Monday, August 24, 2009

Berlin Calling

From the director of 'One Day in Europe' (Berlinale 2005 in Official Competition) and 'Berlin is in Germany' (Berlinale 2001 Panorama Audience Award), Hannes Stöhr, Berlin Calling is a dramatic and intimate account of techno to accompany Speakiing In Code on your Techno night-in.

Breifly: a man (Ickarus / Kalkbrenner) tours clubs around the globe with his manager and girlfriend. On the eve of their largest album release he is admitted to a psychiatric clinic after overdosing at a gig. And various tribulations pre/post. But the story almost seems like a Trojan Horse for what interests me more: a patchwork portrait of hard-to-get shots of the camera-shy Berlin night-scene.

Usually these types of films are post-posthumous accounts of inherently self-destructive artists of UK or US origin. Using a living artist and riding on the phenomenon of Berlin has facilitated a unique promotional campaign. Running the film's releases alongside a tirade of Kalkbrenner’s club fixtures has mutually generated interest in both the film and Kalkbrenner's music.

Paul Kalkbrenner was/is a real-life dj, the film’s protagonist and sountrack artist, thereby creating a surreal unification of realities. And he delivers the perfect music for the movie: the soundtrack contains ten exclusively produced tracks, including the movie´s hymn “Sky and Sand” [with vocals by his brother, artist Fritz Kalkbrenner]. In addition there are five previously released tracks, all exclusive Berlin Calling edits. Alone or in the context of the movie, they are good.
Check the official website for release dates and give the trailer and tracks a look.

PS I had drinks with the Director and female lead a few weeks ago.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Speaking In Code

Berlin is renowned for its rave scene, of which techno is a significant part, its success outside the Bavarian foothills probably attributable to a lack of dubious German lyricism. Since its 90's heyday of silly acid-induced synths, it has developed into an intellectualised, rational genre. German and similarly fond Dutch sympathizers have voiced complaints at the 'noise' that UK producers rack up, and conversely boast at the simplicity and understated power of Techno in comparison. While it has taken me a while to feel exited about, techno is listenable and hypnotic, and its consistent, well-produced riffs are particularly useful during extended Berlin nights.

The scene is bizarre and filled with enigmatic hopefuls, and I was bare pleased when I stumbled across Director/Producer Amy Grill’s documentary ‘Speaking In Code’ which follows some of the hopefuls. The official site nd featured links explain more. Synopsis:

‘Speaking in Code is an intimate account of people who are completely lost in music. A heartbreaking and lighthearted documentary, it's a vérité glimpse into the world of techno. Captivating and entertaining, the film takes you around the world, following the people who make electronic music ... their lives.’


Monday, August 17, 2009

Double Standards

[Images: Record sleeves; Exhibition manuals; Letterheads; Shopfront design]

Double Standards. No, not like feminism, but more like a design studio from Berlin that I investigated after noticing a string of their posters hovering around. There's fairly sparse descriptive prose on the website, but judging from the pictures and menu sorting, it's principally a surface-based, visual communication/graphic design co, doing books, catalogues, posters and mixed campaigns etc. Using block colours and typography, the work is comparable to the contemporary school of rational Dutch design, and shares some of its clarity, unlike a fair amount of more cluttered communication around the city. Their strategies and mediums are also interesting and original, and worth a look.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


[Above: Salter Poses with the finished installation. The field of miniature robots around the base serve as narrative guardians, and prevent visitors from coming too close and knocking it over]

installed at the San Jose Museum of Art, Robots:Evolution of a Cultural Icon, Michael Salter 's 22 ft robot is constructed from polystyrene packing materials (styrofoam). The massive installation examines the development of robot iconography in fine art over the past 50 years. Associate professor of digital arts at the University of Oregon since 2005, he has been building these fabulous sculptures for several years, each one growing in size to suit the available exhibition space.

Recycling the discarded packaging creates reflective sustainable imagery, but is also formally ideal, as the expanded foam creates the impression of extruded or stamped metal components, like a prototypical scale-model. Sadly though, Salter’s unique creations are usually destroyed because no one has bought one yet or figured out how to get one through a gallery door. Gr8

Time-lapse of Salter working with professionals at the San Jose Museum of Modern Art to install one of his trademark styrobots

Monday, August 3, 2009

'Intelligent Robot Solutions'

[Above: A robot writing religious texts; robot rides, and a robot trebuchet]

These industrial grade robots, such as the FANUC and KUKA shown typically have around 6 axis, and can have a number of attachments mounted to the heads, performing assembly, fixturing, machine tending/part transfer, spot welding, material removal, Paletizing/picking/packing, material handling, dispensing. Or programmable hilarity. They are surprisingly versatile, and the little robo-slags will do whatever you tell them, if you're familiar with their 'software'.

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