter" I just want to cringe, curl up and stuff my ears with beeswax. The accent is not separate from the foreign language, it's a condition of speaking that language. There's absolutely no excuse to not try rolling one's r's or listening a little more carefully to how people speak to make the sounds you create to imitate theirs. It's also a great way to hide my Americanness, which as I realized is more prominent than I'd thought.

Yesterday and the day before I borrowed my host family's bike and went for a little spin around suburbia. It reminded me of the idyllic suburban childhood I never had. Ha. It made me really excited to get a bike, except for the fact that I'm scared shitless of traffic and I'll kind of be using it a lot in the middle of the city. Isn't the old SPS Brewster crew so proud of their Athlete Hon Hau? Who knew that three years later the girl who couldn't find her center of balance would be manoevering the streets of Berlin? (well, I will be, soon.)

I am so excited for the weather to get even warmer. And I'm excited for Easter break. And I'm excited for my classes at the university to start. I'm excited for people to come visit Berlin. I'm also very excited--but slightly nervous--to meet the curator of Berlinische Galerie tomorrow. Then I will find out what my internship entails, what my hours are, etc. Back to Groys' insanity...


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