Archive for the ‘messing around’ Category

RUN FROM HERE, BERLIN/WARSAW 2010/2011

January 8, 2011

When I first thought of doing this I didn’t really know what I would end up publishing. At the beginning of October I went to Berlin at the time of the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and put a group of my and my sister’s friends through the inconvenience of stopping to take pictures of mannequin legs every ten metres. All the while I was waiting for a photographer friend of mine to do the Warsaw part with me but our schedules were incompatible (thanks for trying anyway, Mr Banaszak!). So when I suddenly decided to practice what I preach and move back to Scotland practically from one day to the next I was pretty lucky to have Kasia Krzyszkowska agree to do the shoot in Warsaw Prague on the very day before I left.

Due to some injuries I had plenty of time on my hands in Scotland at one point. That’s when I put the pictures from Warsaw and Berlin into a collage and thought okay, that’s done then. But somehow I didn’t publish anything and it’s January now. The collage is fine but the backstory is kind of fun too, and well documented so…


So here’s what happened backstage too.

WARSAW PRAGUE

Virtually the only district in Warsaw that wasn’t completely ruined in the WWII bombings. It has a lot of history and had its own distinct culture and dialect but these days it’s mainly just not safe, not classy and not clean. Perfect place to run from.

Kasia Krzyszkowska and I meet by the orthodox church in the middle of Prague at 9AM and look for the right place to start. The streets in Prague are lined with tenement houses that have an inside courtyard that is accessible through a gate. Most of them have a lock on but Kasia knows one that doesn’t and that’s where we go.

I take some chalk out of a pocket in my backpack. I’d gotten it in Scotland before I moved back to Warsaw and it was meant for a different purpose than this. The title takes quite a while to draw and we have to be extremely cautious not to run out of chalk, it goes extremely quickly on the asphalt. So by the time we’re close to finishing we’re using such small pieces of chalk we’re scraping our nails and fingers on the ground. I think I last felt that pain in primary school.

We needed to get sufficiently high up to take a proper picture. I try ringing the bell to all the flats in the tenement house around us to ask someone to open the door for us and let us get up on the staircase but no one answers. One scary old man leans out of the window above us and starts yelling at us. I try to explain why we want to get in but he says he can’t open the door because it’s broken. I say ‘Oh, so you can’t leave the building? That’s too bad.’ He grunts and disappears from the window and for a few scary moments we think he’s coming to get us but no. We wait around for a while but no one’s coming in nor out so Kate offers to pick the lock with one of my hair pins. It works. We’re up.

The next place we go is another tenement house. This one is standing apart from the others although it was clearly built with the intention of connecting it to other buildings. This time we manage to sneak in when someone leaves the building and we get up to the attic where we take the first pictures. Then we get back down to the courtyard and take some more in the trash containers standing outside. Once we’re done I take off my own boots and put them on the legs to make it look like it’s me lying in the container – not part of the project, just messing around. An old woman stops by and asks us what we’re doing. I explain that it’s just an art project we’re making for fun. She looks at me up and down and says with utmost contempt: So according to you this is supposed to be art? If she had looked like she was willing to engage in further conversation I probably would have told her that I’m not really sure.

BERLIN

The whole idea is about running from the scummiest, most dangerous and run down pre-war district of Warsaw, which is Prague, to the artsy, clean and liberated Berlin. As I’ve mentioned, we shot on the day of the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, and most of the pictures on the Berlin side come from East Side Gallery – the eastern side of the over 1 km long stretch of the Berlin wall between the Ostbahnhof and Warschauer Strasse stations that is preserved and covered in liberation- and peace- themed graffiti art.

I took the train to Berlin on my own – from the East Station in Warsaw (incidentally in Prague, and also the scummiest, most run-down communist train station imaginable) to the clean and modern Friedrichstrasse.

The legs sticking out of my backpack drew a lot of attention. The girls in my carriage on the train got pretty scared before they realized they weren’t real. People stared, grinned, laughed, followed and filmed us, took pictures and made comments out loud: ‘Dead body!!!’, ‘Nice legs, babe!’ or just involuntary inarticulate sounds (those were my absolute favourite, utterly hilarious).

Some didn’t seem to realize anything unusual was going on though:

We had our own share of fun just taking pictures that would be painfully boring without the props.

Now here’s our destination – the East Side gallery.

So – a great many thanks to Mike Seyring for providing accommodation and just being really wonderful in general. A great many thanks to Frederique-Charlotte Florence for tirelessly taking pictures and to Marie-Madelaine Achouche, Sherise Gayle and Steffi Zirkel for your patience, help and for being amazing company!

And to Martyna Majoch (LLM, London) for being the most mature and serious of us all…

And also a great many thanks for everything to Gary Whitefoot for everything.

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