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Think pink - click opera
February 2010
 
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Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 12:25 pm
Think pink

I did a long interview yesterday with the Financial Times, for a feature the FT magazine is running about Berlin, and whether the city's current status as an ultra-cheap haven for creative types can last.

Reporter Eleanor Lee enjoyed my descriptions of the city as a creative class paradise ("I want all this on a T-shirt!" she said) but wondered if it was sustainable; wouldn't Berlin rapidly become as expensive as London and New York? My answer was that it's the lifestyles of London and New York that are "unsustainable", that Berlin's post-materialist, liberal and experimental lifestyles are important as a way to find "post-bling" ways to live in the 21st century, and that, even if Berlin is only the pleasant anomaly that it is due to odd historical circumstances, and even if its local dodgy economy only survives by massive subsidy from the rest of Germany, and even if the current bubble is only going to last for, say, ten years, it's still worth it, and worth being here. Ten years of brainstorming, ten years of ethical, aesthetic and political R&D is still something.

The image of a "bubble" kept coming up in our talk (in a pleasant cafe in Mitte), but so did a more abstract idea: indirection. I found myself championing "indirection" as a virtue, and arguing that indirection can only happen in bubble-like conditions. I wish I had a better word for what I'm talking about. Let me try to define it.

Indirection is what happens when you go to university to study literature for four years, despite the fact that the market really has very little use for people who've read a lot of old books. Indirection is what happens when you don't have to spend all your time earning the money to have something to eat and somewhere to live, but can actually pursue things for their own sake. Indirection is a company pouring money into research without demanding to see specific results within a limited time period. Indirection is when you're sure that creative activity adds economic value, but you can't say exactly where or when.

Indirection is related to play, and related to delay. Indirection says that there's virtue in not taking the most direct route between two points. Indirection is therefore in contradiction with traditional logistical and economic wisdom. It's more intuitive, more mysterious. And yet I'm convinced that it can also be justified in economic and logistical terms. It's crucial to human life, collectively, the same way childhood play or nocturnal dreams are crucial to the development of an individual. Someone who neither plays nor dreams cannot function as a pragmatic human being.

After the interview I took Eli to my favourite "creative class" bookstore, ProQM. Here, Berlin's arty types come to browse books and magazines they can't afford, to get ideas from other cities. Eli bought the Europe Endless edition of 032C magazine, and I bought Cabinet magazine's Insecurity issue. In the back of it I saw a book being advertised: a book on the colour pink.

"Pink," the blurb reads. "From the rosy tint of wind-reddened cheeks to the first flush of arousal, from cherry blossoms to Pepto-Bismol, pink is a sweet, intimate, fragile and sickening shade. Few colors trigger more contradictory associations and emotions—tender, childish, plastic, pornographic—or are so symbolic of both high and low culture. Pink is sometimes awkward, even embarrassing, but on the other hand it is enjoyed and associated with the idea of beauty... Viewer reactions are determined by cultural factors. For example, the positive perception of pink in Japan seems strikingly masculine to the Western viewer; every year the country pauses to contemplate the pink blossoms of the cherry trees, which, after just a few days, drift like snow to the ground, symbols of the death of the samurai, who falls in the bloom of youth."



When I got home I noticed all the pink stuff I've filled my new apartment with: light streams into my bedroom through pink plastic strips I've hung over the window, my clothes are packed in a pink crate, I spend much of the day in a pink bathrobe, I drink green tea from a pink cup, my dish-drying tray is pink plastic, the entrance to my kitchen is draped with a pink woollen boa, pink pages from Japanese magazines adorn the walls. The bubble I live in is a pink one, a flat in a city dominated by a tower currently stickered with big pink pentagons. Nearby, I sit giving pink opinions to a reporter from "the pink paper".

82CommentReplyShare

ohfuckyou
k a †e
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 10:37 am (UTC)

Few seem to realize this -- but pink is gangster. F'real.


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bopscotch
bopscotch
bopscotch
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 08:23 pm (UTC)

two years ago I was seeing the Fifty Cent/G-Unit fans walk down my high school's hallways, head-to-toe in pink and white. I wish I had pictures to show you, it was incredibly surreal.


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martinish
martinish
martinish
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 10:50 am (UTC)

they even make pink in Berlin.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 10:53 am (UTC)

Ha, that's funny, I've photographed that factory too!


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__aglamourgirl
__aglamourgirl
lets fade together, lets fade forever
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 11:35 am (UTC)

I love berlin. I wish I can live there on day. And I wish it will still have the flair it had when I went there a year ago.


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neil_mctaggart
neil_mctaggart
nightfactory
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 11:45 am (UTC)

Kirsty Walk(british TV)etc. did a programme recently focusing on the culture of modern Berlin. It seems that although it is cheap to live in Berlin, it is also difficult to work or actually make money in the place. Momus is in the ideal position there of not having to rely upon Berlin itself for his income. It would be good for someone with say an internet job or live in Berlin and work from a distance to Britain say.


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evalien
evalien
E
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 11:38 am (UTC)

The room bottom left is fantastic. Pink and red is a great combination, i was also planning on doing that to my bedroom whenever I move coming year. I often wonder if fashion seeps into your mind if you wish to or not. A little more pink in your surroundings every day until you suddenly find yourself considering to paint all your walls hotpink.

Life without indirection seems horribly depressing. One straight line from birth to death.


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zzberlin
zzberlin
hh
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 01:50 pm (UTC)

<< Life without indirection seems horribly depressing. One straight line from birth to death. >>

I don't know. Athletes seem pretty directed, and some of them have lives that don't seem bad. I respect directed, passionate people. I may become one myself one day.


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hulegu
hulegu
hulegu
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 11:47 am (UTC)

La Gazzetta dello Sport is pink! For that alone the Azzurri deserved to win the WC.


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nickink
nickink
Nick Ink
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 12:13 pm (UTC)

I see you have carpet there - I would have had you down as a wooden floor man?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 12:49 pm (UTC)

There are wooden floors everywhere except the bedroom, the bathroom and the kitchen. I tend to live on the floor, Japanese-style, so it's nice to have one room with a floor that's soft enough to do that with. Tatami mats would be better, but I fear Baker the rabbit would devour them at one sitting.


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niddrie_edge
niddrie_edge
raymond
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 12:42 pm (UTC)
something in the air

thanks for putting a "word" to delay, play and indirection

i like how you said a while back you were envisioning these states even in the school classroom with your workbook drawings

i used to refer to a "lost generation" when examing how i fell further through the "safety net" than you appear to have but it appears you have a similar inclination to reap and glean the fallen harvest of the detour and the sideshow

i always thought you had followed a particular postpunk academic agenda or path

i cannot resist referring you to an online chat i posted about the "pink"
http://niddrie-edge.livejournal.com/43837.html

my latest post is a tribute to the Bartleby's
"i prefer not to"


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 12:54 pm (UTC)
Re: something in the air

Ah, a nice tour through pink!

That reminds me, about ten years ago I wrote a song for Laila France called The Pink Song which is very apt.


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glowingwhispers
glowingwhispers
Shimmering Shouts of Everyday Madness
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 12:57 pm (UTC)

With regards to cities, do you Toronto very well?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 01:00 pm (UTC)

I played a show there a few years ago and got a certain sense of vitality from the bit where Younge Street meets Chinatown. But I don't know the city well.


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desant012
||||||||||
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 12:57 pm (UTC)

Unless Berlin suddenly becomes a holy city for financial institutions, marketing and PR work, and wealthy, do-nothing socialites, it might not explode like London or NYC. If it does, it'll become a museum city without any real cultural output like NYC is becoming.

Remember when you used to live on the LES, Momus? Well, your old apartment is filled either by a Wall Street hedge fund guy, or an overstuffed San Fran transplant with a lot of mom's money to burn and dreams of the cool kids taking her art seriously. and yes, the area is still just as run-down and roach-infested.

Berlin (and others I'm sure are out there) sounds like the antidote for all this, and hopefully we won't all miss out on it before it's too late like it is in so many other major cities.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 01:02 pm (UTC)

I was sitting three months ago on a doorstep right next to where I used to live on Orchard Street, and Albert Hammond Jr of The Strokes walked out of one of the houses. So that's who lives there now! (And yes, there are still rats.)


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 01:09 pm (UTC)

one needs only to look slightly more east to find the true heaven for the creative types. Yes, Berlin is great, but it is like comparing Arp of the 1960 making sculptures for the UN to the shit disturber in Zurich. Lodz in Poland is a place filled with empty 19th century industrial architecture where artists without state support work, and actually have something to say ( its not hard given Polands current politics). It might not be as comfortable as Berlin, but its a lot more interesting in terms of art,......and its much cheaper.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 01:15 pm (UTC)

I actually wouldn't feel comfortable living in a country where lunatic twin brothers are currently shocking the EU they've just joined by trying to re-introduce the death penalty. And if "having a lot to say" means you're condemned to spend your creative life making protests against Tweedledum and Tweedledee... no thanks.


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siokaos
siokaos
Christopher W. Moriarty
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 01:39 pm (UTC)

You're indirectly masculine.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 02:27 pm (UTC)
Apropos nothing - Q Magazine

You may have spotted this already but I see the September edition of has James Dean Bradfield choosing his Apocalypse Jukebox top 10. And at number 9...

See a Friend in Tears - Momus

Momus was big with die-hard indie fans in the 80s. See a Friend in Tears was written by Jacques Brel but this version inspired me to cover it for my new solo album. It's written about the decline of post-World War II Europe, but it could have been written in the wake of the war in Iraq.

-- Mulboyne --


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 03:16 pm (UTC)
Re: Apropos nothing - Q Magazine

Golly, 'im out of the Manic Street Preachers!

I saw them live once in Paris, and I have a bit of a soft spot for "Motorcycle Emptiness". I'd like to hear his cover of my cover!


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beketaten
beketaten
Juliet
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 03:46 pm (UTC)

Pinko!! Haha...Only joking.

Nah....S'all good. I'm with ya on the pink.


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uberdionysus
uberdionysus
Troy Swain: Black Box Miasma
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 03:57 pm (UTC)

Unfortunately your 'indirection' is only readily available to the rich.

I've had a score of friends who had to leave Berlin because they couldn't afford it (even though, by all accounts, it's unbelievably cheap).

I think the creativity of the leisure class is nothing if it's only in the province of the wealthy.


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desant012
||||||||||
Fri, Aug. 4th, 2006 04:20 pm (UTC)

It's not entirely in the hands of the wealthy - if you live smartly, cheaply, and with some appreciation for humility and limitation, you can live a rich and rewarding creative life.

Of course, it's not going to be glamorous or fashionable. For those of us without trustfunds, you do have to work your ass off, especially when you're interested in those oh-so-otherworldy things. Most people who make it all work aren't rich, and they work their brains out to make it happen - it just takes sacrifice, compromise, and some degree of ego check.


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