REVIVING POP: Barbara Rachko’s “Black Paintings”

"Black Paintings" by Barbara Rachko, 2009-2016 (Pastel on Sandpaper) screenshot from the artist's website: www.barbararachko.com

“Black Paintings” by Barbara Rachko, 2007-2016, Pastel on Sandpaper (screenshot from the artist’s website: http://www.barbararachko.com).

Barbara Rachko is an American artist with a personal and professional trajectory unique in contemporary art. As a Naval officer stationed on active duty at the Pentagon (Rachko is a retired Navy Commander), she made a slow transition to artist through studying drawing. In 1989, she became a full time professional artist doing realistic portraits while beginning to create works inspired by the primordial energies given form and imagery in folk culture. Her breakthrough occurred after suffering an inconceivable tragedy: the loss of her beloved husband in the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.

Whereas “Domestic Threats” (1991-2007) carried the ominous specter of American insecurity in the fallout of September 11, the breakthrough of a subsequent series of photographs, “Gods and Monsters” (2007), established a blackground as characteristic of the unknown lying ahead. The full circle return of “Black Paintings” (2007-2016) to her earlier medium (pastel on sandpaper uniting the opposites of rough and soft) brings this blackground disclosed by means of photographs into the foreground. The surprise that results goes Pop.

Palaver, 2016, Soft pastel on sandpaper

“Palaver”, 2016, Soft Pastel on Sandpaper, 26″ x 20″

The eerie feminine figures of these works are reminiscent of the twisted dolls of Hans Bellmer. With the single exception of Stasis (2009), they are headless, or otherwise have covered (The Absence, 2012), shadowed (Figment, 2010), or cut-off faces (Incognito, 2014 and Alone Together, 2016), blurred mouths and bodies suspended half in shadow. This visual blockage of verbal expression reflects the artist’s successful passage into the right brain of wordless imagination. Also contributing to the shattering of linear perspective are the aerial (The Ancestors, 2013) and spiraling views (Some Things We Regret, 2009). The cycle is reinforced by the narrative: the dominant grimacing male figure of Alpha (2009) is reborn by way of the red egg of alchemical rebirth offered in Effigy (2009) to the left/right brain balance of Blind Faith (2014) transmitted via a half-covered face suspended above a scepter, symbol of male domination.

Pastel on Sandpaper

“Stigmata”, 2008, Soft Pastel on Sandpaper, 28″x48″

These dissolving feminine archetypal energies seem to float in space amid an array of parts, giving way to the sexless golem figures with their hulking torsos (Spectral, 2014), appendages (Intruder, 2011), coiled Kundalini power (Paranoia, 2009) and anthropomorphism (False Friends, 2011) suggestive of Quetzalcoatl, the winged serpent characterized here as White Star (2016). These unclassifiable figures positively lurch into the foreground and seem to be exploding autonomous symbols in their wake. These take geometric forms: the animated disk (So What, 2011), signaling wholeness; an egg-shaped oval (Between, 2009; Couple, 2011; and Poker Face, 2012), representative of birth. Significantly, Offering (2012) extends the fish icon of the receded Pisces Age.

 Epiphany, 2012 Soft Pastel on Sandpaper 38" x 58"

“Epiphany”, 2012, Soft Pastel on Sandpaper, 38″ x 58″

The holistic narrative of heavenly birth crystalizes in Epiphany (2012) where prominent circles are corporatized on the Indians’ cheeks and the oval is indeed an oversized egg, while amorphous floating shapes may be scattering feathers.

"Couple", 2011, Soft Pastel on Sandpaper, 20"×26"

“Couple”, 2011, Soft Pastel on Sandpaper, 20″×26″

Finally, there is the masculine/feminine balance arising from the division of Couple (2011), in which the spotted egg-shaped scepter held by the androgynous skirted female figure morphs into the alchemical red egg symbol incarnated by the matching cheeks of Dichotomy (2015).

"Dichotomy", 2015, Soft Pastel on Sandpaper, 38"×58"

“Dichotomy”, 2015, Soft Pastel on Sandpaper, 38″×58″

The “separate but togetherness” inherent boundaries of this couple are drawn by flesh separated by individual cross patterns as an apotheosis of the Matisse motifs in “Domestic Threats”. Here the design of the three black shapes on the male shirt points to the quantum leap into the realm of the Third realm of the hieros gamos.

Rachko’s artist‘s statement reveals the series was influenced by Jazz. This is the conscious understanding of the filtering of imagery through the ego surrendering to liquid emotion. Yet, what makes “Black Paintings” truly exciting is the subconscious influence arising from Rachko’s early love of silent film, specifically The Golem.

Spectral

“Spectral”, 2014, Soft Pastel on Sandpaper,  20″×26″

GOLEM enters the art world dialectic via a 2016 exhibition at the Jewish Museum Berlin just as the “Black Paintings” series was concluded with Alone Together as the Third space birthing the fully formed Heideggerian human Being of White Star matched with the Quetzalcoatl Palaver.

"White Star" 2016, Soft Pastel on Paper, 38"×58"

“White Star”, 2016, Soft Pastel on Sandpaper, 38″×58″

Significantly, the circular seven chapter thematic exhibition in Berlin closes with Doppelgänger, bringing the visitor back to the golem guarding the entrance, thereby signifying a leap through the binary (Trio, 2010) into the Third (The Space Between, 2009), via a new paradigm of cyclical time. In Rachko, this multidimensional perspective is reinforced by the changes in scale within a single picture (Big Wow, 2011, and Some Things We Regret, 2009).

Trio

“Trio”, 2010 , Soft Pastel on Sandpaper, 20″×26

The golem arises in an artist’s ouevre as the figure magically animated from inanimate matter rejected by the suspicious ego (Intruder, 2011) preoccupied with identification, classification and control. By means of videos on her website, Rachko reveals her process of disclosing through the imposition of the Real; as her customary Mexican and Guatemalan folk figures take center stage with the release of the former background detail, the tension between opposites (Troublemaker, 2015) is heightened by juxtaposed electrical wave patterns (Spectral, 2014) clashing with energy draining vampires (Big Wow, 2011) determining a mirror projection (Who Can be Sure of Anything, 2008) regarding a hopeful rise (Motley, 2014), dreaded collapse (Fallen, 2011), or worse: Stasis (2009).

Big-Wow, 2010

“Big Wow“, 2011, Soft Pastel on Sandpaper, 38″×58″

Ultimately, the archetypal Shadow (Broken, 2013) emerges from the blackground to take over the foreground; this is brilliantly anthropomorphized as the leering Judasing (2013) heralding the artist’s original creations molded from dark energy/dark matter. The process by which the “known” gives way to the “unknown” reveals how the rational mind surrenders to instinct. It stands to reason that the Judasing embrace of the traditionally cast-off golem requires consciousness of the repressed personal shadow. This process of recognition charges the work of art with the transpersonal power of the collective archetype of the Shadow.

Broken

“Broken“, 2013, Soft Pastel on Sandpaper, 38″×58″

Rachko has achieved this power through her long process of maturation as an artist. Her creations are inspired by the vast collection of Mexican and Guatemalan folk art that populate her studio and she even invites access to strangers through a “virtual” tour complete with videos. Earlier paintings were entirely filled with these figures as conscious transmissions of the archaic entering into contemporary art. The breakthrough of “Black Paintings”, which she calls her most personal work, is the sacred marriage of opposites. The blackground is a formed/formlessness of the unified “dark energy/dark matter” both framing and rivaling individual figures; now center stage, these anthropomorphic beings give way to golems lurching towards the observer/participant.

The Space Between

“The Space Between“,  2009, Soft Pastel on Sandpaper, 58″×38″

What a prospect! Thrust into foreground, the blackness absorbs the projection of the viewers’ unknown inner life and makes them direct participants to the Shadow confrontation. The discovery of one’s unknown inner world carries a powerful energy charge repressed by ego, and yet, once aroused, is capable of bringing a full force of an awakening. The art that makes transparent the passage to this realm is truly a (r)evolution that makes art as populist as it was in the sixties.

In fact, Rachko’s brightly hued golems popping out of the blackground provide a new meaning to Pop Art. The sixties movement into optics of geometry and color was not intended as multi-dimensional penetrations into archetypal reality; in fact, Pop was derived from popular commercial imagery arising as material for artistic expression in rebellion against the shamanic struggles of the American avant-garde. Yet, the bright primary colors were intended to make the eye POP, and we can view this optical awakening as the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

Rachko was born under the sign of Aquarius. Her self-trajectory is revelatory of the human passage through the Shadow lurking behind the sixties dawning of a new age of gender equality. The passage towards the 21st century icon of the hieros gamos (sacred marriage) is reflected in her personal and professional trajectory towards the integration of left/right brain. The artist’s initial attraction to the “dark matter” of Mexican and Guatemalan folk art indicated an opening towards the occult by way of a link to an ancient culture that sacrificed humans so the collective might be blessed with the transcendental energy of the gods.

Judasing

“Judasing“,  2013, Soft Pastel on Sandpaper, 58″×38″

A new mythical narrative arises through the autonomy of the symbol. Rachko’s symbols begin in relation to anatomy, such as the circle for the eye or mouth (see “Evolution of a Painting: Poker Face” on www.barbararachko.com; surrounded by blackground, they gain their autonomy. Her early realistic replication of images from three-dimensional objects to two-dimensional pastel figurations filling up the entire picture provided the foundation for this breakthrough; her future shift to pioneering a blackground (which propels the pastel drawing into the medium of painting) established a space for interpretation and projection. The transition from positive to negative space of dark energy/dark matter charged the artist and her observer/participants with an energy emanated by dream figures such as the devil (Provocateur, 2015), feathered serpent eying an ant with a human female head (Palaver, 2016) and miniature ballerinas (The Space Between, 2009). Paradoxically, these transmission drives are made real by the primitive sense perception typically dulled in modern life. The juxtaposing of the dual serpentine figures of Stalemate (2013) depicts a yellow ball (miniature sun as icon of the Self) solution to the warring opposites represented by the replicated doubling of foot. Subsequently, Charade (2015) is a stunning interpretation of the transgender Aquarian Sky Goddess (Rachko is a licensed pilot) shocked by the outer projection of her inner phallus.

Charade

“Charade”, 2015, Soft Pastel on Sandpaper, 38″×58″

“Black Paintings” point into a new direction of art mirroring the human passage towards the disclosing of the wholeness contained within dark matter/dark energy. The paradox emanating from the work itself is this: if the instinctual hand gesture had forehand knowledge of the direction of the artist’s surrender, the journey would never have taken place.

If Andres Serrano were a painter, he would do a Barbara Rachko. Indeed, the ascent of an erotic consciousness that Serrano initiated in the hyperrealist medium of photography now extends to canvas; Barbara Rachko newly interprets painting as the subject/object “capturing site” of the 360-degree perspective of the hieros gamos. Along the way, she pilots the golem crest of the quantum wave as it breaks open the Shadow into the collective consciousness at the very moment it is most needed.

Dr. Streitfeld is a freelance critic, regular Huffington Post reviewer and Kulturindustrie theorist. This is an essay for an upcoming exhibition.

Advertisements

Stefano Cagol’s Body of Energy

STEFANO CAGOL IS THE ARTIST IN THE HOT SEAT…

HOT SEAT A
Stefano Cagol makes a personal revolution universal in his Berlin “Readymade,” the subject of “HOT SEAT” looping behind him in his exhibition at CLB Berlin. (Photo by LPS).

…after tracing his Body of Energy imprint in a one man movement from one end of Europe to the other…

THE BODY OF ENERGY
“Symbols, metaphors, current topics, immediateness, stimulating, communicating, openness, multiple points of view. These are the key words to my relationship with the public. It couldn’t be any other way,” states Cagol. “The artwork is an opportunity to better understand our own time and future. It’s a sort of mission. In my account, art is never closed in itself.”

TBOE_GIBRALTAR_CAGOL_
Have van will travel: Cagol’s means of transport is a “mobile station” doubling as a roving billboard from Norway to Gibraltar.

The Italian native’s self-described “scanning energy expedition” culminates in the German capitol with a two month residency at Momentum Berlin and solo exhibition inaugurating a highly visible new collaborative art space of CLB Berlin/ Collaboratorium für Kulturelle Praxis.

CAGOL CLB 16
Cagol’s signature “Writing as a Landmark” energises a new Berlin geographical arts zone: “The Body of Energy (of the mind): Stefano Cagol” opens Collaboratorium Berlin/CLB in the Aufbau Haus am Moritzplatz in Kreuzberg.

The Italian native is creating a (r)evolution in art through a simple, and yet dceptively complex, method: the infrared camera, which he refers to as his “symbolic energy keeper.” The portable digital apparatus can fit into a knapsack, allowing him the artist to be ever-mobile and spontaneous in his tracking energy exchanges across borders.

Installation2
“The Body of Energy (of the mind): Stefano Cagol” culminates in Berlin as a multimedia solo exhibition opened on 06 November 2015.

The infrared technology developed by the military for detecting traces of life within human destruction is utilized by Cagol to make a stunning art signature celebrating life, with a timeless purpose…

TBOE MAGA MUSEUM Italy
…revealing (below) the spiritual traces that humans leave behind (above) at TBOE “Hands and Trees” at the MAGA Museum in Italy.

The Torino artist came to prominence in Europe from his “Ice Monolith” project in the Maldives exhibition in the 55 Venice Biennale. He arrives in Berlin with the visual Art-I-facts of his year-long passage through Europe creating Actions and Happenings while igniting the continent with his interactive energy.

TBOE_MOJACR_CAGOL
ENERGIZING THE STONE: “I am an artist,” he tells me in the gallery when asked if he might be a shaman. (TBOE performance at Mojacar, Andalucia).

Cagol makes Kundalini visible in the art gallery with a humour that Beuys might not appreciate…

enshrined
…enshrining a found object (in video) that he has photographed (below) enflamed with his energy…

HOT STONE
… as demonstrated in the gallery during an impromptu “HOT STONE ACTION”…

Capturing this moment of inner/outer integration in Berlin, the global reconciliation capital makes this boundary-smashing artist a highly visible proponent of what has been largely invisible–the arising of the long-repressed feminine energy taking the shape human embodiment in unification with masculine spirit.

Stefanogallery
Stefano Cagol places his “Body of Energy” inside his CLB exhibition. He is standing before “TBOE Gibraltar” marking his February 28, 2015 arrival in the most south-western point of the expedition, hosted by Listen to the Sirens, an art initiative in the Montagu Bastion, part of the Little Constellation network.

Cagol may not be making claims of shamanism, but surpasses the much venerated “mystical” Joseph Beuys by virtue of creating visual links between his materials and personally magnetic human vibration, thereby opening a window, within the confines of the art gallery, to the 96 Percent of the universe that is dark matter/dark energy.

TBOE_SALERNO_UNIVERSITY_CAGOL
Cagol performs a TBOE student InterAction at Salerno Univeristy, transforming the
Piazza del Sapere (square of knowledge) into the shape of the human heart.

The global artist elevates art as transformational–making the here and now experience of energy exchange both tangible and real, linking past, present and future with the ever-present origin.

TBOE_MUSEUM_FOLKWANG_CAGOL_2

“The Body of Energy (of the mind): Stefano Cagol” is sponsored by VISIT Programme of the RWE Stiftung für Energie und Gesellschaft gGmbH. The exhibition at CLB BERLIN COLLABORATORIUM, Aufbau Haus am Moritzplatz runs until Dec. 12, 2015 in Kreuzberg. The Exhibition times are Tu.-Su. 15:00-19:00 pm. There will be an Artist’s Tour at 17:00 on Friday, Nov. 27, and Tuesday, Dec. 1, with a Finissage from 18:00-21:00 on 12 December.

A Berlin BOE Action/Performance will take place in December. For further information go to: www.bodyofenergy.com

Lisa Paul Streitfeld is a cultural critic and theorist who ignited a dialectic of the Kundalini in the international avante-garde. See www.kundalinisdaughter.com

All photos are by Stefano Cagol and published with permission of the artist.

THE SUMMER OF LOVE U.S.A.

Following a tense week in which cops killed blacks and blacks killed cops, Devon Bray’s “The Law” went viral. It also has staying power; not only does the video beautifully capture the mood of a unique EVENT spreading across the hinterland, but his art speaks on multiple levels…

7
CLICK HERE: Bray Films presents “Black Lives Matter – All Lives Matter Wichita Kansas Police Cookout Event”

…the law as protectors of order in society…

6

…and the universal law of karma: honor your neighbor and they will honor you.

3

What this means in a tense moment: if a cop recognizes your face, and you recognize his, there is more potential for creative CONVERSION into the THIRD rather than the destruction of warring opposites.

2

Devon Bray is a multimedia artist commited to the principle that change begins at home, in the human heart. He demonstrates this both in his stunning talent and his commitment as a youth councilor.

4

Bray has a new message as a means of reconciling the warring opposition: “I like to say #AllLivesMatter rather than #BlackLivesMatter. We have to stop complaining and pointing fingers and change the way we think and feel about each other. Love Conquers All.”

The filmmaker’s signature is imbedded in his images: “Love Peace and Unity – No more killing on both sides.” He explains how this creative prototype for an EVENT sweeping America got started and will continue:

The BLM activists were gonna protest on Sunday, but the Wichita police chief sat down with them. Everyone agreed to come together for a community cookout and Q & A. I filmed the event and created a song and video in 24 hours. When I released it, it went viral. We called it the 1st step to progress and plan on keeping it going, getting bigger and better. We are endeavoring to show the world how it’s supposed to be done.

Dr. Lisa Paul Streitfeld is a philosopher and critic based in Berlin and New York City.

All images copyright the artist Devon Bray and published with his permission.

(R)EVOLUTION BERLINALE 66: Routing the Global “Integration” Movement Through Berlin

“We are all Africans,” announced Meryl Streep, president of the International Jury for 66. Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin.

image

With this statement, Meryl Streep set the tone for Berlinale 66., with its generous offerings of global cinema, as the red hot center of a universal movement into holistic integration, reflected within the individual and global society. Streep ingeniously parlayed her premiere position on a film festival jury as a gesture of return: “The globe should be half and half–not that it is binary but inclusion is the name of the game.”

image

George Clooney followed suit, far less eloquently, in response to a challenge by a Mexican reporter, asking him what he is doing about the immigration. He defensively dodged the question by turning it back on the reporter while announcing he had a private audience to discuss the matter with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Thus, the “last of movie star” whose visible following in Berlin has severely diminished since his marriage, lit up the Internet gossip and news sites with the Berlin dialectic transforming the “immigration problem” to the “integration process” reflected in all aspects of the film selections of Berlinale.

As the daily premieres of Berlinale 66 progressed, it became apparent that immigration and geopolitical borders was the undeclared theme of the festival marking the decline of the movie star” and rise of the auteur intent on exploiting the collaborative medium of filmmaking as a passage of inner/outer integration.

image

The most memorable films managed to do both. Danish Tanovic’s Death in Sarajevo adaption of Bernard Henri Levy’s play won the Silver Bear Jury Prize for a dramatic depiction of the exterior/interior state of dis-integration in which a Sarajevo luxury hotel serves as the architectural geography of transformation from the lower realms of basement violence to the roof of intellectual discourse.

Ravi Pitts’ Soy Nero explored an immigration sub-theme of boundaries as Borge personal and geopolitical is story of a Mexican seeking to scale the border as a “Dream Soldier”. The first feature of the German director Anne Zohra Berrached had a biological boundary imbedded in its title, making 24 Weeks a moving drama of ticking time summing up the decision of the majority of pregnant German women to abort in the case of an unhealthy birth prognosis.

One of the more experimental films of the festival revealed universalism within geographical specificity; Hotel Dallas is a real tourist doppelgänger site in Romania, as well as a film collaboration between Romanian artist Livia Ungur and her Chinese American partner Sherng-Lee Huang uniting all manners of genre to create a surreal reality revealing the fallout of the communist regime’s methodology of attempting to instill social values through the airing of the eighties American hit TV show.

In Ali Abbasi’s Shelly, a fetus becomes a monster because of the failure of a Romanian body to contain the implantation of an embryo of a Viking couple. The horror film treatment of cross-cultural integration made this English/Danish/Romanian/Norwegian/Swedish film the unexpected Panorama breakthrough. The Panorama audience favorite, Udi Aloni’s Junction 48, pioneering new terrain of the Israeli Arab/Hebrew collaboration in which a Palestinian rap star expresses through his character original music embracing the multiplicity of new narratives arising from the Third realm of integration.

Fresh from its success at Sundance, Elite Zexer’s Sufat Chol (Sandstorm) is an intimate portrait of an enigmatic young woman pushing against the restrictive Bedouin social system to pursue her own path through love. This Israeli film, the outgrowth of enriching relationships the director established with the local Arab community, shared a powerful Arab actress with an Israeli TV hit, whose star arrived in Berlin to discuss how he plays both an Arab and a Jew as a human solution to the racial divide.

The first two episodes of The Writer screened in Berlin succeeded in breaking five taboos in as many minutes of its opening episode. The Israeli culture is therefore providing unparalleled insight into a binary system that can only be resolved through the creative leap into the Third space, defined by Aloni as a Noir Art transforming the dark energy of Uncertainty into the universal light of love.

image

The film that revealed the quest for integration as an explosion into a new cinematic form blending classical storytelling with urban hip-hop was Spike Lee’s electrifying Chi-Raq satire of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata. The explosion of the Spike Lee vision, a celebratory culmination of his vision seeded in She’s Gotta Have It vibrated off the gigantic screen of the International Theater and through the audience of what has to be the boldest and most original display of feminine empowerment on the history of the silver screen.

image

On the third day of the festival, Gianfranco Rosi’s Fucoammare had its premiere. This breakthrough film had Golden Bear written all over it for the manner that it so deftly interwove inner and outer states communicated with a natural arising of symbols from the characters and landscape of the Italian island of Lampedusa. Where so many hopeful immigrants washed ashore in dreadful condition–necessitated treatment by the island’s doctor who stopped time at the press conference (above) with his heart rendering medical account of the tragedy. This unexpected Berlinale 66 star put the professional actors to shame–bringing the question asked of Clooney into a dialectic encompassing art, philosophy, religion and politics.

image

With this authentic disclosure of such a challenging new theme for global cinema, Mohammed Ben Attia’s Inhebbek Hedi, the first Tunisian film in two decades, won the Siver Bear for First Film and Best actor for Majad Mastoura. Thomas Vinterberg’s Kollektivet (Commune) about a seventies experiment in free love won a much deserved Best Actress Silver Bear for Trine Dyrholm. This courageous Botox-free performance of a seventies breakdown inscribed into the face of a female newscaster who planted the seeds of her own destruction from the fallout of convincing her husband to turn their spacious new home into a commune. In keeping with the celebration of the newfound feminine theme of self-empowerment through psychological descent, France’s Mia Hansen-Love won the Best Director Silver Bear for L’avenir, featuring Isabel Huppert in her most fulfilling role.

image

In deciding to liberate his collaborative art form from both communist and religious symbols, Tomasz Wasilewsk, director of Zjednoczone Stany Milosci (United States of Love) revealed the collaborative process by which symbols of unification (hieros games) unfold through the literal fabrics framing his nation’s foremost actresses within the Polish lead in the essential new narrative of feminine spiritual “embodiment”.

As a whole, Berlinale 66. was a festival mindful of the balance indicated by its number. Michael Grandage’s brilliantly executed first feature, Genius, revealed artistic breakthrough as the essential balance between archetypes of father (Colin Firth) and son (Jude Law). Yet the overt slighting of the feminine demanded by the male theme shared the actress Jennifer Eule with Terrence Davies’ A Quiet Passion. Dulled by the role of the creatively unfulfilled wife of Maxwell Perkins, Elle’s luminous feminity sharpened into a compelling portrait of sisterly counter-balance to Cynthia Nixon’s heart-rendering portrayal of Emily Dickenson’s fated embodiment of the human sacrifice required by female genius.

image

In marked contrast to the patriarchal control of hierarchical linear time revealed in Alex Gibney’s harrowing Zero Days Stuxnet revelation of planetary threat from covert technology, the festival closed with a celebratory reinvention of the French road film as a passage into the paradigm less of kairos.

Saint Amour co-directors Benoit Delepine and Gustave Kervern placed Venus into the body of the stunning green-eyed red hair Celine Sallette, providing a final image of feminine embodiment in her belly, pregnant with a future in which three fathers (Gerald Depardieu, Benoit Poelvoorde and Vincent Lacoste) claimed responsibility.

Three cheers for the future of film birthed in the third space of the erotic consciousness!

BREAKING DOWN BOUNDARIES: Toby Ashraf’s Astounding Berlin Art Film Festival

TOBY
Toby Ashraf, the wunderkind Founder and Director of the Berlin Art Film Festival, who recently introduced a Mitte screening of ART GIRLS, the Berlin avant-garde multimedia feature film that crystallises the ever-present origin of a global movement centered in Berlin.

Still refreshingly raw as it appeals to audience participation for self-definition, the experimental (“Post Migration”) forms of categorization pioneered by the BAFF serve as a catalyst for a (R)evolution that is actively being shaped in its second year.

Ashraf’s brainchild is newly exploding the boundaries between art gallery and cinema, establishing a dialectic of integration along the way.

2015-12-21-1450714444-592154-tobyanna.jpg
Ashraf lured the German actress Anne Ratte-Polle (above) to lend her star wattage to the 5 December “Nightsongs” kick-off charging through the border guards stipulating that art films be shown exclusively in galleries (for profit).

The BAFF screens films about Berlin. And what a subject! The communal space was chock full of electric shocks, which merely began with the focus on pioneering German female artists such as Helke Sander, Ulrike Ottinger and Isa Genzken.

During its 10-13 December run, the festival succeeded in characterizing the city that has become the world center of a new art movement encapsulating an icon personified in the flesh by the late American scene maker/artist Brian Tennessee Claflin, whose resurrection of the age of gender liberation in his club Pork surfed the collapse of the quantum wave in Berlin.

Tellingly, the brilliantly articulated multisensory ontology by the late American artist has branded the upstart BAFF as a pioneer upturning the cultural stasis represented by gallery walls shielding elite-bound art from communal ritual engagement found in the public theatre.

2015-12-21-1450714779-4319923-busymoviemento.jpg
Signifier of a new movement on the funky borders in a name: Moviemento Kino had two small theatres and a circular cafe providing many avenues…

2015-12-21-1450720206-5887607-aussenansicht.jpg
Kottbusser Damm 22 signifying Kreuzkölln as the Berlin cutting edge reminiscent of lower Broadway in Manhattan.

…of homage to the post-gender figure of Brian Tennessee Claflin…

TOBY IN BTC INSTALL
In his memorial installation echoing the silver Andy Warhol Factory, complete with a video loop of “Trash,” Ashraf recollects Brian inspiring him to jump into the surfgeist by taking his clothes off at Pork. The East Village-style club engaged erotic play to satirize the Berliner predilection for having open sexual intercourse in clubs with strangers.

2015-12-21-1450712403-7806439-MOTHSSTILLBildschirmfoto20141111um13.27.32.png
The quest for holism as the 21st century ontology in Claflin’s “Moths Around a Flame” establishes the symbol of light in the darkness of the after-postmodern tension between the opposites. (film still copyright of the Brian Tennessee Claflin Foundation).

…whose 3 minute multimedia ontology premiering at the BAFF blends image and words into a transcendent symbol of light.

2015-12-21-1450711076-7058254-BMOTHSSTILLildschirmfoto20141111um13.28.05.png
The mythology of transcendence in a flame: scaling high and low society to no society through Claflin’s auto-epic “falling in love again” with Berlin’s gender-bending idol, Marlene Dietrich (film still copyright of the Brian Tennessee Claflin Foundation).

BRIANFRIENDS
Travis Jeppesen and Michael Rade (l-r) of the Brian Tennessee Claflin Foundation shepherd the passage of their friend’s multimedia production into the film festival premiere; they explained that “Moth’s Around a Flame” was made to accompany a performance, and this is the first time it is being shown as a stand-alone work. (photo by Daniel Lathwesen for BAFF).

We suddenly realize how rare it is to experience how the piece of a holistic work of art reflects the integrity of its entirety. This BAFF epiphany–that artists surfing the wave into a new paradigm discard the holistic Art-I-Fact as the homo generator phenomenology of their (a)wake(ning)–points to an essential requirement for contemporary art: to flaunt the disciplinary boundaries regulated by the academy. Indeed, even MoMAis acknowledging a newfound readiness to break down the hierarchies of institutional art classification.

The encounter with the unexpected is what we have come to expect from art to move us through the crisis of uncertainty into the Third Space–out of the quantitative linear time and into the qualitative kairos magical interaction between past, present and future.

This provocation is what Ashraf–in his multiple roles as master of ceremonies, interpreter, moderator, organizer, juggler of formats and who knows what else–is bringing to the picture both big and small. He has grouped films of completely different formats and lengths together under topics like “Feminist Frontiers”– which singlehandedly revived Heike Sander’s 4 minute 1967 Subjectivity as a classic quest to break down the boundary between subject/object that Germans understand better than anyone, due to their highly structured rules of grammar.

But this was mere prelude to the late Saturday night explosion when the intimate theater was electrified by the entrance of Susanne Sachße in unobtrusive guerilla garb…

2015-12-22-1450753777-1328681-_MG_03653.jpg
…all the better to shine her inner radiance. The German actress brought a full doze of erotic consciousness to the festival with her simple rational for taking on the challenging but risky role that made her an underground sensation: women, she said, who got to have sex in film had to be crazy and/or have demented relationships with their father. (photo by Bart Sammut).

2015-12-21-1450714074-649984-RRSTILLBtscher3Sachsse.jpeg
“The Revolution is my boyfriend!” While creating one of the most enigmatic naked female characters in film, Bruce LaBruce’s 2004 “The Raspberry Reich” ingeniously makes use of the political slogan to weave revolutionary text/image into Wilhelm Reich’s theory of the orgasm, thereby breaking down boundaries between heterosexual/homosexual, as well as art cinema and porn. (film still).

2015-12-21-1450711627-4596316-RRQA.jpg

Susan Sachße and Jürgen Brüning had an astonishingly frank discussion with the audience. The star exclaimed how unprepared she was for the reaction, her friends asking “are you going to do porn now?” With a shared gleeful erotic innocence, Brüning revealed his surprise at being sued a million dollars for violating the copyright of Alberto Korda’s famed Che Guevara portrait, which served as wallpaper to a stark correlation between masturbation and gunplay.

The sequential Sunday sessions, “On Architecture” and “Germany Revised,” ordered the archeology of Berlin’s transition into a global (blessedly non-mercantile) art center through the literal gap of the no-man’s land surrounding the Berlin Wall, the Third space, or dead zone between East and West.

ARSLAN
Ashraf placed his heart right into the center of his creation by introducing the film catalyzing his move to Berlin: Thomas Arsian’s 1991 student film “On the Margins” (1991) depicting the dead zone in its stark barren landscape as the symbol of Berlin’s uncertain future (LPS photo).

Subsequently, the director’s uncanny organizational skills elevated Hito Steyeri’s The Empty Center into a classic of cultural deconstruction. The 1998 documentary excavated the archeology surrounding the battle between immigrant labor and the German unions during the corporate reconstruction of Potsdammer Platz. The outcome of this courageous discursive plunge through the Derridian gap of Berlin’s empty center was an alarming exposé of a repeating German pattern of third world labor exploitation.

The twin pillar to this pioneering BAFF signaling around the centre was “Post Migration: Filming Immigrants and Refugees.” This Saturday afternoon section gave voice and vision to the outsider struggling for dignity and space in a city that is newly redefining itself through the hard work of reconciliation/integration.

If the festival itself was a paradigm leap into qualitative time, where a 3 minute projection carries the ontological heft of a new gender-free epoch–other films made explicit by design that to be authentically cutting edge means being “in the moment.” The most innovative example was Safe Space, when the dialogue leapt, like the renegade electron, right off the onscreen during the roll of credits to ignite the participation of the audience…

2015-12-21-1450732511-2748624-RAUM.jpg
Zora Rux with her actors discussing Safe Space/Geschuetzter Raum, a fictional film that brilliantly captures, in an economical 15 minutes, the Third as the safe space to create new thought structures via a cultural clash instigated by a rape in a Berlin immigration camp.

IMG_3557
… “We are the new generation,” proclaimed Rux, a 27-year old student from the Deutsche Film-und Fernsehakademie Berlin (dffb) whose breakout short film has been presented in nearly a hundred festivals.

The discussion spilled over into Sunday panel: “Imagining: Refugees and Migrants on film.”

PANEL I
Denize Sertkol, German naturalized daughter of Turkish immigrants, talks about her “outsider” motivation for “KIss Me, Germany,” one of her two art installation videos in “Germany, Revised.” The afternoon theater screening opened up a dialogue about scale in presentation between the gallery and cinema (LPS photo).

In the intimate cafe setting, a new consciousness broke through by means of the metaphysics–the Butterfly Effect and the Uncertainty Principle— that migrant filmmaking brings to the big picture.
WADA
“Syrians have to live in Uncertainty,” says Syrian refugee filmmaker Khaled Mzher (right) with the star, Ahmad Faraj, of his deeply moving and timely “WADA,” crystallizing the “Butterfly Effect” of their nation’s crisis from an interior focus. Khaled’s dffb student film was already selected as a standout in the San Sebastian Film Festival and is headed to Cannes in 2016. (LPS photo)

New paradigms require new languages. It was all too clear that the foundation for this (R)evolution has been laid by the Berlin Art Film Festival N2.

I, for one, can’t wait to see how the (R)evolution evolves in 2016.


The Brian Tennessee Claflin memorial at the BFF was created in conjunction with the Brian Tennessee Claflin Foundation and the SomoS exhibition of a newly discovered five-channel installation “The Five Senses”” in the late artist’s estate.

All images by LPS, or as credited, courtesy of the Berlin Art Film Festival. The stills from “Moths Around a Flame” courtesy of the Brian Tennesse Claflin Foundation. “Raspberry Reich” film stills courtesy of the Jürgen Brüning Filmproduktion. Movimiento Kino exterior photo courtesy of the owner, Iris.

Lisa Paul Streitfeld is a cultural critic and theorist based in Berlin, whose two decade dissemination of her art theory of the hieros gamos from the grassroots to the avant-garde entailed her forging a pathway between cinema and gallery. Her review of Brian Tennessee Claflin’s art appeared here: The Five Senses

“Mars One: Venus Zero” Settling the 3.0 Score at English Theatre Berlin

IMG_1516

With their first production at Daniel Brunet’s new 3.0 vision at the English Theater in Berlin, A Fish Needs a Bicycle expands the boundaries of theater by introducing a third character of uncertainty: Twitter. The chilling real time window into the hate generated lower vibration cyberspace projected into the spare set just hints at the intervention this male-female team pulled off while trolling the undercurrent of cyber misogyny masquerading as “Meninists” seeking male rights.

Gem Andrews and Richard Gibb penetrated into this dark virtual world to create the English lower-class character of Mike, who has ambitions to win a contest for a one-way ticket to Mars offered by an authentic website, Mars One. The five chapters of his real-time video application comprising this theater piece hover between the comic and tragic as Mike’s real life interferes, revealing sexual fears and hatred of his mother, for whom he is the caretaker. Gibb’s fearless plunge into the inertia of male ego is, gratefully, balanced by the transporting appeal of Andrews’ original songs.

IMG_1512
Richard Gibb and Gem Andrews led an engaging discussion after their show illuminating their archeology of the chilling Menisita Twitter feeds that became the Third entity for the Conversion of their piece.

The overall effect is more powerful than apparent on the surface, not only because Mike derides the feminine quality of number when his narrative structure, the five, is associated with Venus. This, along with the duo’s name, which overturns the seventies feminist phrase “a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle,” reveals the subtle artistry guiding this innovative Brit “made in Berlin” collaboration that, paradoxically, evens the score.

IMG_1517
“I am not Mike” said Richart Gibb to a critic after he changed his shirt with an image celebrating the 3.0 energy of an authentic gender free collaboration.