aura variation

I feel almost grateful to myself that I skipped the last seminar session of the unitednationsplaza conference yesterday and fled to Arsenal to watch Jem Cohen’s films.

It came as an accidental consequential must that I had to leave the conference, which was like the main purpose for me to pay for the entire trip in Berlin filled me with long depressing hours instead. Subconsciously I just couldn’t bear the idea that people were logically and philosophically addressing to this subject of “failure” like this concept never existed on earth or had never been as important as it was to the failure of Manifesta 6 School, or if you like, to the success of the unitednationsplaza. In either case, I think they actually “failed” again to face what failure is all about.


Failure always partakes, in any form, in any present time, and its definition is not just polarized by the concept of success, but has to be negotiated by multi-value system. It is not even about scholarly “analyzing” failure, but how we choose to confront it in daily basis, and then in other scales. It is possible to fail, of course. Things fail all the time in art, as a matter of fact, but we never want to accept there is another voice taking the stance to acclaim the failure of it. Only when it is operationally stopped, we start to think our feet stuck. I mean, why don’t we switch our topic into cowardice?

When I was taking my cigarette during the second break of yesterday’s conference, I thought I couldn’t just take it anymore. It meant too little for me to sit in that room with another 80 people or so to celebrate this gathering. Of course, there had been many inspiring witty thoughts and conversation throughout the three-day conference, but I thought that was a good time I left it behind too. Off I went. I had no clue at all what to do to spend the last few hours before coming back to Stockholm. I finished my cigarette in the tram station in the middle of the street, and decided to head for a film.

What else can I choose to go in Berlin? Certainly I went to Potsdamer Platz, since they have movies without German adaptation and there is a film house for art movie. I would at least have something to watch. Alright, there was no appealing Hollywood comedy for me, so I turned to pick up the could-be-very-boring art film that was the only available choice I could go with. I ended up watching two shorts by Cohen: Bloody Orange Sky (2000) and Amber City (1999). It was a delight!

The image quality and narrative were so uniquely folded in Cohen’s hands, and I was amazed by the way he collects and processes these images into a portrait, a storytelling. They are fragments of ordinary life such as markets, long shots of natural spectacles like watching over the light changing in the sky, the flow of volcano…and there is almost an equality in these collected images—they reveal its life and death at the same time. It is the deadly beauty of life or the lively beauty of death in them. Each image contents itself, and transcends the sparkle from within.

I felt so much vitalized by the film, and then there was this lady jumping out conducting a real-time phone interview with Jem Cohen in the cinema after the screening. We could ask question right away and this screening actually belonged to the Walter Benjamin Festival, and the talk was like 30 minutes long, and was very intellectual as well as interesting conversation in the cinema. He provided a clearer context to think about his work, and how it might possibly be related to Benjamin’s discourse and how he admired Benjamin…That was an amazing experience to have an immediate talk with the film direct across the Atlantic, it really turned my horribly suffering struggles with the previous conference away. I was so happy.

Now I am slightly drunk, and forget me please if my words start to mumble without direction. I really could pick up all the bad habits wherever I go, and now I am picking up whisky. Anyway.

I was so happy about the film and the talk with Cohen in Arsenal, and what surprised me was that they even prepared wine (both red and white) out side the cinema room, and I felt that was like a kiss of a blissful night. Two great films, a talk with the director, and then wine was ready after all. That was the way I wanted to end up my trip in Berlin this time.

I guess I really have to tell you that last week was really crazy. I met so many people, not only my friends or artists I meant to visit beforehand, but I just got to see so many things. There are this Walter Benjamin’s Archive Exhibition, and then this screening in the Benjamin’s context, not to mention how many curators and artists I managed to meet within one week. In addition to these, there is this unitednationsplaza conference where I really get to see so many big names. By the way, I also went to see the exhibition of Matthew Barney and Joseph Beuys, and I got to see Barney himself on the artist talk…

Crazy, hmm? Gee, I can’t believe I am drunk again.


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