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Another Successful End of the Road

Once again, after some two hours of riding into Brandenburg, on country roads, cobblestone lanes, gravel farm tracks and single-track trails, just south of the new (and still unopened) airport, I reach the end of the road.

Magic end of road had a little hook through a copse, under a fallen tree, on the narrowest of barely-used paths, through a short spur of forest, spitting me out on the cleanest of new access roads around barbed wire airport fencing. Two more hours of gravel, cobblestone, track, trail, path, road, canalways, towns, fields, forests, to close the loop back in Kreuzberg.

“But were there Nazis, Frances?”
“Yes, Other Frances, there are always Nazis in Brandenburg. These ones rode crappy, old East German scooters with coal scuttle helmets through Zeuthen, and looked secretly ashamed and sad.”

Kienitzberg, Blankenfelde–Mahlow
Kienitzberg, Blankenfelde–Mahlow

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Land Speed Record

I know my new tires and wheels are mad fast, but kinda doubt I was the fastest thing on Tempelhofer Feld since the airport closed in 2008. Plus I’d have broken numerous Ordnungsamt and Straßenverkehrsbehörde regulations by laying down a solid hour of 217.6km/h — and not a tenth of a km/h faster or slower. Plus that would indeed be a land speed record for non-motor-paced bike on the flat by a huge margin. Then there’s my acceleration: zero to that in 1 second. The Porsche 918 Spyder can barely hit a hundred in twice that time. Takes me 3 seconds to slow to zero though.

Prepare for Takeoff
Prepare for Takeoff

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TSR-BER

Leaving the warm Sunday of Timișoara, into the grey, rain and cold of Münich, heading north, skimming above the clouds as the sun gutters, an inferno radiating across the hemisphere etching the stories and layers, we descend as it does into night in Berlin.

The Wild Boars of Jungfernheide Forst

Morning ride in the forest around Flughafen Tegel last weekend, when I was on residency in Isabelle Schad’s studio in Wiesenburg, Wedding. Up by the small lake, “Cripes that’s a massive dog,” at the dark, solid mass running across the track. “That’s no dog!” I think as it pauses and give me the beady eye in profile, “Wild boar! Cripes it’s big!” It potters off on skinny legs into the undergrowth where I can hear it and companion scruffing and foraging. This is right at the narrow end of the forest, houses and backyards just beyond the block of trees.

As usual, I pause on the lake rotunda and enjoy the view and stillness. A woman comes by with a pair of dogs. I say, “Excuse me, are you going left up ahead?”

“Are the wild boars out? There’s more than twenty of them in the forest,” she replies, quite proud of her mob of swine. “We had at least 14 piglets this year!”

Berlin, where I’ve run into a fox by Alexander Platz, saw another hunting a cat at night in the Uferhallen, where the forests in the city are full of wild boars, and there’s rumour of a wolf in Grunewald.

Trainingsradeln Technik

Yes, I am back in Wedding. For a month. My first thought was, “Ooo nice! Cyclocross!” In my favourite forest with the peculiar name. (It’s officially Jungfernheide Forst, but everyone thinks Jungfernheide is the park in Charlottenburg-Nord, and it’s on the edge of Tegelersee, but Tegeler Forst is on the north-west side so that’s a name gone also. I call it Tegelerwald or Flughafenwald cos it’s got Flughafensee in it but no one knows what that is until I say, “The forest around Flughafen Tegel.” “Oh! That one.” and I see their eyes glaze over with “I have never been there. It is unlikely I will ever go there.”)

So, off for a ride. First this year in the forest even. And! A while ago, I inherited an iPhone 4s from Katrin. I haven’t had an iPhone or a smartphone even since I got so thoroughly irritated by my original one and was quite uninterested in even using phones for quite some time. It has GPS! Playtime! I had Trails installed on my old iPhone, and messed around with it last night to see if it could do what I want without leaking my data to the internet. Yay German software companies! (Seriously, they have an almost Pavlovian approach to data privacy.)

It rained yesterday, so the ground was nicely slushy, not dusty, fast, about as ideal as you can get without rain, snow, sub-zero temperatures and proper cyclocross conditions. And so very many horizontal trees. There was a massive storm a couple of weeks ago, and with all these newly fallen trees still green, it’s likely they came down then. I stopped as usual at the pavillion at the east end of Flughafensee, continued on, somewhere between automatic having done this route so many times and hyperattentive because I haven’t done it in half a year.

Back home and data fun. All kinds of excellent stuff like speed (average is a pathetic 22km/h, though slightly faster if I removed all the stops for lights, top speed was 37km/h, curiously in a 30 zone where I was going slower than the cars), elevation (334m up and only 330 descent, which means I’m currently hovering in the apartment above), graphs and maps, browser access over local wi-fi… The thing I really wanted though was to see where I actually went in the forest. I had a fairly good idea, but even the best online maps don’t include the smaller trails (and most just have the single access trail that cuts from west to east). And there it is! It’s not as straight as this zoomed-out map shows, but it’s still far straighter than I’d thought on the north-south stretch. Yes, this can be addictive.

Flughafensee
Flughafensee
Trainingsradeln Flughafenwald Trails app
Trainingsradeln Flughafenwald Trails app

I am so behind on blogging Every. Thing!

Aside

A pile of new books; more photos & a podcast from Stockholm; the delightful ‘Straayans Virginia & Francesca of VNS-FUCKING-MATRIX in Berlin; off to Brussels next week for Hans’ premiere … (the terrible, terrible thing that is Mette Ingvartsen’s 69 Positions (I wanna call it 69 Shades of [something offensive]); the almost as-terrible Xeno-Feminism Manifesto Launch (hashtag-haley-joel-osmet-i-see-white-feminists-dot-gif); close brackets) … head==explode!

5 Days of Making Shibari (3 Workshops, A Performance), & Stockholm

A slightly unannounced workshop (compared to the other two, I mean), three days of making performance with NYXXX at Rökridån, co-organised by Kokoro 2. Eleven people, some artists, one engineer (always one engineer), a social-anthropologist, part-way underground in the meat-packing district. We stay almost on the edge of Stockholm, one stop before the end of the line, Bagarmossen. The forest begins nearer than that last stop. Roads and cars encircle but do not enter. Wide, curved paths, trees, eruptions of glacier-smoothed granite. Most other places this would be the dead-end. Here, it’s like the ideal of high-modernist urban planning architecture—the antithesis of Le Corbusier—made real. It’s a little disturbing at first.

Rökridån is half-way from Bagarmossen to the centre of Stockholm, probably an half-hour walk, 15 minute brisk spin on a bike. We take the train, walk the last bit. Only four hours a day, though with warm-up before and drifting over the finish time, this stretches to five, six. And then we rehearse. I haven’t hung myself up since teaching at ImPulsTanz last year.

This is writing for remembering. Since working regularly with Florian, Dasniya’s teaching, performances, general ideas and interests have changed.

In-between stuff. Friday, we rehearse in Bagarmossen, then end the afternoon in Östasiatiskamuseet. Also walking around the harbours. Wednesday night we see a performance at MDT. It causes me to doubt that people with acceptable bodies (identities, desires) can have any understanding of those without, or even care. Sunday I go to the Historiska museet. A bus driver plays Swedish folk music. Later that night, we use it in a performance.

I eat a lot of liquorice. Sweet, salty, chewy, rubbery, stuff that melts and stuff that erodes. The sky is the kind that comes from across oceans, open, tattered clouds, the air sharp and polished. It’s often windy. Inside, or in the sun, it’s warm; if the sun was higher, it would approach harshness. As soon as the sun is gone, it chills like stone in shade. If the public transport doesn’t work, they pay for people to take taxis. I didn’t eat reindeer. Or fish.

Thursday night is Valborgsmässoafton, Walpugis Night. No burning of witches north of the Baltic, only celebrating the arrival of spring with bonfires. Stockholm seems to have a lot of immigrants. It felt a little like Sydney or Melbourne. I liked it more for that (I know it’s not straightforward or rosy).

Both Tova and Christian have a lot of books. Walls of books. Cheese comes in at least 1kg blocks. Smaller is possible but not encouraged. Coffee also. I wonder if in winter they are snowed in, and need such large amounts to get through. Granite is everywhere. The city and trees are a thin scraping on the surface, you could probably clean the whole place back to rock with a brush, vacuum cleaner, and an afternoon. It’s insanely beautiful.

The word for ‘child’ is the same as in Scots: barn, bairn. I try and not find similarities with Scotland and Northern England. When people greet you, even in shops or at work, they say, “Hey!” It’s so ridiculously friendly. If a ‘k’ is followed by an ‘ä’, it’s pronounced ‘sh’. I ask Tova who inflicted this upon them. She laughs and tells me about ‘sj’. ‘Hen’ is in the Svenska Akademiens ordlista as a gender-neutral personal pronoun. People we meet use it easily.

What else?

Monday we arrive, are met at the central bus station, cross the road to the train station, find ourselves on the T17, south-south-east to Bagarmossen. A long meal together, roast aubergine with walnuts. Tuesday we are early heading to Rökridån. Dasniya sent photos of our performance, we both took many photos throughout the week (as did everyone). I’ll defer a description in lieu of those later. NYXXX are LARPers. I found that out late in the week. When she told me it was like the secret that makes coherent everything which preceded. First day: a warmup, some exercises/tasks/trials with ropes. Second day: a warmup, Dasniya showed some of her work from rehearsals, talking about how performance is made. The difference between performance for each other, playing publicly, and performance as a branch of theatre are discussed. Third day: an assemblage of objects, ideas, wishes, things to try; an agreement of who does what with whom; experiments with rope that become installations. I said, “Wow, that’s really fucking good” to myself quite a bit.

Friday. May Day.

Saturday, Yoga and Shibari. On more familiar ground here. The performance workshop went into new things for Dasniya (and myself). Some things worked, others not completely. Working or not-working for me are somewhat questions of engineering; it’s the ground they operate on that’s either fertile or arid (pushing a shaky mixed metaphor there). I think the performance workshop, especially with LARPing was really this, several things coming together that fit so neatly and I’m kinda watching myself watching it thinking, “Faaark! This can go so far into Weirdsville…” and wanting that in all its rawness, messiness, bits of failure and bits of sublime on the stage at MDT cos it’s so much more relevant, so much more real.

Dasniya’s yoga approaches Isabelle’s warmup from different directions. I’m doing all the same all over the place. Same. Different. Slightly different. Kinda the same. We rehearse before and after. Firstly after is a Podcast dinner. NYXXX, a Tascam, a table of food (yes, large block of cheese). The talking goes from performance to stomach bacteria to cosplaying … I thought there was an interesting formality in how this was prepared, which contrasted with the informality when let to run on its own accord. After that, full stomach, more rehearsing.

Sunday. I go to the museum. The bus driver and his music. Later, after the Self-suspension workshop, Tova helps me find the music, poems of Gustav Fröding arranged by Torgny Björk. People start laughing immediately when we play it. Different people in the weekend workshops to the week one. Many the same. Different energy in Rökridån also. I try suspending myself in two different hip harnesses. I’m unsure lately if I want to hang at all. I do find some possibilities, but there’s a physical reluctance towards pain that comes from dealing with chronic injuries, as if the surface of my skin is too sensitive.

Performance. Rubber dog mask for me. Cat for Dasniya, Pig for Tova. A green bicycle. A white calico skirt, beaded green vest, also a black ballet tutu, gold glitter heels, a table and chair, a ladder. From the inside performing with masks, it can feel nothing, or stupid, or whatever, but from the outside with these not-quite human not-quite animal masks, it’s dead strange. It’s like they become blank signifier volumes. It’s not anthropomorphic either; more like becoming animal. The practicalities of dealing with much-reduced vision and hearing, the inner experience of wearing this cave-like helmet causes a different mundane physicality and movement. They’re also good for shy performers.

It takes an hour to pack the ropes,

A rope jam takes place. Stockholm people are well-handy with shibari. All quite astounding, really. Dasniya and I have a beer in the local pub. It closes early, by pub standards. The sky still has a faint tint of the sun riding the horizon at 11pm.

Monday, pack, train, lunch with Tova, we don’t manage a ferry ride and wander. Bus to airport, liquorice and chocolate. Plane makes land somewhere around the border of Germany and Poland. We see Uferhallen on the descent. Florian is at the arrivals gate with a sign, “Shibari Express” and chewy sweet stuff.

 

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Berlin–Stockholm

Not too early departure for airport. Across city and past my favourite forest. I miss the early mornings cycling there. Again, soon. Meet Dasniya at the gate, direct to the bus to the plane to the seat. Plane to the runway. Depart. Berlin evaporates. Later, above, northerly, sky clearing, islands, inlets, forest becoming farm, farm becoming shore, one becoming the other. Lower, over granite quarries, over fringes of Boreal forest, landing. Stockholm.

Out of airport. Onto bus. Every roundness of the land worn through to expose stone, crystalline, cut through with intrusions, mostly grey, sometimes pink. Train station. Arrive. Tova and Christian meet us. A train, south and slightly east. It looks like where the girls live in We Are the Best! Long dinner and talking, sun blazing across table. To the supermarket. The sun goes down only a few minutes later than in Berlin. It rises almost an hour earlier.