There are two times of the year in Berlin that are particularly maddening for me – the end of the summer and the beginning of the winter. This is mostly in part due to the European proclivity of holidays.
In America, you get 10 days. If you are lucky. Those days must be well planned and usually are spread out during the aforementioned time periods unless you have some nerdy recreational habit the likes of a Comic Book Convention, a band you’ve been following for years that you take a few days off to follow around the country, a film festival that you buy an annual all-access pass for, or some other event that involves you having to conjoin your sick and personal days accrued alongside your meager allotted vacation time.
There is an art to not working that the Yerps are accustomed to that constantly plagues this Yankee. In Berlin, they take the cheesecake, spending so much time worrying about the next party rather than the next paycheck. The “poor but sexy” anthem no doubt needs to be replaced with the motto “lazy but horny” – but I digress. I have better shit to do.
The life of a freelancer is an ambitious undertaking that I bravely inflicted on myself, baring the overbearing job of looking for work; this allows myself to be free in the prison of my own making.
Due to the limitations of my Artist Visa (I can only work as an artist, teacher or architect), this does not afford me the opportunity to make money in any other way – so at times I miss the days of scrubbing toilets, dealing with neuroses, and slinging trays (or any other reputable albeit demeaning service industry job readily available to artists in the USA). Even if I were allowed that option, the service industry here is lax at best, and the essence of the tipped-out employee is something of an anathema – money does not get thrown around so easily in Berlin, and it is more shunned than appreciated.
Proudly, after expanding my CV to another page of already 5, I have opted to refuse any work that does not meet the standards of aesthetics that match my objectives, nor do I engage in working for free. This is trouble, in a way, but I spent the past two years gaining momentum for a reputation (aka “name for myself”), in this nonchalant city, and I am ready to move on and forward away from working under the umbrella of other entities unless the situation is a kosher one. The trouble comes when you write that invoice and you expect payment – this is another contributing factor of laziness and what I deem insolence, a culture clash in the worst way coming from an East Coast Boy who needed everything done yesterday and is not used to hearing, “I’m going on holiday for two weeks, I’ll pay you when you get back.”
I am met with explanations from colleagues in the field that go something like: “Ah, this is typical Berlin,” to which I scoff at wildly, wondering how in the hell this could be considered acceptable behavior, let alone “typical”. But over the past year, I have proven my share of hypocrisy having discovering the fortune of free muses that were more than willing to work for me without pay. But here – this is the norm or the ‘typical” behavior. Berlin has always bred a community of innovative, intriguing, interesting and intuitive artists with the capacity to love what they do – and in this, we rely on each other to produce our works in this place that bears an endless supply of that mother’s milk Life Force called inspiration. We are all puppies fighting over the teet.
I am sad and happy that Christmas has come again. With so many projects in my back pocket (due in part to the constant job of job hunting and the ever so fascinating distraction of the flora and fauna of life), I am looking forward to this “time off” to get to work and finish up many projects I have started but haven’t had the time to really focus on – starving artist is such a true moniker these days.
I am still constantly submitting proposals for work – in the realms of publication, presentation of performance and/or fine art, and artistic residencies.
I am hellbent on finishing the research and documentation aspect of my movement study project regarding body gestures in reaction to unknown circumstances for my project entitled “Perspectives”.
I will also continue gathering the feedback from the recent staged reading of my new play Joie – and begin editing accordingly and presenting it to possible producers.
Two weeks ago I finished directing and filming a new silent film entitled Muse. The film entails its namesake – and the actors in the film are all muses of mine that I have met over the past year. In the film I have included a little bit of a twist – something that came from spontaneity from one of the actors, one of those unplanned, serendipitous moments. This moment formulated the bridge to connect all of the separate elements of the film – and in an effort to disconnect myself from the more technical aspects of the finished product, I am looking to hand over the editing aspect. I am bad at math anyway.
I was lucky enough to meet a photographer who has been my muse and I to him (I think) and we’ve been working collaboratively on our individual projects together – this has provided much inspiration for the both of us in an effort not to get weighted down by the dark, heavy Berlin clouds that kill ambition on a daily basis. He’s been kind enough to loan me his Canon G10 to help me finish many of my visually oriented projects and to continue with my dance films and video art.
This is the second film for my “Self=Portraits” series that I shot with the G10. It has added a new depth and perspective to my film work – in an astounding way. I love new toys!
I have booked a solo exhibition in an art gallery in Schöneberg, tentatively scheduled for January – but I must push back the date due to the lack of resources available during this precious Christmastime where getting anything done proves to be a mission impossible. I have already begun to produce the work for the show and as I continue on, my ideas are expanding more and more. I hope it to be more of a production than a simple vernissage – as I want to give the whole event a Vaudeville feel, replete with interactive entertainment and accessible art works that delve into that idea of “Poor Man’s Theater” – indicative of my experiences in Berlin. Also, there will be lots of booze.
The title of the exhibiton is “Please Touch…” named after a children’s museum in Philadelphia that aims to present interactive exhibitions for children. The idea comes from some of my issues (both good and bad) about the idea of art as this untouchable medium. It will include virtually every type of discipline that I have engaged in, running the gamut from fine art to performance art. I am currently looking for sponsors and performers for the event – I have found the perfect space (during a visit to another cultural event) – so I must push the opening back to February or March. Here is the outline for the work that I plan to present:
Please Touch… is an art installation and exhibition of multimedia works by DeVo Nelson examining the structures and depth of personal consequence through breaking the barrier between privacy and publicity. The motivation of the artist draws from the individual experiences and emotions of the person – no matter if the source is from research or an external source, the reaction is always the cause of an internal action. Through a use of unorthodox media combined with video and performance art, Please Touch… is an exhibition of arresting exposition, with compelling statements on what human nature looks like stripped down, rawfrom two separate worlds: the world we want people to see, and the world we try to hide.
I have also started as a contributing blogger for Artconnect Berlin. It has really challenged me as a creative writer. I have avoided journalism for so long because I am not a journalist. Many writers take this job up as an opportunity to expose their work to a wider audience and to make money. For me, it is a chance to hone my skills as a writer in another way. I love the long in depth conversations I have with my editor about style – but in the end, I feel as though I have to water-down my work tremendously to appeal to the masses. I like big writing, and my work tends to be bitchy and completely subjective – something not usually smiled upon in the world of objective journalism. So with my personal style, mending it a little bit, it is a good exercise albeit a stressful one. Everyone knows what a judgmental bitch I am, so saying nice things about people is not my forte.
I got an acting gig with the Curator/Co-Director of the CoVerlag arts space in Mitte. I spent a couple of hours reading a rather deep and challenging monologue for a character that was speaking about why he chose a certain profession. It was very difficult trying to find the motivation – but after about 13 takes, I think I got it right and eased into the intent that the director wanted. Acting is probably the hardest job that I do as a freelancer, and it never gets any easier – but I love a challenge!
Two days later, the director invited me back to the space to work on a dance film. She had a light installation that needed to be removed in the coming days and wanted to use the space to do more movement based photography. I was naturally inspired and eager to perform in the space – as collaborative work is something that I have a constant hunger for.
I was to meet another dancer in the space – this White Room full of white and bright white lights that created this euphoric kind of whimsical space. I was taken to it immediately and when the other dancer arrived, I had in my head that we would plan some sort of choreography (ever the director) – but opted to take the lead of fate, in a more organic way.
As it turns out, we got minimal direction (in a good way) and we were allowed to heed to our own capabilities and devices. The other dancer was on the opposite spectrum of technique – more engaged in contemporary styles mixed with performance art and contact improvisation – all genres I am familiar with but are mostly absent from my work.
Much like the first time I worked in a collaborative way with a dancer with a different aesthetic motif, I had to overcome the challenge of letting go of my Modern Dance obsession with planned contractions and rise and fall and release and spirals and whatnot – and in the end, it was a beautiful thing. Her more quirky and intense style melded nicely with my flowing, dramatic posing – I am really looking forward to see what the director puts together. I was most happy that she was recording many of the candid moments of the filming project – those times where I was freaking out about losing control and letting nature take its course and all that – I know for a fact that most of the best footage will come from the unplanned elements of our time together.
I was exhausted in the best way after dancing for hours in that magical white room. After the other dancer left I did some of my own organic dancing, mostly involving my own technique – but at that time, influenced heavily by the difficulty and the pleasure of connecting with another dancer, a stranger, a person on the opposite side of the spectrum. I went into movements that were therapeutic in a way – letting out all of that crazy energy inside – for there is no other better way for me to express myself than through dance. It was a cathartic practice, telling the story that I told in this luminous, amorphous space – as the director kept the camera rolling until I had nothing left in me. Then I took my exhausted body home and prepared a grueling dance class for my Modern Jazz class at Studio Motion International School of Dance.
Oh, and I’m trying to grow a beard. MY WORK IS NEVER DONE!