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Wondering... Back in Berlin

I guess all those mass executions, anti-Semitic pogroms, and bloody, counterrevolutionary purges can really age you.

by Bruce LaBruce
Apr 12 2012, 4:00am

Back in Berlin after trips to film festivals in Guadalajara, Mexico, and Gorizia, Italy, I have to move from my sublet in Kreuzkolln, the trendiest neighborhood in the city, to one in Prenzlauer Berg, the formerly trendiest but currently yuppiest neighborhood, where dodging baby carriages is now the most adventurous pastime. You know you’re in the former East Berlin when you start seeing ironic posters of Communist dictators everywhere. (Just to be trendy, I hung this fabulously inappropriate Time magazine cover of North Korean Communist dictator “Lil’” Kim Jung-un on the barren wall above my bed to spruce up the place a bit.)

At one place where I had a business meeting I came across this photo of a young Joseph Stalin, looking not unlike gorgeous male supermodel Tony Ward (there’s a casting idea for… me), alongside a revolutionary slogan from my very own movie, The Raspberry Reich. Not far away I spied this propaganda poster of Stalin from the period when he was the Premier of the Soviet Union, in his “Daddy” phase (in the fascist, Sylvia Plath-ian sense of the word). I guess all those mass executions, anti-Semitic pogroms, and bloody, counterrevolutionary purges can really age you.

I’ve spent my time in Berlin planning a variety of future film and theater projects, and essaying some rather special photography assignments, including one featuring a stripper/academic named Funny Van Money using any available pole in a variety of suburban neighborhoods to practice her craft.

Fortunately, Berlin is experiencing a slightly more enlightened period of history, one in which a Cuban Jew like my gallerist, Javier Peres, can open up a gallery in Mitte, also in the former East Berlin, and feature a dazzlingly subversive feminist artist such as Dorothy Iannone, a septuagenarian American whose work makes the empty conceptual gestures of certain contemporary hipster artists look strangely dated. 

I attended an opening recently at Peres Projects featuring her erotic, politically enlightened paintings from the 1960s, and had a chance to chat at length to the artist herself at the dinner/afterparty at the ultra-trendy Pauly Saal restaurant.

Dorothy regaled me in a whisper with stories of her glamorous life, starting out painting alongside her husband, artist John Upham, in New York in the early 60s, leaving him for German painter Dieter Roth, whom she met in Reykjavik in 1967, and finally permanently relocating to Berlin in 1974. As we feted this remarkable woman, there were some grumblings here and there about the venue for the party, as the restaurant is housed in the Judische Madchenschule, former home of more than a thousand Jewish schoolgirls who were later deported or murdered by the Nazis. Although the building is now owned by the Jewish community, some still complain that the décor, which includes photographs of the schoolgirls and certain artifacts preserved from that era, is in bad taste, an Exberliner scribe going so far as to call it “morbid fetishism.” But such queasy contradictions are difficult to avoid in Berlin, and it didn’t seem to prevent the complainers from enjoying their gourmet meals.

Previously - Asexuality Is All the Rage

Funny Van Money
Dorothy Iannone
Peres Projects