Berlin, Sept. 30, 2010
Sometimes it takes a very long time for materials to accumulate and reveal the ideas buried in them. Sometimes though, the materials jump at you – and when they’re of a reptilian nature, the jump might come as a surprise, or not. Travelling to Berlin in the beginning of the week, I was reading some reflections by Brandon LaBelle on the acoustic territories that linger in the underground and how their echo might reverberate above the ground as well. After exploring the metro system, he lands in the Chicago sewers with the film Alligator (1980), a view of the urban underground he considers somewhat too “romantic”. (I haven’t seen the film, so can’t say much on this.) He borrows his notion of “cross-fertilization” of below and above from Mexican Perforation, a group that organized an underground cinema in Paris as a matter of promoting cultural and political “biodiversity” (!).
Now in Berlin I was wondering how to perpetuate my practice and decided upon a little walk in the area, looking for a movie theatre “around the corner” with original versions – I’m afraid I will never grow accustomed to the phenomenon of dubbing. Nearby is the impressive Colosseum at Schönhauser Allee, yet the road pulled me on just a little further to a small independent house specialized in Russian and Eastern European cinema… Kino Krokodil. Needless to say that my choice was quickly made. In a programme devoted to the Russian rock star Viktor Tsoi, who died twenty years ago, they showed the cult art film Igla (The Needle, 1988). How this tale about underground and drugs and rock&roll must have been an oblique discussion of glasnost at the time, is hard to tell for me right now. Just like I’m not sure to what extent the Kino Krokodil is keen on probing (or provoking) the question here in today’s Berlin how Eastern the East still is. Biodiversity also thrives upon its historicity, and in this case the film’s “warped, echoic reverberations” didn’t appear particularly noisy or disturbing to me.
The materials jump, the ideas don’t quite reveal themselves. Or it must be this formula: biodiversity + punchline = romanticism.