Hamlet: Das Helmi & Dasniya Sommer in Korea

The Helmis on tour. Two weeks in South Korea running around festivals performing a solo of Hamlet. A solo with two people. And puppets. And bondage.

Das Helmi in South Korea

After 10 Years we are back…

In 2007 Das Helmi toured the show Arsenic and Old Lace in South Korea and also made puppets for another group, it was all strange and beautiful…

..Now its going to happen again!!

5 Years ago Florian bumped into Master Lee in Pappelallee and he invited him to do a Hamlet solo… Five years later the plan is coming into reality, that’s how theatre can work!

So, Florian is going to perform Hamlet, a Ghoststory in South Korea this summer! With one Helmi (Florian) and a ballerina (Dasniya Sommer) playing all the Hamlet characters. The whole story is condensed into 45 Minutes full to the brim with Emotions, Surprises, Attitudes, Plot Twists and Musical Treats…

It’s like a game of chess in a head of a maniac!

It will be performed on ( sometimes 2 shows a day):
31st of July-1st of Aug. Gijang Festival
3rd and the 4th of Aug. Miryang Festival
6th and the 7th of Aug. Geochang Festival
And from the 8th to the 13th of August there is a Puppet Workshop in Gijang. The workshop will be used to make puppets for a production of Animal Farm from Master Lee.

Hamlet: Das Helmi & Dasniya Sommer (photo Brian Morrow)
Hamlet: Das Helmi & Dasniya Sommer

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Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal

A month after I was in Wuppertal, I finally finish editing all the images from the Von der Heydt-Museum, which I sprinted through on a Friday morning before Gala and Michael’s dress rehearsal, two hours of indiscriminate camera-ing. Michael said, “I’ve lived here two years; never been.” Well it’s a regional museum, so you never know if it’s going to be banging, sad, or somewhere in-between.

Somewhere in-between, with moments or rather bloody good, plus fuck that was well done why don’t more museums do it like that? Lighting was a bit crap, lots of the natural stuff, which is good, but not diffused enough and pointing at heavily varnished old paintings, which is not, and some rooms where the clowns took over the illumination, so I’m wondering if the museum people even look at their own art. They don’t like people photographing though, that’s for sure. Cheap entrance price and utter thieving gouging ten euros to flop out a camera. Kinda stunned at that, like, you’re not the Louvre, you know that, eh?

Not much mediæval stuff, which is always my first stop, but there is a 1563 print of Martin Luther (minus nail holes), plus a stack of Albrecht Dürer copper engravings, which are achingly beautiful. I especially love the bagpipe player and the more disturbing works that didn’t photograph well, so no wild boar with an extra set of legs on its back, nor his mythological stuff. Past the wooden sculptures covering 500 years in a room, and into into another dim room with holy crap!

Francisco Goya’s Los caprichos. Everyone knows him for his Los desastres de la guerra series, but Los capricos was the my inspiration for bitches 婊子 and is by far my favourite work of his. And here’s half a dozen (they probably have the whole series buried somewhere) lined up along a wall.

Then what happens is that “Why don’t more museums do it like that?” thing. Nearby a Rembrandt engraving (the Zweiter Orientalerkopf one) is a 19th century Japanese watercolour, heavy orange sun setting over a turbulent wave, followed by Jan van Bylert’s Singende Hirte. It’s just the beginning. Some rooms later, when we’re deep in 20th century German Expressionism and Neue Sachlichkeit all over the walls, the centre of the room is Japanese and South-East Asian sculpture and works on paper. I’m trying to think if I’ve ever seen artwork from across the globe arranged like that in the same room … same museum? Coming up a blank. It’s rare even to see, say, Buddhist sculpture in the same museum as European art, outside of monster museums like London’s V&A where multiple departments are under one roof, but even there that former stuff is anthropology or The Asian Collection, and somehow implicitly not art — it’s craft or religious iconography, or Other … anything other than proper art coming from proper artists. So to put the two together, two thousand years East and South-East Asian mingled with half that of European; the head of a stone Ghandara Buddha figure from the first to third century next to Adolf Erbslöh’s Blaue Reiter period Schwebebahn; Javanese Wayang kulit shadow puppets and a folding screen by Kano Mitsunobu beside hard 21st century works by Sabine Moritz, Tamara K.E., and Tatjana Valsang; they work together so well and it isn’t an imperative to see the former as art like the latter but it becomes very uncomplicated and unremarkable to do so.

To see this stuff that’s always less art than art because it’s ‘for a purpose’ or whatever, be seen firstly and even solely as art is unexpected and radical. See the colour and that delicate but relentless Expressionism in the tapestry of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s from his time in Switzerland, facing off an equally colourful and delicate Chinese or Japanese Buddha / Luohan from centuries earlier. If nothing else, even if this arrangement does nothing for you, at least these works are being seen. And I’d totally be up for a big museum that does it like this. Imagine being in the Louvre or on Museum Insel in Berlin and not going into separate museums for each arbitrary delineation, but wandering through European mediæval art, and Ghaznavid Islamic art, and Japanese Kamakura art, and Chinese Song and Yuan, and South-East Asian, and the mediæval Americas and Africa and Australia … a global mediæval art exhibition mashed with a 20th century one. Sometimes I think museums are just going through the motions of museum-ing and exhibition-ing — however awesome their collections are — and then I find something like this, not this neo-liberal museum bollocks infestation, but something profoundly Museum: here is art, let’s look at it all together and find out what that looks like, what it causes, how it enriches all the artworks.

Complete divergence here. Back whenever Alte Nationalgalerie had the Impressionismus – Expressionismus. Kunstwende exhibition (almost two years ago), amongst all the sublime brilliance they had this Degas piece. He’s a sleazy tosser, but I have a love for his ballet pieces, like Tänzerinnen im Probensaal, which I cried over. Fucking art. So I’m in Von der Heydt-Museum, and there’s a Degas! And it’s the same one. Didn’t cry this time, I’m hard, me. There was another of his too. Yeah, I know he’s a cliché, but it’s because he started it. All of that was to say, same work, different exhibition, different museum, different wall, different lighting, different companion works, different audience (a lot smaller and quieter for one), all that makes a different artwork. I didn’t even recognise it as the same one. I was talking with Robert Bartholot about this, how to photograph art, and how the work changes as fast as the light moving outside, and I dunno, maybe compare the two. Same, different.

Other special works. Besides Adolph Erbslöh’s Schwebebahn, cos I was in Wuppertal and the Schwebebahn is the best Bahn. How about Bahnhof Gesundbrunnen? My home station. I know that bridge so well even if that station hasn’t looked like that since the ’40s. There was also an Edvard Munch, which I got mad excited about, cos I don’t think I’ve ever seen his stuff on a wall. A whole bunch of 20th century post-war German art, almost all by men until the century flips over, Kuno Gonschior’s massive yellow minimalist / colour field / abstract expressionist piece was definitely a fave. So much I missed and haven’t even mentioned.

Worth going to? If you’re in or near Wuppertal, then yeah, says Frances who lived in Melbourne and went to the NGV maybe once — and didn’t pay attention. It’s difficult to modulate this for people who aren’t like me, who don’t travel hours with an agenda of binging art. If I was in the Ruhrgebiet or Düsseldorf for a bit, then it’d be a no-brainer: go to Wuppertal, see museums, see Pina Bausch. See Pina Bausch, ride the Schwebebahn.

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Baphoporsche

Because no weekend is complete without satanic hoonage.

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Post-Weekend Hoonage

There is only one guaranteed fix for weekend blahs: hoonage! Looking through all my hundreds of car photos (excluding gifs here: they’re either drifting, burnouts, rally, or LMP1), I think it’s safe to say Frances likes Subaru WRX, Ford GT40, LMP1, rally, and burnouts. And chicks in or doing any of the above.

When I was in Brussels, I went to Autoworld. They had a white Ford GT40 Mk II from Alan Mann Racing. It’s a beast. I’d seen photos, heard it spoken of in awe, but to see it there all metal and gently stinking of fried brakepads, fuel and oil, I got how intimidating and impressive it is. I love this yellow one, especially how it’s slammed. Surprising for me also, cos mostly I dislike American cars. But this was built to win Le Mans, and owes as much to the Europe of that as to the US of auto design.

Above that is the GT40s descendant, the 2016 GT. I mean, faaark, no? Flying fucking buttresses! Pretty sure I’ve blogged this before; definitely Tweeted. Still don’t really like US cars, but come on, this is magnificent. And to hear it braking hard and downchanging, it’s a glorious, frightening work of art.

I’ll likely never afford either, unless I have a spare mid-6 figure or low-7 figure slab of cash. Could afford a WRX STI though! My favourite hoonable car, preferably in metallic blue with gold rims. Nah, actually that’s the only acceptable colours for a WRX. It’s got one of the dirtiest engine sounds around, thanks to the turbo flat-4 boxer. Fond memories of biking up Chapel St in Melbourne on a Friday night with that as the soundtrack. And it’s a fucking legend of a rally car. No poncy suburban pseudo-hoon here. It goes around corners sideways! For a road car, with those rims, the bonnet scoop, the bonkers massive rear spoiler, and the price, Frances, yes, even for you, hoonage is attainable.

Could also be a Volvo. Their equivalent of the STI is Polestar, which has an insanely gorgeous shade of powder blue. Volvo stationwagons are also hoonable. No? Don’t believe me? Volvo raced them in the Aussie Super Touring Championship in the ’90s. Not winning, but the 850 sedan did (and had one of the best ad campaigns—made me want to buy one, something about “The Car to Free Your Soul.”) The fully murdered black S60 Polestar TC1. Look at those fucking insane wheel arches. I’m always joyously delighted Sweden of all places is a country of petrolheads.

Anyway! Burnouts! Lots of countries do them, only Australia does them right. It’s kinda like swearing, not especially eloquent but they make up for it with prodigious consistency. It’s the only country that has replaced the spaces between words with “fuckin’” (also used for capitalisation at the start of sentences, punctuation, as well as actual swearing), and they do burnouts with the same single-minded dedication. Are the wheels on fire? Probably ’Straya. Helps heaps having Commodores and Falcons. It’s like Ford in the ’60s asked Australia, “What are you looking for in a car for such a Lucky Country as ours?” And collectively Australia responded, “Fuckkin’ hooning an’ fuckkin’ burnouts ya fuckkin’ cunt!”

Back in Germany. I’ve seen fleeting examples of Germanic hoonage, mostly in Wedding or the outer suburbs/nearby small towns (of course, god, what else are you supposed to do?) but nothing as concerted as say, Chapel St on a Friday night, though Ku’damm or Friedrichstr are perfect for blockies. Instead we go off to the Nürburgring. I love LMP1 (and quite a few of its Prototype class ancestors), and when Porsche got back in the game—with Mark Webber! I was all, yup, time to sit up all night for the ’ring 24h. (Yeah, I am certainly giving Porsche the side-eye at the moment, being part of VW and all the bollocks of their emissions cheating.) The 919 looks like an alien spacecraft, and sounds all kinds of mad insane alien spacecraft. (As much as I’m not an Audi fan, I gotta admit their LMP1 downshifting could probably give me orgasms, so yeah, even better than the 919). Also at Nürburgring is the simply beautiful Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus SCG003C, not quite a GTE, not quite an LMP, sublime to watch racing.

Aaaand, from a documentary on women racing in Palestine, Speed Sisters. Mad hard hoons, them.

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Östasiatiskamuseet

Had planned to go to Historiska Museet and look at mediæval stuff. Made it as far as Skeppsholmen and going to the Östasiatiskamuseet. “We close in an hour. But an hour is usually enough. For most people.” Even for me. Small and average. The collection of Chinese (and pre-China) pottery and ceramics was the best part. Also the stone sculptures of various Buddhist, Daoist (I know!) deities. The Japan collection was mediocre. I wanted to steal quite a bit of the Tang and Song dynasty. And use it. The Ming stuff looked like Lack of Subtlety by comparison. Even cheap tea would taste better in a Song Dynasty bowl.

Reading: Eugen Herrigel (trans: R. F. C. Hull) — Zen in the Art of Archery

I went on a bit of a philosophical forest experience while staying in Waldsieversdorf. First, while feeling all introspective, I went on a very not sensible bike ride, the result of not paying attention to the topographic contour lines on the map meant what I thought would be a gentle, horizontal-ish amble through Wald and around See was a hellish excursion of muddy verticality, up and down slippery flights of stairs and inclines too steep to cycle, unloading bike from shoulder and mounting only to have to dismount five meters later for the next impasse, all the while darkness creeping in.

I arrived back at the bach in semi-darkness to finish watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, which is all kinds of buddhist philosophy and struggle which caused me to wonder why I think I’m so clever to take the hard path or think I don’t even need to pay much attention and then find myself in situations where I’m genuinely not having fun. Instead, for example, just going for a gentle ride around the lake.

Later, I was writing an application, and sorting through my scrapbook when I came across a pdf of Eugen Herrigel’s Zen in the Art of Archery. It turned out to be a short 60 pages and as I began reading, it dragged me in. I’ve been finding Chinese philosophy more appealing lately, and more practical, than European, particularly Daoism and Zhuangzi, which of course have strong parallels with Zen (or at least in my mind they do). I find also there is little mysticism or spirituality in the texts—or no more than any European philosopher has of Christianity. It was the practicalness of doing in this book that I had to read, coming off such a horrible cyclocross experience, something in general I have struggled with often as a dancer, climber, doing yoga, cycling, in my thinking of how to get through a task. Yeah, it sounds like I’m going all hippy here.

Early next year I’ll be working with Isabelle Schad, and we were speaking about this. I’d been thinking—as a result of reading Zen that I might take up Kyudo, but it occurred to me that Aikido, which Isabelle practices would be a better fit, given how the form influences her movement. Actually this book should be required reading for me on a monthly basis, if nothing else than to remind me not to do stupid things on my bike.

Eugen Herrigel (trans: R. F. C. Hull) — Zen in the Art of Archery
Eugen Herrigel (trans: R. F. C. Hull) — Zen in the Art of Archery

Reading: Jonathan Chamberlain — King Hui: The Man Who Owned All the Opium in Hong Kong

Some of the books on my reading wish list, which is now close to six score, have been there for some years. I maintain a certain orderliness when it comes to sorting, cataloging, filing, and I’ve been using Bookpedia for ages to keep track of my books, if for nothing else than to prevent me buying the same book twice, but an equal disorder when it comes to recalling what caused me to add a book to the wish list in the first place.

Jonathan Chamberlain’s King Hui: The Man Who Owned All the Opium in Hong Kong should be fairly obvious as to why I wanted to read it, covering my favourite China stuff: Guangdong, Canton, the Republican Era, pirates, opium … Hong Kong, well, there’s so much written on that city compared to the ones starting a half hour north that it’s not such a specific interest, also I think a significant amount of Hong Kong writing is precisely because it was a British Colony until ’97, and if there’s one thing readers of the english language tend to love with scant reflection, it’s stories about exotic places ‘we’ used to own; that is to say, it’s the Orient is only interesting when it’s about us.

So back to the man and his opium. It turns out I first read about it in 2008, or at least that’s when it was mentioned on Xujun Eberlein’s Inside-Out China (then in a different incarnation) and I filed away her post in my reading archive. And recently, being desperate for something to read, I trawled my wish list and decided this seemed like a good choice, of course having forgotten all the details.

It’s accompanied me to Vienna, where I have been using it as an aid for breakfast and putting myself to sleep. It tends to fail in the latter as it’s a fantastic tale. It’s an oral history, and reads like a cleaned-up audio transcription, something I’m not so used to reading for an entire book. Hui is one of those fine hetero male raconteurs though, and Chamberlain’s editing and pace make this a fast, visual read.

As to Hui’s stories, Chamberlain states he believes they are true, saying that Hui repeatedly told him these over some years and remained consistent however wild and unbelievable they sound. Me being around half-way through I am unevenly split between accepting this, or thinking that some of this is true, some happened to people around him and he placed himself in the main role, some is exaggeration, and a small amount is lies which Hui has come to believe is true through years of retelling.

To be clear, I find him quite egocentric, narcissistic, and self-deceiving; probably not someone I’d find interesting for long. He was also incontestably a Japanese collaborator during the Second Sino-Japanese War (or WW2 as the Euro part of the world calls it), corrupt, and given the wealth and life he started with, a fool. Not that this distracts from a vivid description of Canton and Hong Kong through the last century, and I’m enjoying for both that and this charmingly sleazy man.

Jonathan Chamberlain — King Hui: The Man who owned all the Opium in Hong Kong
Jonathan Chamberlain — King Hui

Sunday Kunst

Yesterday I took myself off south-west on a journey I have had far too much time to do before now yet have never done so. Dahlem Museen has one of the wonders of Central Asia, depending on how one looks at it, pillaged from Xinjiang and other ~stans, or saved from the Cultural Revolution, or well, yes saved from that but even before destroyed in the Second World War. And even before all that, some time when Islamic zealots were being rigorous in raining righteous vengeance down on idolatry (i.e. around a millennium before the Taliban at Bamiyan), most of the faces of Buddha were methodically bashed out.

So of what’s left, besides what Auriel Stein picked up for the British Museum and other Great Game ethnologists in Paris and Beijing, the Grünwendel and LeCoq purloinments ending up in Berlin comprise one of the largest collections of Central Asian, Silk Route, and Buddhist art in the world. Mmm, yes, why I have waited four years to drag myself half and hour to Dahlem is a mystery.

Maybe because the exhibition halls are so vast and many. I spent five hours there yesterday and barely passed over the contents of two of the halls, of which there are around eighteen. I had to take a pause mid-way also, before climbing the stairs for the Chinese collections of red lacquer, ceramics, tea ceremony objects, purposefully avoiding anything not absolutely Central Asian or Chinese (besides some Japanese stuff), just to be able to be thrown out at closing having seen at least some of what I went there for.

And then to the Konzerthaus, picking up Dasniya fortuitously in the U-Bahn, to see the Kammerorchester Berlin and our friend and Contrabass player Jochen work their way through 90 minutes of Bach, Telemann, and Vivaldi.

And somehow this beautiful Bodhisattva Guanyin of all the masses of heartrendingly beautiful art quite grabbed me. And this tea ceremony water pot also.

Dahlem Museen — Guanyin
Dahlem Museen — Guanyin
Dahlem Museen — Water Pot
Dahlem Museen — Water Pot

Shibari Bodywork

After the excitement of Vienna, I was thinking of ways to use the things I’ve trained in somewhat more productively. Which of course led me to spend a couple of days coding and quite a few more writing (which was much harder), and thinking about exactly what it is I wanted to do.

There isn’t an exactly. Nonetheless, I thought it would be fun to bring together all the various and disparate body things I’ve learnt and taught, improvisation, choreography, shibari, along with an expression of the things I think about, BDSM, identity, sexuality, fetishes and so on, and do something with them.

So, I have a new website which should explain it much better than I have just done here: shibari-bodywork.eu, and I’m now doing private shibari sessions as well as lessons in whatever city I happen to be in.

Shibari Bodywork
Shibari Bodywork

Another new rope

Not even back from Vienna, assaulting the downstairs door with suitcases and keys when it turns out there’s a package for Dasniya in the Uferhallen office. A big package. From Japan. From Arisue.

Ohhhh! New ropes! Many!

And for me one thing special, a 9mm Ito Seiu rope, which looks like something that’s been dragging heavy loads for a decade and feels disgustingly soft. It smells of wood oil and faintly of the usual jute. I bought just one to see what it might be like, and suspect now my next order of rope (besides our possible source of abundant jute in Spain), is going to be a set of these.

Arisue Go — Ito Seiu 9mm rope
Arisue Go — Ito Seiu 9mm rope
Arisue Go — Ito Seiu 9mm rope closeup
Arisue Go — Ito Seiu 9mm rope closeup