Posted By Sandra Alland

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The Berlin Wall

Humans are awesome, no? We've got unarmed peace activists being robbed and murdered by the Israeli army in international waters, a giant oil spill that just keeps getting bigger in the Gulf of Mexico, major censorship at Toronto's Gay Pride, and massive repressive police forces about to beat the shit out of peace activists at the G20. Can this year get much better?
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The Holocaust Monument, me, my cane
In happier news, if you're in Berlin you can still see Frida Kahlo. Some more of my blurry illegal pics:

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Above is Frida's first ever painting. I love seeing artists' early work, it reminds me we all have to start somewhere... and often with themes we'll completely abandon later.

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I don't have much else to say about Berlin, except that I'd like to go back. Also, they have a great auction of bikes forgotten on trains throughout the city. It may not be the best place to get a good bike, but it's certainly *the* location for free entertainment. The oohs and aws of the crowd were hilarious, and even though I don't understand German I nearly peed laughing when people collectively mocked the crappiest bikes. Thanks again to Number Nine for a lovely trip, to Scout for traipsing about with me & to Bex for "highjacking" all the way from Prague with cheap beer (you mentalist).

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Posted By Sandra Alland
More on The Jewish Museum: it's designed by the amazing architect Daniel Libeskind, and just moving through the building is an experience. It's more like sculpture than architecture, or more like what architecture strives to be but often isn't. I was especially affected by The Holocaust Tower, which is a dark and cold concrete room with only a sliver of light from a crack in the roof. As your eyes adjust to the lack of light, you see faint impressions of writing on the walls, and just out of reach -- a ladder.

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Intriguing art pieces dot the museum. I was especially drawn by a bizarre sound project that involves walking back and forth in front of a dark wall in order to pick up bits of information playing on radio frequencies. I also dug the pomegranate tree, which features a realistic tree sculpture, with miniature video screens showing pomegranates waving in a breeze, and also paper pomegranates written on by visitors. You can walk up a ramp that leads through the branches to the top of the tree.
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Speaking of walking -- some of the museum wasn't so accessible, argh.

I also caught the Frida Kahlo Retrospective (on 'til 9 August) at Martin-Gropius-Bau. It's the largest gathering of her work in history and well worth seeing, despite the crowds and the cranky staff who make you wear your coat even though it's boiling and carry your backpack in your hand even though you have fibromyalgia. I was a bit disappointed that there was a large overlap with the works from the recent surrealist women's show in Manchester, and that there were none of Frida's larger works, but you can't have everything! One really nice touch was that a whole room was dedicated to portraits of Frida. I took naughty, illegal photos; they aren't that good because they were shot on the sly, but still.

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More soon!

 
Posted By Sandra Alland

More pics from Berlin's Jewish Museum...

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A great documentary on the 1954 U.S. censorship laws (wherein comics were blamed for "juvenile deliquency"), by Canadian Ron Mann!mann
Robert Crumb gets explosive in explosive times...goddman

The first women's comics...
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graphic novels

The above brought to you by... Art Spiegelman, Will Eisner, Trina Robins, Diane Noomin and Aline Kominsky. Read more in yesterday's post...

 
Posted By Sandra Alland

There's much to say about Berlin's Jewish Museum. I'll start with the current comics exhibit, on until 9 August. It's called Heroes, Freaks and Super-Rabbis and is stunning in depth and scope.

Comics and graphic novels were pretty much invented by Jewish artists, and in the 30s and 40s their characters were often overtly fighting the Nazis. Captain America, Superman, Batman, Daredevil, check it out...

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I especially like this quote from Superman: "I would like to land a strictly non-Aryan sock on your jaw, but there's no time for that!"

In the 1960s, Jewish artists created Hulk, X-Men and Fantastic Four -- all of which had characters with Jewish backgrounds. The exhibition chronicles the history of Jewish comics from before the 30s and after, and follows the 1950s U.S. censorship that led to the banning of comics with the words "horror" and weird", and also led to the awesome creation of Mad Magazine (which saved Jewish-run, anti-racist EC Comics). 

The exhibit also traces the beginning of the graphic novel, and discusses Jewish women in comics (though Alison Bechdel is oddly absent). It's so extensive and well-produced I have nothing bad to say, except that the film that greets you when you enter mocks blind people. Okay, the times, the times…but still.

If you're interested in comics, graphic novels, and/or Jewish history, you won't be disappointed.


 

 

 
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