October 30th, 2006


Potsdam, 2063

The girlfriend and I caught a suburban train to Potsdam to catch the last day of Ideal City - Invisible Cities on Sunday. Potsdam may only be 40 minutes from Berlin, but its combination of low solid baroque buildings and communist brutalism (not to mention uplifting Cold War era mosaics and sculptures) makes it feel quite different. And of course this is the town responsible for The Singing, Ringing Tree, so it has a certain otherness about it.

(Click the picture to see a larger version.)

Even in the rain, events where you navigate from one location to another in an unfamiliar town can be exciting. The best venues in this art-meets-urbanism show had the same tacky charisma I noted in my piece about the Berlin Biennial, The war on patina. In fact, this often felt like the Berlin Biennial Part 2. The Old Military Hospital, for instance, had the same endless institutional corridors and chopped-about, history-enhanced rooms as the Jewish Girls School which was the Biennial's most evocative venue.

And, just as at the Biennial, private apartments had been turned into exhibition spaces. Artist Les Schliesser's enormous, lino-floored, ceramic-oven dotted flat was full of shabby glamour, and even contained one of the most interesting pieces from the Biennial: "Scene for a New Heritage II", a six-minute DVD projection by Croatian artist David Maljkovic. Set in 2063, it shows a group of young travellers visiting the Petrova Gora Memorial, a dramatic communist monument erected in honour of Yugoslavia's World War II dead. The idealists sing Laibach-style comments to each other in traditional Slavic ullulations:

"I suggest we change the function of this building."

"We can't, this place is sacred."

"It looks to me like there's no god in here."

"Come on, we're tired, we'll come again."

The combination of ostalgie, futurism and ancient Slavic tradition takes us to a very rich and interesting place indeed, opening up a view to a parallel world where ideals have become visible.