Entfremdung [ger.: alienation]

Dicht wie Löcher eines Siebes stehn
Fenster beieinander, drängend fassen
Häuser sich so dicht an, daß die Straßen
Grau geschwollen wie Gewürgte stehn.

Ineinander dicht hineingehakt
Sitzen in den Trams die zwei Fassaden
Leute, wo die Blicke eng ausladen
Und Begierde ineinander ragt.

Unsre Wände sind so dünn wie Haut,
Daß ein jeder teilnimmt, wenn ich weine.
Flüstern dringt hinüber wie Gegröhle:

Und wie stumm in abgeschlossner Höhle
Unberührt und ungeschaut
Steht doch jeder fern und fühlt: alleine.


In his expressionist poem “Städter”, Alfred Wolfenstein talks about the estrangement of people in the rapidly growing cities of the early 20th century. Exponential urbanization especially did not leave the artists and writers of that time untouched and, like Alfred Wolfenstein, they expressed the drastic change of scenery that effected every aspect of the daily routine. Similar to the time of romantic one century earlier, nature now again is romanticized and longed for, as it depicts the contrast of the hostile, lethal city young people are unwillingly drawn to to find a job. Being not used to the fast, hectic tact of the city, artists express their repulsion in poems like the one above, where the streets very vividly stand ‘swollen grey like choked ones’.

Much has happened since the time of expressionism, two world wars have been fought, regimes rose and fell, and we look back at the era as if it were distant history, long forgotten. But has it ever ended? Would Wolfenstein’s poem not be as accurate if published today? The contemporary photographer/artist Ang Choon Leng, better known as “CLANG“, published the photo series “Time” that seems to embody exactly the words Wolfenstein expressed one hundred years ago. The people displayed in the composition don’t hold eye contact or show any sign of awareness of others or the situation around them. Surely, this is because they are each literally taken out of their own world or scene. As CLANG puts them together, however, the individual cosmos (cosmi) create a coherent scene, just like one you would find on the street. Only lines ‘as thin as skin’, as Wolfenstein puts it, indicate the separation of the different pieces. The spatial proximity of both the pieces in the picture, as well as people in our real world, seems absurd considering that they are mentally worlds apart. Cynical photographs of people waiting for the bus and all staring at their smartphone make fun of an adolescent society whose addiction to technology dislodges arbitrary interpersonal connection and awareness of the surrounding. People start living only in their own, limited cosmos which enables a paradoxical, bipolar situation– comical and sad–in which Wolfenstein’s lyrical I is lonely in a place that is crammed with people. And finally, it leaves the viewer wonder: have we ever progressed from the state Western society found itself in one hundred years ago?

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Credits to Ang Choon Leng

Underneath Your Skin

“When they’d been married for thirty-one years, and unhappy in each other for most of them, my grand’maman and my grand’papa stopped speaking. They wrote each other letters because it was easier to stroke the contours of a B than the contours of a face, they broke pencil nibs with the brittle becoming of their love, they signed their names with anger and pain and careful crossings of the Ts. They wrote letters like hello please take the girls to the store thank you and letters like would you please take the chicken out of the freezer and defrost for dinner thank you until the only way my grand’papa could explain that he was dying was through a letter dear Colette I believe that I am very sick and I think that I am dying I am afraid thank you.




I have tried over and over again to answer the question of what these letters mean, these unlove letters written by a pair of people who also wrote their bodies into mine. In the hitch of my shoulders and the arch of my nose and the bend of my waist I can read them and their inherited bodily text. And I’ve been told I clip my Hs like one of them did, so that the word human sounds more like singing when I say it.




But I’ve looked in the mirror and wondered if the unloving is in me too. I’ve wondered, in quiet moments of all kinds, if I love to write because my grand’maman and my grand’papa passed the why of why they wrote down deep and low into my blood, a kind of septicemia.”

-Gabrielle Hick, published in the INDY

Take a look at the literary piece above. Read it slowly. Let the words melt on your tongue, taste their sounds word by word. The story “The language of unloving” published in the recent edition of The College Hill Independent, needs to be read like this, slowly, word by word, and is paradoxically beautiful. It talks about the unadorned ugliness of routine in old age; the tragedy of two lovers, two souls becoming alienated from each other and no longer living with, but solely existing next to each other.

The ingenuity of the text lies in the way the language used is as unexcited and everyday as the topic itself. The writing imitates the light hearted, weightless style of a love story which subtly destroys the unlove story’s gravity leaving nothing but a narrative that I could almost hear whispered through the walls of the apartments of the unlovers next door. And as the story lost its sensational character that could have come easily with it, it truly gives us a glimpse of the downside, the sadness of humanness, of falling for comfort and monotony, without superimposing a morale. It is this paradox of the light, flowing writing style that creates beauty in a lyrical context that generally allows for no beauty that creates tension in the text.

Without asking for it, the text demands to be felt. Even though the author reflects the unlove letters on her specific journalistic career, at the end of the piece I leave the story’s world troubled, wondering whether I myself, or we all, are doomed to suffer under the septicemia of unloving.

Robots of Brixton

2047/the future—a young male walks through an open market, past car manufacturing and china food. The surface of his body has no sense for the gleaming sun too close to earth, singeing her rays into the cement streets. We follow the narrating robot around his live, unable to stop watching once we started not knowing why. His polished metallic posture dripping with self confidence and suppressed fierceness and the electric beat imitating a heart beat casts a spell upon us—the more we watch, the more do we become this male robot we don’t even know the name of.

April 1981—300 casualties, a city in ruins. It is Saturday night when the police arrest a young black male, which ignites the the anger of the community of color in Brixton that has been so long lingering under their skins. Even though on the surface people of color seem to be fully integrated in the social and community life of Brixton, upon a closer look the high unemployment and unfair SUS policy, nowadays known as the stop-and-frisk policy cause tensions seething between blacks and the police. The three days’ riots ended in the early hours of Sunday morning, labelled ‘bloody Sunday’ by the Times magazine: three hundred people were killed in Brixton that night.

In his afro-futurist short movie Kibwe Tavares replaces the black rioters with robots and recreates the events of 1981. The realism of the scenery and the characters is just as stunning as the care for detail. From the first second the main character’s posture is full of fierce and subliminal, growing anger, his movements are firm and deliberate. As we watch the robots’ movements we can almost feel their muscles burning, their bodies working, living and all of this even though they are visibly built out of metal trash. Against common expectations the conscious inhumane, typically robotic design of the character promotes their living, human character. The clear, honest blue eyes and the tension building of the heart-beat-music causes the viewer empathize with the robots. Looking through their eyes, we find ourselves sympathizing with the ‘aggressors’, the community of color who started the riot as victims of a racist executive system. The character of the robot is thereby to the viewer alien enough to serve as a natural barrier creating space and enabling it to asses the happenings shown in the movie without any prejudice.

“History repeats itself, first as history, second as a farce” suggests the short film at the end, drawing the attention away from a pure recovering of history towards a futuristic vision. But what might seem like a prophesying depiction of a new class system discriminating against robots is implicitly a praise of the machine. The robots take on a position in which they are not only human in that they are capable of feeling but they are above that conscious of themselves and their position and rights in society which they are willing to fight for.

Aside from its social message, the films technique is so elaborate that it is in itself as an art piece a pleasure to watch!

Robots of Brixton from Kibwe Tavares on Vimeo.

Still Waters Run Deep

Today I would like to derive your attention to an exceptional artist: Gregory Crewdson. Although he would firmly be considered a photographer, I call him artist intentionally. He images are all thoroughly staged and composed by the photographer himself in a Hollywood-like style; Crewdson sometimes blocks streets or areas for several days in order to be able to shoot. Truly created like this, his photographs still have nothing in them, that would be considered supernatural or abnormal. On the contrary: they seem like normal, everyday scenes that could be just across the street. What makes them so magical, so breathtaking, so ‘heartbeatstopping’ is their aura of peril, of horror. They seem like scenes from an Alfred Hitchcock movie, those, which describe the climax of attention: the calm before the storm.

What is also so very special about Crewdson’s work, is that they show one moment, a scene, that needs to have a history and a future. Each frame leaves the onlooker wondering, what happened and is a world in itself. Here, the saying: “One picture says more than a thousand words” can truly be applied. This is also, what is so wonderful about them: More than any other works of art, Crewdson’s photographs encourage people to spin stories around them, very individual stories that might tell more about the person itself, than about the picture.

All images also show the deepest fear of humans: absolute loneliness and isolation; the subjects strangely are in the center of the picture but alienated from the scene itself.



Fotografie/ Gregory Crewdson


Fotografie/ Gregory Crewdson


all rights reserved to gregory crewdson

African Art

I am very excited to be able to introduce you to the very talented, young Senegalese artists Momar Seck who now finally decided to expand his scope into Europe and the United States. He studied at the Dakar Graduate School of Visual Arts as well as in Switzerland at the University of Strasbourg to explore the studies of fine art in addition to purely plastic art.

Working in Dakar, Momar Seck clearly reflects the impression of his surrounding in his work. His pictures are characterized by the bright colors typical for African art and the idea many have of Africa in general. Upon closer inspection, one realizes, that the materials the artist uses are all recycled. In his personal statement, Momar Seck explains that he wants to show the interculturality of our modern, globalized world, where every good undergoes a cycle and in the end ends up, where it started.

The first painting below exemplifies this perfectly. The painting is dominated by the warm yellow and red-brown tones of the background as well as the warm orange of the greatest object in the center of the painting which creates a harmonic and snug atmosphere. The small individual rectangles which are arranged in three long vertical stripes show batik patterns in bright pink, blue and yellow and other fabric with very special, diverse structures or patterns. Being so different and extraordinary the singularity of these elements paradoxically is also their binding element, their lowest common denominator. Because of this characteristic, every rectangle seems like a window to a foreign world, a world that is so azure blue, so free, so Jamaican-chill, that it seems so far away from our western European lives that it gets a paradisiacal character.

The largest rectangle is in the center of the picture with a dark red line closely bisecting it, which makes the whole image appear symmetrical, although it clearly is not. This work shows the spirit of Africa, of Senegal with all its different facets and colors that cannot be felt this way in our world, which is what makes the painting so thrilling and fascinating for me.

The background of the upper third of the picture is kept in black, covered here and there by orange and yellow streams of paint that lead to the middle part of the painting, which includes this dark color into the picture, as it would otherwise stand apart and in contrast to the bright orange and yellow shades that dominate the rest of the painting. Still, in its darkness it suggests peril and doom, posed by the Western culture? It seems as if the orange streams fight against the dark, which adds another tension to the picture.

The background colors constitute the Belgium flag. Momar Seck thereby takes up his intention to show interculturality of our world, linking Belgium as a European and EU country with the Jamaican flag in a piece of art that is in its composition African.

This image is only one example of the wonderful work of Momar Seck and surely his other pictures all say equally much about our world, which is why I strongly encourage you to have a close look on them!







Amazing. Surreal. Seemingly ordinary. The very special pictures of Djuno Tomsni are hard to describe, but I believe these three points describe them quite adequately. The artist chose ordinary scenes and common compositions, such as a boat in the center of the picture  floating on a river towards the horizon. To differ from these rather dull and known photographs he created a mashup with pictures of extraterrestrial objects, galaxies, planets or stars. The result is truly amazing. At the first sight the onlooker recognizes the ordinary scene before its details and is tempted to characterize or box it in that category. The mashup is perfect, which makes it so intense: although the scene is clearly not taken from reality, the inserted photography is adapted to all elements of the original picture and therefore it is not a disturbing factor. The effect these works have is hard to put into words, so please have a look yourself.






Enfants de la Rue

The artist I would like to present today is Aboudia Abdoulaye Diarrassouba, who I discovered during my visit at Saatchi Gallery in London. His series “Enfants de la rue” was especially fascinating to me. Aboudia captures images from the streets of his hometown Abidjan and sees himself only as a reporter. However, his work goes far beyond an observatory function. Aboudia enhances and exaggerates certain characteristics of the persons and objects he portrays to reveal absurdities of our modern world. In “Enfants the la rue 1” the, wide, bright smiles of the children shows the preposterous nature of people (only in extreme cases children) following directions of a superior ‘ruler’, a person that is human just like everybody else, to fight and kill for the sake of the country– fight humans, just because they were born in a country this ‘ruler’ considers to be generally evil, the enemy. During wars, citizen kill, become murderers, and are celebrated and honored for that. The white-colored weapons (where white traditionally stands for peace, innocence and life) in this context seem highly ironical and provocative.

The technique of painting in a sarcastic manner creates the tension of these works and forces their onlooker to deduct the artists’ message themselves; at the same time there is relatively little room for misinterpretation. The message Aboudia conveys is extremely profound and an essential problem of human nature, however, his pictures are not at all grave and onerous, which is why I could not stop looking at them.

Untitled (Diptych)

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