rodney graham

There were 2 art works by Rodney Graham, a Canadian artist, in the Hamberger Bahnhof both of which I really enjoyed.  Both were short films, shot on what appeared to be 35mm and projected by large smooth running complicated loop machines.

Both were beautifully simple ideas.

The first was a single long film take of a chandelier, the chain on which it hanged had been twisted round and round as much as possble.  The film starts as the chandelier is released and goes flying round unspinnning itself, and lasts until it is completely still again.  That sense of waiting to be ‘still’, with all the energy slowly working its way out, just great.

The second piece, a 10 minute film, was a series of 20 second still shots of a precision made german manual typewriter, with the shots taken from different angles.  At first you could be fooled into thinking this was a series slides, but then it appears to start snowing and that is quite clearly moving image film.  It isn’t snow, the artist drops flour on to the machine as if it were snow, until the machine has alsmost disappeared, although not quite.

There is always something mesmerising about watching snow fall and gently swathe everything in softness, however there is an undercurrent in this in the effective sabotage of a lovely piece of machinery that no longer has a purpose.  I found the stillness of the photography, and yet menace of the action added my own Bond 007 element to complete it.



I saw an exhibition of Roman Signer’s work two years ago at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery and absolutely loved it!  There were two more of his works in the Hamberger Bahnhof Museum in Berlin, and again.. his ability to find the absurd in the ordinary, sometimes quietly and sometimes explosively.  I always walk away from his work grinning and wondering..

This work below was not performed insitu, explaining the white walls and absence of total mess.

His second piece of work there was this below.. the photo dows not make it absolutely clear that both fans appeared to be on and were blowing air.

The Cold War, Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie

This week has been a funny one for me, seeing places that I learned about as I was growing up, when the Cold War was a reality, and the news was alsways full of paranoia about the power of the Soviet Union.  I was 26 when the wall came down, I remember hearing about it on the news and there was so much excitement and optimism.  I really wish I had gone to Berlin then and seen history being made.  My parents crossed through Checkpoint Charlie only a few months before all the silliness ended.

Here is a picture of Checkpoint Charlie I found on Wikipedia from 1977

and above and below are how Checkpoint Charlie looked last week, with all of us there, and a guy pretending to be a soldier that you stand beside and have your photo taken..for 1 Euro.

We saw the tracks on the pavements where the wall used to be, and the tiny fragment that remains, but that does not come close to giving an understanding as to how it really was before the wall came down.  Now the small amount of wall that remains has to protected from us naughty tourists who might want to swipe a bit as a souvenir.  Below is a photo I have found from a family blog of the Pacheco family from when they were in Berlin in 1984..5 years before it came down.

and here is the Brandenberg Gate taken by me last week, and below how it used to be before the wall came down:

The Holocaust Memorial

The very first evening the first place we visited was the Holocaust Memorial, the monument in the centre of Berlin for remembrance of the 6 million Jews of central Europe murdered by the Nazis.

It was designed by architect Peter Eisenman, and consists of 2,711 concrete slabs of varying heights, one for each page of the Talmud. It is built on the site of a former SS barracks. The other victims of the holocaust are commemorated in statues at the 4 corners of the memorial.  As you walk between these slabs and sink down into the cntre of the memorial they feel like giant tombs rising over head.  I found it a very moving, bleak and sombre monument.  Its’ construction was not without controversy, the firm contracted to build the memorial and supply anti graffiti paint was found to have supplied the Nazis with Zyklon B, the poison gas used in the gas chambers, but politicians at the time decided there were few German companies that did not have any connection with the National Socialist Government, and so after a temporary suspension decided to continue with the original company.  The anti graffiti paint cannot be very good as within the first year 5 swastikas were found painted on the memorial.

Actually, the place I found almost more moving was the Jewish Cemetery less than five minutes walk from our hotel.  A place full of huge family tombs and memorials with dates going way back but with absolutely none after the early 1930’s,  indicating just how well established and large was the Jewish community.

The run down vandalised overgrown present state of the cemetery is a testament as to how an entire community was eliminated; who is there left to take care of it?


The West Highland Museum in Fort William is an amazing treasure trove  It has a huge and fascinating collection, so that each time I go I find out some new nugget of gold.

I found this below on a recent visit, and it makes for shocking reading given how endangered some of them have become.  Amazing how our perspective changes…..

My sister

This is a portrait of my sister from a photograph I took of her 24 years ago on top of Bheinn a’Bheithir above Ballachulish.  I really like the photograph, which captured a very characteristic expression.

I am not sure about this portrait; it is a pencil drawing on tracing paper over an oil painting on tracing paper.  I certainly have a greater respect for portrait painters as a result.

This has been an opportunity for me to explore the idea that my understanding of a person is unique to me, and sits within a particular context.  For example my sister is the same person to me today as 24 years ago atop a munro.  Since then she has been wife, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law, lawyer, mediator, manager, etc to a whole host of different people.